Strong Pipkin is pleased to announce that nine partners were selected for inclusion in the 2022 edition of The Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the professional excellence of lawyers across 147 practice areas. They include:
Just when I was preparing to have an academic, yet scintillating, discussion regarding the argument that appellate courts should render when they reverse cases for insufficient evidence of attorneys’ fees, which was certain to stir multiple contentious debates around the latte bar, the Texas Supreme Court held that the fee proponent need not comply with lodestar. SeeYowell v. Granite Operating Co., No. 18-0841, 2020 Tex. LEXIS 425 (Tex. May 15, 2020). Since this opinion (a) comes from the Texas Supreme Court and (b) departs from what David Kirby and I write about appellate fee proof, I decided this actual holding preempted the theoretical ruminations.
In somewhat of a side issue in a case involving a disputed mineral lease interest, the Texas Supreme Court, in an opinion authored by Justice Busby, acknowledged:
We have not previously addressed how this lodestar analysis may affect the evidence needed to support a contingent award of fees that have not yet been incurred. . . . As we explained in Rohrmoos Venture, however, “[i]t should have been clear from our opinion in El Apple” that the lodestar analysis applies to situations “in which an objective calculation of reasonable hours worked . . . can be employed.” 578 S.W.3d at 498.
Id. at *36–37. In rejecting the argument that appellate fees should be proved with the same specificity as trial fees, the supreme court explained that lodestar cannot be employed when projecting appellate fees because those hours have not been worked. See id. at *37. Additionally, “there is no certainty regarding who will represent the appellee in the appellate courts, what counsel’s hourly rate(s) will be, or what services will be necessary to ensure appropriate representation in light of the issues the appellant chooses to raise.” Id.
In 1918, Beeman Strong became a judge on the Texas Commission of Appeals, which was the forerunner of today’s Texas Supreme Court. In the 1920s, he became General Counsel of the Yount-Lee Oil Company headquartered in Beaumont, Texas. In 1935, the Yount-Lee Oil Company was purchased and merged into the Stanolind Oil Company.
As the Yount-Lee Oil Company was dissolved, Beeman decided to enter private practice in Southeast Texas and partnered with his son, Ewell, and A. D. Moore to form the law firm of Strong Moore & Strong. With a wealth of oil company legal experience, the firm quickly established itself as a valuable resource in the oil industry and for growing companies in Southeast Texas.
In 1954, longtime Beaumont attorney Charles Pipkin joined the firm, and the Strong Pipkin name was born. Eighty-five years later, Strong Pipkin has withstood the test of time, having prospered during ten different decades.
While the start to the current decade has been challenging, Strong Pipkin will weather this storm, as it has many others, to remain a trusted destination for legal excellence of its local, regional, national, and international corporate and individual clients.
In the musical Fiddler on the Roof, Teyve opens the play extolling the virtues of tradition and then spends the remainder struggling with and lamenting the erosion of those traditions. A similar scene has unfolded in Texas over the years with respect to the prosecution of attorneys’ fee claims. To Teyve’s likely chagrin, the “traditional method” for evidencing recoverable attorneys’ fees is dead—the Texas Supreme Court having put a proverbial nail in that coffin last year—and the lower courts are embracing the new standard. Texas attorneys should understand how times have changed.
Historically in Texas, attorneys could prove up attorneys’ fees by either the “traditional method” or the lodestar method.
Under the “traditional method,” the attorney proved up his or her fees by testifying to some, but not necessarily all, of the Arthur Andersen factors and merely stating that his or her total fees sought were reasonable and necessary. SeeArthur Andersen & Co. v. Perry Equipment Corp., 945 S.W.2d 812, 818 (Tex. 1997). Arguably, this eliminated the need to testify about hours billed, rates charged, and specific tasks performed (although one might give general descriptions of work performed). Moreover, there was arguably no requirement to submit one’s detailed billing records.
Under lodestar, on the other hand, one must detail the hours spent on specific tasks and rates charged as well as proffer testimony regarding the Arthur Andersen or Johnson factors. SeeJohnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714 (5th Cir. 1974).
Strong Pipkin is closely monitoring developments related to COVID-19 and we are committed to the well being of our staff and their families. To our clients, rest assured that despite the unprecedented and evolving circumstances in which we find ourselves, you remain a top priority. We continue to provide the exceptional service that you expect. Our firm is fully operational and our Beaumont and Houston offices continue to service client needs without interruption.
We are closely monitoring the status of the various courts in which we practice to insure that we meet all deadlines and participate in all proceedings that are going forward. Courts have largely restricted in-person access, but we are prepared to participate in hearings both telephonically and through video conferencing.
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The Ninth Court of Appeals in Beaumont issued an opinion and judgment affirming the trial court’s judgment that Plaintiff recover nothing from Strong Pipkin’s client, an oil and gas producer.
The case involved several properties purchased by Plaintiff at a foreclosure sale. The prior owners of the properties entered into mineral leases with Strong Pipkin’s client, wherein they received royalty payments. Strong Pipkin’s client pooled several leases together and drilled two wells. The two wells were located on properties within the pooled unit but not on the properties obtained by the Plaintiff. After Plaintiff obtained the properties at a foreclosure sale, the Plaintiff refused to enter into a separate lease to collect the royalty payments previously paid to the former owners, arguing that because he is not a party to the lease he is entitled to receive a working interest (a percentage of total profit) in the two wells.
At trial, Strong Pipkin attorney Greg Dykeman successfully argued that Wagner & Brown, Ltd. v. Sheppard, 282 S.W.3d 419 (Tex. 2008) does not support the proposition that any unleased property within a pooled unit has a right to receive a proportionate share of total profits of the pooled unit. In the subsequent appeal, Strong Pipkin attorney Dan Mabry successfully argued that Plaintiff is not entitled to a percentage profit in the pooled unit citing the Rule of Capture and distinguishing Sheppard. Unlike in Sheppard, the Plaintiff in this case was not the mineral owner of the property on which the wells were drilled, and citing the Rule of Capture, Strong Pipkin argued that Plaintiff is not entitled to royalty payments because Plaintiff did not enter into a mineral lease with the oil & gas producer.
The Ninth Court of Appeals agreed with Strong Pipkin’s analysis and affirmed the trial court’s Judgment that the Plaintiff take nothing from Strong Pipkin’s client. A copy of the opinion can be found at 2020 Tex. App. LEXIS 443 or 2020 WL 238538.
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