Stokes O'Brien

How does a California Court Calculate Attorney Fee Awards?

Posted in Business and Real Estate Litigation on October 31, 2015

If a party prevails in a lawsuit and is entitled to attorney fees, the court determines that amount.  The amount is not determined by the party’s fee agreement with its lawyer.

The court will look at the time the attorney spent on the case and multiply it by a reasonable hourly rate for the type of work, lawyer experience, and geographic location.  As such, whether the attorney is in-house, on a contingency fee, or is working at a discounted rate, is not controlling.  So, the attorney fee award could be more or less than what the party pays its lawyer.


Most contracts that provide for the prevailing party’s recovery of attorney fees allow it for any disputes arising out of the agreement.  So, it’s not limited to breach of contract lawsuits — if a fraud or other claim arising out of the contractual relationship, attorney fees are at play.

The party requesting attorney fees has the burden of proof, both procedurally (the fee must be requested on time) and substantively (there must be supporting law and evidence).  A San Diego contract attorney can be crucial in getting or defeating a request for attorney fees.