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Legal Memorandum: Lodestar Rule in Determining Attorneys' Fees

Issue: Under the law as interpreted by the Eighth Circuit, what is the lodestar rule for calculation of attorneys’ fees?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Attorney fees; Lodestar; Reasonable hourly rates
Jurisdiction: Federal, Minnesota
Cited Cases: 660 F.2d 1267; 415 F.3d 822; 295 F.3d 849; 696 F.2d 1210; 478 U.S. 546; 748 N.W.2d 608; 86 F.3d 755; 348 F.3d 744; 397 F.3d 1024; 465 U.S. 886; 297 F.3d 712; 461 U.S. 424
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 01/01/2009

The method for determining the appropriate amount for awards of attorneys’ fees is well established: “The starting point in determining attorney fees is the lodestar, which is calculated by multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended by the reasonable hourly rates.”  Wheeler v. Mo. Hwy. & Transp. Comm’n, 348 F.3d 744, 754 (8th Cir. 2003) (quoting Fish v. St. Cloud State Univ., 295 F.3d 849, 851 (8th Cir. 2002)).  The onus is on the party seeking the fee award to provide evidence of the hours worked and the rate claimed.  Wheeler, 348 F.3d at 754 (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)).  When contemplating the hours reasonably expended, the court may consider the time and labor required and the novelty and difficulty of the issues, and the court should exclude any hours that were not reasonably expended.  Hensley 461 U.S. at 430, 434; Williams v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 660 F.2d 1267, 1273-74 (8th Cir. 1981).  When determining reasonable hourly rates, district courts may rely on their own experience and knowledge of prevailing market rates.  Warnock v. Archer, 397 F.3d 1024, 1027 (8th Cir. 2004). 

Importantly, the court should adjust the fee upward or downward on the basis of the results obtained.  Id. (citing Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434; Fish, 295 F.3d at 852).  In fact, in awarding attorneys’ fees, “the most critical factor is the degree of success obtained.”  […]

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