Burlington v. Dague, 505 U.S. 557, 6 (1992)

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562

BURLINGTON v. DAGUE

Opinion of the Court

sonable attorney . . . fees)" to a "prevailing or substantially prevailing party." 42 U. S. C. 6972(e) (emphasis added); 33 U. S. C. 1365(d) (emphasis added). This language is similar to that of many other federal fee-shifting statutes, see, e. g., 42 U. S. C. 1988, 2000e-5(k), 7604(d); our case law construing what is a "reasonable" fee applies uniformly to all of them. Flight Attendants v. Zipes, 491 U. S. 754, 758, n. 2 (1989).

The "lodestar" figure has, as its name suggests, become the guiding light of our fee-shifting jurisprudence. We have established a "strong presumption" that the lodestar represents the "reasonable" fee, Delaware Valley I, supra, at 565, and have placed upon the fee applicant who seeks more than that the burden of showing that "such an adjustment is necessary to the determination of a reasonable fee." Blum v. Stenson, 465 U. S. 886, 898 (1984) (emphasis added). The Court of Appeals held, and Dague argues here, that a "reasonable" fee for attorneys who have been retained on a contingency-fee basis must go beyond the lodestar, to compensate for risk of loss and of consequent nonpayment. Fee-shifting statutes should be construed, he contends, to replicate the economic incentives that operate in the private legal market, where attorneys working on a contingency-fee basis can be expected to charge some premium over their ordinary hourly rates. Petitioner Burlington argues, by contrast, that the lodestar fee may not be enhanced for contingency.

We note at the outset that an enhancement for contingency would likely duplicate in substantial part factors already subsumed in the lodestar. The risk of loss in a particular case (and, therefore, the attorney's contingent risk) is the product of two factors: (1) the legal and factual merits of the claim, and (2) the difficulty of establishing those merits. The second factor, however, is ordinarily reflected in the lodestar—either in the higher number of hours expended to overcome the difficulty, or in the higher hourly rate of the attorney skilled and experienced enough to do so. Blum,

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