Attorneys Fees in FEFA Cases in California

Fundamental to a determination of an attorney fee award, both in California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) cases and other cases where awards of attorney fees are permitted, is a computation whereby the number of hours reasonably expended for legal services on behalf of the prevailing party is multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate. (Flannery v. Prentice, 26 Cal.4th at p. 584.) The product of that computation is the "lodestar." (PLCM Group, Inc. v. Drexler, 22 Cal.4th at p. 1095.) "The reasonable hourly rate is that prevailing in the community for similar work." (Ibid.) After the lodestar amount is determined, the trial court then determines whether that amount, considering the circumstances of the case, should be adjusted upward or downward so as to "fix the fee at the fair market value for the legal services provided." (PLCM Group, Inc. v. Drexler, 22 Cal.4th at p. 1095.) In general, the court looks at " 'the nature of the litigation, its difficulty, the amount involved, the skill required in its handling, the skill employed, the attention given, the success or failure, and other circumstances in the case.' " (Id. at p. 1096.) Additionally, whether the case involves a "contingent risk is a valid consideration in determining whether to apply a fee enhancement in cases where attorney fees are authorized by statute . . . ." (Greene v. Dillingham Construction N.A., Inc. (2002) 101 Cal.App.4th 418, 428-429.)