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Guidance on fee earners in abuse cases: TRX v Southampton Football Club Ltd [2022] EWHC B7 (Costs) - Rochelle Powell, Temple Garden Chambers

22/03/22. The substantive claim was brought by a victim of convicted football coach Bob Higgins, who perpetrated a campaign of abuse against boys at the Southampton academy in the 1970s and 1980s. It was settled for £4,000 shortly after proceedings were issued. Some £65,523.26 was then claimed in costs. The matter came before Master Brown to determine the appropriate hourly rate and level of fee earner.

The Law

The Master considered the “seven pillars of wisdom” under CPR 44.4(3), which state as follows:

“(3) The court will also have regard to –

(a) the conduct of all the parties, including in particular –

(i) conduct before, as well as during, the proceedings; and

(ii) the efforts made, if any, before and during the proceedings in order to try to resolve the dispute;

(b) the amount or value of any money or property involved;

(c) the importance of the matter to all the parties;

(d) the particular complexity of the matter or the difficulty or novelty of the questions raised;

(e) the skill, effort, specialised knowledge and responsibility involved;

(f) the time spent on the case;

(g) the place where and the circumstances in which work or any part of it was done; and

(h) the receiving party’s last approved or agreed budget.”


Considering the particular facts and circumstances of the case, the Master reduced the claimant’s costs from £65,523 to £23,000. He noted that the matter could “have been resolved an at earlier stage”, it settled for “a relatively modest sum” and “it was not readily apparent that it was a very complex case”. He held that whilst it was reasonable to instruct a specialist firm in London, the matter:

“…could reasonably and adequately have been dealt with by a grade C solicitor in such a firm. Such an instruction would be sufficient to protect the claimant's interests… one would reasonably expect a grade C solicitor who will be qualified and would have had experience with sexual abuse claims for up to four years, to be able to conduct the claim as the principal or main fee earner.”

However, “greater involvement” of a grade A fee earner was considered appropriate for the more “generic costs aspects of the bill”. Similarly, “some input by way of supervision” from a more senior fee earner (grade A or B), was also reasonable.


The decision and its correct interpretation has been the source of much debate amongst personal injury lawyers. Whether claimant or defendant, it is important to note that this case is not authority for the proposition that all non-recent abuse cases should be dealt with by a Grade C solicitor. However, it provides useful guidance as to the court’s approach in relatively straight-forward, low value cases.

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