These terms and conditions of business set out the basis on which our services are provided. Once now received, these conditions will apply if you continue to instruct us.
If there is any conflict between any part of these conditions and our client care letter, our client care letter will apply. Please let us know if you have any queries or do not understand any aspect of these conditions
- We aim to offer our clients quality legal advice with a personal service at a fair cost. As a start, we hope it is helpful to you to set out in this statement the basis on which we will provide our professional services.
Our Hours of Business
- Normal hours of opening at our offices are between 8.30am and 5.30 pm on weekdays. Messages can be left on the answerphone outside those hours and appointments can be arranged at other times when this is essential.
Charges and Expenses
- Unless we have agreed a fixed fee with you, our charges will be calculated mainly by reference to the time actually spent by the solicitors and other staff in respect of any work which they do on your behalf. This may include meetings with you and perhaps others; reading, preparing and working on papers; making and receiving telephone calls, e-mails, faxes and text messages; preparation of any detailed costs estimates and bills; and time necessarily spent travelling away from the office. From time to time we may arrange for some of this work to be carried out by persons not directly employed by us; such work will be charged to you at the hourly rate which would be charged if we had done the work ourselves.
- Routine letters, e-mails and texts that we send and routine telephone calls that we make and receive are charged at one tenth of the hourly rate. Routine letters, e-mails and texts received are charged at one twentieth of the hourly rate. Other letters, e-mails and calls are charged on a time spent basis.
- The current hourly rates are set out in the attached letter. We will add VAT at 20% to these at the rate that applies when the work is done.
- These hourly rates have to be reviewed periodically to reflect increases in overhead costs and inflation. Normally the rates are reviewed with effect from 1 May each year. If a review is carried out before this matter has been concluded, we will inform you of any variation in the rate before it take effect.
- In addition to the time spent, we may take into account a number of factors including any need to carry out work outside our normal office hours, the complexity of the issues, the speed at which action has to be taken, any particular specialist expertise which the case may demand. An increase in the rates may be applied to reflect such factors. In property transactions, in the administration of estates and in matters involving a substantial financial value or benefit to a client, a charge reflection, for example, the price of the property, the size of the estate, or the value of the financial benefit may be considered. It is not always possible to indicate how these aspects may arise but on present information we would expect them to be sufficiently taken into account in the rates which we have quoted. Where an increase in the rates or a charge reflecting any value element is to be added we will explain this to you.
- In certain transactions we may agree a fixed fee with you.
- Solicitors have to pay out various other expenses on behalf of clients ranging from Land or Probate Registry fees, Court fees, experts’ fees, and so on. We have no obligation to make such payments unless you have provided us with the funds for that purpose. 20% VAT is payable on certain expenses. We refer to such payments generally as ‘disbursements’. We will require a payment in advance from you in respect of any search fees and Court Fees payable on your transactions.
- If, for any reason, this matter does not proceed to completion, we will be entitled to charge you for work done and expenses incurred on a time spent basis at the above rates. In residential conveyancing transactions, our abortive costs will not be more than 50% of the estimated fee, unless we have advised you to the contrary in more complicated matters.
- A client is entitled to complain about their bill and this should be addressed in the first instance to the person responsible for dealing with the file on a day-to-day basis. If they have concerns after this initial approach, they will be referred to our Client Care Partner, Ian Horner under the firm’s formal Complaints Procedure. If they still remain unhappy with the handling of their complaint at this stage, they should contact the Legal Ombudsman at PO Box 6806 Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ Tel 0300 555 0333 or at: email@example.com If all or part of a bill remains unpaid, the firm may be entitled to charge interest thereon.
- Property transactions. We will normally send you our bill following the exchange of contracts and payment is required on a purchase prior to completion, and at completion on a sale. If sufficient funds are available on completion, and we have sent you a bill, we will deduct our charges and expenses from the funds.
- Administration of estates. We will normally submit an interim bill at regular stages during the administration, starting with the obtaining of a Grant. The final account will be prepared when the Estate Accounts are ready for approval.
- Other cases or transactions. It is normal practice to ask clients to pay interim bills and sums of money from time to time, including by standing order, on account of the charges and expenses which are expected in the following weeks or months. We find that this helps clients in budgeting for costs as well as keeping them informed of the legal expenses which are being incurred. If such requests are not met with prompt payment, delay in the progress of a case may result. In the unlikely event of any bill or request for payment not being met, this firm must reserve the right to stop acting for you further.
- Payment is due to us within 28 days of our sending you a bill. Interest will be charged on a daily basis at 4% over HSBC Bank plc’s base rate from time to time form the date of the bill in cases where payment is not made within 28 days of delivery by us of the bill.
- The common law entitles us to retain any money, papers or other property belonging to you which properly come into our possession pending payment of our costs, whether or not the property is acquired in connection with the matter for which the costs are incurred. This is known as a “general lien”. We are not entitled to sell property held under a lien but we are entitled to hold property, other than money, even if the value of it greatly exceeds the amount due to us in respect of costs.
- We do not accept payments to us in cash in excess of £500. Monies due to you from us will be paid by cheque or bank transfer, but not in cash, and will not be made payable to a third party.
Other Parties’ Charges and Expenses
- In some cases and transactions a client may be entitled to payment of costs by some other person. It is important that you understand that, in such circumstances, the other person may not be required to pay all the charges and expenses which you incur with us. You have to pay our charges and expenses in the first place and any amounts which can be recovered will be a contribution towards them. If the other party is in receipt of legal aid no costs are likely to be recovered.
- The other person will not be liable to pay the VAT element of your costs if you are able to recover the VAT yourself.
- If you are successful and a court orders another party to pay some or all of your charges and expenses, interest can be claimed on them from the other party from the date of the court order. We will account to you for such interest to the extent that you have paid our charges or expenses on account, but we are entitled to the rest of that interest.
- You will also be responsible for paying our charges and expenses of seeking to recover any costs that the court orders the other party to pay to you.
- A client who is unsuccessful in a court case may be ordered to pay the other party’s legal charges and expenses. That money would be payable in addition to our charges and expenses. Arrangements can be made to take out insurance to cover liability for such legal expenses. Please discuss this with us if you are interested in this possibility.
- Any monies received on your behalf will be held in our Client Account in accordance with the Solicitors Account Rules 2011. It is the firm’s policy to account to its clients for credit interest on a fair and reasonable basis for both the client and the practice. The firm holds the funds in its general Client Account with HSBC Bank and the rate payable is subject to fluctuation and governed by the firm’s bankers from time to time.
- In the event that the calculated total interest accruing to a client for the duration of a matter is less that £40, then no interest will be payable to the client on the basis that this is a de minimis amount and is reflective of the administrative cost of dealing with client funds and accounting requirements. We will calculate and pay interest, when applicable, based on the period from when cleared funds are received by us until payment is made from our Client Account at the time of distribution or at the conclusion of the matter. Our policy in respect of interest payable will be subject to regular review and updating.
- Where a client obtains borrowing from a lender in a property transaction, we will ask the lender to arrange that the loan cheque is received by us a minimum of 4 working days prior to the completion date. If the money can be telegraphed, we will request that we receive it the day before completion. This will enable us to ensure that the necessary funds are available in time for completion. Such clients need to be aware that the lender may charge interest from the date of issue of their loan cheque or the telegraphing of the payment.
Storage of Papers and Documents
- After completing the work, we are entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is money owing to us for our charges and expenses. In addition, we will keep your file of papers for you in storage (or we may copy onto disc and store electronically) for not less than 6 years. After that, storage is on the clear understanding that we have the right to destroy it after such period as we consider reasonable or to make a charge for storage if we ask you to collect your papers and you fail to do so. We will not of course destroy any documents such as Wills, Deeds and other securities, which you ask us to hold in safe custody. No charge will be made to you for such storage unless prior notice in writing is given to you of a charge to be made from a future date which may be specified in that notice.
- If we retrieve papers or documents from storage in relation to continuing or new instructions to act in connection with your affairs, we will not normally charge for such retrieval. However, we may make a charge based on time spent at the junior executive hourly rate for producing stored papers or documents to you or another at your request. We may also charge for reading, correspondence, or other work necessary to comply with your instructions.
- The firm is registered under the LEXCEL quality standard of the Law Society. As a result of this we are subject to periodic checks by outside assessors. This could mean that your file is selected for checking, in which case we would need your consent for the inspection to occur. All inspections are, of course, conducted in confidence. If you prefer to withhold consent, work on your file will not be affected in any way. Since very few clients do object to this I propose to assume that we do have your consent unless you notify us to the contrary. We will also assume, unless you indicate otherwise, that consent on this occasion will extend to all future matters which we conduct on your behalf. Please contact me if I can explain this further or if you would like me to mark your file as not to be inspected.
Financial Services and Insurance Contracts
- If, while we are acting for you, you need advice on investments, we may have to refer you to someone who is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, as we are not. However, as we are regulated by the Law Society, we may be able to provide certain limited investment services where these are closely linked to the legal work we are doing for you.
- We are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority. However, we are included on the register maintained by the Financial Conduct Authority so that we can carry on insurance mediation activity, which is broadly the advising on, selling and administration of insurance contracts. Insurance mediation activities and investment services, including arrangements for complaints or redress if something goes wrong, are regulated by the Law Society. The register can be accessed via the Financial Conduct Authority website
- The Law Society is a designated professional body for the purposes of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 but responsibility for regulation and complaints handling has been separated from the Law Society’s representative functions. The Solicitors Regulation Authority is the independent regulatory body of the Law Society and the Legal Ombudsman deals with complaints against lawyers.
- You may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time but we will be entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is money owing to us for our charges and expenses. If at any stage you do not wish us to continue doing work and/or incurring charges and expenses on your behalf, you must tell us this clearly in writing.
- If we decide to stop acting for you, for example if you do not pay an interim bill or comply with the request for a payment on account, we will tell you the reason and give you notice in writing.
- When accepting instructions to act on behalf of a limited company, we may require a Director and/or controlling shareholder to sign a form of personal guarantee in respect of the charges and expenses of this firm. If such a request is refused, we will be entitled to stop acting and to require immediate payment of our charges on an hourly basis and expenses as set out earlier.
Tax and Planning Advice
- Any work that we do for you may involve tax implications or necessitate the consideration of tax planning strategies. We may not be qualified to advise you on the tax implications of a transaction that you instruct us to carry out, or the likelihood of them arising. If you have any concerns in this respect, please raise them with us immediately. If we can undertake the research necessary to resolve the issue, we will do so and advise you accordingly. If we cannot, we may be able to identify a source of assistance to you.
- We will not advise you on the planning implications of any proposed purchase unless specifically requested to do so by you, otherwise than by reporting to you on any relevant information provided by the results of the ‘local search’.
Identity, Disclosure and Confidentiality Requirements
- We are entitled to refuse to act for you if you fail to supply appropriate proof of identity for yourself or for any principal whom you may represent. The cost of any certification of documents will be charged to you. If the amount is in excess of £10 including 20% VAT, we will seek your prior agreement.
- By signing these terms and conditions of business and returning it to us you authorise us to disclose to the other parties in the transaction and, if applicable, to all other parties in the chain of transactions and their agents and advisers, all information which we have in relation to your involvement in the transaction including any related sale or mortgage and other financial arrangements and wishes as to date for exchange and completion. You may withdraw this authority at any time but if you do so you should appreciate that we will inform the other party or parties and their agents or advisers that this authority has been withdrawn.
- Solicitors are under a professional and legal obligation to keep the affairs of the client confidential. This obligation, however, is subject to a statutory exception. Legislation on money laundering and terrorist financing has placed solicitors under a legal duty in certain circumstances to disclose information to the National Crime Agency. Where a solicitor knows or suspects that a transaction on behalf of a client involves money laundering, the solicitor may be required to make a disclosure. If, while we are acting for you, it becomes necessary to make such a disclosure, we may not be able to inform you that it has been made, or of the reasons for it, because the law prohibits ‘tipping-off’. Where the law permits us, we will tell you about any potential money laundering problem and explain what action we may need to take.
- Our firm may be subject to audit or quality checks by external firms or organisations. We may also outsource work. This might be for example typing or photocopying or costings, or research and preparation to assist with your matter. Information from your file may therefore be made available in such circumstances. We will always aim to obtain a confidentiality agreement with the third party.
Our Commitment to Quality
- At all times we aim to offer our clients an efficient and effective service. As part of this we endeavour to meet certain standards which include the following:-
1.You will receive copies of all important correspondence.
2. Your telephone calls will be returned within the hour, if possible, and in any event on the same day. If the person dealing with your matter is delayed out of the office then you will be contacted and notified of the situation.
3. All correspondence will be reviewed on the day it is received. Letters will be answered by return, if possible, and in any event within 2 working days.
4. Letters will be written as plainly as possible. Please be aware, however, that some legal documents do require legally-phrased language.
5. If you need an appointment one will be offered as soon as possible. You will not be kept waiting in our reception for more than five minutes other than in exceptional circumstances beyond our own control.
- As part of our commitment to quality of service it is our practice, upon conclusion of a case, to invite our clients to complete our online Customer Survey Form.
Communication between You and Us
- Our aim is to offer all our clients an efficient and effective service at all times. We are proud that we hold the accreditation of Lexcel which is the quality kitemark for the provision of legal services, and our clients and our staff are of first importance to us. We hope that you will be pleased with the work we do for you.
- If however, you have any comments or concerns about our service please raise them with the Fee Earner dealing with your matter or alternatively contact our Client Care Partner, Ian Horner. We will endeavour to deal with your concerns promptly and thoroughly and within 8 weeks of the date of your complaint.
If we are unable to resolve your complaint, you have a period of 6 years from the date of the act/omission that you wish to complain about, to refer it to the Legal Ombudsman at PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ Telephone 0300 555 0333, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Legal Ombudsman website.
Alternatively, you are entitled to refer a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman three years from the date when you became aware that you had grounds for making a complaint. The Legal Ombudsman may not accept a complaint where the act or your date of awareness of your right to complain arises before 6th October 2010. If you have any concerns as to whether you are within the time limit for making a claim to the Legal Ombudsman, you should seek his guidance by contacting him at the telephone number or e-mail address indicated above.
- We will aim to communicate with you by such a method as you may request. We may need to virus check discs or e-mail. Unless you withdraw consent, we will communicate with others when appropriate by e-mail or fax but we cannot be responsible for the security of correspondence and documents sent by e-mail or fax.
- The Data Protection Act requires us to advise you that your particulars are held on our database. We may, from time to time, use these details to send you information which we think might be of interest to you.
- Where we act for two or more clients jointly it is on the clear understanding that we are authorised to act on instructions from either, both or any of them.
- We require that you to immediately advise us of any changes in your communication channels e.g. address, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses in order that we may continue to provide our services in a timely and efficient manner thus containing our costs within levels indicated within our client care letter.
Terms and Conditions of Business
- Unless otherwise agreed, and subject to the application of current hourly rates, these Terms and Conditions of Business shall apply to any future instructions given by you to this firm.
- Although your continuing instructions in this matter will amount to an acceptance of these Terms and Conditions of Business, it may not be possible for us to start work on your behalf until one copy of them has been signed and returned to us for us to keep on our file.
- We do not arrange mortgages or finance.
- If the transaction with which we are asked to act on your behalf involves you arranging a mortgage or other third party finance it is for you to ensure mortgage funds or finance is unconditionally available in advance of the required date.
- It is also your responsibility to ensure that if an offer of mortgage or finance is in place which is time limited, you apply for any required extension of time or arrange other adequate finance prior to the required date.
- We shall not be liable to you for any pure economic loss, loss of profit, loss of business, depletion of goodwill or otherwise, in each case whether direct, indirect or consequential, or any claims for consequential compensation whatsoever (howsoever caused) which arise out of or in connection with our services.
- Under no circumstances shall we be in breach of these conditions or incur any liability to you for any loss, damage or delay arising out of the firm’s compliance with any statutory or regulatory requirement.
- Our total liability in contract, tort (including negligence or breach of statutory duty), misrepresentation, restitution or otherwise, arising in connection with the performance or contemplated performance of our services may be limited in our client care letter in relation to an individual matter. This will never be below £2,000,000 or such other amount as required by the Solicitors Regulation Authority from time to time.
- We will not be liable for any loss or damage which you suffer, whether actual or consequential in both contract and/or negligence, howsoever arising from the bank/financial institution with whom we have our client account and in which we hold monies on your behalf in connection with any matter we are conducting for you.
- In accordance with the disclosure requirements of the Provision of Services Regulations 2009, our professional indemnity insurer is QBE Insurance (Europe) Limited. The territorial coverage of this policy is worldwide.
Equality and Diversity
- We are committed to promoting equality and diversity on all of our dealings with clients, third parties and employees. Please contact the firm’s Compliance Officer Legal Practice, Ian Horner if you would like a copy of our Equality and Diversity Policy.