HOURS OF OPENING
Our normal hours of opening are between 9.00am and 5.00pm on weekdays. Messages can be left on the office answerphone outside those hours and appointments can be arranged at other times when this is essential.
PEOPLE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR WORK
We will let you know who is responsible for your work in the letter that accompanies these terms and conditions, together with their hourly rate. These hourly rates are reviewed periodically and we will inform you of any increase. Normally the rates are reviewed with effect from 1 September each year. If a review is carried out before this matter has been concluded, we will inform you of any variation of the rate before it takes effect. We will add VAT to these at the rate that applies when the work is done. We will try to avoid changing the people who handle your work but if this cannot be avoided, we will tell you promptly of any change and why it may be necessary.
CHARGES AND EXPENSES
Our charges will be calculated mainly by reference to the time actually spent by the person responsible for your work and other staff in respect of any work which they do on your behalf. This will include attendances with you and others, attending Court if appropriate, reading and working on papers, correspondence, preparation of documents, and time spent travelling away from the office when this is necessary.
Routine letters and emails sent are each charged as 6 minute units of time. We also charge for the time spent on making and taking telephone calls in 6 minute units, and considering incoming letters and emails at units of 6 minutes per page.
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 particularly specialist expertise when the case may demand. In particular, in property transactions, in the administration of estates and in matters involving a substantial financial value or benefit to a client, a charge reflecting, 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 a charge reflecting any value element is to be added we will explain this to you.
We may have to pay out various other expenses on your behalf such as 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. VAT is payable on certain expenses. We refer to such payments generally as “disbursements”. If, for any reason, this matter does not proceed to completion, we will be entitled to charge you for work done and expenses incurred.
Property transactions We will normally send you our bill following exchange of contracts, and payment is required on a purchase prior to completion. On a sale, payment is required at completion. If sufficient funds are available on completion, and we have sent you a bill, we will deduct our charges and expenses from the funds. We expressly reserve the right not to complete the transaction in the event that we do not receive settlement of our account in cleared funds on or before the date set for completion.
Administration of estates We will normally submit and 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 our normal practice to ask clients to pay sums of money from time to time on account of the charges and expenses which are expected in the following weeks or months. We find that this helps clients to budget 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 your case may result. If any bill or request for payment is not met, we reserve the right to stop acting for you further. If you have legal expenses insurance you must inform us at the outset, as this may affect the costs that you can recover even if you are successful.
Payment is due to us within 14 days of our sending you a bill. If payment is not made within 14 days, interest will be charged at the rate of 8% on the whole or any part of an outstanding bill. If you decide to end our working relationship, we are entitled to claim a solicitors’ lien over deeds, documents, monies and other items held for you until our bills are paid in full.
OTHER PARTIES’ CHARGES AND EXPENSES
In some cases and transactions, you may be entitled to payment of your 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 of 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 a Public Funding Certificate (“legal aid”), no costs are likely to be recovered.
If you are successful in your claim and a court orders another person to pay some or all of your charges and expenses, interest can usually be claimed on them from the other party from the date of the court order. You are responsible for paying our charges and expenses of seeking to recover any award (including costs) that the court orders another person to pay you.
If you are unsuccessful in a claim, you may be ordered to pay the other person’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.
Our policy on interest payments is available on our website; alternatively if you would like a printed version please let us know and we shall send you a copy.
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 for not less than 1 year. After that, storage is on the clear understanding 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. Our current charge for storage of deeds and other documents is £75 plus VAT per year.
If we retrieve papers or documents from storage in relation to continuing or new instructions to act for you, we will not normally charge for such retrieval. However, we may make a charge based on time spent 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.
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 give you notice in writing.
When accepting instructions to act on behalf of a limited company, we require at least one Director to confirm that the company agrees to our acting under these terms and conditions. Please note that in these circumstances these terms and conditions will constitute a personal guarantee on behalf of that director of payment of the charges and expenses of this firm. If the Company does not pay our bills when they fall due (for instance in the event of insolvency or reconstruction) we reserve the right to call on that director to discharge our bills personally.
We aim to communicate with you by any method that you request. If you wish us to, we will communicate when appropriate by email or fax, but we cannot be responsible for the security of correspondence and documents sent by email or fax nor can we guarantee that emails sent you will be virus-free.
The Data Protection Act requires us to advise you that your particulars are held on our database and we will deal with that information in accordance with the obligations imposed on us by that Act. We may, from time to time, use these details to send you information which we think might be of interest to you by post or email. In addition we may be required, in certain circumstances, to pass your personal information to third parties (such as NHBC or HMRC) in order that they may contact you directly following the completion of our work for you. Please let us know if you do not wish us to do so.
MONEY LAUNDERING REGULATIONS
To enable us to comply with the latest regulations on money laundering, we cannot accept any payments from you in cash and we must have proof of your identity from the outset of the matter. We will write to you separately with further details of the information we are required to obtain.
Solicitors are under professional and legal obligations to keep the affairs of their clients confidential and to act with reasonable speed. These obligations, however, are subject to a statutory exception: the 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 and then not to proceed until the Agency’s consent is given or deemed to have been given. Where a solicitor knows or suspects or has grounds to suspect that a transaction on behalf of a client involves money laundering or related conduct, the solicitor may be required to make a money laundering disclosure and not to proceed further without the Agency’s consent.
If, while we are acting for you, it becomes necessary to make a money laundering disclosure, we may not be able to inform you that a disclosure has been made or of the reasons for it or why matters are not proceeding in the manner or with the speed that you expect. This is because the law prohibits ‘tipping-off’. Where the law permits us to do, we will tell you about any potential money laundering problem and explain what action we may need to take. We expressly exclude any liability howsoever arising for any loss damage or delay that you or anyone else may suffer caused in whole or in part as a result of any disclosure we are required to make or by the action or inaction of any government agency following or in relation to such disclosure.
This firm is 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. This part of our business, including arrangements for complaints or redress if something goes wrong, is regulated by The Solicitors Regulation Authority. The register can be accessed via the Financial Conduct Authority website at www.fsa.gov.uk/register.
Sometimes the work we may do for you may involve investments. We are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority and so may refer you to someone who is authorised to provide any necessary advice. However, we can provide certain limited services in relation to investments, provided they are closely linked with the legal services we are providing to you, as we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Our aim is to offer all our clients an efficient and effective service at all times. We hope that you will be pleased with the work we do for you. However, should there be any aspect of our service with which you are unhappy, please raise your concern in the first place with the person dealing with your matter. Your complaint may include a complaint about this firm’s charges.
We will try to resolve any problem quickly and operate an internal complaints handling system to help us to resolve the problem between ourselves. If you still have queries or concerns, please contact Mark Williams, our Client Care Officer. A copy of our complaints procedure is available on request.
If after 8 weeks we have been unable to resolve your concern you are entitled to complain to the Legal Ombudsman; you should do so as soon as the 8 week period referred to has expired and normally within 6 months of your last contact with us. The Legal Ombudsman can be contacted by telephone on 300 555 0333 or by email at email@example.com, or by post at PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ. Please note that this service is not available if you are a charity with an annual income of more than €2M, or an enterprise with more than 10 staff and an annual income of more than €2M.
Your complaint may include a complaint about this firm’s charges. You have a right to object to the bill and to apply for an assessment of the bill under part III of the Solicitors Act 1974.
THE LEXCEL QUALITY STANDARD
We hold the Lexcel Quality Standard of the Law Society, and, as a result, we are subject to periodic checks by external assessors. This could mean that your file is selected for such assessment and for this we need to have your consent to the inspection. All inspections are completely confidential but if you wish to withhold consent work on your file will be unaffected. Very few of our Clients object in practice and therefore your consent will be assumed unless you notify us to the contrary. We will also assume that consent on this occasion will extend to any future matters that we conduct on your behalf. Please inform us as soon as possible if you wish to withhold consent.
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.
Your continuing instructions in this matter will amount to an acceptance of these Terms and Conditions of Business. However it may not be possible for us to start work on your behalf until acknowledgement of your agreement to them has been returned to us.
In the case of corporate clients, these terms and conditions will also be deemed to bind the directors of the company and will be enforceable against them as separate collateral contracts.