THIS IS AN INDICATIVE VERSION OF THE NON-CONTENTIOUS TERMS AND CONDITIONS THAT THIS FIRM UTILISES. CLIENT CARE LETTERS AND TERMS AND CONDITIONS WHEN SENT TO CLIENTS CONTAIN FURTHER INFORMATION THAN THAT WHICH IS READILY DISCERNIBLE FROM THIS VERSION WHICH IS FOR WEBSITE PUBLICATION PURPOSES AND / OR INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY.
STANDARD TERMS AND CONDITIONS AND CLIENT CARE INFORMATION
THIS IS IMPORTANT INFORMATION WHICH YOU SHOULD READ CAREFULLY IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE COVERING LETTER
This document sets out the standard terms of business upon which we will carry out your work. A covering letter will identify the work we will be carrying out for you, who will be doing it and, where appropriate, which Partner has overall responsibility for the matter. The covering letter will also provide specific information on all other matters referred to in this document as being contained in the covering letter.
Client Identity and Limitation on Client Confidentiality
Why are we now asking clients for proof of identity?
The Money Laundering Regulations 2007 require solicitors not only to verify their clients’ identity before accepting instructions but to keep for at least five years records of the documents which were used to prove their identity.
What is meant by “proof of identity”?
For an individual, we require to see and take a copy of:-
- Your passport or new style driving licence with photograph AND
- A utility or phone bill (not a mobile phone bill) that is not more than three months old.
For a limited company, we require to see and take a copy of:-
- Certificate of Incorporation
- List of Directors
- List of shareholders
- Registered address
- Trading accounts
- Individual identity documents as referred to above of Director giving instructions.
- Individual identity documents as referred to above of a beneficial owner of a limited company. A “beneficial owner” is anyone with 25% ownership or voting rights or anyone who exercises control over the management of a company.
The Money Laundering Regulations 2007 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002
Under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, if in the course of business solicitors suspect or ought to suspect that the client or anyone else involved in the transaction has benefited, is benefiting or intends to benefit from the proceeds of some financial crime, the solicitor or other professional must immediately report their suspicion to the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) without informing anyone else that a report has been made. The solicitor must report the suspicion and stop work until authorised by SOCA.
What about the solicitor’s duty of confidentiality to their client?
Solicitors are under a professional and legal obligation to keep the affairs of clients confidential. This obligation, however, is subject to solicitors’ obligations under the Proceeds of Crime Act. We may not be able to inform you that we have made a report and we will be obliged to cease work for you pending receipt of SOCA permission to continue to act.
Only in the context of litigation or work carried out in anticipation of litigation the duty of confidentiality to a client overrides the solicitor’s duty to report suspicion of benefiting from the proceeds of financial crime, so in those limited circumstances Solicitors will not report.
People responsible for your work
The covering letter identifies the person who will be carrying out your work, and, where appropriate, who will be supervising the work and ultimately responsible for your matter. There will always be a Partner with overall responsibility for the matter.
If you need to telephone you should in the first instance speak to the person undertaking your work but if they are unavailable their Secretary will be happy to take any message for you.
We try hard to avoid changing the people who are handling your work but if this cannot be avoided, for example because of absence on holiday or for some other reason, then in the interests of efficiency and avoiding delay the matter will, on those occasions, be handled by someone else and you will be notified as appropriate. Equally, if for any reason there is a need to change, permanently, the person handling your matter, you will be notified promptly and given the reason for the change.
Client Care Partner and Complaints
The covering letter will identify a Client Care Partner for this case. The purpose is to provide you with another line of communication with the firm. In the event that you have a complaint or concern over the handling of your matter, The complaints partner is Nicholas Allan who can be contacted at Glade House, 52-54 Carter Lane, London EC4V 5EF. The firm has a written complaints procedure which is available on request. We aim to deal with complaints promptly, fairly and effectively in accordance with the complaints procedure, which can include a complaint about the firm’s bill (in respect of which see heading “information on challenging your bill”) below. You have a right to complain to The Legal Ombudsman at the conclusion of the complaints process. You can contact The Legal Ombudsman at PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ and they should be contacted within six months of your last contact with us in relation to your case, otherwise your complaint to them may be deemed to be out of time.
The Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP) for the firm is Nicholas Allan and the Compliance Officer for Finance and Administration (COFA) is Michael Segen.
Charges and Expenses
In the case of certain transactions such as conveyancing, preparation of Wills and some commercial and probate work, we will endeavour to agree a fee in advance. Otherwise our charges are based on the time we spend dealing with a case. Time spent on your matter will include meetings with you and perhaps others, any time spent travelling, considering, preparing and working on papers, correspondence and making and receiving telephone calls. It is not only good practice but also a professional obligation to keep you fully informed, in writing, as to the progress of your matter on a regular basis.
Where we cannot agree a fixed fee our charging rate in this matter will be £ per hour plus VAT. This takes into account a number of factors which include the complexity of the issues, the expertise or specialist knowledge that the case requires and on the basis of the information currently available. The rates may be higher if, for example, the matter becomes more complex or urgent than expected in which event we will notify you.
Generally, hours worked outside normal office hours are charged at the same rate but in the event that we are obliged to work regularly outside office hours, we reserve the right to increase the level of the hourly rate. However, you will be notified in advance of any such intention.
If you have any query about the level of any revised rates notified to you, please contact the person in charge of your case straight away.
We will add Value Added Tax to our charges at the rate that applies when the work is done. The present Value Added Tax is 20%. In addition, all out of pocket expenses including in particular fares and telephones will be charged and other expenses which we are likely to pay.
Details of other expenses which you are likely to have to pay, when they are likely to become due and an estimate of their costs will be given to you by the person in charge of your case as soon as possible.
We are entitled in most circumstances to exercise a lien over any money or assets held by us on your behalf for any outstanding costs due to us. This means that we are able to pay those costs out of funds or assets held on your behalf. See below for more detail under “Our right to a Lien”.
If you are unhappy about the costs we charge, you are entitled to apply for an assessment of those costs by the Court but you should do so within a month of receiving our bill. You may be responsible for the Court costs of that assessment and our costs, depending on the result. See below for more detail under “Information on Challenging our Bill”.
Information on Challenging our Bill
If you are unhappy with our bill, you may have a right to object to this bill by way of the firm’s complaints procedure (copy supplied on request) and/or by making a complaint to The Legal Ombudsman and/or by applying to the Court for an assessment of the bill under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974 Sections 70, 71 and 72. If all or part of this bill remains unpaid, we may be entitled to charge interest. The Legal Ombudsman may not deal with a complaint about a bill if you have applied to the Court for assessment of that bill. For information about The Legal Ombudsman see “Client care partner and complaints” above.
In matters where we have not been able to agree a fixed fee we will provide an estimate. In some cases, it is hard, in the first instance, to provide a sensible estimate of the likely overall costs. Nevertheless we try where possible to give estimates for the overall costs of the matter concerned and more particularly, we will endeavour to give you estimates for each stage of the matter as it proceeds.
You may set a limit on the charges and expenses to be incurred which means that you will be responsible for paying those charges up to the agreed limit without our having to refer back to you. In such an event, we will inform you as soon as it appears that the limit may be exceeded. Please bear in mind, however, that in such situations your instructions may be needed urgently so as to avoid a delay in dealing with your matter which can, in some circumstances, result in orders for costs being made against you.
NOTE, an estimate is not intended to be a fixed or guaranteed figure. It represents our view of the likely cost up to a particular stage or point in time and it will usually be on the basis that the matter proceeds smoothly.
Payments on Account
Where a fee has been agreed, we may ask for payment of disbursements on account, e.g. search fees, but otherwise the agreed costs are payable in the case of purchases just before completion and in respect of sales, out of the proceeds of sale.
We will send you a final bill after completion of the work. Payment is due on delivery of any bill. We reserve the right to claim interest upon the sum outstanding pursuant to The Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 as amended and supplemented by The Late Payment of Commercial Debts Regulations 2002. This permits us to apply late payment interest and seek reasonable debt recovery costs.
In some cases we may agree to send you interim bills at various stages in which case we will agree those arrangements in writing with you.
If you have any query about your bill, you should contact the person undertaking the work on your matter straight away.
Administering Estates and Trusts/Insurance Mediation Activity
We are not authorised by the Financial Services Authority. However, we are included on the Register maintained by the Financial Services 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 theSolicitors Regulation Authority. The Register can be accessed via the Financial Services Authority website at www.fsa.gov.uk/register.
Sometimes conveyancing/family/probate/company work involves investments. We are not authorised by the Financial Services 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.
If you have any problem with the service we have provided for you then please let us know. We will try to resolve any problem quickly and operate an internal complaints handling system to help us resolve the problem between ourselves. If for any reason we are unable to resolve the problem between us, then the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Legal Ombudsman (see “client care partner and complaints” above) provide complaints and redress mechanisms.
The Law Society is a designated professional body for the purpose 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 if the independent complaints handling body of the Law Society.
Interest on monies held
Any money which you pay to us or which we receive on your behalf otherwise than in respect of invoiced fees or disbursements will be held on a client account and we will account to you for interest thereon at a fair and reasonable rate when it is fair and reasonable to do so, taking into account the amounts held and the periods for which those amounts are held. What is “fair and reasonable” will depend on the amounts held, the period for which they are held and the interest rate available so that in some circumstances where the amounts held are small and the interest rates low, the administrative cost may not justify a payment of interest. A typical example may be where the interest accruable would amount to less than £20.00.
We do not provide advice on the tax implications arising out of the conduct of any matters. You must consult your accountants so that they can advise you on the tax implications, if any.
Our right to a Lien
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 were incurred. This is known as a “general lien”. We are not entitled to sell the 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.
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 six 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 at your request we may make a charge.
Termination of Retainer
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.
In some circumstances we may consider we ought to stop acting for you, for example, if you cannot give clear or proper instructions on how we are to proceed or if it is clear that you have lost confidence in how we are carrying out your work.
We may decide to stop acting for you only with good reason, for example, if you do not pay an interim bill or comply with our request for payment on account. We must give you reasonable notice that we will stop acting for you.
If you or we decide that we will no longer act for you, you will pay our charges on an hourly basis and expenses as set out earlier.
It may occur that a conflict of interest arises either at the time of the commencement of our retainer or at a point after you sign this letter. Wherever possible we will attempt to avoid this occurrence
Conflicts do not just arise where we may be asked to act for two Clients on opposite sides of a dispute, which we are not permitted to do.
Conflicts can also occur where:-
Clients have a joint interest in a transaction – e.g. the disposal of loan funds or sale proceeds to one Client where two or more Clients have a claim on those funds
Married and unmarried couples – potential conflicts of interest arise where no dispute is apparent. Where this occurs we will advise upon the necessity for a trust deed and whether independent legal advice is required.
Partnership issues – not all partners have the same interest. We will attempt to recognise this and where a potential conflict arises, advise as to separate representation.
Repeat instructions – where these are received from just one party, we will check the extent of our continuing authority.
Company Clients – we ill check that the proposed action is intra vires the Company by referring to an up to date copy of the Memorandum and Articles of Association.
E-mail and other communications
We will aim to communicate with you by such 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.
Data Protection Act
The Data Protection Act 1998 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, or for the legitimate needs of our business and to comply with legal and regulatory issues.
Communication between you and us
We are confident of providing a high quality service in all respects. If, however, you have any queries or concerns about our work for you, please raise them in the first instance with the person handling your matter. If that does not resolve the problem to your satisfaction or you would prefer not to speak to the person handling your matter, then please contact the person identified in the covering letter as being available for you to contact in such an event (the Client Care Partner).
All Solicitors must attempt to resolve problems that may arise with their services. It is therefore important that you immediately raise any concerns that you have with us. We value you and would not wish to think that you have reason to be unhappy with us.
Limitation of Liability
Our liability in respect of our work for you on any matter is limited to £10 million.
Our indemnity insurers are Chartis Insurance UK Limited who can be contacted at The Chartis Building, 58 Fenchurch Street, London, EC3M 4AB. There is no territorial limit to the cover.
Unless otherwise agreed these terms of business apply to any future instructions you give us.
Your continuing instructions in this matter will amount to your acceptance of these terms and conditions of business. Even so, we ask you please to sign and date the enclosed copy of these terms and return it to us immediately. We can then be confident that you understand the basis on which we will act for you.
We hope by sending you these terms, we have addressed your immediate queries about the day to day handling of your work and our terms of business. If you still have any queries please do not hesitate to contact the person handling the matter.
THIS IS AN IMPORTANT DOCUMENT. PLEASE KEEP IT IN A SAFE PLACE FOR FUTURE REFERENCE.
I/We have read and accept the terms and conditions set out above.