SOLICITORS TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS
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
The normal hours of opening at our offices are between 9.00 am and 5.30 pm on weekdays. Messages can be left on the answer phone outside those hours and appointments can be arranged at other times when this is essential.
PEOPLE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR WORK
The solicitor responsible for dealing with your work will be #. 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.
The partner of this firm with final responsibility for work done in this department is Mr Richard Buchalter.
CHARGES AND EXPENSES
Our conveyancing charges will be in the sum of £# plus VAT and disbursements for the work to be carried out in relation to the purchase of #. The fees are quoted on the basis that the matter proceeds in a straightforward matter. Should any unforeseen complications arise that necessitate additional work to be undertaken, we will of course advise you at that time.
In addition, we will charge a fee of £# plus VAT for postage, Petties, Telephones, etc. This fee will be added to your account and will be payable on completion of the matter.
For each sum of money that we send on your behalf to a third party by telegraphic transfer, we incur a bank charge of £15.00 plus VAT. This charge will be passed on to you on completion, together, with our administration fee in the sum of £17.00 plus VAT for the time spent on processing the transfer.
Our charges will be calculated mainly by reference to the time actually spent by the solicitor 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, emails, faxes and text messages; preparation of any detailed costs estimates, schedules and bills; attending at court; and time necessary 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, emails 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, emails and texts received are charged at one twentieth of the hourly rate. Other letters, emails and calls are charged on a time spend basis.
The current hourly rates are set out below. We will add VAT to these at the rate that applies when the work is done. At present, VAT is 20%.
Partners and Consultants £270.00
Fellows of Inst. of Legal Executives, Senior Executives £200.00
Trainee Solicitors £106.00
Junior Executives/Personal Assistants £ 97.00
These hourly rates have to be reviewed periodically to reflect increases in overhead costs and inflation. Normally the rates are reviewed with effect from 1st January 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 takes 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 of 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 an increase in the rates or a charge reflecting any value element is to be added we will explain this to 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 objection 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 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.
Other cases or transactions: It is normal practice to ask clients to pay interim bills and 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 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 National Westminster Bank Plc base rate from time to time from 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 were 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.
If we are conducting litigation for you, we have additional rights in any property recovered or preserved for you whether it is in our possession or not and in respect of all costs incurred, whether billed or unbilled. We also have a right to ask the court to make a charging order in our favour for any assessed costs.
We do not accept payments to us in cash in excess of £200.00. 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.
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 money received on your behalf will be held in our Client Account. Subject to certain minimum amounts and periods of time set out in the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules 1998, interest will be calculated and paid to you at the rate from time to time payable on National Westminster Plc Designated Client Accounts. The period for which interest will be paid will normally run from the date(s) on which funds are received by us until the date(s) of issue of any cheque(s) from our Client Account.
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. I 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 for not less than 1 year. 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 copying documents to you or another at your request. We may also charge for reading, correspondence or other work necessary to comply with your instructions.
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 Services Authority, as we are not. However, as we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, 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 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. Insurance mediation activities and investment services, including arrangements for complaints or redress if something goes wrong, are regulated by Solicitors Regulation Authority. The register can be accessed via the Financial Services Authority website at www.fsa.gov.uk/register.
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. The Legal Ombudsman is the independent complaints handling body who will investigate any complaints made against solicitors. The Legal Ombudsman can be contacted at PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ; telephone: 0300 555 0333; website: www.legalombudsman.org.uk.
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.
Under the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000, for some non-business instructions, you may have the right to withdraw, without charge, within 7 working days of the date on which you asked us to act for you. However, if we start work with your consent within that period, you lose that right to withdraw. Your acceptance of these terms and conditions of business will amount to such a consent. If you seek to withdraw instructions, you should give notice by telephone, email or letter to the person named in these terms of business as being responsible for your work. The Regulations require us to inform you that the work involved is likely to take more than 30 days.
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.
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 for you.
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. If you are a new client of the firm then we will arrange to carry out an electronic verification of your identity if we consider that a saving of time and cost will be achieved by doing so. The cost of any such search will be charged to you. If the amount is in excess of £10.00 including VAT, we will seek your prior agreement.
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 Serious and Organised 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.
In order to comply with court and tribunal rules, all documentation relevant to any issues in litigation, however potentially damaging to your case, have to be preserved and may be required to be made available to the other side. This aspect of proceedings is known as “disclosure”. Subject to this, we will not reveal confidential information about your case except as provided by these terms of business and where, for example, your opponent is ordered to pay your costs, we have to meet obligations to reveal details of the case to them and to the court.
COMMUNICATION BETWEEN YOU AND US
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 complaint does not have to be put in writing, although setting out clearly the issues and the action you wish us to take may help us to resolve your concerns more quickly.
If you still have queries or concerns, please contact our Client Services Manager, Miss Belinda McCaffrey or Mr Buchalter who is the Client Care Partner to whom any final difficulty can be reported.
A full copy of the firm’s complaints procedure is available on request.
If the complaint is still not resolved at the end of this complaints process you have the right to refer your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman at PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ; telephone: 0300 555 0333; website: www.legalombudsman.org.uk. Normally, you will need to bring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within six months of receiving a final written response from us about your complaint.
We will aim to communicate with you by such a method as you may request. We may need to virus check discs or email. Unless you withdraw consent, we will communicate with others when appropriate by email or fax but we cannot be responsible for the security of correspondence and documents sent by email 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.
We are also acting for your proposed lender in this transaction. This means we have a duty to make full disclosure to the mortgagee of all relevant facts relating to you, your purchase and mortgage. That will include disclosure of any discrepancies between the mortgage application and information provided to us during the transaction and any cashback payments or discount schemes which a seller is providing you. If a conflict of interest arises, we must cease to act for you in this matter.
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.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS
Unless otherwise agreed, and subject to the application of then 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.
I/We confirm that I/We have read and understood, and I/We accept, these terms and conditions of business.
You may accept instructions from either one/any of us on behalf of us both/all of us in connection with all matters relating to our purchase/sale and to any related transaction.
I/We agree to our details being retained on a computer database.
I/We have read the above. I am/We are happy to give you the authorities requested and to instruct you to act for me/us on the terms set out.
Signed ………………………………………. Dated ……………………..
(Please print name) …………………………..
Signed ………………………………………. Dated ……………………..
(Please print name) …………………………..