Terms of Engagement
These are our standard terms, and will apply to all instructions which we receive, unless we have written to agree specific variations to them.
CALCULATION OF OUR CHARGES
Our Client Care Letter sets out how we calculate our charges.
In some cases we may be able to agree a fixed or scale charge with you. In other cases, the amount of time spent in dealing with each matter is central to the amount of the charge. This is so even if a matter does not progress to a successful conclusion.
When we have given an estimate of our charges, it is always on the basis that we will encounter no difficulties or unexpected delays. We may charge for extra work arising out of such complications, but we will inform you if our estimate may be significantly exceeded.
A careful record will be kept of the amount of time spent by everyone who deals with any aspect of a matter. Routine letters and phone calls are charged at a minimum of 6 minutes each unless a greater time is actually spent. Every person has a basic hourly charging rate. The more senior the person, the higher the rate will be.
If you wish, you may stipulate a limit to the amount of charges incurred, by writing to us to fix a sum. Once that limit is reached, we will advise you, and we will not take any further action, nor incur further charges, without your agreement.
In some cases the final charge will reflect only the value of time spent, at the hourly charging rates of those who have carried out the work. In others, factors such as value, speed, importance, difficulty, novelty, complexity, urgency, or any unusual feature, may also be relevant – if so, they may enhance the final charge.
We can supply more information about the hourly charging rates of anyone dealing with your matter, or about how a charge has been calculated, if you ask us. Basic details are in our Client Care Letter.
When we have incurred expense on your behalf, we are entitled to recover that cost from you, in the same way that we can recover charges. Disbursements may include court or search fees, fees for experts or barristers, travelling expenses, preparation of detailed costs calculations etc. The term “fees” includes our charges and any disbursement.
CLIENT CARE COMMITMENT
We will tell you who will have the day to day responsibility for each matter, and his or her position within the Department handling it. That person will inform you of progress and of any problems or delays. You should direct routine enquiries to that person. We will also tell you who is to supervise that person.
We aim to satisfy all of our clients. However, if there is any aspect of our service with which you are dissatisfied, we ask that you follow our complaints procedure:
- In the first instance, your complaint should be raised in writing to the fee earner with responsibility for your matter. Subject to professional commitments, leave or sickness, the fee earner in question shall aim to respond to you within 7 days of receipt of your complaint. If it is anticipated that the fee earner will not be able to respond within 7 days, you will be advised as to the likely alternative response time.
- If you are not satisfied with the response from the fee earner, we ask that you raise your complaint in writing to a Partner (the appropriate Partner being named in our Client Care Letter which is issued when you instruct us). The Partner, or fee earner under supervision, will aim to respond to you within 14 days of your complaint being received. If it is anticipated that the Partner or fee earner will not be able to respond within that 14 days, you will be advised as to the likely alternative response time.
- If you are still not satisfied, you may complain to the Legal Ombudsman or the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA).
- When should you complain to the Legal Ombudsman? If you believe that you have received poor service, and you are not satisfied by our response, you should contact the Legal Ombudsman. The Legal Ombudsman advises that you should allow us 8 weeks to resolve your complaint before the matter is referred to them.
- When should you complain to the SRA? The SRA deals with complaints that involve a breach by us of our Solicitor’s Code of Conduct. For example, complaints of dishonesty, discrimination or fraud can directed to the SRA rather than the Legal Ombudsman.
- In general, and if in any doubt, it is advisable to refer your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman. The Legal Ombudsman will refer the matter to the SRA if it feels that it is appropriate.
The Legal Ombudsman can be contacted by telephone on 0300 555 0333, by letter to The Legal Ombudsman, PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ, or by email to email@example.com.
For further information please visit the Legal Ombudsman’s website: http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk
The SRA can be contacted by telephone on 0370 606 2555, and a SRA Report can be sent to The Cube, 199 Wharfside Street, Birmingham B1 1RN or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information, or to download a SRA Report Form, please visit the SRA website: www.sra.org.uk
LEGAL AID AGENCY
If you qualify for funding from the Legal Aid Agency, then our fees are paid under the terms of your certificate. Work which we do before funding has been granted by Legal Aid Agency, or after it has finished, or which is outside its scope, is charged to you in accordance with these terms.
If you think you may qualify for funding from the Legal Aid Agency it is in your interests to ask us about it. We will tell you, if we think you may qualify for this funding.
RECOVERY OF COSTS AND FEES
In some matters, you may be able to recover some or all of our fees from a third party, e.g. an insurer. If you so instruct us, we will take reasonable steps to assist in recovering that money for you. However, you remain liable to pay our fees, until recovery.
It is important to draw to your attention that in many court cases:-
• if you succeed, you may be able to recover some fees from your opponent, though the amount will depend upon the circumstances. You will be responsible to us for all the fees in the first instance. Remember, there is no guarantee that your opponent will have the means to pay, even if ordered to do so.
• if you do not succeed, you may have to pay your opponent’s legal costs. Funding from the Legal Aid Agency will not cover these. We urge you to obtain insurance against such a risk, and may be able to arrange such cover for you, but we do not advise about the best policy in any particular case.
•if your opponent is, or becomes, entitled to funding from the Legal Aid Agency, it is unlikely that you will recover your legal costs, even if you succeed.
We will retain any interest on costs awarded in your favour.
If you are VAT registered and we recover fees from a third party, you may still have to pay the VAT element to us.
PAYMENT OF OUR FEES
You will usually receive the final bill when we conclude the matter. Before that we may ask you to make payments on account, i.e. advance payments to cover fees.
We may also submit interim bills when a matter is partly concluded, especially in long-running matters.
In the case of instructions received from a limited company, we may ask for a written guarantee for payment of our fees from one or more directors or shareholders, and may suspend work until these have been completed to our satisfaction. If this requirement is set out in our Client Care Letter, we will not undertake substantial work until a signed copy of the Letter has been returned to us.
Any bill submitted must be paid within four weeks. Unless you tell us otherwise in writing, we may apply any of your money we hold on our Client Account to payment of any bill due to us, 2 weeks after the bill has been delivered to you. On overdue accounts, we have the right to charge interest from the date of the bill – in the case of non-contentious work at the Law Society’s rate, and in the case of contentious work at the Judgment Debt rate.
We may immediately suspend all work on your behalf, if you do not make a payment on account when requested, or if payment of any bill is overdue. We reserve the right not to complete a property transaction if all sums due have not been paid in full. In the case of court proceedings, we reserve the right to take no further steps save to apply to come off the court record (which we will do at your expense). In any such case, we will do our best to notify you immediately.
VAT is chargeable on our fees, and (unless stated in writing) is not included in any estimate given.
Our VAT Registration number is – 426 7803 39.
OTHER POINTS TO NOTE
• Unless we have written to you accepting responsibility to advise on the tax implications of any transaction, we have no such liability or responsibility.
• Money Laundering Regulations – under these regulations we may need to ask you to provide details of identity and address, and it is a condition of accepting instructions that you will do so.
• We do not offer, or hold ourselves out as offering investment business advice. If you require such advice we will put you into contact with an independent financial adviser.
• Unless the right of enforcement is expressly granted, it is not intended that a third party should have the right to enforce a provision of this agreement under the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999.
MONEY LAUNDERING REGULATIONS
Since the implementation of these rules, we have a duty to report certain matters to the relevant authorities. If we do so in your case, and have acted in good faith, we will not be liable to you for any loss you suffer as a result of that.
We may refuse to accept payment of sums in cash.
If we act on instructions from SOCA or other relevant authority not to complete or progress a transaction then we will not be liable to you for any loss which occurs as a result of that instruction.
FILE AND STRONGROOM STORAGE
When we conclude your matter your file (or a copy) will be retained for a period of six years unless we agree a longer period with you. We may dispose of the file after that time. We presently make no charge for storing your file, but we may charge you for the time we spend, if you request its withdrawal from storage.
Documents we hold in strongroom storage will be retained in safe-keeping for as long as you wish. We make no charge for this service.
We are a firm of Solicitors in England and Wales regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (www.sra.org.uk).