Service Plan and Terms Of Business (Private)

 

Before Accepting Instructions

Professional guidelines require us to obtain proof of your identity before we can accept any instructions from you. If you have not already done so, please bring either a current utility bill together with your driving licence (only if with a photograph) or your passport so that we can take a copy for our records. Please do not forward any original passport or driving licence in the post to ourselves as we cannot be held responsible for their security once they have left your custody. We will also require you to complete the Client Information Form at the time you come in for your first appointment, before instructions can be undertaken and accepted.

Instructions

The work that we have been instructed to undertake on your behalf is set out in the “Instructions” section of the first letter. This is the work to which those terms accordingly apply. If we are instructed to undertake further work, we would need to make additional charges. An estimate of what these are likely to be would be provided.

Personal Reference Number

You will be issued with a Personal Reference Number. Please quote this number whenever contacting us this is personal to you as a registered client of this firm. It also links other matters that we may have ongoing with you at the same time.

Evidence of Identity

Evidence of identity is required as my firm is legally obliged to establish appropriate procedures to prevent the firm from being used to assist in criminal activity. These procedures are under the Money Laundering Regulations. These procedures require my firm to verify the identity of clients and establish the source of funds in relation to a transaction. You must provide this information if requested, and must inform me or one of my colleagues involved in this engagement promptly if the source of funds changes. My firm reserves the right to suspend all work on this engagement and any others that have been undertaken by my firm, or at this firm’s discretion, to cease to act for you, until your identity has been verified and any source of funds is identified in accordance with Money Laundering Regulations. In addition, in order to comply with the above mentioned legislation and regulations, my firm may have unilaterally to cease to act without warning or explanation. This firm does not accept any responsibility for any loss or inconvenience which any action taken in this regard may cause.

Further, under the Proceeds of Crime Act, 2002, if either myself or a member of my firm are or become aware or have reasonable suspicion to believe that you have committed a criminal offence, which falls under the Proceeds of Crime Act, 2002 and the Money Laundering Regulations, this firm is legally obliged to give details of the offence to the Serious Organised Crime Agency, further to cease acting for you until the firm has been cleared by this Agency to continue to act and not to inform you or give any indication that I or a member of this firm have contacted the above Agency. This will apply to virtually all situations where a person has received a financial benefit arising from a criminal offence or a breach of the statutory duty. It does not matter how trivial or technical the offence is. I regret there is no discretion in this matter as I or a member of my firm would be committing a criminal offence if there is a failure to act in accordance with the above regulations. In the event that the suspected criminal conduct did not exist, our liability will not exceed the minimum level of cover required by the Solicitors Insurance Rules which shall apply at the time of contract.

Day to Day Conduct

The person in the firm having day to day conduct of your matter is shown in the “Person Dealing” section of the accompanying letter. Where a specific secretary will be involved, her name is also shown. If she is unable to help you, she will be pleased to take a message.

Department Head/Supervisor/Client Care Partner

The Department Head/Supervisor is the person with ultimate responsibility for your matter and is shown in the “Department Head/Supervisor/Client Care Partner” section of the accompanying letter.

Transfer

Should it become necessary at any stage to transfer the day to day conduct or overall supervision of your matter to another person within the firm, we will notify you of the change together with the reason for it. Please note this will be where a material amount of work is to be undertaken other than the person who is referred to in this letter.

Problems-Concerns-Complaints

As a firm we are concerned to maintain the standard of our services. There may be on occasion a time when a problem arises or you are unhappy about any aspects of service that you have received or about a bill. If this happens, we hope that you will tell us so that we can review the matter and see how it can be resolved for you and to the satisfaction of all those affected.

If you have a problem or a concern, this is the best way to enable us to help to solve it:-

  1. Discuss the matter with the person having day to day conduct of your matter first. If he/she can resolve it, this will be done as quickly and pleasantly as possible. If not, then;
  2. Refer to the matter for consideration to the person referred to in your letter under “Department Head/Supervisor/Client Care Partner”. This can be by way of telephone or a letter. That person will then do all that they can to resolve the situation in accordance with our procedures which can be accessed via our website. We have 8 weeks to consider your complaint. If we are unable to help you, then you can have the complaint independently looked at by the Legal Ombudsman. If they are not able to resolve the difficulty;
  3. The Legal Ombudsman at PO Box 6806 Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ to consider the complaint, please note however that normally any such complaint must be made within six months of our final written response. Further information should be obtained from the Legal Ombudsman on 0300 555 0333 or at enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk.
  4. If your complaint concerns a bill and 1-2 above have not resolved issues, then you may have the right to have the bill reviewed by the Court. You cannot ask the Legal Ombudsman to consider a complaint about a bill if you have applied to the court to assess your bill. Separate guidance with regard to this will be submitted at the time of any complaint.

Timescale

An estimate of the initial timescale in your matter is given in the “Timescale” section of the first letter. It will depend upon the nature of your matter as to how definite and accurate a timescale estimate can be given. Where the matter is complicated or lengthy (e.g. litigation) or progress is dependent upon the actions of others, then there are numerous circumstances which can make even the most careful timescale estimate turn out to be wrong. We will do our best to keep you informed of the timescale involved throughout your matter. Please do not make arrangements based upon a timescale estimate without checking with us whether it is sensible and safe to do so.

Action to be Taken

We will discuss and agree with you, the action to be taken by us in your matter at relevant points. There may also be action to be taken by you. We will explain any such action to you and agree the level of service to be provided both at the outset and on regular reviews. Either at the outset or during the course of you matter we will discuss with you any limitations or conditions on our acting or whether we need to share any of your information with a third party e.g. Estate Agent or Independent Expert.. We will obtain your consent prior to doing so.

Third Parties

If instructions to us are subject to any referral arrangements you will be advised of this to ensure compliance. There are certain circumstances in which, such as Money Laundering Regulations we may have to disclose information to those authorities without informing you of the same.

Keeping Informed

We will agree at the outset the level of communication between us with regards to you matters. This will be dependent upon the nature of your instructions and the work that is required to be done. We will send copy correspondence to you for your information (unless you have instructed us not to do so). We will advise you of any significant delays and the reason or reasons for them. We will indicate at each stage when and how we are next likely to be in touch with you. Please note that there are peak times at this office where it may be difficult to contact a fee earner. This is generally on a Friday. However, please leave a message and we will return your call as soon as reasonably practical.

Checking Documentation

If your matter involves the preparation of any statements and/or documents on your behalf, we will check them with you before the final version is produced. Similarly if you/we receive any statements or documents in your matter from another party, we will explain them to you and check the contents with you.

Enquiries

Hopefully, you will always know what is happening in your matter. However, if you do have any queries about the up to date position or future progress do please contact us. The one point which we would ask you to bear in mind is that our time is your money. Therefore in your own financial interest, unnecessary or lengthy phone calls should be avoided

 

CHARGES

Legal Representation/Help Assessment

You have been assessed and found not eligible for advice and assistance under this Scheme. The charges therefore have to be paid by you. The first letter confirms that the matter is privately paid in the “Costs” section.

Other Types of Funding

At the outset of the case the person dealing with the matter will discuss with you whether or not there are other types of funding available to you such as any insurance cover and/or conditional fee, no win no fee or finance facility.

Basis of Charging

The charges we will make in the matter covers the work that we have been instructed to undertake as shown in the “Instructions” section of the first letter. If we are instructed to undertake further work we would need to make additional charges. An estimate of what these are likely to be could be provided. Our charges will be calculated by reference to the time spent by legal and executive staff dealing with your matter.

Charging Rates

A preliminary hearing point needs to be stressed. The hourly rates quoted appear to be a high level. However please bear in mind the hourly rate which you pay must cover not only training, knowledge and expertise of the Solicitor but also staff and office running costs. We will charge you the amount specified in the client care letter per hour for each hour engaged on your matter from now until the annual review date. Routine letters that we write, and routine telephone calls that we make and receive will be charged as units of 1/12th of an hour. Routine letters received and other letters and calls and time spent on the file will be charged on a time basis either have as preparation/consideration or attendance.

If your instructions mean that we have to work outside normal office hours we reserve the right to increase the level of the hourly rate. You will however be notified in writing of any increased rate. In addition, to this time spent, we may take into account the number of factors which include the complexity of the issues, the speed at which action must be taken, the expertise or specialist knowledge that the case requires and, if appropriate, the value of the property or subject matter involved. On the basis of the information currently available we expect these factors to be adequately covered by the hourly rates stipulated in our client care letter to you. The rates may be higher if, for example, the matter becomes more complex than expected: – we will notify you of this. If you do have any queries about the level of any revised rates notified to you, then please contact us straight away.

The amount of your costs which you will have to pay may be greater that the amount you can recover from another party to the case.

Annual Rates Review

The charge rates are reviewed annually in April and therefore if your matter has not been concluded before the next review the rates applicable will increase. We will let you know the new rates as soon as they have been sent.

VAT

The charge shown does not include that which will be added at the rate which is prevalent at the time of issue of the bill.

Fixed Charges

In a matter where the charges for the work instructed are fixed these are stated in the “Costs” section of the first letter. If work has to be done which is additional to the work instructed we would need to make additional charges. However, we will advise you of those costs and agree the same with you before proceeding in the undertaking of the additional work.

Estimated Charges

In a matter where the charges for the work instructed are variable, an estimate or series of estimates of the anticipated total charges will need to be given. You can at any time set a limit to the costs to be incurred. We would then need to discuss with you the up to date position, review the further work required and obtain your authorisation to an extension of the costs limit before we could incur charges beyond the limit set. An initial estimate of the hours to be spent on your matter including letters and telephone calls and f the resulting costs plus VAT are stated in the “Costs” section of the first letter. Please bear in mind that any time and charge estimates can be affected in numerous ways beyond our knowledge and control. We will inform you if any unseen additional work becomes necessary (for example, due to unexpected difficulties or if your requirements or the circumstances significantly change during the course of the latter). We will also inform you of its estimated cost in writing before any extra charges and expenses are incurred.

Disbursements

Disbursements are payments that are made to third parties and are in addition to the costs plus VAT. The disbursements which we anticipate incurring in your matter are listed in the “Disbursements” section of the first letter. If it becomes apparent that additional disbursements will be involved, we will let you know. Examples of disbursements are Court fees, fees for Medical Reports and Barrister’s fees, Search fees and Registration fees which you will have to pay. Unless otherwise stated we will require payment of the disbursement sum from you as and when they arise. Please note we cannot accept payment of disbursements by credit card.

Payments on Account

In most cases as a condition of accepting instructions to act we require a payment on account of profit costs and disbursements. If a payment is requested and not made we expressly reserve the right to cease acting. You should be aware that the total costs may be greater than the sum or sums paid on account.

Payment Arrangements

We require costs to be paid in one of the following ways:-

a) A sum or sums on account of profit costs, VAT and disbursements.

b) Monthly instalments by standing order/direct debit or payment on account. Please note this facility ends on submission of final account when any balance will be due within seven days.

c) Upon delivery of a bill whether interim or final.

d) We cannot accept debit/credit card payments from you to settle third party liabilities as these incur us in charges. Please contact us regarding this.

The method of payment agreed with yourself is set out in the “Payment Arrangements” section of the first letter.

If we have agreed to act under a Conditional Fee Agreement then payment is due upon successful completion of your Case.

We accept payment by:

  • Cash up to a maximum of £500
  • Debit Card
  • Cheque;
  • BACS/TT;
  • Credit Card – this is only available for our costs. Please note there is a charge for Credit Card handling fee payments – please refer to office on current charges.

Delivery of Bills

It is the practice of the firm to deliver interim statute bills. This is where you have agreed to or asked for delivery of a final bill for work done to date, or at the conclusion of the matter, or whether either ourselves or yourselves terminate the retainer or in any event on a quarterly or lesser basis agreed between us.

Please note that any interim bill will be the only and final bill for charges and expenses incurred during that period and for the work specified in that bill. We expressly reserve the right to cease acting if payment is requested and not made in respect of interim accounts. If you have any issue with the bill raised, please refer to the above section headed ‘Problems – Concerns – Complaints.’

Abortive Matters

If your matter does not proceed for whatever reason a bill is delivered in respect of the work that has already been completed, disbursements incurred and VAT. The sum will be dependent upon the amount of work done.

Settlement Terms

Bills are to be settled within 7 days unless otherwise directly agreed and in writing with the partner in charge of the department.

Interest

Interest is charged on bills that are not paid within 28 days at a rate of 15% per annum (accruing on a daily basis) from the date of the invoice. If no payment is received after 30 days of issue of account we shall institute recovery action and reserve the right to cease to further act on your behalf.

Non Payment and Ceasing to Act

You may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time but we will be entitled to keep all of your papers and documents whilst 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 in 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 a payment on account, as the relationship between us and you may also be ended automatically be law e.g. your bankruptcy or mental incapacity. 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 rate basis and expenses as set out earlier.

The full amount of work done up to that date will be charged to you. Please note, in particular, in a case requiring representation, non payment will mean that we will not be able to appear on your behalf. Further costs incurred in our being removed from the Court record as acting for you will be charged to you. Currently there is a Court fee of £80.00 to issue the application and therefore overall costs are likely to be in the region of £170.00 plus VAT.

Order for Costs

You are personally responsible for payment of our bill of costs regardless of any Order for costs made against the opponent. It is important for you to understand this point, particularly in the situation where the opponent is financially unable to pay the Order for costs or can pay over a period of time.

It is never possible to predict precisely the outcome of a case in relation to costs. This is because the award of costs is in the discretion of the Court. The award of costs and even if you win your case is subject to 3 qualifications.

a) If your opponent is legally aided an Order for costs may not be made against them.

b) Any Order made may not cover the full amount of the costs which you have incurred.

c) The opponent may not be in a financial position to pay the costs ordered.

In any civil litigation matter careful consideration needs to be given both at the outset and throughout as to whether the likely outcome will justify the expense and /or risk involved.

Payment by a Third Party

You may be covered by legal costs insurance so that our charges will be paid for from this source in any event. Your opponent may have insurance cover so that in the event of an agreed settlement or Court Judgement in your favour, our charges will be paid by the Insurance Company. In the first situation any terms and conditions of the legal costs insurance needs to be considered and observed to ensure that our charges are covered. In the second situation the payment of the Insurance Company may not cover all our charges and disbursements. For example, the Insurance Company may not be prepared to pay for any work carried out in connection with a Legal Aid application and/or certificate or for any disbursement paid for a report or other document which is not used in which case you would remain responsible for these costs.

Monies due to You/From You

A) Please note that all cheques received require six working days to clear though our bank. When making payment to you during or at the conclusion of the matter payment will be as follows: –

Sums less than £100,000.00 – bank transfer (BACS) which take up to 3 days clearance – no charge to you

Sums over £100,000.00 by telegraphic transfer (TT) (please note admin/bank charges of £35.25 inc VAT will be deducted from balance due to you) or by bank transfer (BACS). Please ensure that the fee earner in charge of your matter has in writing from you your bank details namely, name and address of your bank, sort code, our account name/number.

B) Interest

Our Policy is that whilst monies are held by us on your behalf, interest will be paid to you at a reasonable and fair rate where interest is payable by the Bank to ourselves, this being at a rate of 0.5% less than the rate that we receive and also as follows:-

(a) (i) £1,000 to £10,000 – if held for more than 60 days.

(ii) £10,000 to £20, 0000 – if held for more than 28 days.

(iii) Balances over £20,000 – after 14 days and

(b) That the interest earned is more than £20.00 in total due to you or Trust in the absence of any unusual circumstances.

We would remind you the rate of interest payable on client or Trust account is likely to be significantly less than that if you or the Trust held the funds themselves and invested it themselves.

(c) Should we issue a cheque in settlement, please note if it is not presented within 6 months of the date of issue then the cheque will be cancelled and an administrative charge of £40.00 inc VAT will be levied from the balance of the funds held. Any interest that may have accrued whilst the funds have not cleared may at the discretion of the partners be paid to you if the interest earned exceeds £20.00 until funds are reissued to you. If a balance is held for more than 12 months we then have the right to request the Solicitors Regulation Authority to allow us to send the balance to an authorised charity recognised by them. Any variation to this will only apply by prior written agreement between the partners and the client.

External Assessments/Audits

Please note that periodically we do have external audits from bodies such as the Legal Services Commission, the Law Society, Solicitors Regulation Authority and Lexcel and other specialist accreditation organisations together with Court Services or Police Services or Mortgage Lenders.

As part of the audit process your file may be randomly selected for the independent assessors to ensure that we have complied with the necessary criteria. The assessor is subject to strict confidentiality and is purely used for the purposes of the audit process. By accepting this Service Plan and Terms of Business, we are now seeking your consent to the release of your file for an independent audit inspection, should the need arise, unless we hear from you in writing to confirm that you object to the release of information from your file or the audit of your file. Please note that you can raise objection at any time throughout the course of the conduct of your case as at any time during the course of conduct of your case or at any time thereafter after the file has been formally closed and archived until such time as it is destroyed (10 years).

Reviews

By becoming a client of this firm you have a unique file reference number which is held on our data base.

We will periodically review matters even after conclusion of a case and will contact you with any updates or suggestions as to reviewing your matter. By accepting the terms of service you are confirming that you have no objection to us contacting you in the future. We will not refer your details to any third party without your prior consent save as referred to in internal assessment/audit.

RIGHT TO CANCEL

Where we have taken your instructions at a distance or not at our business premises, then you have a right to cancel within 14 days of instructing us without giving a reason or incurring any charges save where you have required us to carry out work on your behalf without waiting the cancellation period. Those where instructions have been provided at a distance, a Notice of Cancellation will be provided to you for completion if required.

The right to cancel the contract will not apply where we have carried out your instructions within the cancellation period at your request.

VARIATION

Any alteration or variation of the terms set out in this document and the first letter will be made in writing by the person having day to day conduct of your matter or the partner responsible.

F.C.A.

We are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (formerly Financial Services Authority FSA). However, we are included on the register maintained by the Financial Conduct Authority so that we may 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 Services website at www.fca.org.uk/register.

The Law Society of England and Wales is a designated professional body for the purposes of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. The Solicitors Regulation Authority is the independent regulatory arm of the Law Society. The Legal Ombudsman is the independent complaints-handling Regulator. If you are unhappy with any insurance advice you receive from us, you should raise your concerns with either of those bodies.

 

 

Complaints Handling Policy

 

Our complaints policy

We are committed to providing a high-quality legal service to all our clients. When something goes wrong, we need you to tell us about it. This will help us to improve our standards. If you are unable to resolve matters with the person having day to day contact of your case then you need to contact the Department Head/ Client Care “Director” who is the person referred to in your client care letter. You will need to contact her by telephone, letter or email.

What will happen next?

As a firm we are concerned to maintain the standard of our services. There may be on occasion a time when a problem arises or you are unhappy about any aspects of service that you have received or about a bill. If this happens, we hope that you will tell us so that we can review the matter and see how it can be resolved for you and to the satisfaction of all those affected.

If you have a problem or a concern, this is the best way to enable us to help to solve it:-

  1. Discuss the matter with the person having day to day conduct of your matter first. If he/she can resolve it, this will be done as quickly and pleasantly as possible. If not, then;
  2. Refer to the matter for consideration to the person referred to in your letter under “Department Head/Supervisor/Client Care Director”. This can be by way of telephone or a letter. That person will then do all that they can to resolve the situation in accordance with our procedures. We have 8 weeks to consider your complaint. If we are unable to help you or resolve the issues in our final written response, then you can have the complaint independently looked at by the Legal Ombudsman.
  3. Please note however that normally any such complaint must be made to the Legal Ombudsman within six months of our final written response. Further information should be obtained from the Legal Ombudsman on 0300 555 0333 or at enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk or at PO Box 6806 Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ.
  4. If your complaint concerns a bill and 1-2 above have not resolved issues, then you may have the right to have the bill reviewed by the Court. You cannot ask the Legal Ombudsman to consider a complaint about a bill if you have applied to the court to assess your bill. Separate guidance with regard to this will be submitted at the time of any complaint.