BONALLACK & BISHOP Solicitors
Terms & Conditions of Business – June 2017
OUR AIM is 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.
We are Authorised and Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR WORK
The client care letter enclosing this document will inform you of the identity of the person(s) dealing with your work, of their status, charging rate and of any supervisory arrangements. Some work is done in teams and this will be explained. We will try to avoid changing those who handle your work, but, if this cannot be avoided, we will tell you of any change and why it is necessary.
SERVICE LEVELS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Our commitment to you:
- We will update you [by telephone or in writing] with progress on your matter at regular intervals.
- We will review your matter regularly, and in any case, not less than monthly.
The client’s responsibilities are:
- You will provide us with clear, timely and accurate instructions. If you do not instruct us when we ask then this may be detrimental to your legal matter.
- You will provide all documentation required to complete the transaction in a timely manner.
- You will safeguard any documents that are likely to be required for discovery.
The Firm may only act for different parties in the same or related transactions under Solicitors Regulation Authority rules. You will already have been checked against the Firm’s database but should raise any issues of concern immediately with your lawyer.
PUBLICLY FUNDED (LEGALLY-AIDED) CLIENTS
If the work that we are to carry out for you is to be publicly funded, special rules apply which will be advised to you separately. Important – if you do not supply us with the information we need to make your legal aid application or answer queries then the work we do for you will be at private rates. Any work done not covered by public funding is chargeable at our private rates.
CHARGES AND EXPENSES
Our charges will be calculated mainly based on the time actually spent by the solicitors and other staff in respect of any work which they do on your behalf. This will include meetings with you and perhaps others, reading and working on papers, correspondence with you and other parties (including by email or fax), preparation of any documents or costs calculations, reviewing your file from time to time to check on progress, and time spent travelling away from the office when necessary. Time is charged in units of 6 minutes, which will cover, for instance, a short routine letter or email or a brief un-timed telephoned conversation. All other tasks will be logged for the time actually taken. Some services are charged to you as a fixed fee and this will be made clear in the Client Care letter.
In some areas of law, the Firm will offer a Conditional Fee Agreement [CFA] (“no win, no fee”) and this will be made clear in the Client Care letter. Separate terms apply with a CFA and you should not assume that this has been offered. The Firm is not obliged to offer this facility and will depend on a clear risk assessment of your legal matter and agreement by a Partner.
You should receive a cost estimate at the outset of your legal matter. This estimate of fees will not include VAT or disbursements. Disbursements will be shown, where known, separately and will be subject to VAT. This cannot be an accurate figure (unless it is a fixed fee) but will be our best estimate given the information known at that time. In many circumstances, it is not possible to give you a long term estimate as it will depend on the decisions you make as your matter progresses. However, if at any time you are concerned about the costs of your legal work and wish to know how much it is likely to cost, you must ask your lawyer immediately.
The current hourly rates are set out below and the range is given to allow for different specialties. We will add VAT to these, at the rate that applies when the work is billed – Partners, Consultants, Solicitors, Chartered Legal Executives and Licensed Conveyancers £185-£275 – Legal Executives & Paralegals £125-£165 – Trainees £115-£125 – Support Team Staff – £95.
These hourly rates are reviewed on 1st June annually. 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, speed at which action has to be taken, and any particularly specialist expertise which the case may demand. In particular, in Property transactions, the Administration of Estates and Trusts 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 will be added. Where a charge reflecting a value element is added, we will explain this to you.
Solicitors have to meet various expenses on behalf of clients, including 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 unless we have agreed with you to the contrary in writing.
Where we have an email address for you, we will usually send the bill by email; there will be some exceptions to this.
There are various payment methods, as follows:
Debit card – no additional charge.
Credit card – 2% charge. Some cards are not accepted so please check.
Online Payments – Go to www.bishopslaw.com and click on Pay Online on the right side of the screen. You can also use this for monies on account.
Cheque – no additional charge but this requires 8 full working days for bank clearance. Any “bounced” cheques will be charged back to you at £25 which includes an admin fee on our part. Funds will not be paid out by us until they are cleared and the Firm will not be held responsible for delays.
Cash – we can only take a limit of £1500 in cash from you in any one 28 day period.
Property transactions. We will normally send you a completion statement following the exchange of contracts; payment is required prior to completion – please note the 8 days bank clearance time if providing us with a cheque. Any bank transfers are charged for as an administration fee as it includes both bank disbursements and our fee. We will automatically deduct charges and expenses at completion. If insufficient funds are available, we reserve the right not to complete your transactions and we will not be liable for any late completion penalties and interest charges. You should be aware that the completion statement may change nearer to the date of completion as some lenders do not provide final figures until much later and some disbursements are not available until post-exchange. If you are concerned, please talk to your lawyer.
Administration of estates. We will normally submit an interim bill at regular stages during the Administration. Bills will be deducted automatically from monies held in Client Account. The final account will be prepared when the Estate Accounts are ready for approval.
Trusts. Work in connection with lifetime or Will Trusts will generally be charged in a similar manner to the Administration of Estates. Specific charges eg relating to setting up the Trust will be contained in the Client Care letter.
Other cases or transactions. We ask clients to pay sums of money at the start of a case and from time to time on account of the charges and expenses which are expected in the following weeks or months. These interim bills are presented monthly. 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, we reserve the right not to undertake any further work on your legal matter until payment is received and cleared and a delay in the progress of a case will result. In the unlikely event of any bill or request for payment not being met, this Firm reserves the right to stop acting for you.
Interest will be charged daily at 8% above Bank of England Base Rate and added to your account if any invoice remains unpaid for more than 28 days from its date. Please be aware that it is your responsibility to ensure that the payment results in monies being received by the firm; any payment methods which are not honoured by your bank means that your bill remains outstanding.
There is no charge for the first arrears letter we send. A charge of £15 plus VAT per letter will be made for any further letters sent out. If you have set up a Payment Plan and failed to adhere to this arrangement, you will be charged £20 as an admin fee for us having to contact you. A failure of the banking system will not be charged to you. Where payment remains outstanding, formal legal proceedings will commence and a further charge of £75 administration fee plus court fees and any necessary disbursements will be added to your outstanding account.
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 public funding (“Legal Aid”), costs are less 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 is 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. In certain types of cases, 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.
We will pay interest on monies held on your behalf in our Client Account. Subject to certain minimum amounts and periods of time set out in the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules, interest will be calculated and paid to you based on Barclays Bank instant access account rates. The period for which interest will be paid will normally run from the date(s) on which funds are cleared by the bank until the date(s) of issue of any cheque(s) from our Client Account. Interest calculated at £20 or less will not be paid due to the disproportionate administrative costs in accordance with SRA guidelines.
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 8 full working days prior to the completion date. If the money can be telegraphed, we will request that we receive it at least the day before 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 out.
INSURANCE COVER AND LIMITATION ON LIABILITY
The firm maintains Professional Indemnity insurance and, unless otherwise agreed in writing, limits its liability for claims against the firm (currently to £2 million). The Firm’s aggregate liability, if any, to you under this retainer or otherwise relating to it (including costs) whether for breach of contract, negligence, misrepresentation of any other civil liability is limited to the lower of (a) £2 million and (b) any loss caused directly by us. For further details, please contact Jane Bishop at the Salisbury office.
PROCEEDS OF CRIME/MONEY LAUNDERING
Like all firms of solicitors, we are now required, by law, to apply procedures to guard against the risk of being involved in any way with the proceeds of crime.
Identification checks:- We need to obtain formal evidence of your identity. This may be necessary even though we have acted for you before, or even if you are known personally to a member of staff. We will tell you if such evidence is necessary, but it may help us if you are able to bring evidence to our first meeting. Typically, we shall ask for one document with your photograph, such as a passport or photographic driving licence, and one other document, such as a utility bill, which confirms your address.
We are now obliged to take ID for beneficial owners, which means that anyone who is going to gain any significant financial benefit from your legal matter at your request must be identified.
Cash: We are normally able to accept cash only up to a limit of £1500 in any 28 day period.
Source of funds: At the start of any matter, we will normally ask you to tell us the source of any funds you will be using. It is simplest for us if the source is an account in your name, in a UK Bank or Building Society. If the source is an unusual one, such as an account in another country, or in the name of someone other than yourself, please tell us as early as possible, including the reason. If the Firm is concerned about this, we reserve the right not to make the payment or receive funds.
Destination of funds: Where we are to pay out to you, we will normally do so by cheque in your favour, or into an account in your name. If you wish us to pay out to a different person, then we will need to undertake identity checks on that recipient at a further charge of £15 per person/company.
Confidentiality: We have always sought to keep our clients’ affairs confidential. However, the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 can oblige us to report information (any suspicion) about financial offences to the National Criminal Intelligence Service. In particular, if it seems that any assets involved in your matter were derived from a crime, we may have to report this. This can include even small amounts of money, and covers all offences, including, for example, tax evasion and benefit fraud, whether involving yourself or someone else.
If we have to make a report, we will not be able to tell you that we have done so. A report may result in an investigation by the Police, the Inland Revenue, or other Authorities. If you are concerned about how this may affect you, please ask us to clarify.
If, during your transaction, 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 that we are doing for you.
We do not give tax advice and you should ensure that you consult with an appropriately qualified person outside of this Firm. Your lawyer can then implement any agreed legal actions arising from this.
We are also 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 arrangement for complaints or redress if something goes wrong is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The register can be accessed at www.fsa.gov.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 deals with complaints against lawyers. If you are unhappy with any insurance advice you receive from us, you should raise your concerns with either of those bodies.
DATA PROTECTION ACT
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 may be of interest to you. If you do not wish to receive these, please inform the partners in writing.
Unless you advise us in writing to the contrary, we will assume that you agree to our permitting inspection in relation to files we open for you (in the case of Legal Services Commission audits, this is part of your own contract with this public funding organisation). Any such inspection will be on the understanding that the information and the file remains strictly confidential and will not be released by the assessor or auditor to any other person.
We will often use external contractors for the production, scanning or photocopying of documents.
DISTANCE SELLING REGULATIONS
You have the right to cancel your instructions to us within 14 working days of receiving your client care letter. You can cancel your instructions by contacting us at this office but it needs to be in writing. If we have already started work on your file then you may be charged if you then cancel your instructions. If you want us to start work earlier than 14 working days then please sign and return these terms and conditions of business by fax or email if urgent.
Email is a non-secure method of transferring information but it is used increasingly as the first choice of communication by clients. If you do not wish us to use email, please make it clear to your lawyer. The Firm takes care with anti-virus and anti-spam protections but cannot take responsibility for breaches in security nor for non-receipt of emails filtered by spam guards. If your email requires immediate attention you should ensure that this is followed up with a telephone call to your lawyer.
STORAGE OF PAPERS AND DOCUMENTS
On completion of our work, and payment of our fees, we will return to you any records or other documents you have provided to us for that work. We reserve the right to retain any papers until all of our invoices have been paid in full. Unless you instruct us otherwise, we will retain files for a minimum period of six years (other than for abortive work), but after that, may destroy them without any further reference to you. We will not, of course, destroy any documents such as Wills, Deeds and other securities which you ask us to hold in safe custody. If our instructions were to act for a child or a person registered with the Court of Protection our file will be held for a longer period.
Documents may be stored in paper format or on computers as digital images or text files. If stored digitally, the paper file will be destroyed as confidential waste. Paper files will be archived off site at a secure storage facility.
If we retrieve papers or documents from storage in relation to new instructions to act, we will not normally charge for such retrieval. However, if you request your file or copies of documents from those archived files for any other reason the following charges are applicable:
File retrieval for you or your adviser to take away – £30 plus VAT.
File retrieval for you or your representative (including a lawyer acting on your behalf) to review a document on our premises and then returned to storage – £50 plus VAT.
Copy of a document from storage – £25 plus VAT.
Any urgent requests, where you require your file within 48 hours, will incur an extra cost of £20 plus VAT in addition to the costs identified above. It is not possible to retrieve documents in a shorter timeframe.
If you need us to review the documents you have retrieved (or any new ones) then this will be charged at the hourly rate applicable to the specialist you require. This will be given in a cost estimate to you in writing before you instruct us.
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 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. Further reasons for our terminating instructions are that there is a loss of confidence between yourself and your lawyer or a conflict arises during the course of the matter.
If a Court case is involved, you may need to file with the Court a “Notice of Acting in Person” and, if you fail to do so, it may be necessary for us to apply to the Court to come off the record as the Firm remains responsible for your matter. The cost of our time to do this application and the Court fee that is charged will be your responsibility to pay and will be added to your account.
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. You may need to submit your VAT number if required.
This Firm is committed to high quality legal advice and client care. If you are unhappy about any aspect of the service you have received or about the bill, please contact Mrs Denise Broomfield on 01722 422300 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We have a procedure which is available on request. We have eight weeks to consider your complaint.
If you are not satisfied with our handling of your complaint you can ask the Legal Ombudsman [www.legalombudsman.org.uk] to consider the complaint. 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 or within six years of the act or omission about which you are complaining occurring (or if outside of this period, within three years of when you should reasonably have been aware of it).
Some clients have the right to complaint to the Firm but are not able to complain to the Ombudsman, these are:
- most businesses (unless they are defined as micro enterprises)
- charities or clubs with an annual income of more £1m, or
- trustees of trust with asset value of more than £1m
If you are unsure of your rights, please contact the legal ombudsman for further advice.
If a complaint should concern an invoice, then you should use the Firm’s complaint process as detailed above. Please note that the Firm is entitled to charge interest on any bills which remain unpaid in whole or in part.
If the complaint over your invoice involves Court proceedings, you may apply to the Court under the Solicitors Act 1974 for the firm’s charges to be assessed. Strict time limits apply, and these procedures should be pursued promptly. The reverse of your bill will provide further details.
EQUALITY & DIVERSITY
This Firm is committed to promoting equality and diversity in all of its dealings with clients, third parties and employees. Please contact us if you would like a copy of our equality and diversity policy.
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.
Your continuing instructions in this matter will amount to an acceptance of these Terms and Conditions of Business.