Our Terms & Conditions
These terms set out the basis upon which we will act for you. They are of general application. We set out in a separate Engagement Letter specific terms applying to the particular matter on which you have instructed us, including, for example, details of who is responsible for your work and their hourly rate and the amount of any payment on account required before we start work on the matter. The Engagement Letter and these terms should be read together.
1. People responsible for your work
We set out in the Engagement Letter the name and status of the individual with day to day responsibility for dealing with the matter, and the name of the supervising Director responsible. From time to time, where appropriate or necessary, we may involve other fee-earners and if so, we will tell you their names and (if appropriate) their hourly rate. We try to avoid changing the people responsible for your work but if that becomes necessary, we will inform you promptly of any change. At all times we endeavour to carry out work at an appropriate level in terms of skill and cost.
2. Service standards
- We will update you by telephone or in writing with progress on your matter on a monthly basis, unless otherwise agreed.
- We will communicate to you in plain language
- We will explain to you by telephone or in writing the legal work required as your matter progresses
- Unless otherwise agreed, we will update you on the cost of your matter every three months, or sooner if an agreed estimate is about to be exceeded.
- We will update you on whether the likely outcome still justifies the likely costs and risks associated with your matter whenever there is a material change in circumstances.
- We will update you on the likely timescale for each stage of this matter and any important changes in those estimates.
- We will keep the method of funding of your matter under review.
– Our responsibilities
- We will review your matter regularly
- We will advise you of any changes in the law
- We will advise you of any circumstances and risks of which we are aware or consider to be reasonably foreseeable that could affect the outcome of your matter.
– Your responsibilities
- You will provide us with clear, timely and accurate instructions
- You will provide all documentation required to complete the matter or transaction in a timely manner.
- You will safeguard any documents which are likely to be required for discovery.
4. Hours of Business
Our normal hours of business are 9.00am to 5.00pm Monday – Friday. Messages can be left on the answer phone outside those hours and appointments can be arranged at other times when this is required.
5. Charges, expenses and VAT
5.1 Hourly Rate
Our charges are primarily based on the time spent dealing with a matter. Time spent on your affairs will include any meetings with you and perhaps others, travelling to and from meetings, considering, preparing and working on papers, research, correspondence, making and receiving telephone calls and attending court hearings.
We will charge you at the rates set out in the table below for time spent by relevant fee-earners in carrying out work on a matter (unless different rates are specified in the Engagement Letter accompanying these terms). Our rates will be reviewed periodically and we will notify you in writing of any increased rates.
|Fee – Earner||Hourly Rate|
|Director/Senior Fee Earners||£350 – £400 plus VAT|
|Consultant||£350 – £400 plus VAT|
|Assistant Solicitor||£250 – £210 plus VAT|
|Trainee Solicitor||£160 – £210 plus VAT|
|Support Staff||£120 – £170 plus VAT|
We operate an electronic time recording system. This allows us to bill our work accurately and promptly and provides up-to-date statements of work-in-progress. Time is recorded in units of six minutes.
We always aim to charge a fair and reasonable fee for the work being carried out. This means in some cases time spent will not be the only consideration and there will be other factors to consider. These include the complexity of the matter, the amount of specialised knowledge required, the speed at which action must be taken and the importance or financial value of the matter to you, the client. If appropriate, any additional charging basis will be specified in the Engagement Letter.
If our charges are not to be based on time spent, and a different charging arrangement is to apply instead, this will be set out in the Engagement Letter.
There may be certain other expenses, including payments we make on your behalf (called “disbursements”) such as search fees, stamp duty, Land Registry fees, Counsel fees and court fees which you will have to pay. VAT is payable on certain disbursements. Photocopying carried out in the course of our work is not included in our charges. Occasional copies will not be charged for otherwise copies are currently charged at 20 pence plus VAT, per A4 sheet. Colour photocopies and A3 size copies may be charged at a slightly higher rate.
We will always try to provide an estimate of the likely overall cost of the matter, if we will be charging on an hourly basis, including the likely amount of any disbursements. Any estimate will be given in good faith based on current information when the estimate is given. An estimate is subject to revision and is not a contractual commitment on our part to carry out the work for that amount. We will let you know straightaway if at any time it appears our charges are likely to exceed any estimate. We may need to revise our estimate if extra unforeseen work becomes necessary – for example, due to an unexpected complexity or difficulty arising or material change in your circumstances. In that case, we will not incur any extra costs without your agreement.
5.4 Payments on Account
It is our normal practice to ask you to make a payment on account towards our charges or expected disbursements either at the outset or as the matter progresses. Any payment on account of our charges or expected disbursements will be held in a client account, separate from our own money pending our notification to you that it is being credited against charges or disbursements incurred. If such requests are not met with prompt payment, delay in the progress of a case my result. In the unlikely event of any request not being met, we must reserve the right to stop acting for you further.
5.5 Handling Client Money
We cannot pay out money on your behalf until we are in possession of cleared funds. We recommend that any cheques should therefore be received by us at least seven working days before monies are to be paid out to avoid clearance problems. If a longer clearance period is required we shall advise you nearer the date.
Similarly if we receive cheques for you they have to be cleared through our Bank before we can pay you.
Where we hold funds on your behalf for any reason and you owe us money in any matter we reserve the right to use such funds in settlement.
5.6 Court Hearings, Public Inquiries, Tribunal Hearings
It is our policy in matters which involve a court hearing, public inquiry, or tribunal hearing to ask you to pay all previous interim bills prior to the hearing or inquiry taking place. If you fail to do so, we reserve the right to decline to act for you at the hearing, inquiry.
If we are successful in litigation and if you are also awarded costs, any bills we send to you should still be paid within our normal terms. Any costs then recovered will be sent to you as soon as they are received by way of reimbursement.
Though a court may make an award of costs, you are still primarily responsible for our account within our normal terms. A cost award is an order that the unsuccessful party in litigation pay a contribution towards the legal costs of the successful party. Even if a costs order is made in your favour, it is unlikely you will recover more than 2/3rds of your legal costs – it is entirely in the discretion of the court as to how much is awarded. It can also take many weeks or even months to recover money from court. Some courts do require solicitors to provide lots of information about a case when a costs assessment is made. This can involve time-consuming work for us and it may be necessary for us to submit to you a further account to cover the work that we undertake in this regard. This work will normally be charged for at our hourly rates.
We will add VAT to our charges and disbursements (where applicable) at the rate which applies when the work is done or disbursements incurred. At present, VAT is 20%.
If this firm does not complete the work, we will charge you for the work done and disbursements incurred.
To enable you to budget, we will normally invoice you monthly or at other periodic intervals, as we consider appropriate, before final completion of the work.
We are committed to providing an effective and responsive service to clients. In return, we request prompt payment of both interim and final costs bills and disbursement bills. All our bills are due for payment on presentation. We will be entitled to charge you interest on all unpaid bills at 10% per annum accruing on a daily basis (from one month of the date of delivery of the bill in non-contentious matters and from date of delivery of the bill in contentious matters). If you fail to pay our bills on time, we reserve the right to stop acting for you.
Please contact the fee-earner responsible for your matter straightaway if you have any query about a bill.
We accept payment for our services by credit card. If you wish to make use of this facility you should discuss it with the person having conduct of your case/transaction. Where we have to pay money to you, it will be paid by cheque or bank transfer. It will not be paid in cash or to a third party.
7. Storage of papers and deeds
After completing the work, we are entitled to keep all your papers and documents whilst money is owing to us. We will normally keep our file of papers (except for any of your papers which you ask to be returned to you and for which we may charge you postage) for a minimum of six years from the date of the final bill. We will not destroy documents you ask us to deposit in safe custody.
We do not make a charge for retrieving stored papers or deeds in response to continuing or new instructions to act for you.
You may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time. For example, you may decide you cannot give us clear or proper instructions on how to proceed, or if you were to lose confidence in our work.
We are entitled to keep all your papers and documents while money is owing to us.
We will decide to stop acting for you only with good reason (for example if a conflict of interest should arise, or if you do not pay an interim bill or comply with a request for payment on account) and on giving you reasonable notice.
If you or we decide that we will stop acting for you, you will pay our charges on an hourly basis and disbursements or as stated in any separate correspondence.
9. Benefit of Advice
Unless otherwise specifically agreed by us, any advice given by us in the course of our engagement:
- (a) Is only for your benefit;
- (b) May not, without our prior written consent, be
- Relied upon by another person;
- Disclosed by you, except to your employees or agents who normally have access to your papers and records on the basis that they will make no further disclosure; or
- Quoted or referred to in a public document or published in any publication;
- (c) Is strictly limited to the matters stated in it and does not apply by implication to other matters;
- (d) Is given as at the date of delivery of the letter or other oral, written or electronic communication containing that advice.
Unless we have specifically agreed otherwise, we will not be bound to notify you of any changes in the law following the date on which the advice was given
10. Your queries, concerns and comments
10.1 Queries, concerns or complaints
We are confident that we will give you a high quality service in all respects. However, if you have any queries or concerns about our work for you, or about any bill raised by us, and you wish to make a complaint, please raise the matter first with the person having day to day responsibility for the matter. If that does not resolve the issue to your satisfaction or you would prefer to speak to somebody else, please contact either the firm’s client care Director, Andrew Woolfall on 01254 828300 or email@example.com. A copy of our complaints procedure is available on request or on our website at www.backhousejones.co.uk
If you are not satisfied with our handling of your complaint you can ask the Legal Ombudsman at PO Box 15870, Birmingham, B39 9EB to consider the complaint. Contact details of the Legal Ombudsman are:
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. If you are unhappy with our charges you may also be entitled to apply to court for an assessment of the bill we render under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974. Please note that if all or part of the bill remains unpaid, we may be entitled to charge interest.
10.2. Your comments
We are constantly striving to improve the quality of our service. Therefore we would welcome and value any comments whatsoever, good or bad, verbally or in writing, which you can give us at any time regarding the service provided. We certainly regard this feedback as key to our future success. Please direct all comments to Andrew Woolfall, Client Care Director.
11. Money Laundering Regulations 2007
Proof of identity
In order to comply with the law on money laundering, we need to obtain evidence of your identity as soon as practicable. We should be grateful, therefore, if you would provide us with documents to verify your identity and address, as set out on the attached sheet.
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: recent 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 money laundering disclosure. If this happens, we may not be able to inform you that a disclosure has been made or of the reasons for it.
Our firm’s policy is not to accept cash payments over £500 except with the specific agreement of one of the Directors. Please arrange for alternative methods of payment to be used such as cheque or bank transfer.
Exclusion of Liability
Any liability we may have to you in contract or negligence arising out of our compliance with the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 and related anti-money laundering legislation is hereby excluded.
12. Equality and Diversity
Backhouse Jones 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 policy.
13. Data Protection
We use the information you provide primarily for the provision of legal services to you and for related purposes including updating and enhancing client records, analysis to help us manage our practice, statutory returns and legal and regulatory compliance. Our use of that information is subject to your instructions, the Data Protection Act 1998 and our duty of confidentiality. Please note that our work for you may require us to give information to third parties such as expert witnesses and other professional advisers. You have a right of access under data protection legislation to the personal data that we hold about you. We may from time to time send you information which we think might be of interest to you. If you do not wish to receive that information please notify our office in writing.
14. Vetting of Files and Confidentiality
External firms or organisations may conduct audit or quality checks on our practice. These external firms or organisations are required to maintain confidentiality in relation to your files. If you wish to opt out of such a service please tell us.
15. Banking Crisis
In the event of a banking collapse or crisis, we will not be liable for losses resulting from a banking failure. Client monies are held in the Co-op Bank bank. Please note that the £85,000 FSCS (Financial Services Compensation Scheme) limit applies to the individual client, and so if you hold other personal monies yourself in the same bank as the firm’s client account, the limit remains £85,000 in total. If a corporate body is not considered a small company by the FSCS, then it will not be eligible for compensation. Some deposit taking institutions have several brands, i.e. where the same institution is trading under different names. You should check either with your bank, the FSA or a financial adviser for more information. We will seek consent for the disclosure to the FSCS of your details in the event of a deposit taking institution failure.
16. Payment of interest
Any money received on your behalf will be held in our client account. Interest will be calculated and paid to you at the rate set by NatWest’s special interest bearing account at ¼ of 1%. That of course may change. The period for which interest will be paid normally runs from the date(s) when funds are received by us until the date(s) on the cheque(s) issued to you. The payment of interest is subject to certain minimum amounts and periods of time set out in the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules 1998.
17. Financial Services
We are not authorised by the Financial Services Authority. If, while we are acting for you, you need advice on investments, we may have to refer you to someone who is authorised to provide the necessary advice.
However, we may provide certain limited investment advice services where these are closely linked to the legal work we are doing for you. This is because we are members of the Law Society of England and Wales, which 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 investment advice you receive from us, you should raise your concerns with either of those bodies.
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 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.fsa.gov.uk/register.
If you specifically instruct us to do so, we will liaise with your Accountants or other professional advisers in relation to investments and other such matters and provide them with such information as is in our possession which relates to you but you must rely upon the advice given by such other parties and no liability whatsoever will fall upon us in respect of any such advice given.
We will not advise you on any tax matters in relation to the transaction. Again we will liaise with your Accountants or other professional advisers in respect of any tax matters if you specifically instruct us to do so but you must rely upon the advice given by such other parties and no liability whatsoever will fall upon us in respect of any such advice given.
18. Distance Selling
If we have not met with you, the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 may apply. This means that you have the right to cancel your instructions to us within seven working days of receiving this letter. You can cancel your instructions by contacting us by post or by fax to this office. Once we have started work on your file, you may be charged if you then cancel your instructions. If you would like us to commence work on your file within the next seven working days, please sign and return the attached engagement letter and return it to this office by post or fax.
19. Security of Email
Our e-mail is unencrypted. Whilst we take all reasonable security measures, there is a risk of interception. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss arising from a third party gaining access to e-mail between us. We will assume that you consent to the use of e-mail unless you tell us in writing that you do not.
We will provide advice and legal services to you with reasonable skill and care and we acknowledge that (subject to other exclusions and limitations in this agreement) we will be liable to you for losses, damages, costs or expenses (“Losses”) caused by our negligence or wilful default. Our responsibility shall only extend to the advice and services we provide on matters which you have actually instructed us on.
We will be reliant upon you for the accuracy of the information or documentation you provide. We will not be liable for any Losses caused wholly or in part by the provision by you of false, misleading or incomplete information or documentation due to the acts or omissions of any person(s) other than Backhouse Jones. Where you have particular concerns to you and not of general application it is your responsibility to advise us.
In the event that you are being advised by one of several professionals and a limitation of liability has been agreed in relation to one or more of them, you agree that our liability to you will not be increased due to the limitation of liability agreed by you with other advisers.
Our liability to you for a breach of your instructions shall be limited to £3,000,000 unless we expressly state a higher amount in the letter accompanying these terms of business. We will not be liable for any consequential, special, indirect or exemplary damages, costs or losses or any damages, costs or losses attributable to lost profits or opportunities.
We can only limit our liability to the extent the law allows. In particular, we cannot limit our liability for death or personal injury caused by our negligence.
Please ask if you would like us to explain any of the terms above.
The firm holds indemnity insurance. If you require further information in relation to the firm’s indemnity insurance then please contact the Client Care Director, Andrew Woolfall on 01254 828300 or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Where our advice involves an assessment of legal or commercial risk we will use reasonable efforts to provide you with as accurate an assessment of risk as possible, but you agree to accept any such assessment as an expression of our opinion only and not as a statement of fact. You agree that any decision to rely upon any assessment of risk made by us is solely your responsibility and that unless our assessment is shown to have been made negligently; you agree that we will not be liable to you for any Losses which you may incur as a result of any reliance place by you on such opinions.
21. Disability Discrimination Act 1995
If you are unable to attend at our office due to a personal disability we will arrange to see you at your home or other place where we can conveniently meet.
22. Limited Companies
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.
23. Limitation of Third Party Rights
This agreement is not intended to create any right enforceable by a person who is not a party to this agreement.
24. Applicable Law
Any dispute or legal issue arising from our terms of business will be determined by the law of England and Wales, and considered exclusively by the English and Welsh courts.
The Engagement Letter sets out the basis upon which you accept our terms, and unless otherwise agreed, shall apply to any future instructions given to you by this firm.
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Dated: June 2012