BONALLACK & BISHOP Solicitors Terms & Conditions of Business – March 2020
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
You will be informed 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 review and update you with progress on your matter at regular intervals.
- We will keep you informed of relevant changes in the Law where possible.
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.
- Inform us about any deadlines which you are aware of.
- You will safeguard any documents that are likely to be required for discovery.
- 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.
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 you should raise any issues of concern immediately with your lawyer.
CHARGES AND EXPENSES
Our charges will be calculated 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 others relevant to your case, 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. 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 all will be subject to VAT at the prevailing rate. 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 £195-£325 – Legal Executives, Senior Paralegals and Paralegals £145-£185 – Trainees £115-£145 – 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”.
We may require you to pay us a reasonable sum on account of costs. This will be held in our client account and we shall account to you for interest in accordance with the above policy. We may use your money held on account of costs to pay expenses incurred on your behalf even though not yet invoiced to you. We will not be liable to pay any disbursement on your behalf unless you have put us in funds to do so when this has been requested. Any legal action or costs arising from non-payment of disbursements by you will be added to the sum owed by you to the Firm.
If, for any reason, your 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:
Personal Online Banking. Please see the Account details on the invoice.
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. Cheques which remain uncashed from 4 months of the date of issue will be written back onto your account and an administration charge of £36 including VAT will be added; this is to cover our costs of cancelling the cheque, re-opening a file, writing to you and re-issuing payment (these are all actions required for Audit standards and cannot be avoided).
International Payments. The fees/charge for INTERNATIONAL payments will be £75.00 + VAT per transaction. Please note that we cannot be held responsible for fluctuations in exchange rates.
Debit and Credit cards. Some credit cards are not accepted so please check. There is a limit on the use of credit cards of £2000.
Website Payments – Go to www.bishopslaw.co.uk and click on Pay Online on the right side of the screen. You can also use this for monies on account.
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 £20 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 £30 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. VAT will be added to all of the charges above.
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 £30 or less will not be paid due to the disproportionate administrative costs in accordance with SRA guidelines. Please note that the rates of interest that we might earn on your behalf are likely to be lower than you might otherwise obtain since we need to have instant access to all such funds.
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.
If we breach our contract with you, we will not be liable for any loss of profits of loss of business or depletion of goodwill or loss of anticipated savings or loss of contract or loss of use. We shall have no liability to you if we are prevented from, or delayed in performing, our obligations or from carrying on our business by acts, events, omissions or accidents beyond our reasonable control.
Bonallack & Bishop Solicitors (rather than its partners, employees and consultants as individuals) will provide advice and services to you. You agree that you will not bring any claim in person against any partner, employee or consultant of Bonallack & Bishop Solicitors in connection with any advice or services provided or for the acts or omissions taken or not taken by them.
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 £60 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.
Please note that any such searches and copy documents will be securely maintained on the file for your matter in pursuance of our data protection policy. The uses that will be made of this data will be to provide confirmation of the identity of the person(s) providing it only. The law requires us to maintain such data for the period of five years from the end of the matter we are handling for you or from the date at which you cease to be a client of this firm. However, you agree to our retaining the forms and any other data for our usual file retention period of 7 years from the date of the file being archived, or longer than this if necessary, as when litigation has arisen or may be pending, and the checks have or may become relevant in any such proceedings.
If your matter has been referred to us for which we will pay a fee, you will not have been charged for this and the fee we charge will be the same as for any other client based on the same transaction.
We are not authorised under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, nor are we regulated by the Financial Conduct 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 provides an independent complaints review process for most clients of solicitors’ firms. If you are unhappy with any investment advice you receive from us, you should raise your concerns with either of these bodies.
We are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority. However, we are included on the register maintained by the Financial Conduct Authority so that we may carry on insurance distribution 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 Conduct Authority website at www.fca.gov.uk/register.
If you are unhappy with any insurance advice you receive from us, you should raise your concerns with either the Solicitors Regulation Authority or the Legal Ombudsman whose address details appear under ‘Complaints’ below. Please also note that we act as an ancillary insurance mediator only in this regard and not as an insurance provider
DATA PROTECTION AND PRIVACY NOTICE
We use the information you provide primarily for the provision of legal services to you and for related purposes including:
- Addressing correspondence and related documents to other parties and opponents in any litigation, as well as other agencies such as the courts or Government agencies where relevant to the work we are doing for you
- Maintaining the financial and other personal information we are required to keep on clients under the professional rules we are subject to and by law including our obligations to HMRC.
Our use of that information is subject to your instructions, the EU General Data Protection Regulation 2018 and our professional duty of confidentiality. Please note that our work for you may require us to give information to third parties such as expert witnesses, other professional advisers, our regulators and our bank if they wish to ascertain the source of monies held in our client account. Please also see para 151 in relation to the external checks we are subject to in relation to our quality of work as a firm.
The legal bases which are relevant to the work we undertake for you are mostly in order that we can satisfactorily perform the contract we have with you and also so that we can protect the interests of our professional indemnity insurers through maintaining suitable records. We are required by law to retain certain data including identity and address details in order that we can comply with the Government’s anti-money laundering controls (see para 11). We would need your consent to send you future marketing information, on which see the wording at the end of this document.
We do not envisage sending any of your personal data outside the UK or the EU (if this is the case, but it might not be true if your back-up is cloud based in which case check with your provider and state instead that this may happen but that your provider has taken appropriate steps to ensure its proper handling).
You have a number of rights as a data subject including the rights to:
- Be informed of the data we hold on you.
- Have any incorrect or out of date data rectified.
- Cease to receive certain forms of communication or to restrict processing,
- Take your data elsewhere (“portability”)
- Object to our use of data.
Unlike certain other business concerns we do not as a law firm involve ourselves in automated decision making and profiling.
You also have a right of access under data protection legislation to the personal data that we hold about you. If you would like to make a request to know about the personal data we/I hold on you please let us know, preferably in writing and addressed to Jane Bishop at our Salisbury Office stating “data subject access request”.
If you are unhappy about the way we are managing your data you have a right to object to the Information Commissioner at Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF (tel: 0303 123 1113). Please also see your rights to complain to the Legal Ombudsman.
External firms or organisations may conduct audits or quality checks on our practice including in relation to the quality standards of the Law Society of England and Wales. These external firms or organisations are required to maintain confidentiality in relation to your files. Please advise the person responsible for your matter if you would prefer for your papers to be withheld from inspection for these purposes. Work on your matter will not be affected in any way if you would prefer to withhold consent.
SOLICITORS ACCOUNTS RULES – AUDIT REQUIREMENTS
As the Firm is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority then we are required to adhere to procedures with regard to your file and your money. The following steps are undertaken by us as a result of these Rules and may change at any time if the SRA has an update:
- Residual Client Balances. This means where there is money left on your account several months after your legal matter has finished, e.g. due to small differences in mortgage interest, disbursement cheques not cashed, etc. We are obliged to return this money to you unless it is uneconomic to do so. The Firm’s policy is that any residual client balance of £30 or less is uneconomic to return to you and will, therefore, be sent to a Registered Charity. Any sum greater than £30 will be returned to you at your last known address but if a cheque remains uncashed then it will be written back onto your account after 4 months and the charges of £30 plus VAT will be applied. Any residual sum remaining will then automatically be sent to Charity.
DISTANCE SELLING REGULATIONS
You have the right to cancel your instructions to us within 14 working days of receiving your client care letter or other form of retainer. 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.
METHODS OF COMMUNICATION
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. Secure emails must be used to send and receive financial information to avoid hacking.
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 copy and take away – £50 plus VAT per folder.
- 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 – £35 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.
TERMINATION – ENDING YOUR INSTRUCTIONS
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. This charge may be up to £500 plus VAT plus Court disbursement.
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 see the following procedure:
- Please initially raise your complaint with your lawyer who should attempt to resolve the matter.
- If it is not possible for them to resolve your complaint, then the matter can be escalated to the relevant Head of Department.
- If the problem remains then the matter is forwarded to the Client Care Partner, Denise Broomfield at the Salisbury Office, email: firstname.lastname@example.org who will undertake a review of the file and discuss the matter with the relevant lawyer.
- Your complaint will be acknowledged as soon as practicable, but a full investigation and review will take up to 28 days before reporting back to you.
- 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. Please note that there are timescales for bringing a complaint to the Ombudsman and you should check on their website to ensure that you adhere to that.
Some clients have the right to complain 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. A strict time limit of 1 month from the date of the bill applies, and these procedures should be pursued promptly. The reverse of your bill will provide further details. If you exercise this right, you would be prevented from making a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman. In addition, if you apply to the Court for an assessment and if all or part of the bill remains unpaid at the end of that assessment, we are entitled to charge interest. There are strict time limits that apply to this process and you may wish to seek independent legal advice.
EQUALITY & DIVERSITY
This Firm is committed to promoting equality and diversity in all of its dealings with clients, third parties and employees.
These terms of business will be deemed to have been accepted by you upon our subsequent receipt from you or your agent of any instructions, verbal or written, in any matter. Unless otherwise agreed, these terms apply to any future instructions you give to us. In the event of our retainer being from more than one individual or company, the liability for our costs will be joint and several. So that we can be sure that you agree to these terms of business please sign one copy of this document below and return it to us in the envelope provided.
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 courts.