Our General Business Policy on Standards of our Services (Terms of Business)
Last Updated: 01/09/2023
We agree to act for you as referred to in our Letter of Instruction and any other requirements communicated to you. Until you have complied with such requirements, We Accept No Liability.
Please sign and return a copy of this document.
Please let us know at once if there is anything in this document that you do not understand or which you do not accept.
Stephen J D Morrison
SRA Number: 648277
VAT Number: 913 479 414
2. Financial limitation on our liability
All practising Solicitors LLPs carry Indemnity Insurance of at least £3 million. The limit on our own insurance cover is £3 million. Details of our insurance can be viewed in reception. Risks in excess of that are not insured. If you become aware of any possibility that matters with which we are helping you may have a value to you of over £1 million pounds you must inform us in writing immediately please. If you do, we will consider making additional insurance arrangements. If you fail to keep us informed, we will not accept claims for sums that, arising out of the same act or omission, or set of instructions, total in excess of that figure except as required by law.
Examples of such cases may be the acquisition of land with potential development value or reference in a will to jewellery or paintings of large value. We are willing to act in such matters. We draw this to your attention simply so that proper insurance protection can be provided to you and to us. It may also be a helpful reminder to you to fully consider the value of your assets and the potential value of your activities and your own insurance cover from time to time.
We take normally prudent action by keeping our client account in a well-known British high street bank. Recent events make it necessary to say that we cannot be responsible for failures in the banking industry. The usual restrictions on compensation limits for each individual account holder apply.
You may have money deposited in the same bank as that in which we hold our client account. We might hold money for you in that client account i.e. you might have two different sums/accounts in that same bank. The question of whether, if that bank were to collapse, you would recover the then standard maximum compulsory compensation for each of your funds, or for one only, has not been decided by the courts. We understand that you will probably receive only one such amount of compensation. The situation is further complicated by the fact that some financial organisations are linked together. The £85,000.00 limit for individual clients or small limited companies applies to the total of all of your accounts within the various members of that overall linked organisation eg Halifax and Bank of Scotland are part of HBOS. The situation may of course be further complicated by future mergers and takeovers of one financial institution by another.
Please provide the required ID documents immediately (Acceptable forms of ID can be found on our enclosed Anti-Money Laundering document). Failure to do so may result in us having to refuse to accept instructions, to stop work at what may be a critical stage until the requirements have been complied with or make a report to the National Crime Agency (NCA). We are at risk of serious penalties if we do not enforce the regulations.
4. CLIENT CARE
You are our client. Unless you agree, we take no instruction from any other person without your authority. We neither pay nor receive referral fees or commissions. We promise to act in your interests alone; to keep your affairs confidential; to keep you informed; to deal with matters promptly; and to charge you fairly. If you do not understand any of the technical ‘jargon’ we use, please let us know & we’ll try and explain it another way. If you are not happy with our service, please let us know. The sooner a problem is made known to us, the easier it is to resolve. If, after speaking to the person(s) dealing with the matter you are still not satisfied, please contact the Complaints Partner Mr S Morrison (or Ms Barbara Archer if it is not appropriate to discuss your concerns with Mr Morrison). We will review the file and your concerns & contact you. A meeting can be arranged if you wish and is appropriate.
If we cannot satisfy you then please contact The Legal Ombudsman on 0300 555 0333 or email email@example.com. Alternatively, you can write to them at PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ or visit their website www.legalombudsman.org.uk. You can also ask them to send you leaflets on the subject.
Alternative complaints bodies such as Promediate (UK) Ltd of Brow Farm, Top Road, Frodsham, WA6 6SP / 0203 621 3908 / firstname.lastname@example.org exist which are competent to deal with complaints about legal services should you and we wish to use such a scheme. We do not agree to use Promediate. [Confused? We expect so, but we have to give the above information under the EU Directive on Consumer ADR Regulations 2015]. The Legal Ombudsman seems to be the most appropriate forum for complaints against solicitors.
5. OUR CHARGES
(1) We will provide you with the best information practicable about the likely cost of the matter at its outset and at regular intervals during its course. You may set a limit on the costs which may be incurred by us on your behalf (which may mean that we have to stop before the task is completed).
(2) Hourly rates are reviewed twice a year. Short letters and telephone calls are charged at 6 minutes each. We may charge for short routine incoming letters at 50% (i.e. as if 3 minutes). NB the Court allows no such charge for such items when calculating what contribution an opponent in a court case would have to make towards your costs, unless the incoming letter is lengthy or complicated. Where the work involves an unexpectedly low or high value element or urgency we may also add/subtract a charge to reflect the responsibility & risks involved, if the hourly rate does not do this adequately. This may be a percentage of the value element, or of the time charge, or a combination of both. We will inform you in advance in writing if we expect to add to our charges in this way.
(3) All figures given are exclusive of VAT, which must be added.
(4) Our charges take into account such factors as the seniority of the person dealing with the matter from time to time; the degree of specialised knowledge required; the importance or value of the transaction to you; the degree of urgency required; the degree of risk to you or to us; any costs which we may incur on your account before you are able to reimburse us; the time involved.
(5) As the estimates of our charges are given in respect of information which we have in our possession at the time that they are given, we reserve the right to raise additional charges for any other matters that do not come within the remit of a straightforward transaction.
(6) In urgent or trivial cases where we consider it appropriate to exercise our discretion and incur costs on your behalf without your written authority we will explain in detail in writing as soon as practicable.
(7) We may exercise a lien (i.e. retain) your file or other property until payment of our bill in some circumstances.
(8) We will not usually charge for very small amounts of photocopying. However, we reserve the right to do so and will usually exercise the right when large volumes of copying are involved. The rate at which we will charge is usually 25p per sheet.
(9) In most cases our bill simply states the nature of the work and the amount of the charges (what is called a “gross sum bill”). On request, we can provide an itemised bill. This can take a considerable time to prepare, depending on the size and complexity of the file relating to the work we have carried out for you. We may well find that the total is different from that in the gross sum bill, perhaps higher. We will charge for the time taken in preparing such a bill, although not necessarily at the maximum hourly rate that we charged for the actual work we have carried out for you.
(1) If we have to make payments to others on your behalf (disbursements) we will normally ask you for a deposit to cover them
(2) Unless it is a short matter, or you have public funding, we will usually send you bills at intervals or when the work done exceeds a set amount. If such bills are not paid, we have the right to stop acting for you and to deliver a bill for all work done. Payments on account will not be spent until disbursements have to be paid or a bill is delivered.
(3) Bills are payable within thirty days unless otherwise specified. We will charge interest at 4% above Barclays Bank base rate on any bills not paid within one month of delivery, or, if higher, at the County Court rate or rates applicable during the relevant period, and in the case of commercial business clients at the rate and with the penalties authorised by the Late Payment of Commercial Debts Act 1998. We may do so even if we agree to wait longer for payment. In the case of non-contentious business our authority to charge interest on the outstanding amount of any bill is Article 5 of the Solicitors (Non-Contentious Business) Remuneration Order 2009
(4) If we hold funds on your behalf, we may withdraw from them: sufficient for costs, disbursements and VAT.
(5) Please note that we will always require time to clear cheques before being able to use money provided to us by you. Direct transfers into our Client Account may be preferable, but even they may need to be checked as in some cases the paying Bank may have a right of recovery. Please therefore allow 7 working days between the first day on which we can bank your cheque and the event for which you have paid us the money.
(6) In residential conveyancing and some other cases we may deliver a bill before, on, or after completion and in any case we have the right to refuse to conduct any further work of any nature if payments required by us and properly notified to you are not up to date.
(7) Breach of any payment terms agreed with you may result in us stopping work which in some cases could have very serious consequences for you. Therefore, Please Discuss With Us As Soon As Practicable Any Payment Problems. Any amendments must be agreed in writing. We may make a charge if a cheque is stopped, or a payment made into client account other than in accordance with an agreement
(8) We may require security for costs e.g., a charge on your house or a Solicitors undertaking to pay from the sale of a property in which you are involved.
7. RESTRICTIONS ON MEANS OF MAKING PAYMENTS TO, OR RECEIVING PAYMENTS FROM, YOU.
A. We cannot accept payments of over £500.00 in cash (except in settlement of costs) for insurance reasons. We may charge you for the time involved in counting excessive cash & coins.
B. Cash needs to be counted by two members of staff and there may be a delay before they become available.
C. We can accept, from named clients only:
C.1 Transfers direct to our Client Account (which may not be treated as cleared funds) provided we have prior notice with details of the account from which money will be received.
C.2 Bankers Drafts
C.3 Building Society cheque or your own cheque allowing 5 days for clearance
C.4 Payment via Visa or Mastercard, up to £2000.00
D. International transfers of funds have additional restrictions.
E. Similar Regulations apply in reverse for payments by us to you.
F. Unfortunately, we cannot accept payment by American Express.
You have the right to have your bill assessed (i.e. the amount of the bill approved) by the Court under Sections 70, 71 and 72 of the Solicitors Act 1974.
8. INSURANCE OF COSTS
In some cases, it is possible to take out insurance to help protect you should you be ordered to pay the costs of another party. If you would like to know more about this please specifically ask us.
9. ARE YOUR COSTS PAYABLE BY ANOTHER?
Please check all your insurance policies and your membership of organisations e.g. motoring organisations to see whether you have any existing contract which would result in your costs to us being paid by someone else. If there is any such cover then please inform us and that insurer or organisation immediately as otherwise you may lose the benefit of such cover. We no longer offer any form of Legal Aid. Any insurance company of any other person paying your costs may wish to control your case.
10. CLIENTS’ MONEY
We pay all monies which belong to clients into a Client Account at our bank and we will credit you with the interest earned on it in accordance with the Solicitors’ Account Rules applicable at the time, subject to the retention of the first £20.00 and where appropriate to the deduction of a reasonable administration fee plus VAT. We refer you to information under the heading ‘limitation on our financial liability’ at the head of these terms.
11. INSURANCE AND FINANCIAL ADVICE AND REGULATION OF THE PROFESSION GENERALLY
The Law Society is a designated professional body for the purposes of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 but responsibility for regulation and complaints handling has been separated from the Law Society’s representative functions. The Solicitors Regulation Authority is the independent regulatory body of the Law Society and the Legal Ombudsman is the independent complaints handling body of the Law Society. We have professional indemnity insurance cover with W R Berkley Syndicate Management Limited (Syndicate WRB 1967), 14th Floor, 52 Lime Street, Langbourn, London, EC3M 7AF to cover our activities in England & Wales. The limit of £3,000,000 and the details including the policy number are displayed in reception.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority rules are available at www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/code-of-conduct.page
We are not regulated/authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority. However, we are included on the Register maintained by the Financial Conduct 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 arrangements for complaints or redress if something goes wrong, is regulated by The Law Society. The Register can be assessed via the Financial Conduct Authority website at www.FSC.org.uk\register
On request, we will introduce you to an independent and authorised organisation for investment or insurance advice.
WE ARE NOT SPECIALIST FINANCIAL ADVISERS. WE CAN ONLY ADVISE IN GENERAL TERMS AND WHEN APPROPRIATE IN CONNECTION WITH ANOTHER MATTER.
WE DO NOT ACCEPT COMMISSIONS FROM ANY INSURANCE COMPANY OR ADVISER.
12. CONFIDENTIALITY AND THE GENERAL DATA PROTECTION REGULATIONS
Although there are exceptions, the profession has always been obliged to keep your information confidential. The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) go into the subject in some detail. We comply with those obligations. Please see our enclosed notice relating to them. The main objective of the GDPR seems to be to restrict the ways in which some organisations have been selling information which their customers or staff might have considered confidential. Other organisations buy such information for marketing purposes. We do not sell or give away any such information. We will store information about you and retain it after your matter has completed. We may have to divulge certain information to some organisations in certain circumstances such as the Land Registry when registering a transaction, HM Revenue & Customs in connection with tax or VAT, money laundering authorities or you lender, as a few examples. We do not encrypt emails.
It is important that you understand that this is an important part of the terms on which we provide services to you.
You may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time, subject to our need to be able to satisfy any undertakings we have given in connection with your matter. We will be entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is any money owing to us for our charges and expenses. In case of emergency we would attempt to co-operate as fully as possible with any other Solicitors instructed by you. If we have to decide ourselves to stop acting then we will tell you in writing, with reasons where we can, and as soon as practicable. This can happen if a conflict of interest arises between you and another client; if you are unable to pay money on account as required; or if we are seriously concerned that the instructions you give us may not be in your own best interests or may conflict with our obligations e.g. professional obligations on Solicitors as Officers of the Court; a breakdown in the mutual trust between us and you, or some other reason. In some cases we would not be permitted to give a reason e.g. if there were a possible money laundering problem.
14. LIMITED COMPANIES
Where our client is a limited company then the directors shall be liable for our fees and disbursements in the event that the Company fails to pay them. Directors accepting our Terms of Business and signing our Letter of Instructions are doing so both in their capacity as directors on behalf of the Company and as private individuals.
15. STORAGE OF DOCUMENTS
(1) We make no charge for storage but may charge for making copies or for checking information on them for you. We may in rare circumstances make a charge for recovering documents from store and sending them to you.
(2) We will give you a written receipt which sets out more details of the terms on which we store those documents.
(3) Files (not Wills or Deeds) will eventually be destroyed by a confidential paper destruction service, usually after a minimum of 6 years, but meanwhile are available to you on reasonable notice and your signature to these Terms of Business evidences your agreement to this. We may in rare circumstances make a charge for recovering an old file from store and sending it to you.
16. RIGHTS OF THIRD PARTIES
Your instructions to us and our services to you confer No benefits upon a Third Party.
17. DISCRIMINATION AND EQUALITY
We do not discriminate on grounds of colour, religion, sexuality, gender, age or any other arbitrary criteria. We do not instruct experts or barristers who do so. We do not accept instructions from clients who want us to do so in connection with the work they request us to do.
Email is the quickest and cheapest although some documents have to be provided as hardcopies, e.g. through the post or collected by you.
Due to the high volume of incoming emails at present, they are being treated as incoming post and will not be dealt with any more quickly than letters received.
We use reasonable endeavours to ensure that our IT system is free of viruses and other problems. We cannot guarantee its security or confidentiality any more than we can guarantee the postal service.
All of our incoming and outgoing external calls are recorded and the data is handled in line with our GDRP policy. If someone answers your telephone we will usually assume that he or she is authorised to pass a message to you and will do so.