Grey-Smith Legal Limited Terms and Conditions of Business
These Terms and Conditions of Business along with the accompanying letter of engagement govern the Solicitor-client relationship which will exist between us. By continuing to instruct this firm we are entitled to assume you have agreed to these terms and conditions. Unless otherwise agreed these Terms and Conditions of Business shall apply to any future instructions given by you to this firm. These terms cannot be altered other than in writing.
2. Standards of Service
We aim to offer our clients quality legal advice with a personal service at a fair cost. This statement sets out the basis on which we will provide our professional services to you.
Grey-Smith Legal Limited sets the following standards:
· We will keep you regularly updated with progress on your matter, and explain the legal work required as your matter progresses. We will do this using plain language, not legal jargon.
· We will update you on the cost of your matter where appropriate, particularly where any unforeseen additional work is required.
· Where there is any material change in circumstances we will update you on whether the likely outcomes still justify the likely costs and risks associated with your matter.
· We will update you on the likely timescales as your matter progresses.
In return, we request that you assume the following responsibilities:
· To provide clear, honest instructions to us at all times
· To respond to any communications from us promptly and to attend arranged appointments.
· To provide us with accurate contact details and keep us informed of any change of address, telephone numbers and email addresses in a timely manner.
· To make payment of any invoices issued to you, and any requests for upfront payments from you promptly.
3. Hours of business
The normal hours of opening at our offices are between 9.00am and 5.00pm Monday to Friday (except Bank Holidays). Outside of these hours you may leave us a voicemail message or email us, and appointments can be arranged at other times when this is essential/unavoidable.
4. People responsible for your work
The person responsible for dealing with your work and the person responsible for the overall supervision of the matter will be set out in our initial engagement letter. We will try to avoid changing the people who handle your work but if this cannot be avoided, we will advise you of the change promptly, and will advise you why the change was necessary.
5. Charges and expenses
The fee structure applied to our work will depend upon the nature of the matter. It will be calculated on either an hourly rate basis or a fixed fee basis.
If we have agreed a fixed fee for work on your case, the arrangements will be set out in our Engagement Letter. As long as we are not required to do any additional work than when the fixed fee was agreed with you, we will not make any additional charge. We do however reserve the right to make an additional charge should the matter become lengthier and/or more complex or lengthier than originally thought. In such circumstances we would either increase our fixed fee estimate, or charge the additional work at an hourly rate for the additional work involved. In such circumstances we would always try and give you our best estimate of the likely additional cost, or if this is not possible, we would ask for your authority to carry out work to an agreed maximum fee limit.
Where matters are funded on an hourly rate basis, our charges will be calculated by reference to the time actually spent by the solicitors and other staff in respect of any work which they do on your file. This includes any meetings with you or others where necessary or requested by you; reading, preparing and drafting of legal documents; making and receiving telephone calls, e-mails, faxes and text messages; preparation of bills; and time necessarily spent travelling away from the office where necessary/applicable. If necessary we may arrange for some of this work to be carried out by persons not employed by us. Any such work carried out will be charged to you at the rate which would be charged if we had carried out the work ourselves.
Standard non-complex letters, e-mails and texts that we send and routine telephone calls that we make and receive are charged at one-tenth of the applicable hourly rate. Standard non-complex letters, e-mails and texts received are charged at one-twentieth of the applicable hourly rate. More lengthy and complex letters, e-mails and calls are charged on the basis of the time actually spent on them. Where applicable the hourly rate which applies to your matter will be set out in our engagement letter. We will add VAT to these at the rate that applies when the work is done. At present, VAT is 20%.
Our hourly rates have to be reviewed periodically to reflect increases in overhead costs and inflation. Normally the rates are reviewed with effect from 1st June each year. If a review is carried out before your matter has concluded, we will advise you of any change to the rate in advance of it taking effect.
We may also take into account other factors such as any requirement to carry out work outside of our normal office hours, the speed at which any action needs to be taken, any specialist expertise which the case may demand, and its complexity. An increase in the rates may be applied to reflect such factors, however you will always be advised in advance.
We do have to pay out certain expenses on behalf of clients such as court fees, HM Land Registry fees, and search fees to search providers. We have no obligation to make such payments, and will not do so unless you have provided us with the funds for that purpose. VAT is payable on certain expenses. Such payments made by us are referred to ‘disbursements’.
If you are to be responsible for the legal fees of your lender’s Solicitor or the other party to the matter, it is likely that we will be asked to provide a ‘fees undertaking’ to make payment of their fees to a fixed amount plus VAT and disbursements whether or not the matter proceeds to completion. If we are asked to give such an undertaking we will require the full amount to be paid to us by you before the undertaking is given.
Please note if you insist on a Director and/or Partner to have conduct of your matter, and your matter is fixed fee, there will be an additional charge of £250.00 plus VAT.
It is standard practice for us to ask clients to pay interim bills and sums of money from time to time on account of the charges and expenses which are expected to be incurred in the following weeks or months. This helps clients to budget for costs and keeps them informed of the legal expenses which are being incurred. If we do not receive any such payments promptly, this may result in your matter being delayed. In the unlikely event of any bill or request for payment not being met, we reserve the right to stop acting for you further.
Payment is due within 28 days the date of our invoice. If we do not receive payment within the required time we reserve the right to stop acting on your behalf and to suspend working on the matter in question as well as any other matter which you have ongoing with us. We may retain all documents in our possession relating to any of your matters until all outstanding bills have been paid in full, including any accrued interest and any costs incurred in pursuing the recovery. We may charge Interest on any invoices which remain outstanding after a period of 28 days at a rate of 8% per annum.
The law entitles us to retain any monies, papers or other property belonging to you which properly come into our possession pending payment of our costs. This applies whether or not the property is acquired in connection with the matter for which the costs were incurred. This is known as a “general lien”. We cannot sell property held under a lien but can hold property (other than money), even if the value of it is higher than the amount due to us in respect of costs.
We cannot accept payments in cash in excess of £500.00 due to Anti-Money Laundering Regulations. If you attempt to avoid this policy by depositing cash directly with our bank, we will charge you for any additional Anti-Money Laundering checks which we need to carry out to prove the source of the monies. Payment of our bills may be made by cheque, credit card or debit card issued by a UK High Street bank, BACS or CHAPS. Monies due to you from us will be paid by cheque or bank transfer, but not in cash, and will not be made payable to a third party under any circumstances.
7. Other parties’ payment of your charges and expenses
In some cases and transactions you may be entitled to payment of costs by some other person (for example, it may have been agreed that the other party to the transaction pays your legal fees. It is important that you understand that in such circumstances, the other person may not be obliged to pay all of the charges and expenses which you incur with us. You are responsible for the payment of our charges and expenses, and any amounts which can be recovered from the other party will be used as a contribution towards them.
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 retain the remainder of that interest. You will also be responsible for paying our charges and expenses for seeking to recover any costs which the Court orders the other party to pay to you, if payment is not received.
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. 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.
8. Interest payment
The practice pays interest accrued on client money when it is fair and reasonable to do so in the circumstances, in accordance with rules 22-25 of the SRA Rules 2011. Monies held in a client account must be immediately available, meaning that the interest accrued is likely to be less than interest which would be received had the money been invested by an individual. All money received will be held in our Client Account. Subject to certain minimum amounts and periods of time (as set out below), interest will be calculated and paid at the rate from time to time payable on Svenska Handelsbanken General Client Accounts. The period for which interest will be paid will normally run from the date(s) on which funds are received by us until the date(s) of issue of any payment(s) from our Client Account.
Time held (in weeks) Minimum balance (£)
9. Storage of papers and documents
After completing the work on your file, we are entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is still money owed to us for your legal fees and expenses. We will keep your file of papers in storage for not less than 6 years except those papers that you ask to be returned to you. After that, storage is on the clear understanding that we have the right to destroy your file after such period as we consider reasonable without further reference to you, or to make a charge for storage if we ask you to collect your papers and you fail to do so. We will not of course destroy any documents such as wills, deeds, and other securities, which we will provide to you when your file is closed down.
If we retrieve papers or documents from storage in relation to continuing or new instructions to act in connection with your affairs, we will not normally charge for such retrieval. However, we may make a charge based on time spent at our lowest charge out rate for producing stored papers or documents to you or another at your request. We may also charge for reading, correspondence, or other work necessary to comply with your instructions.
You may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time. We will still be entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is money owing to us for our charges and expenses.
We may only decide to stop acting for you if we have good reason, for example, if you do not pay an interim bill, fail to provide us with instructions or if a conflict of interest arises. We will tell you the reason and give you notice in writing.
If, for any reason your matter does not proceed to completion, we will be entitled to charge you for any work done and expenses incurred. We charge a minimum abortive fee of 25% of the initial fee quoted and we will ask for this money upfront. If your case is funded under an hourly rates arrangement then these costs will be calculated based on the time spent, plus expenses incurred, up to the date of termination. On fixed fee arrangements, we will break the transaction down into stages and apportion the estimated fee for each stage. You will also be responsible for reimbursing any expenses incurred by us that were not included within the fixed price agreed.
Under the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000, for some non-business instructions where we have not met with you, you have the right to cancel your instructions to us within 7 working days of receiving this letter. You can cancel your instructions by contacting us by post or by email 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 7 working days please sign these terms and conditions and return it to this office by post or fax. The Regulations require us to inform you that the work which you have instructed us to do is likely to take more than 30 days.
11. Tax advice
Any work that we do for you may involve tax implications, or require some consideration of tax planning strategies.
We are not qualified to advise you on the tax implications of a transaction and advise you to refer to a suitably-qualified adviser.
12. Data protection
We use the information you provide for the provision of legal services to you and for related purposes including updating client records, analysis to help us manage our practice, statutory returns and legal/regulatory compliance. Our use of that information is subject to your instructions, our duty of confidentiality to you, and the Data Protection Act 1998. Please note that our work for you may necessitate us to provide information to third parties such as Mortgage Brokers and Estates Agents and other professional advisers. You have a right under data protection legislation to be provided with the personal data that we hold about you. The firm is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). Further information regarding data protection and privacy is available from the Information Commissioner’s Office www.ico.gov.uk.
13. Equality and diversity
We are committed to promoting equality and diversity in all our dealings with our clients, third parties and our employees. Please contact us if you would like a copy of our Equality and Diversity Policy.
We will communicate with you in the most effective way, as agreed between us. The use of e-mail is not secure for confidential matters. We do however take every precaution to ensure that e-mail is virus free, but we cannot guarantee this. If you require correspondence to be addressed to a particular person or marked private and confidential then you must tell us.
15. Requirements relating to Identity, disclosure and confidentiality
The law requires that Solicitors obtain satisfactory evidence of the identity of their clients. This is because we deal with money and property which can be used by criminals to launder money. To comply with the law, we require evidence of your identity as soon as possible. If you cannot provide us with the specific identification requested, please contact us as soon as possible to discuss other ways to verify your identity. Please note that an online ID check will be carried out against you when you provide us with your identification documents. If your matter is still ongoing three months after your Identification Documents are provided to us, then a further online ID check will be necessary and we will need you to provide us with further documentation which is up to date.
We are entitled to refuse to act for you if you do not provide us with appropriate proof of your identity.
Solicitors are under a professional and legal obligation to keep the affairs of their clients confidential. This obligation, however, is subject to a statutory exception: legislation on money laundering and terrorist financing has placed solicitors under a legal duty in certain circumstances to disclose information to the National Crime Agency (NCA). Where a solicitor knows or suspects that a transaction on behalf of a client involves money laundering, the solicitor is be required to make a disclosure. If, while we are acting for you, it becomes necessary to make such a disclosure, we are not able to inform you that it has been made, or of the reasons for it, because the law prohibits ‘tipping-off’. Where the law allows us, we will tell you about any potential money laundering problem and explain what action we may need to take.
External firms or organisations may conduct audits or quality checks on our practice. They are also required to maintain confidentiality in relation to your files. We may need to disclose your information to third parties (such as barristers, accountants or government agencies) to enable us to handle your affairs. We may also need to allow third parties (such as our auditors and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)) to have access to your information for regulatory or administrative purposes. Information from your file may therefore be made available in such circumstances. We will always aim to obtain a confidentiality agreement with the third party. We will not otherwise disclose your information to any third party unless permitted or required to do so by law, or by you. If you do not want your file to be outsourced please tell us as soon as possible.
16. Limit on our liability for professional negligence
Our liability to you for a breach of your instructions shall be limited to £2M, 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 that the law allows us to. We cannot limit our liability for death or personal injury caused by our negligence.
17. Complaints Procedure
Our complaints procedure, including complaints about your invoice, is set out in the engagement letter accompanying these Terms.
18. Provision of Service Regulations 2009
In accordance with the Provision of Service Regulations 2009 details of our Professional Indemnity Insurance are displayed at our office at 97 High Street, Skelton-in-Cleveland, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, TS12 2DY. Our VAT number is 350 8285 95.
We are regulated and authorised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) under number 808794. The SRA Code of Conduct sets out the regulatory framework imposed upon us. The current edition of the SRA Code is available on the SRA Website at www.sra.org.uk
Please contact us if you require these Terms and Conditions of Business an alternative format, such as large print, or braille