- Our Aim
- 1. Service standards
- 2. Responsibilities
- 3. Our hours of business
- 4. Professional Indemnity Insurance
- 5. Equality and diversity
- 6. Data protection/quality standards
- 7. Storage of papers and documents
- 8. Outsourcing of work
- 9. Vetting of files and confidentiality
- 10. Limiting liability
- 11. Applicable law
- 12. Terminating the retainer
- 13. Identity and disclosure requirements
- 14. Payment of commissions
- 15. Interest payment
- 16. Distance selling
- 17. Financial services
- 18. Insurance mediation
- 19. Charges and expenses
- 20. Payment arrangements
- 21. Other parties’ charges and expenses
- 22. Communication between you and us
- 23. Tax advice
- 24. Limited companies
- 25. Financial arrangements with clients
- 26. Acceptance of these terms
We aim 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.
1. Service standards
- update you regularly by telephone or in writing with progress on your matter
- communicate with you in plain language
- explain to you by telephone or in writing the legal work required as your matter progresses
- update you on the cost of your matter at agreed times
- update you on whether the likely outcomes still justify the likely costs and risks associated with your matter whenever there is a material change in circumstances
- update you on the likely timescales for each stage of this matter and any important changes in those estimates
- continue to review whether there are alternative methods by which your matter can be funded.
- review your matter regularly
- advise you of any changes in the law
- advise you of any circumstances and risks of which we are aware of consider to be reasonably foreseeable that could affect the outcome of your matter.
- provide us with clear, timely and accurate instructions
- provide all documentation required to complete the transaction in a timely manner
- safeguard any documents which are likely to be required for discovery.
3. Our hours of business
The normal hours of opening at our offices are between 8.30am and 5.30pm on weekdays. Messages can be left on the voicemail of either your advisor or of the firm outside those hours and appointments or home visits can be arranged at other times when this is essential.
4. Professional Indemnity Insurance
This firm maintains professional indemnity insurance in accordance with the rules of the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Details of the insurers and the territorial coverage of the policy are available for inspection at our offices.
5. Equality and diversity
This firm is committed to promoting equality and diversity in all of its dealing with clients, third parties and employees. Please contact us if you would like a copy of our equality and diversity policy.
6. Data protection/quality standards
The Data Protection Act 1998 requires us to advise you that your particulars are held on our database. 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
- 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.
7. Storage of papers and documents
After completing the work, we will be entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is money owing to us for our charges and expenses.
We will keep our file of your papers for six years, except those papers that you ask to be returned to you. We keep files on the understanding that we can destroy them six years after the date of the final bill. We will not destroy documents, such as Wills, Deeds, and other securities, you ask us to deposit in safe custody.
No charge will be made to you for such storage unless prior notice in writing is given to you of a charge to be made from a future date which may be specified in that notice.
If you wish us to store your deeds we would ask you to note that our liability is confined to that of a Banker and that the standard of construction of any storage area and the standard of any security system shall be such as we consider suitable. No liability can be accepted for damage to articles deposited where it is occasioned by atmospheric conditions, flooding or fire.
If we take papers or documents out of storage in relation to continuing or new instructions to act for you, we will not normally charge for such retrieval. However, we may charge you both for time spent for producing papers that are requested reading, correspondence or other work necessary to comply with your instructions in relation to the retrieved papers.
8. Outsourcing of work
Sometimes we ask other companies or people to do typing or other work on our files to ensure this is done promptly. We will always seek a confidentiality agreement with these outsourced providers. If you do not want your file to be outsourced, please tell us as soon as possible in writing so that your file can be noted accordingly.
9. Vetting of files and confidentiality
External firms or organisations may conduct audit or quality checks on our practice, for example as this firm is registered under the ISO quality standard, we are subject to periodic checks by outside assessors. These external firms or organisations are required to maintain confidentiality in relation to your files and all inspections are conducted in confidence.
This could mean that your file is selected for checking, in which case we would need your consent for inspection to occur. If you prefer to withhold consent, work on your file will not be affected in any way. Since very few of our clients do object, we propose to assume that we do have your consent unless you notify us to the contrary. We will also assume, unless you indicate otherwise, that consent on this occasion will extend to all future matters which we conduct on your behalf. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you require further explanation or if you would like your file to be marked as not to be inspected.
10. Limiting liability
Our liability to you for a breach of your instructions shall be limited to £5.m, 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 dates, costs or losses attributable to lost profits or opportunities.
We can only 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.
11. 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.
12. Terminating the retainer
You may end your instructions to us in writing at any time, but we can keep all your papers and documents while there is money owed to us for fees 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 this clearly in writing.
We may decide to stop acting for you, e.g. if you do not pay an interim bill or comply with the request for a payment on account, or if there is a conflict of interest. We will tell you the reason and give you notice in writing that we will stop acting for you.
If work which we have undertaken for you does not proceed to a conclusion, we will charge only for work done up to the point when the matter proves abortive and for any disbursements paid on your behalf.
Where you terminate your instructions to us before a matter is concluded, again we charge only for work done up to the point of termination. If required your files and other papers will be released once payment of our account and any other outstanding accounts has been made.
13. Identity and disclosure requirements
The law requires solicitors to get satisfy evidence of the identity of their clients and sometimes people related to them. This is because solicitors who deal with money and property on behalf of their client can be used by criminals wanting to launder money. So to comply with the Money Laundering Regulations, we will require evidence of identity for certain transactions and may decline to accept payments and deposits in cash.
In addition to asking you for evidence of identification and address we may from time to time use electronic verification in order to comply with our obligations under the Money Laundering Regulations.
We are professionally and legally obliged to keep your affairs confidential. However, solicitors may be required by statute to make a disclosure to the Serious Organised Crime Agency where they know or suspect that a transaction may involve money laundering or terrorist financing. If we make a disclosure in relation to your matter, we may not be able to tell you that a disclosure has been made. We may have to stop working on your matter for a period of time and may not be able to tell you why.
We are obliged to refuse to act for you if you fail to supply appropriate proof of identity for yourself or for any principal whom you may represent.
Solicitors are not allowed to disclose information about a client’s affairs without the client’s authority. By signing this Terms and Conditions of Business and returning it to us you authorise us to disclose to the other parties in the transaction and, if applicable, to all other parties in the chain of transactions and their agents and advisers, all information which we have in relation to your involvement in the transaction including any related sale or mortgage and other financial arrangements and wishes as to dates for exchange and completion. You may withdraw this authority at any time but if you do so you should appreciate that we will inform the other party or parties and their agents or advisers that this authority has been withdrawn.
We do not pass any information about our clients to third parties for commercial exploitation. We pass client information to third parties only where it may be necessary or beneficial in carrying out the work for which you have instructed us or where we have to disclose information to third parties because of our legal or regulatory obligations or to prevent fraud or money laundering. By way of example, documentation and information containing your personal details (such as your name, address and details of your claim) may, on occasions, have to be sent to your insurers, the person you are making a claim against, their lawyer or their insurer. This may take place before or after you decide to issue court proceedings, but any such action is taken in accordance with our standard practices and protocols. We may pass relevant information to our insurers if we are concerned that our work for you may have given rise to a possible liability to you on our part.
We will not be liable for any loss, damage or delay arising out of the firm’s compliance with any statutory or regulatory requirement.
14. Payment of commissions
Vanderpump & Sykes LLP is authorised by the Law Society to conduct investment business under the provisions of the Financial Services Act. Any commissions which we receive (from brokers, insurance companies etc) as a result of acting for you will be used to your benefit by being applied towards any outstanding fees. Should commission received exceed fees incurred, we will pay you any balance.
15. Interest payment
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 the Royal Bank of Scotland Designated Client Accounts. That of course may change. 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 cheque(s) from our Client Account. The payment of interest is subject to certain minimum amounts and periods of time set out in the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules 1998.
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 four working days prior to the completion date. If the money can be telegraphed, we will request that we receive it the day before completion. This will enable us to ensure that the necessary funds are available in time for 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.
16. Distance selling
If we have not met with you, the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 apply to your file. This means that for some non-business instructions, 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 telephone, e-mail or letter to the person named in the accompanying client care letter as being responsible for your work. The Regulations require us to inform you that the work involved is likely to take more than 30 days.
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 these terms and conditions and return to this office by post or fax.
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 body for the purposes of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.
The Solicitors Regulations Authority is the independent regulatory arm of the Law Society. The Legal Ombudsman is the independent complaints-handling body. If you re unhappy with any investment advice you receive from us, you should raise your concerns with either of these bodies.
Solicitors Regulations Authority (SRA) - Ipsley Court, Berrington Close, Redditch. B98 8TD. Telephone: 0870 606 2555. Email: email@example.com
Legal Ombudsman (LeO) - PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton. WV1 9WJ. Telephone: 0300 555 0333. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
18. Insurance mediation
This firm is 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 Solicitors Regulation Authority. The register can be accessed via the Financial Services Authority website at www.fsa.gov.uk/register
The Law Society of England and Wales is a designed 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 is the independent complaints-handling body. If you are unhappy with any insurance advice you receive from us, you should raise your concerns with either of these bodies.
19. Charges and expenses
Unless advised to the contrary, i.e. when an estimate is sent for a conveyancing transaction, our charges will be calculated mainly by reference to the time actually spent by the solicitors and other staff in respect of any work which they do on your behalf. This will include meetings with you and perhaps others, reading and working on papers, correspondence, including e-mails, preparation of any detailed costs calculations, and time spent travelling away from the office when this is necessary. It will also include any time spent in relation to our obligations under the Money Laundering Regulations. From time to time we may arrange for some of this work to be carried out by persons not directly employed by this firm. You will be charged at rates not greater than those set out below. The person responsible for the day to day handling of your work will be able to give you an approximate indication of the amount of fees incurred at any given time, and discuss any other factors which may affect the final fee. The charge for our time includes the normal cost of using other resources such as telephones, photocopiers, facsimiles, etc.
Routine letters are charged as 6 minute units of time and we charge for the time spent on making and taking telephone calls in 6 minute units and considering incoming letters at units of 6 minutes.
The current hourly rates of the person dealing with your matter are set out in the accompanying client care letter. We will add VAT at the current rate to these at the rate that applies when the work is done.
These hourly rates have to be reviewed periodically to reflect increases in overhead costs and inflation. Normally the rates are reviewed with effect from 1 May each year. 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, the speed at which action has to be taken, any particularly specialist expertise which the case may demand. In particular, in property transactions, in the administration of estates 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 may be considered. It is not always possible to indicate how these aspects may arise but on present information we would expect them to be sufficiently taken into account in the rates which we have quoted. Where a charge reflecting any value element is to be added we will explain this to you.
Solicitors have to pay out various other expenses on behalf of clients ranging from Land or Probate Registry fees, to 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 normally request payment in advance for expected disbursements so that we can pay them promptly. Please respond quickly as delay in providing funds may result in delay in dealing with the matter for you. Where disbursements are relatively small, we may exercise a discretion and make payments without your specific instructions. If you prefer, however, we are willing to undertake not to make such payments without reference to you, although this may cause delay.
If, for any reason, this matter does not proceed to completion, we will be entitled to charge you for work done and expenses incurred.
20. Payment arrangements
We normally ask clients to deposit an advance payment on account of fees and disbursements. We reserve the right to make the receipt of such payment a condition of our accepting instructions.
A member of our accounts department is available to discuss payment options with you at any time.
- Property transactions
We will normally send you our bill following the exchange of contracts and payment is required on a purchase prior to completion; and at completion; on a sale. If sufficient funds are available on completion, and we have sent you a bill, we will deduct our charges and expenses from the funds.
- Administration of estates
We will normally submit an interim bill at regular stages during the administration, starting with the obtaining of a Grant. The final account will be prepared when the Estate Accounts are ready for approval.
- Other cases or transactions
It is our normal practice to ask clients to pay interim invoices which will be raised at regular intervals as work progresses. They will not necessarily cover all work done but this will be made clear to you. When sending an interim invoice any payments made on account will be shown and we may ask for further funds on account so that we can continue to work on the file. 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, delay in the progress of a case may result. In the unlikely event of any bill or request for payment not being met, this firm must reserve the right to stop acting for you further.
Payment is due to us within 21 days of our sending you a bill. Interest may be charged on a daily basis at 4% over our bank's base rate from time to time from the date of the bill in cases where payment is not made within 21 days of delivery by us of the bill.
In the event of payment not being made within these terms, we reserve the right to suspend work on your file where the account is unpaid and on any other matters being dealt with for you and, ultimately, to decline to represent you further. In those circumstances, final accounts will be rendered for work on all matters calculated on that date.
21. 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 legal aid no costs are 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 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. 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.
Some types of work, e.g., property purchases and settlement of large claims, may involve us in making substantial payments to third parties from the money which we hold in our client bank account. Our client account is operated in accordance with professional rules which govern payments against uncleared funds. Where money is to be paid to a third party at least four working days must be allowed for clearance of any cheques deposited with us by you or anyone on your behalf for the purpose of making such payments. In many cases, it will be both cheaper and more convenient for you to arrange for funds to be sent to us by telegraphic transfer and we will advise you when this is appropriate.
22. Communication between you and us
Our aim is to offer all our clients an efficient and effective service at all times. We are proud that we hold the accreditation ISO 9001:2000 and our clients and our staff are of first importance to us. We hope that you will be pleased with the work we do for you. However, should there be any aspect of our service with which you are unhappy, please raise your concern in the first place with the person dealing with the matter or head of the department which is dealing with your case. If you still have queries or concerns, please contact the Partner responsible for the department dealing with your case. Stephen Quy is the Client Care Partner to whom any final difficulty can be reported.
We will aim to communicate with you by such a method as you may request. We may need to virus check disks or e-mail. Unless you withdraw consent, we will communicate with you and others when appropriate by e-mail or fax but we cannot be responsible for the security of correspondence and documents sent by e-mail or fax.
23. Tax advice
Any work that we do for you may involve tax implications or necessitate the consideration of tax planning strategies. We may not be qualified to advise you on the tax implications of a transaction that you instruct us to carry out, or the likelihood of them arising. If you have any concerns in this respect, please raise them with us immediately. If we can undertake the research necessary to resolve the issue, we will do so and advise you accordingly. If we cannot, we may be able to identify a source of assistance for you.
24. 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.
25. Financial arrangements with clients
- We can only accept amounts of cash up to £1,000.
- On the conclusion of the retainer, monies due to the you will be paid by cheque (of the equivalent), but not in cash, and will not be made payable to a third party.
26. Acceptance of these terms
Unless otherwise agreed, and subject to the application of then current hourly rates, these terms and conditions of business shall apply to any future instructions given by you to this firm.
Although your continuing instructions in this matter will amount to an acceptance of these Terms and Conditions of Business, it may not be possible for us to start work on your behalf until one copy of them has been returned to us for us to keep on our file.