Terms of business
These terms set out the general terms on which we provide services to you. When you instruct us to advise on a new matter we will normally send you a retainer letter confirming your instructions. The terms of that letter and these Terms of Engagement will together form the contract between us for that matter.
A. Our appointment
When you appoint us to act for you in relation to a particular piece of legal work, you authorise us to take all measures we believe appropriate to protect your interests unless you instruct us specifically to the contrary; and you will be authorising us to incur reasonable expenses on your behalf.
B. Equality and Diversity
This Practice commits to promoting equality and diversity; we operate an Equality & Diversity policy. The Practice intends to treat everyone equally and with the same attention, courtesy and respect regardless of their disability, gender, age, marriage or civil partner status, pregnancy and maternity, race, racial group, colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, religion or belief or sexual orientation.
The Practice will treat seriously and will take action where appropriate, all complaints of discrimination or harassment
C. Conflicts of Interest
We take conflicts of interest extremely seriously and consider it at the earliest opportunity before accepting instructions and then throughout the matter as it progresses. If we feel that we should decline instructions we will inform you of this as soon as possible and offered such explanation and recommendation as in all the circumstances is professionally appropriate.
D. Money Laundering regulations/ proof of identity
We are obliged under Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Legislation to verify the identity of all clients, even those we know from the past. Any delay in obtaining verification will prevent progress on your matter. If you are abroad then we require certified ID by a recognised individual or body such as an independent legal professional, tax advisor or accountant for that country and a copy sent as proof of identity.
Being asked for identification does not mean you are under suspicion. The identification requirements apply to all clients when they ask their Solicitor to conduct certain types of cases.
This means you will have to show us original personal documentation including:-
Current signed Passport or a photo-card Driving Licence and
A recent gas, electricity or other household utility or council tax bill (not mobile phone bills) dated within 3 months and addressed to you at your home address.
We have to inspect the originals of these documents and retain copies of them on our file.
If you do not have all these documents, you will have to ask your Solicitor to advise you on how best to prove who you are.
In certain circumstances, we may be compelled by law to reveal information to the appropriate statutory authorities in relation to any suspicion of money laundering. The Money Laundering Regulations 2007 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 set out rules and regulations for us to comply with as a Firm.
E. Receipt of Funds from you and for you
This firm cannot pay out money on your behalf until we are in possession of cleared funds. We must, therefore, receive any cheques at least ten clear days before the money is due to be paid out. If we require longer clearance period, we shall advise you nearer the date. Bankers drafts have much shorter clearance times than personal cheques and CHAPS or BACS funds automated transfers from your bank to ours are preferable to cheques. Similarly, if we receive cheques for you, they have to clear through our bank before we pay you.
F. Cash Transactions
Due to the constraints imposed upon us under Anti-Money Laundering Legislation, we are generally unable to accept cash at any time, except for the payment of our fees in respect of work already carried out by us. We regret the inconvenience this causes to some clients but this is beyond our control.
Should any monies be returned to the client at the end of the mater or during the instruction for whatever reason, then there may be a delay of several weeks in order to complete all anti-money laundering checks.
G. Financial Services
If during this transaction you need advice on investments, we may have to refer you to someone authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, as we are not. However, as we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority, we may be able to provide certain limited investment services where these are closely linked to the legal work we are doing for you.
When we are asked to recommend the services of a third party (such as an advisor authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, a surveyor, a trademark agent, accountant or foreign lawyer) we shall always do so in good faith. However, we cannot give a warranty in respect of the standing, ability or the quality of the services of the third party. We do not accept liability for that third party’s services and you will have a contract with that third party, but not with us in respect of that third party’s goods or services. You will be responsible for the fees and expenses of that third party.
H. Bills and Charging Rates
In our Client Care letter sent to all Clients, we will provide a written estimate of costs. Kidwells Law charges for all work done on an hourly basis unless a capped rate, fixed fee, insurance funding or Conditional Fee Agreement has been agreed. You will have been advised at the time of your original instructions or shortly thereafter of the identity of the fee-earner responsible for your matter together with details of the applicable hourly rate or written estimate. We will also charge for letters written and received, telephone calls and in and emails relating to your matter. We may also charge for photocopying and facsimile charges together with other incidental expenses.
For copying documents, we charge £0.25 per copy for Black and White and £1 per copy for Colour and time taken for copying by an assistant; assistant rates being £95.00 per hour.
The reason for the charges for copying is that documents and bundles may need to be copied so as to be relied on at court and may have an effect on your matter if incorrectly done.
Our fee estimates do not include any expenses or payments to third parties which we may have to incur on your behalf. These are known as “disbursements”. Examples of disbursements are travel expenses, telephone call charges, experts’ fees, Counsel’s fees, stamp duty and search fees.
The hourly rates charged are recalculated in January each year to take account of general inflationary pressures. We will notify you of any increase in those rates.
To help you budget, it is our normal policy to send interim bills on a regular basis as and when appropriate and these are to be regarded as final bills for the work done to the date stated on the bill and not as a request for payment on account. At any time you can request a copy of our itemised costing spreadsheet and electronic time recording which is used to prepare the invoices.
Payments to others will be billed as and when they are incurred. Although we occasionally meet the costs of payments to others out of our office account as they are incurred, we reserve the right to require payment in advance (and will normally do so for any substantial payment to others).
Our accounts, whether interim or final, are payable within 14 days of receipt and we reserve the right to cease acting for you if we do not receive payment in accordance with these terms. Should any transaction or matter not proceed, we will make a charge for our time and any payments to others and fixed costs incurred.
Should Court Action become necessary to recover any unpaid and due invoices you agree to refund the costs of such action plus interest, as above. If you have any query about your bill, you should contact me straight away.
Should your file be complex to cost, you may incur charges for the costing. Our accounts rates are £95 plus VAT per hour. Should this type of file costing be necessary, we will advise you.
All charges (including our costs and payments to others) are subject to VAT at the appropriate rate.
We reserve the right to charge interest on overdue accounts.
When we hold money on your behalf, we will generally account to you for interest in accordance with rules laid down by the Law Society. Interest will not normally be paid to you whilst any invoice remains outstanding.
The SRA Accounts Rules 2011 require us in certain circumstances to pay to you money in lieu of interest on funds which we have held in our client account of your behalf. The interest will run from the date upon which any funds you send to us clear in our client bank account until the date we issue any cheque from our client account. This interest will be paid to you gross (i.e. without any deduction or tax.) It will be your responsibility to account to the Inland Revenue for any tax due on this interest. No such payment will be made if the amount of such interest would be less than £20 as the administrative costs chargeable to you of sending out small sums below £20 would outweigh the amount in question.
We operate a Financial Management Policy dealing with client interest. A hard copy of this policy is available on request.
J. Professional Indemnity Insurance
Provider: Alpha Insurance A/S
Period of Insurance: 1st October 2015 to 30th September 2016. Our Policy
Policy Number: 14SOL13049-58912-14062A15
K. File Retention
After completing the work or if our retainer is terminated for any reason, we are entitled to keep (and we have a lien over) all your papers and documents whilst there is money owing to us for our charges and expenses.
We will store our file of papers (except any of your papers which you ask to be returned to you) on the understanding that we have the right to destroy it 6 years after the date of the final bill we send to you for the matter in question. We do not destroy documents which you ask us to deposit in safe custody.
L. Termination Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation & Additional Contracts) Regulations 2013
Subject to point G above, you may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time. In some circumstances, we may consider that we ought to stop acting for you, for example, if you cannot give clear or proper instructions on how we are to proceed, or it is clear that you have lost confidence in how we are carrying out your work; or if you have not paid any interim or final bill when requested to do so. We may decide to cease acting for you only with good reason. We must give you reasonable notice that we will cease acting for you. If you or we decide that we are no longer to act for you, you will be liable to pay our charges up to the date we cease acting (as set out earlier).
We aim to offer all our clients a helpful, effective and efficient service and we are confident that we can do so in handling your matter. However, should you feel that there are, or have been, any problems or difficulties with our service or the bill then please raise the matter initially with the solicitor who has conduct of your matter or Practice Manager, Rebecca Hardy, by email at email@example.com, by telephone or in writing. We operate a client care policy to assist in resolving any misunderstanding or difficulties; a hard copy of this policy is available on our request. We have eight weeks to consider your complaint but aim to provide a full response to most complaints within 28 days.
If you are not satisfied with our handling of your complaint you can ask the Legal Ombudsman, an independent complaints body, established under the Legal Services Act 2007, which deals with legal services complaints to investigate.
You have six months from the date of our response to your letter of complaint in which to complain to the Legal Ombudsman.
PO Box 6806
Telephone: 0300 555 0333
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternative complaints bodies exist which are competent to deal with complaints about legal services should both you and our firm wish to use such a scheme.
We agree to use Clerksroom www.clerksroom.com/mediators.php.
If your complaint relates to our bill then you may also have the right to have the bill assessed under the Solicitors Act 1974 (Part III).
N. Litigation: your costs and those of the other party
If we act for you on a contentious matter you will be responsible to us for all the legal fees and expenses that you incur although you may be able to recover some of them from your opponent. In some cases, particularly where your opponent is legally aided and in cases before the Employment Tribunal, your opponent is unlikely to be ordered to pay any or all of your fees and expenses, even if you are wholly successful in your action.
Even where a Court orders your opponent to pay your costs and expenses you may encounter an insolvent opponent who cannot pay. In these circumstances you are still liable to pay us for all the legal fees and expenses that you incur. You will also be responsible for paying the charges and expenses of seeking to recover any charges and expenses that the Court orders your opponent to pay. If the court does order your opponent to pay some or all of your charges and expenses, in that case, interest can be claimed from your opponent from the date of the Court Order.
You agree to be liable for our charges and expenses on the basis agreed between us in the retainer letter and these terms (and subject to any changes notified to you), notwithstanding that this amount may exceed the amount of costs which you would be permitted to recover from any other party.
If you are unsuccessful the Court may order you to pay all or a significant proportion of your opponent’s fees and expenses (together with interest). You may also have to make payments in respect of your opponent’s fees and expenses at various stages in the course of the action. If you withdraw from a case you will usually be ordered to pay your opponent’s fees and expenses.
O. Non-Contentious matters
In certain non-contentious matters, you may also be responsible for paying another party’s costs. An example of this would be if you are the tenant of a property and you wish to assign or transfer your Lease to a third party, then if the terms of your Lease so provide, you may be responsible for paying Landlords’ costs, legal costs and surveyor’s fees. It is not always possible for us to advise you of the precise amount of these third-party costs at the outset of the matter but as soon as we become aware of the same we shall notify you of the amount.
The Practice will keep the file of papers relating to the matter (except for any you ask to be returned to you) for no more than six years from the date when we close the file. Unless you state in writing to the contrary, we will then destroy the file. Documents you ask me to deposit in safe custody will not be destroyed. Documents and title deeds that are subject to a mortgage will go to your Lender following completion of all legal formalities.
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 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 the instructions given by you or on your behalf.
Q. Data Protection and Confidentiality
In common with many modern businesses, we store information relating to our clients’ work on computer. Under the Data Protection Act 1998, you have the right to see a copy of the information we hold in relation to work, for which there is a nominal fee.
Whilst we will at all times keep your business and instructions to us confidential (subject to any statutory obligations to the contrary where the law may require us to disclose information that we hold about you. There are some circumstances where we may need to release or to share or provide information about your transaction to other third parties. For example on a property sale or purchase we may need to discuss the position with your estate agents, your surveyors or your lender and in instructing us you are irrevocably consenting to us doing so for the duration of our instructions on the work in question.
We monitor the professional standard of our work and bodies such as the Law Society periodically inspect our work. This means that it may be necessary for us to have external examiners audit a small number of our files to ensure that we maintain our quality systems. Please let us know if you object to us submitting your file to audit. Unless you notify us otherwise, we shall assume that you have no objection. Our work for you will not be affected whether or not you allow us to make your file available for audit.
R. Hours of Business
Our usual business hours are between 9.00 a.m. and 5.30 p.m. from Monday to Friday each week, excluding Bank Holidays. However, we are generally pleased to offer clients out-of-hours appointments, and where necessary we are happy to see clients at home or at their place of work.
We strive to be as flexible and accommodating as possible. Outside normal business hours, a Lawyer mans our main office telephone number at all times giving you the confidence that you will always be in safe hands.
S. Banking Crisis
We confirm that we bank with Natwest where any monies paid to us by you to be held on account will be in a specified Client Account at that bank. We will not be liable to repay any money that we hold for you in our client account at National Westminster Bank Plc which is lost as a result of a failure of the bank. It is however unlikely that we, Kidwells, will be held liable for losses resulting from any banking failure. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) provides for a £85,000 limit to any individual Client and therefore, if you hold any other personal monies yourselves at Natwest, including joint, partnership and sole trader accounts, the limit remains £85,000 to include the amounts that you have paid to Kidwells to hold on account for you.
It is your duty to investigate whether or not Natwest is a subsidiary or owner of other accounts that you hold with other banks. As where the same institution is trading under different names, you will still only gain the protection of the £85,000 maximum cover.
By your continuing to instruct this Practice, we are receiving your consent for the disclosure to the FSCS of your details in the event of a bank failure.
If the instructions to Kidwells are from a limited liability company, then they only meet the protection cover of the £85,000 provided they meet two of the following criteria, namely:
There is an annual turnover of less than £6.5 million
The balance sheet has a total of less than £3.26 million
The company has fewer than 50 employees
T. Application of these terms and amendments
Unless otherwise agreed, these terms of engagement save for the amount of any estimate will apply to any future instructions you give us. However, we reserve the right to amend our terms of engagement from time to time and any such amendments in force at the commencement of any such future work shall apply to that work.