Terms of Business

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1. Our Obligation to you

We are obliged to provide you with details of our estimated charges and expenses and the likely time scale to conduct your matter. We are also obliged to inform you of the name and status of the person who will supervise your matter and the name and status of the person responsible for day to day conduct. That person may change from time to time and we will inform you of any such change. We will confirm the next steps to be undertaken and advise where there are a number of issues and options available. We will also provide you with costs information, all of which is set out in the Schedule. 

2. Your Obligation to us

We are not obliged to work in an improper or unreasonable way and you should not ask us or expect us to do so. You must not deliberately mislead us and should co-operate when asked. Unreasonable behaviour or language that may cause staff to feel intimidated, threatened or abused is not tolerated. We reserve the right to discontinue acting on your behalf if you fail to observe these obligations.

We can only act for you if you provide us with instructions that allow us to carry out our work properly. If you fail to provide us with instructions, you cannot assume that we are progressing the matter or continuing to act in your best interests.

It shall be your responsibility to settle all the legal costs, disbursements and expenses that we incur throughout your matter. Where we are instructed by more than one person or legal entity to represent their joint interests, those instructions are considered to be joint and several and thus we reserve the right to look to either party for settlement of any outstanding costs, disbursements and expenses.

If you are instructing us as an owner/director/partner on behalf of a partnership or company we may require a signed personal guarantee at the outset confirming personal liability for all the costs, disbursements and expenses that the firm incurs throughout your matter, should the partnership or company not pay those costs, disbursements and expenses.

We can accept undertakings from separate parties where such costs, disbursements and expenses are to be settled by that party. However, notwithstanding any written agreements (e.g undertakings or guarantees) in place on your matter, it is a condition of our instructions that it shall be your responsibility to settle any outstanding costs owed which we have not otherwise been successful in recovering from the third party.

Where you are providing funds for the purchase of property or other transaction we may ask you to verify the original source of the monies, for example from savings, your business, a gift of inheritance. Please do not be offended, this is a regulatory requirement with which we must comply.

Your continued instructions shall be deemed to be an acceptance of our terms and conditions and consent under clause 15.3.

3. Our Service Standards

We have client parking facilities, behind the PowellsLaw building including an allocated space for the disabled.

We also have ground floor toilet and interview facilities.

Our office hours are [8:30 am to 5.30pm] Monday to Friday. Home visits and appointments outside these hours may be made by special arrangement.

Unless you inform us to the contrary we will keep you advised in plain language of any significant developments relating to your matter and any relevant changes in the law as and when they arise. Our routine methods of communication are by post, by e-mail and by telephone. We aim to return telephone calls, urgent letters and e-mails within 24 hours and to answer routine correspondence within 3 working days.

In relation to your matter we envisage contacting you at the following key stages: –

  • To let you know of any substantive communication received from another party or their advisors
  • To confirm when any proceedings are issued and thereafter when each step in the proceedings is taken
  • If any potential conflict of interest arises
  • To update our costs estimate if this is likely to be exceeded

We aim to return telephone calls, urgent letters and e-mails within 24 hours and to answer routine correspondence within 3 working days.

As part of our ongoing service we like to keep our clients informed about recent changes in the law and news about the firm. If you would prefer not to receive one of our free updates please contact us.

Unless we have current and/or specific instructions from you in writing to review the law and report to you from time to time or to deal with the matters in question immediately prior to a critical date, we will not remind you of future critical dates or advise as to changes in the law which might affect you.

We will charge you on a time basis for any research which may be necessary to obtain an up to date position of the legal position as it relates to your matter.

Unless the matter you are consulting us about relates to tax we will not give tax advice unless we have specifically agreed to do so in writing following a written request from you.

4. Conflict of Interests

If at any time you are aware of a conflict of interest which has arisen or may arise between yourself and any other client or member of PowellsLaw you are requested to draw this to our attention immediately as we may be precluded from acting for you or the other party or both of you.

5. Complaints

If you have any reason for concern about our service please bring this to the attention of the person dealing with your matter in the first instance. Your right to complain includes the right to complain about the bill.

In the unfortunate event of not being able to resolve your concern please contact the Managing Partner, Stephen Soper. If your complaint relates to a matter being conducted by Stephen Soper then please contact Paul Addison.

If you are not satisfied with our handling of your complaint you can ask the Legal Ombudsman at P.O.Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ (tel 0300 555 0333) e-mail : enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk

Normally you would need to bring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within 6 months of receiving a final response from us about your complaint.

6. Our Charges

6.1       VAT

All quotations, estimates and hourly charging rates are exclusive of VAT. VAT may also be chargeable on some disbursements and third party fees.

6.2       Charging Rates

We reserve the right to increase our charging rates from time and time and we normally do this at the beginning of the calendar year. We will give you reasonable notice of any increase which would normally be at least 14 days.

6.3      Interim Billing and Revised Estimates

Except in matters of short duration, we shall deliver interim bills to you for work carried out at regular intervals and in any event at least every 3 months. This helps you to budget for costs. When delivering our interim account if it is apparent that our original fee estimate is likely to be exceeded we will provide you with a revised estimate for agreement taking account of any anticipated additional work.

6.4       Lien for Unpaid Fees

We reserve the right to exercise a lien, that is to say retain your file and accompanying papers, until you have paid our costs.

6.5       Additional Work

Our fee estimate is given on the basis that the matter is straight forward. Sometimes, additional services are required and we will supply you with our tariff for these additional costs. Any additional work not falling within the tariff will be discussed with you and charged on a time basis applicable to the person conducting the matter for you.

6.6       Abortive Work

Where the matter does not complete we will charge you on a time spent basis for the work done at the rate applicable to the person conducting the matter for you. This will also apply when we have agreed a fixed fee service with you.

6.7       Payments on Account

It is normal practice to ask clients to make payments on account of anticipated costs and expenses. It is helpful if you can meet requests promptly as we may not be able to progress your matter. If there is any difficulty please let us know as soon as possible. Where we are in possession of any monies due to you we would expect to deduct any costs, disbursements and expenses owed in respect of any matter belonging to you.

6.8       Our Costs for Court Work

Where we are undertaking work for you that is of a contentious nature, you have the right to object to our bill of costs to you and apply to the County Court for an assessment of the bill under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974.

6.9       Our Costs for Non-Court Work

Where we are undertaking work for you that is of a non-contentious nature these terms and conditions amount to a Non-Contentious Business Agreement under Section 57 of the Solicitors Act 1974. By agreeing to our terms you are therefore agreeing that if you wish to challenge the amount of our fee as being unfair or unreasonable that you will apply to the Court for our bill to be reviewed and the Court may if appropriate reduce the amount payable.

6.10     Third Party Payments

If we receive payments from any third party on your behalf, the person dealing with your matter will need to follow certain procedures this firm has in place in order to ensure that we comply with anti-money laundering regulations. The person with conduct of your matter will need to obtain evidence of the third party’s identity and the source of any third party funds will need to be verified. We shall also require the reason as to why the third party is paying on your behalf. We reserve the right to refuse payments which are not from you personally and where we refuse a third party payment, we may be bound by the regulations not to return the payment to the sender.

7. Equality and Diversity

This firm is committed to promoting equality and diversity in all of its dealings with its clients, third parties and employees and is required to produce a written Equality and Diversity Policy.  Please contact us if you would like us to send you a copy of our policy,

8. Money Laundering

8.1       Proof of Identity

The law requires Solicitors, as well as Financial Institutions and others, to obtain satisfactory evidence of the identity of their clients and their current address. Solicitors and other such professionals who deal with money and property on behalf of their clients can be used by criminals wishing to launder money. In order to comply with the law on money laundering we need to obtain evidence of your identity at the beginning of any new matter. The required forms of identification are set out in paragraph 7.2. Ideally we prefer photographic and signature identification evidence in the form of a passport or two part photocard driving licence.  Where such photographic evidence is produced it is essential that it is produced to us personally so that we can compare the likeness. If you do not live locally to us, you can send to us instead officially certified copies of your documents. To obtain officially certified copies you will need to produce your original documents together with a clear and legible photocopy of each (purely the page bearing your photograph and personal information in the case of a passport) to a suitably qualified professional e.g. a Solicitor, your Bank Manager, or your Practising Accountant in the area where you live or work (they will usually make a charge for this service).

We appreciate that not everyone has photographic evidence of identity, in such cases please refer to paragraph 7.2 which lists suitable documents of identity and residence. Non photographic documents may be presented or sent to us but we must always see the original items.

If you have any difficulty in meeting these requirements please contact the person whose name/reference appears on this letter in order to discuss the situation.

We may not be able to proceed with your matter until appropriate evidence has been supplied.

8.2       Proof Types

8.2.1    Proof of Name

  • Valid * UK passport (* i.e. not due to expire within 12 months)
  • Valid Photocard driving licence (full or provisional)
  • Current shotgun licence or firearms certificate
    + old style driving licence
    + evidence of entitlement to State Pension, State or Local Authority
    tax credit or grant
  • Inland Revenue tax notification e.g. P45/P60/or notice of coding

+ Can be used as evidence of address or name but cannot be taken as evidence of both.

8.2.2    Proof of address

These documents must be addressed to you and show the address but must neither be more than three months’ old nor printed off the Internet.

  • Utility Bill (not mobile phone)
  • Bank or Credit Card statement from regulated UK or EU Bank or firm
  • Mortgage Account Statement
  • Council Tax demand letter or statement
  • State Pension or benefits notification letter

NOTE  – One item from each list is the minimum requirement.

9. Confidentiality 

Solicitors are under a professional and legal obligation to keep the affairs of the client confidential. This obligation, however, is subject to a statutory exception: recent 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. Where a Solicitor knows or suspects a transaction on behalf of a client involves money laundering, the Solicitor may be required to make a money laundering disclosure. If this happens, we may not be able to inform you that a disclosure has been made or the reasons for it.

Certain information may have to be disclosed to third parties, for example, experts reports. We will only disclose such information having first discussed the matter with you, either having first obtained your consent to disclose such information, where we are under a professional duty to do so, or where we are compelled to do so by law or a Court order.

Court Proceedings are confidential so all documents prepared for the case and what is said in Court may not be disclosed to anyone who is not a party in the case without the permission of the Court. Only the Court can overrule that confidentiality and only where satisfied that it would be right to do so.

Breach of the confidentiality rule would amount to a contempt of court which is punishable by imprisonment or a fine.

10. Data Protection

We use the information you provide primarily to assist you in respect of the matter for which you are seeking legal advice 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 General Data Protection Regulation and our duty of confidentiality.

10.1     Access to Your Personal Information

You are entitled to access the personal information that we hold. Email your request to our data protection officer Stephen Soper – Managing Partner at helpforyou@powellslaw.com. We will respond to any request without undue delay and within one month of receipt.

11. Cash 

Our Firm’s policy is not to accept cash from the client in excess of £500. If clients circumvent this policy by depositing cash direct with our bank we reserve the right to charge for any additional checks we deem necessary regarding the source of funds.

12. Payment Methods and Terms

We accept payment in cash limited to £500, by credit or debit card and by cheque in respect of our fees or disbursements (either invoiced or on account). Payment by credit card may be subject to a transaction fee. Payment of an invoice is due on presentation. Where we have incurred an expense on your behalf that expense becomes due to be repaid on the day that it was incurred. Where we make any electronic payment for you we are entitled to charge you a fee for this service which is presently £25.00 plus VAT per payment. Where payment is late we are entitled to charge interest on any outstanding sum.

13. Contingency Fees 

In some cases we may agree a contingency fee (sometimes called a ‘no win-no fee’). Any arrangements for contingency fees will be set out separately in a Contingency Fee Agreement complying with our professional rules.

14. Court Orders for Costs and other parties’ charges and expenses

If your matter is of a contentious nature and you are successful you may be entitled to an Order for costs against some other party. However, it will rarely result in your receiving anything like the full amount of the costs you pay us. We will have discussed with you whether the value of the claim merits the likely costs to be incurred. Costs recovered from the other side are usually calculated on the ‘standard basis’, generally about 75-80% of the costs you are liable to pay. Should the other party fail to pay (even when ordered to do so by the Court), you would still be liable to pay our costs in full and you might have to consider taking further legal action against the defaulting party to enforce payment of their contribution. If the other party is publicly funded you will not, save in exceptional circumstances where the Court concludes that the other party is in a financial position to pay, any of your charges and expenses even if you win the case.

If you are successful and the Court orders the other 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.

In some circumstances, the Court may order you to pay the other party’s legal charges and expenses; for example, if you lose the case. Similarly you will be responsible for the other party’s costs if you withdraw from the proceedings.   These monies would be payable in addition to our charges and expenses.  We have discussed with you whether our charges and expenses and your liability for another party’s charges and expenses may be covered by insurance or paid by another person and, if not, whether it would be advisable for you to have ‘after the event’ insurance to meet such charges and expenses.

15. Insurance and Investment Services 

We are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority.  However, we are included on the Financial Services Register, so that incidental to our main business of providing legal services, we can carry on insurance mediation activity, which is broadly the advising on, selling and administration of insurance contracts e.g. Title indemnity insurance.  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 Web site at: www.fsa.gov.uk/register/home.do

Sometimes transactions involve investments.  As we are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, we may refer you to someone who is authorised to provide any necessary advice.  However, we can provide certain limited services in relation to investments, provided they are closely linked with the legal services we are providing to you, as we are regulated by The Solicitors Regulation Authority.

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 authority body of the Law Society and the Legal Ombudsman is the independent complaints handling body of the Law Society.

16. Interest Payments 

16.1     Interest payable by us

Unless the interest calculated on the balance amounts to £20 or less, we will pay interest on cleared monies we hold for you for more than 8 working days.

The rate of interest we pay on the monies we hold for you is 1%.  This may vary from time to time. This rate is not necessarily the best rate available if you deposited the funds elsewhere but reflects the fact that the funds remain readily accessible.

Interest will be applied half yearly and credited on closure. The interest we pay you will be paid gross and will not have suffered deduction of Income Tax. It will be your responsibility to include the details in your Income Tax Return and to pay any income tax on it.

In certain specified cases the position in the previous two paragraphs does not apply and all interest earned will belong entirely to the client.  Please feel free to ask whether your matter falls within this category. Where it does, interest will be applied half yearly and credited on closure and it will be paid net of basic rate tax. It will be your responsibility to include details in your Tax Return and to pay any additional income tax due on it.

16.2     Interest payable to us

Interest on an unpaid bill will run from one month after we deliver it to you at the rate pursuant to Section 69 of the County Courts Act 1984 until payment.

17. Deeds, Documents and Files

17.1     Storage and Retrieval

At our discretion, we store deeds, documents and files for clients. Normally, we make no charge for storage but we charge a fee of £50 plus VAT plus any off-site retrieval fee when deeds and documents are withdrawn by you. We may ask you to collect any documents we are holding for you from time to time.

17.2     Vetting of files and confidentiality

Periodically, we are subject to external audit or quality checks by such bodies as the Solicitors Regulatory Authority and the Legal Services Commission and we may be required to produce all or part of your file to the auditors or assessors as part of that process.

17.3     Destruction of Files

We will generally keep files for 7 years at which point they will be destroyed. By agreeing our terms and conditions you will be taken to have agreed to the destruction of your file at that point. If you would like to make special arrangements to collect your file at the end of your matter, please advise us in writing. We will not destroy any original documents (e.g. Wills, Powers of Attorney, Deeds) which we have agreed to hold in safe custody for you and which have been placed into our strongroom.

18. Termination of Instructions

You are entitled to terminate your instructions at any time and without giving any reason. We may only end our relationship with you if there is good reason, for example failure to pay our fees, whether on this matter or any other matter we have on for you, or breach of your obligations to us, and on reasonable notice, which would normally be at least 7 days. Where instructions are terminated by either party, we will require to be paid all of our charges and expenses up to the time of ceasing to act and we have the right to retain your papers until such time as payment is made.

19. Professional Indemnity Cover and Limit of this Firm’s Liability

The level of insurance indemnity cover carried by this Firm is £10,000,000 (ten million pounds). In accepting our terms of business (or continuing to instruct us if we are already acting), you are accepting that any claim you may have arising from any matter connected with the work we do for you is limited to £10,000,000.

A copy of our professional indemnity insurance is available to view upon request.

20. Cancellation Rights

20.1     Instructions taken by telephone etc.

If you instruct us by telephone, e-mail or by any other non “face to face” method you would generally have the right to cancel your instructions without any cost to you, within 14 days.

20.2     Home visits

Similarly, if you have asked us to visit you at home or other venue to take your instructions you would generally have the right to cancel your instructions, without any cost to you, within 14 days of our meeting.

20.3     Notice of the right to cancel

If you wish to cancel your instructions you can do so by delivering or sending by e-mail to the postal or e-mail address stated of the person with conduct of your matter, a cancellation notice within 14 days of receiving confirmation of instructions from us. The right to cancel will be deemed to be served on the date you post it or send it.

20.4     Request for us to start work before expiry of the cancellation period

If you wish us to start work before the cancellation period expires you will need to give your permission. Your agreement will allow us to begin work immediately and will entitle us to charge you for it.

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