These Terms & Conditions are intended to be read alongside the initial Client Care Letter we send out at the start of each matter. If any of these Terms & Conditions conflict with that letter, the letter will, to that extent, prevail.
These Terms & Conditions are available in larger font on our website or in the form of a hard copy on request.
We aim to return phone calls and reply to faxes and e-mails the same day wherever possible, and by no later than the next working day. We are committed to replying in detail to letters within 5 working days and to updating you when necessary and at least monthly. We provide costs estimates and quotes accordingly. We will try to meet any different service standard which is more suited to your needs. The costs estimate or quote may be higher for a higher service standard.
We will communicate with you by such means as you request. Unless otherwise agreed, we may use ordinary unencrypted e-mail or fax to communicate with you and others involved in any matter on which you instruct us. You shall be taken to accept any security risks arising from this, unless you instruct us not to use those methods. We use your e-mail address to send you our quarterly newsletter and other information about our services. Please let us know, if you do not wish us to do this. We do not pass your details to any third party without your permission. Unless you tell us your voicemail is not secure, we may leave messages on your voicemail. Please let us know if you don’t wish us to do this.
Responsibility for work
When we act for you we will give you details of who will be dealing with your work and their status.
Taking Instructions from You
If we are acting for more than one person, we may take instructions from any one of you, unless and until we receive written instructions to the contrary.
We shall discuss with you at the outset our likely fees and how they will be calculated. We may provide an estimate or a quotation and shall tell you what the fee covers. If we cannot provide you with a definite estimate or quotation, we will agree a budget with you. We will not exceed an estimate or budget without obtaining your prior agreement wherever possible. We will let you have details of our hourly rates and any changes to them during the matter. Time spent on your case is recorded in units of 6 minutes or parts of 6 minutes and charged accordingly, unless we have agreed a fixed fee with you. Routine letters and e-mails sent and telephone calls are charged at 1/10 of the hourly rate. VAT is payable on top at the rate applicable at the time we do our work for you.
Other Funding Methods We may be able to act for you on certain types of work on a Conditional or Contingency Fee basis (‘No Win, No Fee’) or with the help of public funding (Legal Aid). If you think you may be eligible for public funding, please ask the person dealing with your case as soon as you can. Public Funding cannot be backdated.
BBilli Billing & Payments on Account
If we are likely to be acting for you more than a month, we will invoice you monthly for work done. If an invoice is not paid promptly, we may stop work on your matter. It is our standard practice to require payments on account.
If an invoice has not been paid or a payment on account made, we do not accept responsibility for the consequences of any delay caused by our stopping work for you as a result. If you have difficulty in making payments for any reason, please let us know as soon as possible.
We charge interest on outstanding fees and disbursements at the rate applicable to judgment debts from one month after the date of delivery of the invoice.
If you have not paid our costs or disbursements, we will reimburse ourselves when any funds belonging to you come into our possession.
In instructing us you accept that you will not receive interest on any money paid on account to us by you or on your behalf. Interest is paid on other money we hold on your behalf in accordance with our policy, but interest payments of less than £20 will not be made.
If you wish to make monthly payments on account by standing order, please let the person handling your matter know.
You can make payments to us by cheque, BACS, telegraphic transfer or debit or credit card or cash (up to £250). There is a charge, currently 1.95% of the amount of the payment, for payment by credit card.
We do make a charge for transferring funds by telegraphic or funds transfer, except for payment of the purchase price in a conveyancing transaction.
We have to undertake checks on your identity under the money laundering legislation. We will let you have details of the information or documents we need from you. We will make any reports we consider necessary to the relevant authorities and will not be able to confirm or deny to you that we have done so.
Insurance/Limitation of Liability
We maintain insurance with XL Insurance Company Limited of XL House, 70 Gracechurch Street, London EC3V 0XV.
It is a condition of our doing any work for you that you accept that the aggregate liability of our partners and/or employees in respect of any one matter is limited to £2 million. This includes losses to you or any third party, however caused, and whether in contract, tort or otherwise, arising from any work we have done for you or advice we have given to you.
Our responsibility only applies to advice and services we provide on matters on which you have instructed us.
We will not be responsible for losses caused by false, misleading or incomplete information you or others provide, or by anything anyone other than us has or has not done.
You must tell us of any concerns you have which are particular to you and not of general application.
If you have agreed a limitation of liability with another professional adviser acting for you, this will not increase our liability to you. Our liability will be limited to a fair share of the total losses, having regard to the extent of our responsibility for them.
We are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), but not by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), whose website is at www.fsa.gov.uk/register. We are on the FSA’s Register, which enables us to sell, advise on and administer insurance contracts.
We arrange policies for legal expenses, elderly care, restrictive covenant and title indemnity insurance. We either arrange policies through specialist brokers or from a limited range of products, but are not obliged to conduct our business this way. We will supply details of the insurers from whom we select products on request. We cannot provide investment advice, but will refer you to an Independent Financial Adviser, if you require such advice. These advisers are often wiling to see you at your home or our offices.
Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999
No third party can benefit from or enforce any terms or conditions in this document. If, notwithstanding the Disclosure of Advice clause of these Terms & Conditions, you disclose any information to a third party, you must inform them that we do not accept any responsibility to them for any advice we have given to you.
The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000
Under these Regulations, for some non-business transactions, you may be able to withdraw, without charge, within 7 working days of the date on which you asked us to act for you. If you authorise us to start work for you within that period, you lose that right. Your acceptance of these terms and conditions will amount to such consent. You should give notice of withdrawal by telephone, e-mail or letter to the person you are dealing with. The work we do for you is likely to take more than 30 days.
Storage of Papers & Deeds
At the end of a matter we will return your documents to you. We will generally try to keep files for at least 6 years. We generally keep property purchase and remortgage transaction files for at least 10 years and files for Lasting Powers of Attorney, wills and probate matters for a minimum of 12 years. We may destroy files without further reference to you after the end of a matter. We can keep your papers while you owe us any money.
We provide a wills and securities storage service which is currently free of charge to clients. We will give you due notice if we intend to introduce a charge in future. We may charge for producing such documents from storage, unless it is for the purpose of a sale of property which you have instructed us to handle for you.
You should keep any ownership or other relevant documents for any property you buy safe, in case they are needed to resolve any queries when you come to sell. We will put such papers in storage, unless you collect them within 10 days of receipt of your Title Information Document.
Data Protection Act 1998
We will process data (‘Personal Data’) which is capable of identifying you or your employees.
By accepting or adopting these Terms & Conditions you agree to us processing the Personal Data in accordance with these Terms & Conditions and the Data Protection Act 1998.
We may use any Personal Data collected to contact you with details of our legal services, events, seminars, publications and newsletters (‘Unsolicited Communications’).
You may opt out of receiving Unsolicited Communications by writing to our Marketing Partner asking us not to send them.
We may use Personal Data to make credit decisions about you and may disclose it to a credit reference agency.
We may disclose Personal Data if we are required to do so by law or in good faith in the belief that such action is necessary, either in dealing with your matter, or to comply with the law or any legal process or to protect or defend our or our employees’ rights or property, or to act in urgent circumstances to protect our employees’ or the general public’s personal safety.
Disclosures to Third Parties
In acting for you we will often need to disclose to third parties information which is necessary to progress your matter. In accepting or adopting these Terms & Conditions you agree to us doing this.
You can ask us to stop acting for you at any time. We can only stop acting for you for a good reason. This might be that we cannot get instructions from you, a conflict or potential conflict of interest has arisen or you have not paid our fees or provided a payment on account we have requested. We will give you notice in that event. On termination our fees remain payable and we will send you a final bill.
Independent Review of your File
As regulated professionals we are sometimes subject to audits by outside bodies by, for example, the Solicitors Regulation Authority, our accountants or the Legal Services Commission. These inspections are conducted in confidence. By accepting or adopting these Terms & Conditions you are agreeing to your file being inspected for these purposes.
Even in the best run firms problems sometimes arise. We like to resolve any problems quickly and have a complaints procedure to help us do this. If you have any problem with the service we have provided to you, including any bills we send you, please initially contact the person dealing with your matter. If this does not resolve matters, please ask our Complaints Partner for a copy of our Complaints Procedure or go to the Client Information/Resources page of our website for a copy.
If we cannot resolve your complaint, and 8 weeks have passed since the date of your complaint, you can refer your complaint to the Legal Services Ombudsman at http://www.legal ombudsman.org.uk PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ or by telephoning 0300 555 0333. The Legal Ombudsman will accept complaints within 6 months of our written response to your complaint (which the Legal Ombudsman will sometimes extend), subject to that being:
(a) within 6 years from the date of the act or omission you complain of; or
(b) 3 years from the date you should reasonably have known you had grounds for complaint, if that act or omission took place before 6 October 2010 or was more than 6 years ago.
The Legal Services Ombudsman will accept complaints within 12 months of you finding out there was a problem and within 6 months of notifying us of the complaint.
If any part of these Terms & Conditions is declared void, illegal or otherwise unenforceable, the remainder shall survive unaffected.
These Terms & Conditions of Business, together with any agreed written variations, set out the entire agreement between you and us and supersede all prior representations, agreements, negotiations or understanding, whether oral or in writing, other than any misrepresentation which is made fraudulently.
These Terms & Conditions can only be varied by an agreement evidenced in writing between you and us.
Equality & Diversity
We are committed to providing equality and diversity in all of our dealings with clients and third parties.
We retain all copyright and other intellectual property rights in anything developed by us either before or during the course of carrying out any work for you. You may distribute copies of such material within your organisation and can use them for any purpose we agree in writing.
Disclosure of Advice
You must not disclose our advice to any third party or refer to our advice in any public document or communication (including internet communication) without our prior written agreement.
Where we act for more than one person
If we act for more than one individual in a matter, each individual remains responsible for the whole of our fees to the extent they remain unpaid.
Application of these Terms & Conditions
These Terms & Conditions apply in relation to any instructions we receive, unless varied in writing or we notify you of any updated Terms & Conditions which are in force.
These Terms & Conditions will be interpreted in accordance with the Law of England & Wales and the courts of England & Wales will have sole jurisdiction over any disputes arising under them.
Authorised and Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Sykes Lee & Brydson are Solicitors established in the United Kingdom and are registered with the Solicitors Regulation Authority under Practice Number 56125. VAT number 170 5836 59
Version 2: 1 June 2012