Terms of business
- 1. The following terms and conditions apply to our provision of services to you unless they are varied in the engagement letter.
- 2. When you instruct us, we will send you an engagement letter including details of who will carry out your work, the basis on which we will charge you for that work and who you should speak to if you have any questions or concerns about the service we are providing.
Responsibilities Our commitment to you We will:
- 3. Represent your interests and keep your business confidential
- 4. Explain to you the legal work which may be required and the prospects of successful outcome
- 5. Make sure that you understand the likely degree of finacial risk which you will be taking on
- 6. Keep you regularly informed of progress or, if there is none when you are likely to hear from us
- 7. Try to avoid technical legal language when writing to you and deal with your queries promptly, for example, we will always try to return your telephone call on the same day
Your commitment to us You will:
- 8. Provide us with clear, timely and accurate instructions
- 9. Provide all documentation required to complete the transaction in a timely manner
- 10. Safeguard any documents which are likely to be required for discovery
Hours of business
- 11. The normal opening hours at our office are between 9.00 am and 5.00 pm on weekdays.
- 12. Unless we agree a different basis with you in the engagement letter, the fees we charge will be based on the time spent by the fee earners who work on your matter, applying their standard hourly charging rate. This will include meetings with you and perhaps others, reading and working on papers, correspondence, preparation of any detailed costs calculations and time spent traveling away from the office when this in necessary.
- 13. Routine letters, facsimiles and emails are charged as six minute units of time and we charge for the time spent on making and taking telephone calls in six minute units and considering incoming letters, facsimiles and emails at units of three minutes per page.
- 14. The current hourly rates are set out below. We will add VAT to this at the rate which applies when the work is done. At present VAT is 20%
|Senior Solicitor or Head of Dept: (PQE 8yr+)||£240|
|Assistant Solicitor/Fee Earner: (PQE 3/7yr)||£215|
|NQ Fee Earner: (PQE 1/3yr)||£185|
- 15. These hourly rates have to be reviewed periodically to reflect increases in overhead costs and inflation. Normally the rates will be reviewed with effect from 1st January each year. We shall inform you of any variation in the rates before they take effect.
- 16. If your matter requires us to work outside normal business hours, we reserve the right to charge you an uplift of up to 50 per cent on the standard hourly charging rates of the fee earners working for you.
- 17. Our fees are required by Law Society rules to be “fair and reasonable having regard to all the circumstances”. As a result, apart from the urgency of the matter, we are also entitled to take into account factors other than the applicable standard hourly charging rate in setting the amount of our fees. These factors include the urgency of the matter, its complexity, the difficulty or novelty of the questions raised, the specialised knowledge and responsibility involved, the number and importance of documents prepared or considered and the place and circumstances in which the matter is carried out.
- 18. We may incur a number of expenses on your behalf for which you will be responsible. Examples include fees for counsel, couriers, searches, registration and stamp duty. If these expenses are significant we may ask for payment in advance. VAT is payable on certain expenses. We refer to such payments generally as “ disbursements”.
Conditional fee agreements
- 19. If we have agreed a conditional fee agreement with you then our hourly rates at condition 14 and 15 above will not apply and we will be proceeding with the fee agreed within our engagement letter.
- 20. 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.
- 21. Unless we agree a different basis with you in the engagement letter, we will send you an invoice on a monthly basis.
- 22. Fees and expenses payable under interim invoices are payable within 14 days after the date of the invoice. All outstanding fees and expenses are payable at completion of a relevant matter. If not paid within 21 days we reserve the right to charge interest at 8 per cent. per annum above Lloyds TSB Bank’s base lending rate on the full amount outstanding.
- 23. The common law entitles us to retain any money, papers or other property belonging to you which properly come into our possession pending payment of our costs, whether or not the property is acquired in connection with the matter for which the costs were incurred. This is known as ‘general lien’. We are not entitled to sell property under a lien but we are entitled to hold property, other than money, even if the value of it greatly exceeds the amount due in respect of costs.
- 24. If we are conducting litigation for you, we have additional rights in any property recovered or preserved for you whether it is in our possession or not and in respect of all costs incurred whether billed or unbilled. We also have the right to ask the court to make a charging order in our favour for any assessed costs.
- 25. We do not accept payments to us in cash in excess of £500 in any 28 day period. Monies due to you from us will be paid by cheque or bank transfer, but not in cash and will not be payable to a third party, unless you provide your express authority.
Other parties’ charges and expenses:
- 26. Once court proceedings have been commenced, if you are unsuccessful or the proceedings are withdrawn by you, you may have to pay most or all of your opponent’s legal costs and disbursements. However strong you may feel your case to be, we must reiterate that litigation is expensive and risky and no guarantee can be given that you will be successful.
- 27. You should remember that even if you are successful in your case, the recovery of the debt or damages from your opponent is not automatic. If your opponent does not pay you what is owed, you may have to take enforcement action through the courts, which may mean you having to incur further costs, which themselves may not be recoverable. However, if your opponent cannot pay or does not have property against which payment can be forced, then it may not be possible to recover the money you are owed at all. Please bear this in mind.
- 28. In the event you are successful in your case then it may be that you are entitled to be paid your legal costs and disbursements by your opponent. However, you must be aware that it is rare for you to be reimbursed for all of your costs and disbursements. If there is some dispute as to the payment of your costs by your opponent then this can be resolved by the court by a system known as “Taxation of Costs”. In cases where you are entitled to recovery of your costs from your opponent, if such costs are agreed or taxed/assessed by the Court, then we reserve the right to look to you for the balance between the costs agreed or taxed, and our actual charges for the time spent on your case in accordance with our charging rates detailed.
- 29. If at any time you have any concerns or complaints please contact either the person dealing with your matter or the relevant partner to whom the welcome pack says that complaints should be made. In addition you are entitled to use the scheme for complaints and redress operated by the Legal Ombudsman. A written complaints procedure is available on request.
Equality and diversity
- 30. Askews Legal LLP is committed to promoting equality and diversity in all of its dealings with clients, third parties and employees. Please contact us if you would like a copy of our equality and diversity policy.
Data protection and GDPR
- 31. We use the information you provide primarily for the provision of legal services to you and related purposes including updating and enhancing client records, analysis to help us manage our practice, statutory returns and legal and regulatory compliance.
- 32. Our use of that data is subject to your instructions, the General Data Protection Regulation / Data Protection Act 2018 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 told you about.
- 33. In order to comply with court and tribunal rules, all documentation relevant to any issues in litigation, however potentially damaging to your case, have to be preserved and may be required to be made available to the other side. This aspect of proceedings is known as ‘disclosure’. Subject to this, we will not reveal confidential information about your case except as provided by these terms of business and where, for example, your opponent is ordered to pay your costs, we have to meet obligations to reveal details of the case to them and the court.
- 34. Where we act for two or more clients jointly it is on the clear understanding that we are authorised to act on instructions from either, both or any of them.
- 36. We may correspond, convey documentation and generally communicate with you and any third party in connection with our services electronically (unless you expressly request otherwise on specific matters) and receive such communications from you and any third party.
- 37. You and we understand and acknowledge that the electronic transmission of information by e-mail on the Internet or otherwise has inherent risks and that such communications may become lost, delayed, intercepted, corrupted or be otherwise altered, rendered incomplete or fail to be delivered. We shall use our reasonable endeavours to ensure that electronic communications that we send are free from viruses and any other material which may cause inconvenience or harm to any other computer system and you undertake to do likewise with any electronic communications you may send to us.
- 38. However because the electronic transmission of information cannot be guaranteed to be secure or error-free and its confidential you may be vulnerable to access by unauthorised third parties, neither you nor we shall have any responsibility or liability to each other on any basis other than your or our bad faith or wilful default in respect of any error, omission, claim or loss arising from or in connection with the electronic communication of information by us to you or any third party or to us by you or any third party (or their or our reliance on such information).
- 39. For your convenience documents may be made available to you in electronic as well as hard copy format. Multiple copies and versions of documents may therefore exist in different media. In the case of any discrepancy the signed hard copy should be regarded as definite.
Storage of documents
- 40. After completing the work we are entitled to keep all of your papers and documents whilst there is money owing to us for our charges and expenses. In addition, we will keep your file of papers for you in storage for not less than six years in electronic format only. After that storage is on the clear understanding that we have the right to destroy it after such period as we consider reasonable 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 you ask us to hold in safe custody. No charge will be made to you for such storage unless prior notice is given in writing to you of any charge to be made from a future date, which may be specified in that notice.
- 41. If we retrieve papers or documents from electronic 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 will make a charge of £35 plus VAT for producing stored papers or documents to you in electronic format, at your request. If you require a paper copy, you will responsible for payment of our reasonable photocopying charges and postage.. We may also charge for reading correspondence or other work necessary to comply with your instructions.
- 42. We will perform the work which we do for you with reasonable skill and care and we acknowledge that we will be liable to you for losses, damages, costs or expenses (Losses) caused by our negligence or wilful default, subject to the following provisions:
- 43. the aggregate liability, whether to you or any third party, of whatever nature, whether in contract, tort or otherwise, of us for any losses whatsoever and howsoever caused arising from or in any way connected with each matter upon which we are instructed and/or advice on it, shall not exceed £2 million;
- 44. Your rights in respect of any breach on our part of this engagement shall only be enforceable if notice in writing giving all material details of any claim shall have been given to us on or before the second anniversary of the date of this engagement;
- 45. Our liability, whether to you or any third party, in contract or tort or under statute or otherwise shall exclude, any indirect or consequential economic loss or damage (including loss of profits) suffered by you or any third party arising from, or in connection with, the matter on which we are instructed and/or advice on it, however the indirect or consequential economic loss or damage is caused, including our negligence but not our wilful default;
- 46. Nothing in this section of these terms shall impose on us any liability of any kind or for any amount which we would not have but for this section;
- 47. Nothing in this section of these terms shall have the effect of restricting our liability in respect of any kind of loss, damage or liability which cannot or must not be excluded or limited under English law.
- 48. We will not be so liable if such losses are due to the provision of false, misleading or incomplete information or documentation or due to the acts or omissions of any person other than us.
- 49. All client money is placed in a client account at HSBC Bank plc as defied in section 87 of the Solicitors Act 1974. In the event that the bank collapses, it is unlikely that Askews Legal LLP will be liable to repay money lost through a banking failure, however, any final decision on this is for the courts. Any express undertakings to pay money will be honoured even if the bank has collapsed.
- 50. In light of the government guarantees for depositors in UK banks, the partners do not consider it necessary to move clients’ money. In making this decision the partners have made a reasonable assessment of the circumstances surrounding the client accounts opened with HSBC Bank Plc.
- 51. Please note that a valuation report prepared on behalf of a lender is not a full structural survey, and may not have been prepared by a qualified surveyor. It may contain disclaimers which limit the valuer’s liability in the event that defects in the property are subsequently discovered. There may therefore be defects in the property which are not revealed by the valuer’s inspection, and it may contain omissions or inaccuracies which may not matter to a lender, but which could be important to you.
- 52. Please be aware that the seller is not under any obligation to disclose defects in the property to you. Any defects which may exist could affect the value or the future saleability of the property and any pre-existing defect may not be covered by buildings insurance or an NHBC warranty.
- 53. For the reasons given above, if you have not already done so, we strongly recommend you to arrange for a homebuyer’s report or survey in addition to the valuation report prepared on behalf of the lender.
- 54. It is your responsibility to ensure that any heating systems and appliances which are to be included in the sale are in good working order and also to check that the gas appliances and electricity supply meet current standards. You will not have any recourse against your valuer/surveyor or seller if you discover faults in any of these items after your purchase.
Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)
- 55. Unless otherwise agreed in writing Askews Legal LLP will act as your agents in completing the SDLT forms (if necessary).
- 56. It is your responsibility to ensure the content of the SDLT form is true and accurate.
- 57. Any Stamp-duty payment due is to be paid immediately.
- 58. If the HMRC re-calculate the Stamp Duty, you will immediately pay that amount to the HMRC.
- 59. Askews Legal LLP accepts no liability for completing the SDLT forms and you hereby indemnify Askews Legal LLP for any loss incurred in completing or submitting the form to the HMRC.
- 60. You hereby warrant that you have sought independent tax and financial advice in respect to your SDLT submission and should you be entitled to any relief in SDLT you will notify us in writing and prior to legal completion.
- 61. We will charge you an administrative fee to complete and submit your SDLT return in accordance with the information you have supplied. Should you wish to complete the SDLT return yourself, please notify us immediately and we will not charge you the administrative fee. In such circumstances, we will require a copy of your completed and signed SDLT return before exchange of contracts.
- 62. Any dispute or legal issue arising from our terms of business will be determined by the law of England and Wales
Terminating the retainer
- 63. You may terminate your instructions at any time but we will be entitled to keep all your papers and documents whilst there is money owing to us for our charges 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.
- 64. If we decide to stop acting for you, for example if you do not pay an interim bill or comply with the request for a payment on account, we will tell you the reason and give you notice in writing.
- 65. If for any reason this matter does not proceed to completion we will be entitled to charge you for work done and expenses incurred.
- 66. In respect of any instructions we receive from a limited company or limited liability partnership, the signatory to any letter of engagement personally guarantees payment of any fees outstanding to us.
Money Laundering Regulations 2017 / The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002
- 67. In accordance with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 2018 and the Money Laundering Regulations, we confirm:
- Askews Legal LLP Solicitors is the data controller;
- Teerath Gill is the nominated Data Protection Manager; and
- We will only process any documentation or personal data received from you in respect of client due diligence for the purposes of preventing money laundering and terrorist fina cing unless (a) use of that data is permitted by or under any enactment or (b) you give your express consent for the documentation or personal data to be used for other forms of processing.
Money laundering and terrorist funding Client due diligence:
- 68. Under the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (“POCA”), we may be required to make a report to the relevant authorities if at any time we become aware of or suspect (whether from you or any other person) the existence of the proceeds of crime in relation to any services on which we are engaged. Our obligation to make such a report will, in certain circumstances, override our duty of solicitor/client confidentiali y and we may not be permitted to inform you whether or not we have made, or might intend to make, such a report.
- 69. We may terminate the provision of any services to you, or be instructed to do so by the relevant authorities, if you fail to comply with your obligation to provide evidence of identity or we suspect that you or any other party connected with you or with the Matter is involved in activities proscribed by POCA.
- 70. The law requires solicitors to get satisfactory evidence of the identity of their clients and sometimes people related to them, this will mean that an Anti Money Laundering (AML) search with a credit reference agency is necessary to verify your identity. By proceeding with your matter, you hereby consent to the AML search which will leave a digital footprint on your credit file
- 71. Each search we undertake leaves a footprint on your individual credit file. This is because for audit purposes, a credit reference agency is required to record the check has taken place. However, this footprint is not the same as a credit check footprint and has no negative impact on your credit file. It is just shown as an ‘identity search’ which is effectively a soft footprint, simply showing an anti-money laundering (AML) search has taken place. An individual can have many identity footprints and it still won’t affect their credit file
- 72. To comply with the law therefore we need to get evidence of your identity as soon as possible.
- 73. If you cannot provide us with the specifi identification requested, please contact us as soon as possible to discuss other ways to verify your identity.
Joint Money Laundering Steering Group
- 74. The anti- money laundering guidance which UK banks and other finance services firms must adhere to is issued by the Joint Money Laundering Steering Group (“JMLSG”). The JMLSG considers all clients with funds deposited in a law firm’s pooled client account to be beneficial winers of that account. The JMLSG does not require banks to routinely identify the beneficial owners of law firm’s pooled accounts, as they do with most other accounts they issue. Pooled client accounts are granted this exemption on the proviso that this information is available upon request.
- In the event of our bank requesting information about the beneficial owners of our pooled client account, you agree to us disclosing your details to them.
Making a disclosure:
- 75. Solicitors are under a professional and legal obligation to keep the affairs of clients confidential. This obligation, however, is subject to a statutory exception: recent legislation on money laundering and terrorist fina cing has placed solicitors under a legal duty in certain circumstances to disclose information to the Nations Crime Agency (NCA). Where a solicitor knows or suspects that 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.
- 76. Where we act for both lender and purchaser, we have a duty to fully reveal to your lender all relevant facts about the purchase and mortgage. This includes any differences between your mortgage application and information we receive during the transaction and any cash back or discount schemes that a seller is giving you. Should a conflict arise and you request that we do not inform the lender of any discrepancy or issue, we will return the mortgage offer to your lender confirming that we are no longer able to act for the lender.
- 77. In the event that you are subject to a fraud and we have carried out our usual due diligence we will not indemnify you for any losses occurred from any fraudulent misrepresentation from the seller or sellers solicitor or any other person directly or indirectly connected with your matter.
Payment of interest
- 78. If we are holding any monies for you (whether on account of our fees or otherwise) these will be placed in our client account. You will receive interest on these monies subject to certain minimum amounts and periods of time set out in the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules. Monies held by us on account may be used to pay outstanding invoices we have delivered to you.
- 79. The Solicitors Accounts Rules require us, in certain circumstances, to pay you money in lieu of interest on general client account funds that we have held for a period on your behalf, on sums of monies held by us for more than four weeks accruing interest of more than £50.00 or more we will credit the sum to you. Where these rules are applicable, we will pay you a sum equivalent to interest as directed by guidelines. This payment will be made to you without the deduction of tax so it is your responsibility to account to the Inland Revenue for tax (if any) due on this payment. Alternatively, we may arrange at your written request for money that we hold for you to be placed on deposit with our bank, in which case our bank will pay interest net of tax whilst the money is on deposit and we will provide you with a statement in respect of this, when forwarding the net interest payment to you. Please note we will charge you an administrative of £36.00 plus Vat for transferring your funds.
- 80. 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 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.
- 81. Any statement made by member of this firm or any other person connected to this firm maybe constituted as an undertaking to do something or a promise to do something. Therefore for any avoidance of doubt no statement either written or oral will constitute as an undertaking unless it is written and made by a Supervising partner of this firm.
- 82. If we have not met with you, or this contract is concluded away from our office, the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 apply to this work. This means you have the right to cancel your instructions to us within 14 (fourteen) days which commence the day immediately following the date of this agreement. You can cancel your instructions by contacting us by post, email or fax to this office.
- 83. If you have confirmed verbally or by email/post that you wish us to start work on your file, you may be charged for the work undertaken up to the point of cancellation, even if you then cancel your instructions or fail to return this signed agreement.
Financial arrangements with clients cash:
- 84. Our firm’s policy is to only accept cash up to £500 in any 28 day period. 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 the funds.
Source of funds:
- 85. At the start of any matter, we will normally ask you to tell us the source of any funds you may be using. It is simpler if the source is an account, in your name, in a UK bank or building society. If the source is an unusual one, such as an account in another country or in the name of someone other than yourself, please tell us as early as possible, including the reason.
Destination of funds:
- 86. Where we are to pay money out to you, we would normally do so by cheque in your favour, or into an account in your name. If instead you wish us to pay surplus money out into the name of someone other than yourself, please tell us as early as possible in writing, should we fi d your reason to be an unreasonable request we reserve the right to deny making payment to that third party.
Providing exempt fina cial services:
- 87. We are not authorised under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA) by the Financial Services Authority. We are regulated by the Law Society, including in relation to our carrying on of any “exempt regulated activities” under the FSMA. We are permitted to carry on a limited range of activities relating to investments where an exemption under the FSMA applies, including regulated activities which may reasonably be regarded as a necessary part of our legal services. The scope of our engagement does not and will not include giving you advice on the merits of entering into any transaction in investments.
- 88. When providing our services, we will assume that you have decided, or will decide, to negotiate and enter into any such transaction solely on the basis of your own evaluation of the same, and any advice which you may receive from a person authorised under the FSMA. We will not communicate, either to you or on your behalf to any other person, any invitation or inducement to engage in investment activity, and nothing we write or say should be construed as any such invitation or inducement.
- 89. The Solicitors Regulation Authority is the independent regulatory arm of the Law Society. The Legal Ombudsman is the independent complaints handling arm of the Law Society. If you are unhappy with any investment advice you receive from us, you should raise your concerns with either of those bodies.
- 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. 91. 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 Services website at www.fsa.gov.uk/register. 92. The Law Society of England and Wales is a designated 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 arm of the Law Society. If you are unhappy with any insurance advice you receive from us, you should raise your concerns with either of those bodies.
Providing exempt insurance distribution activities:
- 93. Law firms involved in personal injury, conveyancing and probate will most likely be carrying on insurance distribution activities. For example, we may arrange for clients’ after the event insurance in a personal injury matter or insurance for defective title in a conveyancing matter. In such circumstances we are an exempt supplier of insurance related products. The SRA Financial Services (Scope) Rules (Scope rules) 2001 and the SRA Financial Services (Conduct of Business) Rules 2001 (COB rules) govern the insurance distribution activities. The specific requirements which relate to insurance distribution activities are set out in Appendix 1 of the COB rules. We are an insurance intermediary, as opposed to an insurer and we do not manufacture insurance products and when any insurance related product is offered we do not warrant that it is the best price on the market and we will endeavour to match your demands and needs.
Estate Agent fees and disbursements including search fees
- 94. Unless you provide written instructions to the otherwise we will act as your agent and discharge any Estate Agent fees and or any other third party disbursement from any client monies held on account. Such disbursements do not form a part of our legal fees and are treated to be additional supplies.
Redemption of Mortgage
- 95. In the event you cancel your DD/SO, we reserve the right to recover any monies due to your bank from you together with our legal fees for recovery of the same by way of a monetary penalty.