TERMS OF BUSINESS – (Updated March 2018)Introduction
This document together with any engagement letter provided to you at the commencement of a matter sets out the terms on which this Firm accepts instructions and charges for its services. If there is any conflict between these terms and the engagement letter, then the engagement letter will take precedence. Any reference in this document to the “firm” is a reference to Richard Griffiths & Co.
If it is necessary to engage other professionals on your behalf (such as counsel, overseas lawyers, accountants, expert witnesses or costs draftsmen) whether in the UK or abroad we will do so as your agent. The firm cannot be responsible for any act or omission of such a professional unless otherwise agreed in writing.
Fees and Disbursements
At the outset of a matter we will agree the basis on which the firm will charge you and arrangements concerning its fees will be set out in the engagement letter.
Charges are calculated primarily by reference to the time spent by the solicitors and other staff in respect of any work they do on your behalf, i.e. meetings with you and perhaps others, reading and working on papers, correspondence etc. Time is charged in units of 6 minutes which will cover, for instance, a short routine letter or e-mail or a brief un-timed telephone conversation.
Some services are charged as a fixed fee or a conditional fee agreement (no win no fee) and this will be made clear in the client care letter.
The firm maintains a record of all of the work carried out on your behalf. Hourly rates are subject to revision yearly and may be revised at other times. You will be notified in writing of any changes to the firm’s hourly rates.
Billing and Payment
VAT at the rate applicable will be added to bills unless zero rating or an exemption applies.
Unless otherwise agreed in writing, our invoices are payable on delivery. In the event of any invoice not being paid on delivery we shall be entitled not to undertake any further work on your behalf until the invoice is paid in full. If the invoice remains outstanding for 28 days, we shall be then entitled to terminate the retainer and/or charge interest as specified below. In property or other asset purchases we usually ask you to provide us with cleared funds sufficient to pay all fees and other sums due to us prior to completion. In the event of monies being paid to the credit of your client account when there are outstanding fees or other sums due to us, you agree and authorise us to forthwith transfer funds equivalent to the amount of the debt due to us from your client account to the credit of our Office Account and thereby discharge your debt. If the funds held are less than the full amount of the debt, then you agree to us transferring to our office account the entirety of the funds on your client account in partial settlement of the debt.
In all work we are entitled to deliver invoices from time to time for all work carried out to the date specified in the bill. Such bills are ‘statutory bills’ which we are entitled to sue upon in default of payment. The interval between bills will in most circumstances be between one and three months. An invoice will be sent at the conclusion of all matters.
In some circumstances, particularly litigation matters, we may request a payment on account of our fees, expenses and disbursements. If a payment is requested, we reserve the right not to act or continue acting for you until payment has been made. All payments on account will be held in our Client Account, pending delivery of an invoice. In litigation matters we may give you notice, usually not less than 28 days before any hearing, requiring the estimated total costs of that hearing to be paid to us 14 days before the hearing. If we receive less than 28 days’ notification of the hearing, we may give you notice within 7 days of receiving the notification, requiring you to put us in funds for the estimated total costs of that hearing within 3 days or before the hearing if sooner. If the required payment is not paid, we may immediately cease acting for you on that matter and any other matters with which we are then acting. We will charge interest on any amount remaining overdue by 28 days or more. Failure to pay invoices in accordance with our terms of business is analogous to an unauthorised overdraft. Accordingly, the rate of interest we will charge on overdue amounts is 15% per annum with interest compounded on each quarter date. We may at our absolute discretion discount the interest rate in individual cases and such discount will only apply if you receive written notification thereof.
Please note that Rule 17 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 provides that where money is held in our Client Account on behalf of a Client or Trust, we must within 14 days of sending our bill to the Client or paying party (or notifying them of the sum due) transfer sufficient monies to settle the bill from our Client Account to the firm’s Office Account. Accordingly, you agree that where money is held in our Client Account on your behalf or on behalf of a trust, when we send a bill to you or the paying party for work that has been done we may transfer sufficient monies to settle the bill from our Client Account to the firm’s Office Account. The only circumstances in which we do not have to make such transfer is where the client has: instructed us not to make the transfer or specifically told us that the funds are to be held for a purpose other than the payment of our account. Where a bill is disputed we remain obliged to transfer the monies subject to the condition that we will refund the Client if it is determined that the amount due is less than the sum claimed in the bill.
Payment of our charges may be made by cheque, BACS money transfer, banker’s draft, credit or debit card (not American Express), but we cannot accept any payment in cash above £1,000 in respect of our fees or for any other purpose. If you object to any bill you are entitled to apply to the court for an assessment of the bill under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974.
Delivery of Invoices and Payment of Fees and Interest on Unpaid Fees
Interest will be charged for late payment at the higher rate of 4% above Bank of England rates per annum if any invoice remains unpaid for more than 14 days from its date of issue. It is the Client’s responsibility to ensure that payment results in money being received by the firm and if any cheques or other payment methods are not honoured by your bank, this will mean that your bill remains outstanding.
Payments on Account of Fees/Disbursements/Interim Bills
The firm may require a payment in advance in respect of its fees and disbursements. Such payments will be placed into a Clients’ Account and will be credited against future bills.
Interim bills are presented on a frequent basis. This assists clients in budgeting for costs as well as keeping you informed of the legal expenses which are being incurred. If payment of interim bills is not met with prompt payment, delay in the progress of a matter may result and could result in the firm ceasing to act for you.
Interest is payable on monies held in our Client Account when the interest earned exceeds £40. Interest will be paid at the current Bank of England minimum lending rate or base rate (currently 0.25%). No interest will be payable on sums of £100 or less.
You will be credited with any commission the firm receives from a third party in relation to a matter it is handling for you.
Papers Held by us
On completion of a matter and payment of all fees, the firm will return to you, at your request, any documents provided to it for the purposes of that matter and any other papers to which you are entitled. The firm will retain all other papers but cannot undertake to retain files for any specific period of time, but will endeavour to keep all files for a minimum of six years, after which time it reserves the right to dispose of them.
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 upon time spent for producing stored papers or documents to you or another at your request. We may also charge for reading, corresponding, or other work necessary to comply with your instructions. If the firm is required for any reason (whether during the course of a matter or after it has terminated) compulsorily to disclose documents or to give information orally or in writing relating to a matter or your affairs pursuant to a court order, notice or demand served by an entity or person with the authority to compel such disclosure, then it shall comply. The firm will be entitled to be paid for the costs of such compliance by you at its hourly rates then in force. If any documents or information are subject to legal professional privilege the firm will let you know and advise you of the opportunity to waive privilege. If you decide not to waive privilege and this is challenged, the firm will be entitled to be paid by you for the costs incurred in preserving privilege on your behalf.
Unless you tell the firm otherwise, any documents prepared by a third party for you on the firm’s instructions in which you own the copyright or have a licence to use may be stored on the firm’s database in any format for future reference by the firm’s lawyers.
The Liability of Richard Griffiths & Co
The instructions given by you to the firm create a contract for the provision of services between you and the firm. The firm owes you a duty to provide the services with reasonable care and skill. We will represent your interests, keep your business confidential and ensure that you understand the likely degree of financial risk which you will be taking on.
The firm is a partnership.
There is no contract between you and any individual partner, employee or consultant of the firm. Any advice given to you, or any other work done for you, by a partner, employee or consultant of the firm is given or done by that person on behalf of the firm and not in his or her individual capacity and no such person assumes any personal responsibility to you for the advice or work.
You agree that if, as a matter of law, a duty of care would otherwise be owed to you by any partner, employee or consultant of the firm, such duty is hereby excluded and you agree that you will not bring any claim against any individual partner, employee or consultant of the firm for any matter arising in any way out of the provision of the services to you.
Accordingly, any claim that you wish to make can only be made against the firm and not against a partner, employee or consultant of the firm.
You also agree that in the particular circumstances of the services to be provided to you, including in particular those described in any engagement letter sent to you at the commencement of a matter, the aggregate liability of the firm to you for losses for which it is liable at law shall not exceed the amount (if any) specified in the engagement letter. Any consequential or indirect loss (whether or not it might have been foreseeable at the commencement of the matter) is also excluded.
Where the firm is acting for more than one person, the limit of liability will have to be allocated among you. If this allocation is not expressly stated in the engagement letter, such allocation will be a matter entirely for you. If for whatever reason no such allocation is agreed by you, then you will not dispute the limit of liability on the grounds that no such allocation was agreed.
The liability of the firm to you shall also be limited to that proportion of the loss or damage (including interest and costs) suffered by you, which is ordered against it by a Court of competent jurisdiction after taking account of the contribution to the relevant loss and damage of any other person responsible and/or liable to you for such loss or damage.
For the purposes of assessing such contribution of any other person, no account shall be taken of any limit imposed on the amount of liability of such person by any agreement made before the loss or damage occurred.
The limitations and exclusions on liability in this section shall have no application to any liability for death or personal injury caused by our negligence or for any other liability which cannot lawfully be excluded or limited. Please note that whilst many property transactions may have tax consequences we do not as a firm offer tax advice.
Other Parties Charges and Expenses
In some cases, and transactions, a Client may be entitled to payment of costs by another person. It is important that you understand that in such circumstances the other person may not be required to pay all of the charges and expenses which you incur with us. You have to pay our charges and expenses initially and any amounts which can be recovered will be a contribution towards them. If the other party is in receipt of public funding (Legal Aid) costs are unlikely to be recovered.
If you are successful and the Court orders another party to pay some or all of your costs 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 the 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 is to pay you.
If you are un-successful in a Court case, you 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. In certain types of cases, arrangements can be made to take out insurance cover for such liability for such expenses.
Termination of Instructions
Once instructed, the firm will normally continue to act for you in the matter until its conclusion. If circumstances arise where it is appropriate for either the firm or you to terminate the arrangements you will be responsible for the firm’s fees and disbursements up to the date of termination, and any fees and disbursements necessarily associated with it ceasing to act or the transfer of the work to another adviser of your choice.
If at any stage you do not wish us to continue to act for you, you must tell us clearly in writing but we will be entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is money owing to us for our charges and expenses (this is called a lien).
Information passed to the firm is kept confidential and will not be disclosed to third parties except as authorised by you or required by law or the Solicitor’s professional body, the Solicitors Regulation Authority. If on your authority the firm is working in conjunction with other professional advisers, we will assume that it may disclose any relevant aspect of your affairs to them.
Where you provide the firm with fax or computer network addresses to which material is to be sent, it shall assume, unless you tell us otherwise, that your arrangements are sufficiently secure and confidential to protect your interests.
It should be recognised that the internet is not secure and that there are risks if sensitive information is sent in this manner by you or you request the firm to use the same system.
The firm will use its reasonable endeavours to protect the integrity of computer systems by screening for viruses on emails sent or received and would expect you to do the same.
Privacy and Data Protection
The firm is committed to respecting the data which it holds on you. Your details will be kept on its database for administration and accounting purposes. Your details will be processed and kept securely in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. The data will not be disclosed to third parties except for the purposes mentioned above, except that in certain circumstances where files are inspected by an assessor or auditor, for example if you are in receipt of a public funding certificate (Legal Aid). Any such inspection will be on the understanding that the information and the file remains strictly confidential and will not be released by the assessor or auditor to any other person.
Proceeds of Crime /Money Laundering
Like all firms of solicitors, we are now required by law to apply procedures to guard against the risk of being involved in any way with the proceeds of crime.
We need to obtain formal evidence of your identity. This may be necessary even though we have acted for you before or even if you are known personally to a member of staff. Typically, the evidence we shall ask for will comprise one document with your photograph, such as a passport or photographic driving licence, and one other document, such as a utility bill, which confirms your address.
We are normally able to accept cash only up to a limit of £1,000 in any 28-day period.
Source of funds
At the start of any matter we will normally ask you to tell us the source of any funds you will be using. It is simplest for us if the source is an account in your name, in a UK Bank or Building Society. We do not accept funds drawn on or transferred from a bank outside of the UK without a full explanation as to the source of those funds. Funds transmitted from such a source could trigger our reporting obligations and result in those funds becoming frozen.
Destination of funds
Where we are able to pay out to you, we will normally do so by cheque in your favour, or into an account in your name. If, instead, you want us to pay surplus money to someone else, please tell us as soon as possible, and explain why this is required.
We have always sought to keep our Clients’ affairs confidential. However, the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 can oblige us to report information (any suspicion) about financial offences to the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). In particular, if it seems that any assets involved in your matter were derived from a crime, we may have to report this. This can include even small amounts of money, and covers all offences, including for example, tax evasion and benefit fraud, whether involving yourself or someone else. If we have to make a report, we will not be able to tell you that we have done so. A report may result in an investigation by the police, the Inland Revenue, or other Authorities. If you are concerned about how this might affect you, please ask us to clarify.
The firm may only act for different parties in the same or related transactions under clear rules issued by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. You will already have been checked against the firm’s database but you should raise any issues of concern immediately with the person with the conduct of your matter.
Insurance Cover and Limitation on Liability
The firm maintains professional indemnity insurance and unless otherwise agreed in writing, limits its liability for claims against the firm (currently to 5 million pounds).
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.
Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999
For the purpose of Section 1(2) of the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999, it is agreed that no term of this agreement with you shall be enforceable by a third party, save that the partners, consultants and employees of the firm may enforce the exclusions contained in the section above headed “The Liability of Richard Griffiths and Co “.
Insurance Mediation and Activities
The 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 can 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 The Solicitors Regulation Authority. The register can be accessed via the Financial Services Authority website at www.fsa.gov.uk/register. We only provide these services if they are an incidental part of the professional services which we have been engaged to provide.
If during your transaction you need advice on investments, we may have to refer you to someone who is authorised by the Financial Services Authority as we are not. However, as we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation 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.
The relationship of this firm with you will be governed by English law and will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English Courts.
Publicly Funded (Legally Aided) Client
If the work that we are to carry out on your behalf is to be publicly funded, special rules apply in respect of which you will be advised separately. Sections above entitled fees and disbursements, billing and payment, payments on account of fees, disbursements and interim bills are not applicable to you once you have received your CLS funding certificate. Those sections however will be applicable to you for any elements of work that we carry out for you which are not covered by public funding. For instance, work carried out prior to the grant of your CLS Funding Certificate.
We are committed to high quality legal advice and Client care. If you are unhappy about any aspect of the service you have received or about the bill, please contact William Griffiths on 01425 616809 or firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to our Salisbury office at 86 Crane Street, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP1 2QD. We have a procedure in place which details how we handle complaints which is available from William Griffiths upon request.
We have eight weeks to consider your complaint. If for any reason we are unable to resolve the problem between us within that timeframe, then you may then ask the Legal Ombudsman to consider the complaint. The Legal Ombudsman may be contacted at PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ.
Please be aware that any complaint to the Legal Ombudsman must usually be made within six months of your having received a final written response from us about your complaint. Complaints to the Legal Ombudsman must usually be made within six years of the act or omission about which you are complaining occurring; or within three years from when you should have known about or become aware that there were grounds for complaint.
However, the Legal Ombudsman will not accept complaints where the act or date of awareness was before 6 October 2010. For further information, you should contact the Legal Ombudsman on 0300 555 0333 or visit www.legalombudsman.org.uk.
Please note that we will not change our bank details during a transaction by email. If you receive an email purporting to be from Richard Griffiths & Co requesting your bank details, advising you that our bank details have changed in any way, or directing you to a website to check payments, or pay our invoices:
a) Please do not reply to the email or act on any information contained in it;
b) Please report the email to us without delay.
We cannot accept any responsibility if you transfer money into an incorrect account.
Terms and Conditions of Business
Unless otherwise agreed, these terms and conditions of business should apply to any future instructions given by you to this firm.
Your continuing instructions in this matter will amount to an acceptance of these terms and conditions of business and for the sake of completeness we would be grateful to you to please sign and return the copy of these terms and conditions to us.
Download our Terms of Business (pdf) – RGCO – Terms of Business – March 2018