Terms of Business
1 Business hours
We are normally open between 8.30 am and 5.00 pm from Monday to Friday. We may be able to arrange appointments outside of these hours, if necessary. We are closed on all Bank Holidays and may close for an extended period between Christmas and the New Year; we would advise you if that would be the case.
2 Our responsibilities
• treat you fairly and with respect
• communicate with you in plain language
• review your matter regularly
• advise you of any changes in the law that affect your matter
• advise you of any reasonably foreseeable circumstances and risks that could affect the outcome of your matter
3 Your responsibilities
• provide us with clear, timely and accurate instructions
• provide all documentation and information that we reasonably request in a timely manner
• safeguard any documents that may be required for your matter, including documents that you may have to disclose to another party
4 Service levels and frequency of communication
We will update you by telephone or in writing with progress on your matter regularly.
We will explain to you by telephone or in writing the legal work required as your matter progresses.
We will update you on the likely timescales for each stage of this matter and any important changes in those estimates. Whenever there is a material change in circumstances associated with your matter, we will update you on whether the likely outcomes still justify the likely costs and risks.
We will update you on the cost of your matter at the intervals set out in our letter confirming your instructions. If appropriate, we will continue to review whether there are alternative methods by which your matter can be funded.
5 Limit of liability
We have professional indemnity insurance giving cover for claims against the firm. Details of this insurance, including contact details of our insurer and the territorial coverage of the policy, can be inspected at our office or made available on request.
Our maximum aggregate liability to you in this matter will be £3,000,000 including interest and costs unless we expressly state a different figure in our letter confirming your instructions. If you wish to discuss a variation of this limit, please contact the person dealing with your matter. Agreeing a higher limit on our liability may result in us seeking an increase in our charges for handling your matter.
We will not be liable for any consequential, special, indirect or exemplary damages, costs or losses, or any damages, costs or losses attributable to lost profit or opportunity.
Toller Beattie LLP is a limited liability partnership. This means that the firm's members are not personally liable for any acts or omissions by the firm, unless the law requires otherwise. This does not limit or exclude liability of the firm for the acts or omissions of its members.
We can only limit our liability to the extent the law allows. In particular, we cannot limit liability for death or personal injury caused by negligence.
Please ask if you would like us to explain any of the terms above.
6 Regulated services
Toller Beattie LLP is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, The Cube, 199 Wharfside Street, Birmingham, B1 1RN (the SRA).
This means that we are governed by a Code of Conduct and other professional rules, which you can access on the SRA’s website www.sra.org.uk or by calling 0870 606 2555.
7 Non-regulated services
You may receive services in connection with this matter from eg Accountants or Barristers and they will not regulated by the SRA.
This means that work done by these separate business or other unregulated business that may provide some services to the client are not covered:
• by the SRA Compensation Fund
• by our professional indemnity insurance
8 Data protection
We use the information you provide primarily for the provision of legal services to you 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 Data Protection Act 1998 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. Under data protection legislation you have a right of access to the personal data that we hold about you.
We may from time to time send you information that we think might be of interest to you. If you do not wish to receive that information please notify our office, preferably in writing.
9 Storage and Retrieval of files
After completing the work, we will be entitled to keep most of your papers and documents while there is still money owed to us for fees and expenses.
We will keep your files either in paper or electronic format for a minimum period of 7 years except for those papers you ask to be returned to you. The file will be retained on the understanding that we can destroy or delete the file 7 years after the date of the final bill.
We will not destroy documents you ask us to deposit in safe custody; for example Wills or Deeds.
If we retrieve files or documents from storage or archives in relation to continuing or new instructions to act for you, we may charge for the retrieval. We may also charge you for:
• time spent producing stored papers that are requested including printing an electronic file.
• reading correspondence or other work necessary to comply with your instructions in relation to the retrieved papers.
10 Safe Custody of Documents
We will store documents such as Wills, Deeds (other than pre-registration Deeds) and other securities which you ask us to hold in safe custody indefinitely.
11 External auditing
External firms or organisations may conduct audit or quality checks on our practice eg our regulator, the SRA or Lexcel. These external firms or organisations are required to maintain confidentiality in relation to your files. Please contact the firm’s Practice Manager if you do not wish your files to be disclosed to external auditors.
12 Terminating your instructions
You may end your instructions at any time, by giving us notice in writing. We can keep most of your papers and documents while our charges or disbursements are outstanding.
We can only decide to stop acting for you with good reason and we must give you reasonable notice.
Reasonable notice depends on the nature of the matter we are dealing with for you and in extreme cases it could mean we have to give you notice and terminate the retainer forthwith.
Good reason to terminate will include the following:-
- Failure to pay bills or money on account as agreed
- You refusing to disclose material information relevant to your matter or case
- If you are particularly awkward or obstructive with us in your conduct of your matter
- In the event that you make inappropriate sexual advances or innuendoes especially to members of staff of the firm, in particular junior members of staff
- Other inappropriate behaviour
- Not accepting reasonable advice
- Giving us instructions inconsistent with the law and refusing to accept this is the case
- Not providing timely instruction and not co-operating with reasonable requests for documents and/or other material information
- Instructing us to pursue a course of conduct or action which we would consider unprofessional or illegal
If you or we decide that we should not act for you, you are liable to pay our charges up to that point. For the avoidance of doubt, any contract where you instruct us to pursue a litigation matter on your behalf will not contractually be an entire contract and therefore we or you could terminate it at any time during the course of the instructions. Our charges will be calculated on the basis set out in our letter confirming your instructions.
13 Prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing
We are required by law to get satisfactory evidence of the identity of our clients and sometimes people related to them. This is because solicitors who deal with money and property on behalf of their clients can be used by criminals wanting to launder money.
To comply with the law, we need to get evidence of your identity as soon as possible. This is explained in our letter confirming your instructions.
We are professionally and legally obliged to keep your affairs confidential. However, solicitors may be required by statute to make a disclosure to the NCA (National Crime Agency) where they know or suspect that a transaction may involve money laundering or terrorist financing. If we make a disclosure in relation to your matter, we may not be able to tell you that a disclosure has been made. We may have to stop working on your matter for a period of time and may not be able to tell you why.
Where we are acting for your proposed lender e.g. a bank or a building society in this transaction you should be aware that we have a duty to fully reveal to your lender all relevant facts about the purchase and the mortgage. This duty includes our telling your lender:
- Any differences between your mortgage application and information we receive during the transaction.
- Any cash back payments or discount schemes that the Seller is giving you.
The information and documentation you provide to us is confidential and subject to legal professional privilege unless:
• stated otherwise in this document or our letter confirming your instructions, eg in relation to prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing
• we advise you otherwise during the course of your matter
We cannot guarantee the security of information communicated by any means but particularly by email or mobile phone. Unless we hear from you to the contrary, we will assume that you agree to our using e-mail and mobile phones.
15 Receiving and paying funds
Our policy is to accept payment of our fees and disbursements including VAT in cash up to any sum, but otherwise our policy is not to accept cash from Clients. If you try to avoid this policy by depositing cash directly with our bank, we may decide to charge you for any additional checks we decide are necessary to prove the source of the funds. Where we have to pay money to you, it will be paid by cheque or bank transfer. It will not be paid in cash or to a third party.
We are committed to providing high quality legal advice and client care. If you are unhappy about any aspect of the service you receive or about the bill, please contact Gillian Jones on 01271 341002 or email@example.com or by post to: Devonshire House, Riverside Road, Pottington Business Park, Barnstaple, Devon, EX31 1QN.
We have a written procedure that sets out how we handle complaints. It is available from Gillian Jones directly or from our website which can be accessed at www.tollerbeattie.co.uk.
We have eight weeks to consider your complaint. If we have not resolved it within this time you may complain to the Legal Ombudsman. If you are not satisfied with our handling of your complaint you can ask the Legal Ombudsman to consider the complaint. The Legal Ombudsman can investigate complaints up to six years from the date of the problem happening or within three years of when you found out about the problem. If you wish to refer your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman this must be done within six months of our final response to your complaint. If you would like more information about the Legal Ombudsman their contact details are as follows:
Call 0300 555 0333 between 8.30am to 5.30pm.
Calls to 03 numbers will cost no more than calls to national geographic numbers (starting 01 or 02) from both mobiles and landlines.
Calls are recorded and may be used for training and monitoring purposes.
For minicom call 0300 555 1777
PO Box 6806
The Legal Ombudsman deals with complaints by consumers and very small businesses. This means that some clients may not have the right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman, eg charities or clubs with an annual income of more than £1 million, trustees of trusts with asset value of more than £1 million and most businesses (unless they are defined as micro-enterprises). This does not prevent you from making a complaint directly to us about the service you have received or about the bill.
17 Our charges
Our charges will be calculated mainly by reference to the time actually spent by the solicitors and other staff in respect of any work which they do on your behalf. This will include meetings with you and perhaps others, reading and working on papers, researching the law and the facts of the matter, correspondence, preparation of any detailed costs calculations, and time spent travelling away from the office when this is necessary.
Routine letters 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.
All other work is charged in blocks of six minute units
The current hourly rates are set out in your Client Care Letter. We will add VAT to these at the rate that applies when the work is done.
These hourly rates have to be reviewed periodically to reflect increases in overhead costs and inflation. Normally the rates are reviewed with effect from 1 April each year. If a review is carried out before this matter has been concluded, we will inform you of any variation in the rate before it takes effect.
In addition to the time spent, we may take into account a number of factors including any need to carry out work outside our normal office hours, the complexity of the issues, the speed at which action has to be taken, any particularly specialist expertise that the case may demand. In particular, in property transactions, in the administration of estates and in matters involving a substantial financial value or benefit to a client, a charge reflecting, for example, the price of the property, the size of the estate, or the value of the financial benefit may be considered. It is not always possible to indicate how these aspects may arise but on present information we would expect them normally to be sufficiently taken into account in the rates which we have quoted. Where a charge reflecting any value element is to be added we will explain this to you.
Solicitors have to pay out various other expenses on behalf of clients ranging from Land or Probate Registry fees, court fees, experts’ fees, and so on. We have no obligation to make such payments unless you have provided us with the funds for that purpose. VAT is payable on certain expenses.
We refer to such payments generally as ‘disbursements’. If, for any reason, this matter does not proceed to completion, we will be entitled to charge you for work done and expenses incurred.
In most cases we will give an estimate of our likely charges and disbursements very soon after receiving instructions. Such estimates are given in the light of the information available to us at the time. If we become aware that a matter is likely to be more complex or take up more time than we believed when the estimate was given we will let you have a revised estimate as soon as practicable.
Sometimes, we may need to revise our estimates on several occasions.
Apart from straightforward conveyancing transactions or one off matters where the fees are limited to a fixed fee we will interim bill you on account of the costs incurred to date. Interim bills are generally sent out on a monthly basis during the conduct of a matter.
18 Payment Arrangements
1. Our Fees
Fixed fee property transactions: We will normally send you our bill after exchange of Contracts. Payment is required on a purchase prior to completion and on a sale at completion. If sufficient funds are available on completion, we will deduct our charges and expenses from the funds. A bill will be sent to you on or before completion.
Probate matters/Administration of estates: We will normally submit an interim bill at regular stages during administration. The final account will be prepared when the Estate Accounts are ready for approval.
We will invoice our charges at fixed stages during the matter. Costs are usually payable from the estate and after notifying you we will deduct funds to meet the invoice from available monies that we hold from the estate or ask you to pay our invoice. Invoices will be raised at the following stages.
- The first invoice will be submitted once the Grant of Probate or Representation has been received or after 8 weeks from the date of our instruction, whichever is the earlier for the work carried out to that date.
- The balance of our costs will be billed on a monthly basis until the Estate is concluded but we will not exceed the higher capped figure to you given to you in the Client Care letter
- In the event that additional charges are incurred because you ask us to carry out additional work or an issue arises which was not foreseen at the time you instructed us, then you will be billed on a monthly basis for those fees as above
Other cases or transactions. It is normal practice to ask clients to pay sums of money from time to time on account of the charges and expenses which are expected in the following months. We will send you an interim bill on account of the costs and expenditure incurred. This usually happens during each calendar month in which we continue to work on the matter for you. We find this helps clients in budgeting for costs as well as keeping informed of the legal expenses which are being incurred. Payment is due to us within 7 days of our sending you a bill. If payment is not made in that time work on the file and any other matter which we are working on for you at the time will be suspended until payment is made in full. If payment is not made in full within 14 days of the bill we may decline to represent you further in any of the matters in which we are instructed by you at the time in which case a bill will be rendered in respect of all the work done, all disbursements and all expenses incurred in every matter to that date.
We reserve the right to charge interest on bills outstanding beyond 7 days at the rate of 1½% per month calculated daily from the date when the bill was rendered.
2. Other Parties’ charges and expenses
In some matters you may be entitled to payment of all of part of your costs by some other person. However, such entitlement does not mean that you are not responsible for paying our charges. Our contract is with you and you have to pay our charges and all disbursements and expenses which we incur in full in event.
It is important you understand that the other person may not be required to pay all the charges and expenses which you incur with us. Any amounts which can be recovered from another person will be a contribution towards those costs and paid through us to you. However, if the other party is in receipt of legal aid no costs are likely to be recovered.
If you are successful and a court orders another party to pay some or all of your charges and expenses, interest can be claimed o 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.
You will also be responsible for paying our charges and expenses of seeking to recover any costs that the court orders the other party to pay to you.
A client who is unsuccessful in a court case 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.
19 Our bill
You are liable to pay legal costs as set out in our letter confirming your instructions. We will also discuss this at our initial meeting with you.
Bills should be paid within 7 days. We may charge interest on overdue bills at 1.5% per month calculated daily from the date the bill was rendered.
We may cease acting for you if an interim bill remains unpaid after 14 days or if our reasonable request of a payment on account of costs is not met.
You have the right to challenge or complain about our bill. Please see the Complaints section above for details of how to complain about our bill. The procedure for challenging a bill varies depending on whether it relates to a matter involving court proceedings. When we send you a bill, we will explain the relevant procedure for challenging it.
We can keep all your papers and documents while there is still money owed to us for fees and expenses.
20 Payment of interest
We will pay interest when it is reasonable to do so and to pay a fair and reasonable sum calculated over the whole period for which any money is held.
We are required by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Accounts Rules 2011 to have a written policy on the payment of interest that seeks to provide a fair outcome. If you would like to see our policy for payment of interest, please ask the person who is dealing with your matter.
21 Investment advice services
We are not authorised by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority). If, while we are acting for you, you need advice on investments, we may refer you to someone who is authorised to provide the necessary advice.
However, we may provide certain limited investment advice services where these are closely linked to the legal work we are doing for you. This is because we are members of the Law Society of England and Wales, which 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 deals with complaints against lawyers. If you are unhappy with any investment advice you receive from us, you should raise your concerns with either of those bodies.
22 Insurance mediation activity
We are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority. However, we are included on the register maintained by the Financial Conduct Authority so that we may 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 authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The register can be accessed via the Financial Conduct Authority website at http://www.fca.org.uk/firms/systems-reporting/register.
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 deals with complaints against lawyers. If you are unhappy with any insurance advice you receive from us, you should raise your concerns with either of those bodies.
23 Defective Title Indemnity and other Insurance Policies
We will select products only from a limited number of insurers for insurance purposes such as defective title indemnity policies and after the event insurance cover. However, we are not contractually obliged to conduct business in this way.
Please ask us for a list of the insurers we use.
If we receive any commission or other financial benefit as a result of our arranging insurance for you we will account to you for the commission or other financial benefits we receive but will charge you in any event, i.e. whether we receive commission or other financial benefits, at our quoted hourly rate for the work which we do in arranging such insurance. Such a charge will be in addition to any other charge for which we have quoted.
24 Equality and diversity
We are committed to promoting equality and diversity in all our dealings with clients, third parties and employees. Please contact us if you would like a copy of our equality and diversity policy.
25 Foreign Laws
No member of Toller Beattie LLP’s staff is qualified to advise you on the law of any country, including Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland, other than England and Wales. This means that if you require advice concerning the laws of any country, other than England and Wales, you must take advice from a lawyer who has knowledge of the law in that country. Similarly, if you require advice on property of any kind (including second homes abroad) which you own outside of England and Wales no member of Toller Beattie LLP’s staff is qualified to give you such advice and you must take advice from the lawyers in the country in which the property is situated.
No member of Toller Beattie LLP’s staff should be presumed to have given advice about the laws of any country other than England and Wales or about property which is situated outside of England and Wales.
26 Limited Companies
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 as set out earlier.
27 Banking Arrangements
Any money we receive from you to hold on your behalf will be held in our Client Bank Account at Barclays Bank PLC or with one of the other major banking institutions where we hold client accounts eg Bank of Scotland or Handelsbanken. We will ensure that your funds are held with a banking institution that is covered by a Compensation Scheme, in the event that the bank becomes insolvent or ceases to trade. You should be aware however that compensation scheme will limit the amount of compensation payable. We can produce more information on request.
28 Quality Standards
The firm has been awarded the Law Society’s Quality Mark for Conveyancing, Crime, Family, and Planning. Our expertise in these areas of law has been verified, and our accomplishments recognised, by the Law Society. We have also attained the Lexcel Award. The Lexcel accreditation is the Law Society benchmark for excellence in practice management. We also are accredited with ISO9001:2008
It is also possible that, in the future, the Firm may attain other quality awards. As a result of Toller Beattie LLP’s commitment to quality, it is subject to regular checks by outside assessors appointed by the organisations which make such awards.
This could mean that your file is selected for checking, in which case your consent is needed for inspection to occur. All inspections are, of course, conducted in confidence. If you prefer to withhold consent, work on your file will not be affected in any way. Since very few clients do object to this we propose to assume that you consent to your file being dealt with in this way unless you notify us to the contrary. We will also assume, unless you indicate otherwise, that consent on this occasion will extend to all future matters which are conducted on your behalf. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can explain this further or if you would like us to mark your file as not to be inspected.
29 Applicable law
Any dispute or legal issue arising from our Terms of Business will be determined by the law of England and Wales, and considered exclusively by the English and Welsh courts.
30 Future instructions
Unless otherwise agreed, these Terms of Business will apply to all future instructions you give us on this or any other matter.
Tel: 01271 341007
Tel: 01271 341019