Terms of business

Solicitors London

Carter Lemon Camerons LLP

As a UK limited liability partnership is a body corporate, we are entitled to refer to ‘members’ of the LLP rather than ‘partners’.  However, we have decided to retain the  traditional title of ‘partner’.  When in these terms of business or otherwise we refer to an individual being a ‘partner’, we use that title to refer to a member of the LLP or an employee or consultant with equivalent standing and qualifications.  We refer to the LLP below as the firm.

Our Aim

We aim to provide value for money, which means charging a reasonable cost for high quality legal services.  The firm seeks to offer all clients an efficient, responsive, proactive and friendly approach.  To help achieve this, each client has a nominated Client Partner to provide a regular and familiar point of contact and who has ultimate responsibility for the client’s affairs within the firm.  The Client Partner may involve other partners to deal with your individual matters according to the areas of specialist advice required.

Conduct of your Work

Each matter undertaken for you has a Matter Partner assigned to it.  The Matter Partner is responsible for the management and supervision of the work to be carried out.  Matter Partner and Client Partner may be the same person and the Matter Partner may enlist the assistance of one or more assistant or trainee solicitors or other members of staff  (qualified or not) whom we consider to have the requisite expertise.  If involved, they will be familiar with the file and can be contacted in the event of the Matter Partner being unavailable for any reason.

We shall assume, unless you advise us to the contrary in writing, that we have your authority to conduct your matter in such a way as we consider appropriate.  This authority  extends to instructing counsel (a barrister) and expert witnesses, and incurring all disbursements (expenses we incur on your behalf).  We aim to keep you informed in advance about disbursements incurred on your behalf.   All fees arising out of such instructions and all disbursements are payable by you.

Sometimes conveyancing, probate or company work involves insurance products or investments.  We are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).  However, we are included on the EPF register maintained by the FCA (accessible via the FCA website www.fca.org.uk selecting Financial Services Register from the menu bar which will open up the register and then the tab EPF search), so  that we can carry on insurance mediation activity, which is broadly the advising on selling and administration of insurance products.  In relation to investments, we may refer you to someone who is authorised to provide any necessary advice.  However, we can provide certain limited  services in relation to investments, provided they are closely linked with the legal services we are providing to you.  In relation to these parts of our business, including arrangements for  complaints or redress if something goes wrong, we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Unless otherwise agreed, our work will be limited to advice on English Law and will not extend to accounting, valuation or (unless we are specifically instructed on this) taxation advice.  We would always stress however, the importance of taking specialist advice on your tax situation, as this could have a significant influence on the structuring of the matter.  We can liaise with your other advisers, or could recommend advisers to you.  In circumstances  where you instruct other professionals to be involved in your transaction (eg accountants, financial advisers or valuers), it is your responsibility to provide us with the terms of retainer of those professionals, if you wish us to check the scope of their retainer so as to avoid the risk of gaps in the advice being given.

You should be aware that in conveyancing transactions where we believe that a misrepresentation of the purchase price or mortgage fraud may have occurred we are obliged to notify the lender of the true price paid for the property.  This may include us notifying the lender of any discounts or incentives offered by a developer or seller.

General Communication: We shall communicate with you by whatever method is appropriate to the urgency or circumstances at that time.  You should advise us of any  special instructions you may have in regard to communications (for example, you may wish to restrict types of communication or the people with whom we communicate on your matter).

Email Communication:   Often, in order to speed progress on your matter, we may communicate  with you and others involved in it, by email.   Those communications may contain confidential information.  It is not our intention to encrypt such information in outgoing emails sent.  As email is not a totally secure means of communication, this means that information which is received by someone other than the intended recipient,  could be read by that person.  By  agreeing to our terms, you are also consenting to our use of emails in this way unless you specifically exclude your consent by notice to us in writing.

Outsourcing: Sometimes we ask other companies or people to do certain work on our files to ensure this is done promptly, for example photocopying or serving documents.  We will always seek a confidentiality agreement with these outsourced providers.  If you do not want your file to be outsourced, please tell us as soon as possible.  In addition, certain companies or people that we use for other critical services have access to information about our files, for example companies who store files externally, our Information Communication and Technology Consultants and our office cleaners and maintenance workers.  Again, we will always seek a confidentiality agreement with these outsourced providers.

Charges

Calculation:  Unless otherwise agreed with you or it is a fee for storage of deeds/photocopying of your file, our charges are based primarily on the time we spend in dealing with a matter, including meeting with you and perhaps others, time spent travelling, considering, preparing and working on papers, correspondence and making and receiving telephone calls and other communications.  We record time electronically on a system which rounds up to six minute units.  Charges may be adjusted to take into account a number of factors in addition to time spent such as the matter’s value, urgency, importance and complexity.

Hourly Rates:  Details of current hourly rates initially applicable to your matter will have been provided to you in a separate letter.  Please note that they do not include  disbursements, VAT, photocopying or international telecommunication charges which will be added (where appropriate) to all invoices.  In the autumn of each year we will review  the hourly rates (to take account of various factors which include changes in our overhead costs) and notify you in writing of any increased rate.

Estimate of  time:  It is often difficult to estimate how much time will be necessary to complete a particular matter or any particular stage of it.  Any estimates of charges which  we give you will not be binding upon us.   Estimates may change as the matter proceeds and it becomes clearer how  much time is likely to be needed to complete it.  We shall advise you if the amount of time we expect to have to spend will materially exceed that previously estimated.

Sometimes in dealing with courts or a particular Government department, through their own errors or protracted delay more of our time might be incurred than ordinarily expected.  In such circumstances and where there is no fault attributable to our part, you will be liable to pay for that extra time incurred.

Limits on  costs:  You may if you wish agree with us a limit on the charges which may be incurred without further reference to you.  This means that you must pay charges incurred up to the agreed limit and we will inform you when it appears that the limit has been or is soon to be exceeded.

Funds held on  account:  Because solicitors are expected (and in some circumstances required) to ensure that they have cover for their fees and disbursements, we are likely to require a sum on account of our charges and anticipated disbursements before we start work and as matters progress we may  at any time, particularly in contentious matters (litigation) before any hearing or trial, require further sums to be paid on account.  Sums held in this way are like a deposit and are not an estimate of the charges you will incur.  We may at any time require further deposits at appropriate points throughout the transaction so as to ensure there are always sufficient funds to cover the next anticipated stage.  The  firm does not accept payments in cash other than amounts which are de minimis.

Any payment on account of charges (including disbursements) may be credited against interim invoices (see below).  If any interest has been earned on your money held on account, it may be retained and offset by the firm against any outstanding invoices.  Otherwise interest will be paid to you in accordance with our policy made in compliance with the Solicitors Accounts Rules 2011, details of which are available upon request.

All transfers and transmissions of your funds are made at your risk and we shall not be liable for any loss, damage or delays which result other than through gross negligence on the part of members of staff of the firm.  We will pass on to you as a disbursement what the bank charges us to transfer or transmit your funds directly to your own or any other requested bank account and charge you a small administrative fee. It is unlikely that the firm will ever be held liable for losses resulting from a banking  failure.  Your funds will be held in the firm’s client account(s) which will be maintained with one or more financial institution(s) authorised by the FCA as deposit takers.  We can tell you which these are if you ask us to.  The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS)  applies to certain deposits belonging to clients who are individuals or small businesses up to a limit (the “Limit”) set from time to time under the FSCS per client per institution.  Therefore, if a client holds other monies in institutions with which we bank at the time of a collapse, the total for that client under the scheme remains the Limit.  Be aware that financial  institutions trade under various different names and you should check either with your bank, the FCA or a financial adviser if you are in any doubt.   You agree to the firm disclosing your details to the FSCS in the event of a bank failure.

You agree to be responsible by way of reimbursement for any charges deducted by your or a third party’s bank when transmitting funds to the firm which result in our receiving less than the required amount in relation to your matter.

Please note that in certain circumstances (such as where funds for purposes connected with the subject-matter of our instructions emanate from other jurisdictions) we do have to satisfy regulatory requirements and may have to raise enquiries with you for that purpose.  It is a term of this retainer that you will deal with any such enquiries immediately and to the best of your ability.

Uncompleted  work:  For a variety of reasons some matters do not complete.  In such circumstances a charge will normally be made in respect of the work that has been undertaken and any disbursements incurred.

Invoices

Timing:  We shall either deliver an invoice at or near the completion of a matter or invoice you on a regular basis.  Our invoices will be either interim or final statute bills.  This means that we can sue you if you do not pay them when due and you can obtain from the court an order for detailed assessment of our costs.  To obtain such an order, you must apply to the court within one month of delivery of the invoice.  The timing of invoices may be agreed with you but any such agreement will be subject to our entitlement to deliver invoices at earlier intervals in appropriate circumstances.

Delivery:  We will deliver invoices by email.  If you need or wish to receive a hard copy invoice, you must ask us to send you one.

Payment:  Invoices  are due for payment when they are rendered, and will include VAT (if  chargeable) at the rate applicable as on the invoice date.

Interest:  We reserve the right to charge interest at a rate equivalent to that awarded by the High Court on judgment debts on all invoices which remain unpaid after 30 days.  In the event of any invoice remaining unpaid after such period, interest will be charged from the date of the invoice compounded at monthly intervals thereafter.

Non-Payment:  If any invoice is not paid when due, or if funds are not paid on account within seven days of a request, we reserve the right to give notice to you to decline to act  further and to deliver an invoice for the full amount of work carried out to that date.

Complaints:  If you are not satisfied with the amount of our invoices, you are entitled to complain about them in accordance with our Complaints Policy: see below section entitled Concerns/Complaints.

Payment of Fees by Third Parties

Notwithstanding that an agreement may have been reached in a particular matter that a person other than you is to be responsible for the payment of our fees on your behalf, you nevertheless will remain primarily responsible for our fees.  If necessary,  we shall endeavour to ensure that the other person makes payment by way of reimbursement to you as the client.

Litigation – Order for Costs: Unless agreed between parties, costs are assessed by the court.   Assessment is complex.  Whilst we endeavour to recover for you the maximum from the paying party, you should assume that the amount assessed by the court will be less than your total liability to this firm.  Furthermore, whether you succeed in recovering from the paying party depends upon their ability to pay.  You as the client will  be responsible for the payment of our fees as and when invoices are rendered.

In the event of you winning the case or otherwise being successful, we may be able to claim interest on “assessed costs” from the  date on which the Order for costs was made.   To the extent that any of our invoices have not been paid in full, we reserve the right to retain such interest up to the amount of any outstanding  sum.

Concerns/Complaints

We very much hope you will be satisfied with our service.  However, should there be any  aspect of it with which you are unhappy, dissatisfied or simply unsure do not hesitate to discuss it with either the Matter Partner or the Client Partner at the earliest opportunity.  On the rare occasions that we do get complaints, we have always found those raised quickly  can be most easily solved.  If after such discussion you still feel aggrieved please write to the Senior Partner,  who will investigate the complaint and aim to respond substantively in writing within 7 days of completion of that investigation.  A copy of our Complaints Policy is available upon request.  The firm usually has 8 weeks to resolve your concern through its internal procedure.  If it ends up that we are unable to resolve the problem you may be entitled to complain to the Legal Ombudsman at the conclusion of our complaints process by writing to: The Legal Ombudsman at PO Box 6806 Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ (enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk) (telephone no. 0300 555 0333).

Not all clients are eligible to pursue the Legal Ombudsman route and so you should check the Legal Ombudsman’s website www.legalombudsman.org.uk for the relevant detail.

If eligible, you normally have 6 months from our telling you our final response to your complaint to refer it to the Legal Ombudsman.

The Legal Ombudsman can then investigate complaints arising:-

(a)  up to 6 years from the act or omission you are complaining about; or

(b)  within 3 years of when you should reasonably have known you had cause to complain.

Note that the Legal Ombudsman may not deal with a complaint about an invoice if you have applied to the court for assessment of it.

Contractual Arrangements

We will write to you as soon as possible after receipt of initial instructions referring to these terms of business and giving further information relevant to our acting for you in relation to the  particular matter.  Your continuing instructions in this matter will amount to your acceptance of these terms of business.  Even so, we will ask you to sign and date a copy of the letter accompanying these terms and return it to us immediately.  We can then be confident that you understand the basis on which we will act for you.

All disputes in relation to these terms and the services we provide to you shall be determined by the courts of England and Wales which shall have exclusive jurisdiction.   English law will govern these terms.

Your file on the matter will be made available for external inspection as part of audit or other statutory or regulatory requirement purposes or (unless you inform us otherwise) for external quality mark or accreditation reviews during the course of the retainer or after its expiry.

We use the information you provide to us primarily for the provision of legal services to you and for related purposes including: updating and enhancing client records, analysis to help us manage the firm, statutory returns and 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.  If you are a client who is an individual, you have a right of access under data protection legislation to the personal data that we hold about you.

We may from time to time send you information which we think might be of interest to you.  If you do not wish to receive that information please notify us in writing.

Limitation of Liability

You agree that the following provisions will govern  the extent of the firm’s liability for loss or damage which you may suffer arising out of this engagement.

The firm’s liability will be limited to that  proportion of loss and damage which is just and equitable having regard to the extent of your own responsibility and that of any other party who may also be liable to you in respect of it.

The firm’s aggregate liability in respect of all claims by addressees of the retainer letter shall be limited to any amount specified in that letter or, if no amount is specified there, to £25 million or the  firm’s professional indemnity insurance cover from time to time, whichever is  the greater.

Termination

You may terminate your instructions to us in writing  at any time.  We are entitled to keep  certain of your papers and documents whilst there is money owing to us for our charges and expenses.  We will decide to stop acting for you only with good reason and on giving you reasonable notice.

Storage of Papers and Documents

After completing your matter, we are entitled to keep certain of your papers and documents whilst there is money owing to us for our charges and expenses.  This is known as a lien over your papers and documents and it gives us a form of security that we will be paid.  We will keep the file on  your matter (except for any of your papers which you ask to be returned to you)  for not more than 6 years after sending you the final bill.  Copies of letters and documents on your file may be stored on CD ROM computer system or microfilm, and the originals destroyed after a reasonable time.  We will make a reasonable photocopying charge for producing a copy of the documents to which you are entitled, if they are later requested.

With effect from 1st April 2015, title and other deeds and original documents which you ask us to deposit in safe custody we will charge you for storing, at an annual charge of £25 plus VAT per year if you subsequently ask us to return such deeds and documents to you or new solicitors acting for you.  No annual charge will be made for  retrieving stored deeds or documents in response to continuing or new instructions to act for you.

The cost of retrieval of a past file (which is stored off site) is £1.00 plus the cost of sending it which can vary according to weight and if sent by the DX system or by courier, which in turn depends upon the urgency.  The delivery cost will usually be no more than £25 plus VAT but when a request is made to retrieve a substantial number of boxes the delivery charge may be more.

Client Satisfaction Questionnaire

We may send out a client satisfaction questionnaire to you from time to time.  We would be grateful if you could complete this and send it back to the Business Development Manager as soon as you have completed it.

Edition Date: 26.03.2015