These are to be read in conjunction with the client care letter
1 Our terms of business
1.1 Our professional rules of conduct (enforced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority) require us to set out the basis on which we, Just Family Law Limited, will do business with you, the client. In order to do this we provide you with a letter of engagement (also known as a client care letter) setting out the services we have agreed to provide for you, a cost estimate and our standard Terms of Business, which provide much more detail about the terms on which we provide our services.
1.2 This document should be read carefully. Unless otherwise agreed in writing, our standard terms of business apply to any instructions you give us, including any future instructions. We may update our standard terms and conditions of business from time to time and will notify you of any material changes.
1.3 We require you to sign and return a copy of this letter before we are able to act on your behalf. By signing it, you are agreeing to be bound by these standard terms of business.
1.4 Should you not return a signed copy of this letter, your continuing instructions will in any event Indicate your agreement to be bound by the standard terms of business and the letter of engagement.
2 Just Family Law Limited
2.1 Any references to 'the firm', 'we' or 'us' in the letter of engagement or these terms of business is a reference to Just Family Law Limited, and where appropriate refers to our successor and predecessor firms, and all of our employees, consultants and members.
2.2 Just Family Law Limited is a limited company. The firm's registered office and principal place of business is at Second Floor, 7 Charlecote Mews, Staple Gardens, Winchester Hampshire SO23 8SR.
2.3 We are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority ("SRA") in England and Wales. Our SRA number is 443824. We are required to act in accordance with the Solicitors' Code of Conduct which can be found at http://www.sra.org.uk/rules/
2.4 All opinions, advice and services provided to you are provided by Just Family Law Limited, and all liability is the sole responsibility of the firm. Whilst the members, employees and agents of the firm may communicate with you on a personal or first name basis, they do so strictly on behalf of the firm and not in a personal capacity.
3 Our Services
3.1 We are committed to providing you with an effective and personal service that enables us to meet your objectives. Whenever we receive a communication from you, we will aim to respond as soon as possible. If the person dealing with your matter is not available, they will provide alternative contact details for the team secretary or the person who has responsibility for the conduct of your matter during any absence.
3.2 We realise that a legal relationship is a two-way process. We would ask you to provide us with any information that we request as soon as you are able, and if it is likely that you will be unavailable for a period of time, please let us know. We also require your most up-to-date contact details, so that we can contact you urgently if needed.
3.3 We would ask that you respect our staff and treat them with courtesy at all times, just as we will treat you with courtesy and respect.
3.4 Our usual office hours are between 9.00am and 5.30pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).
4 Professional Indemnity and Limit of Liability
4.1 We carry full worldwide professional indemnity insurance with Travellers Insurance Company Limited, Exchequer Court, 33 St. Mary Axe, London EC3A 8AG under policy number UC SOL 3866287.
4.2 By continuing to instruct us, you agree to limit any single claim which you may have against Just Family Law Limited (including our members and staff) to a maximum of £3,000,000 (three million pounds sterling). This means that in the unlikely event that you should suffer any loss or damage as a result of any negligent conduct or breach of contract by us, your claim is limited to £3,000,000 (including interest and costs).
4.3 By continuing to instruct us you agree not to bring any claims personally against any employee, consultant or member of Just Family Law Limited either past, present or future. The Contract (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999 entitles all employees, members and partners to the benefit of this provision.
4.4 We assume no liability to any third party that may use, rely upon or be given access to the advice provided to you by us or any documents created by us on your behalf.
4.5 Equally, we accept no liability for the acts or omissions of third parties who we may instruct on your behalf or otherwise or to whom we may refer you.
4.6 We will not be liable to you for any losses you may experience if we become unable to provide our services due to circumstances or events occurring outside of our control.
5 Our Fees
5.1 The fees and costs given in our letter of engagement are based on our experience of the likely cost of dealing with similar matters, or are based on our best estimate of the likely amount of professional time incurred. In some circumstances, we may need to revise our estimate, for example if your instructions change, matters become complex, we enter into prolonged correspondence, or unforeseen or exceptional circumstances arise. We will discuss and agree any proposed variation to our fees with you. If we cannot agree a revised figure or you then do not wish us to continue working for you, we will invoice you for the work and disbursements to that date.
5.2 Unless we agree a fixed fee for specified work, our fees (plus VAT) are calculated by hourly rates. Time is charged in minimum six-minute units. You will be charged for all time spent on the file including all calls and emails. This means that if we have a telephone call for up to 6 minutes, you will be charged at one unit of time, and a telephone call of up to 12 minutes will be charged at 2 units of time. We may also charge for copying, travelling, money laundering checks and handling bank transfer fees. We will charge for all expenses and disbursements, e.g. court fees and counsel’s fees we incur and require payment in advance for these expenses.
We may also charge for copying, travelling, money laundering checks and handling bank transfer fees. We will charge for all expenses and disbursements e.g. court fees and counsel's fees we incur.
5.3 If you are not on a fixed fee for specified work, the hourly rate you are charged will depend on who is carrying out the work and their level of authority and expertise.
5.4 Our hourly rates are reviewed annually (usually on 1st May) and you will be notified of any revised rate in advance. If you have a query about the rates involved, please contact the person with overall responsibility for your matter.
5.5 Our fees are based on:
5.5.1 how much time we spend dealing with a case;
5.5.2 the amount or value of any money or property involved;
5.5.3 the particular complexity of the matter or the difficulty or novelty of the questions raised;
5.5.4 the skill, effort, specialised knowledge and responsibility involved;
5.5.5 the urgency of the work undertaken.
5.6 We may increase the rates for working outside normal business hours, for complex issues, the speed at which actions need to be taken or the importance and value of the work, in which case we will notify you in advance.
5.7 We can agree (if you request) a limit on the charges and expenses to be incurred at the start of your matter, but in those cases we cannot guarantee the work will have reached any particular stage when we reach this limit. As soon as we become aware that the likely level of fees may exceed the limit you have set, we will inform you, and will try to avoid exceeding the limit without your consent.
5.8 Occasionally it may be the case that the level of fees is exceeded inadvertently, particularly if your matter requires urgent steps to be taken. If we cannot agree a further fee limit we will stop acting for you. Any fee estimates are estimates only and do not fix or limit our charges.
5.9 We require you to provide us with money on account of costs prior to any work being undertaken or disbursements incurred on your behalf. We generally request £500 or £1,000 if court proceedings have been issued. Any money we hold on your behalf will be placed in our client bank account and may be used to discharge any future invoices we raise or to pay disbursements which have been incurred on your behalf. Please note that we do not carry out your instructions without first receiving money on account and we reserve the right to request further sums on account throughout the progress of your case.
5.10 Should any invoice remain unpaid for 7 days, we will apply the monies received on account to the overdue invoice and request a further sum from you on account of future costs.
5.11 We do not accept any cash payments over £500.00.
5.12 Please note that we cannot receive any funds from you and therefore cannot carry out any work however urgent, until such point as we are satisfied as to your identity. (See paragraph 17).
5.13 If a third party undertakes responsibility to pay our fees and expenses on your behalf and the third party fails to make payment in full or part for any reason, you will be responsible for paying any and all sums outstanding.
5.15 Please also note the possible additional charges detailed in paragraphs 17.3 and 23.3.
5.16 Please note that we require on account, payment from you of all disbursements to be incurred in carrying out your instructions by the firm before they fall due.
5.17 To spread the cost of the work, we recommend that a monthly standing order is set up towards our fees. You will be billed monthly. The monthly amount received on account will be applied to each invoice as it falls due. Any surplus that is not billed will be held on client account and any additional sums billed will be due for payment by you in accordance with our Terms and Conditions.
5.18 Signing these Terms of Business provides us with the authority to deduct the total cost of all unpaid invoices and disbursements from any settlement sum received by the firm on your behalf and further, as your authority for us to request that all unpaid invoices and disbursements be paid to us from monies held by a conveyancing solicitor acting on your behalf in relation to the sale of a property.
6 Orders for Costs in Litigation Matters
6.1 Payment of our invoices is your responsibility. If, at any stage of the proceedings or at its conclusion, you obtain a costs order in your favour, which requires another person to pay your costs you hereby understand:
6.1.1 that you will be responsible for payment of our costs in full regardless of any order for costs made against your opponent/any other party;
6.1.2 it is highly unlikely that your opponent/any other party will be ordered to pay the full amount of your costs;
6.1.3 the party ordered to pay your costs may not have sufficient assets to pay;
6.1.4 that, if your opponent/the paying party is legally aided, it is very unlikely that you will be able to recover any costs.
6.2 In the event that you are successful and the costs of the matter fall to be paid by the other party, we may be able to claim interest on those costs to be paid from the date on which the order for costs was made.
6.3 If you lose you may have to pay your opponent's costs as well as your own. You will usually have to pay your opponent's costs within 14 days of any hearing and a proportion of their costs within 14 days of a trial.
6.4 As stated above, it is unlikely for a party who has a costs order in their favour to recover 100% of their costs from their opponent/any other party. If a settlement cannot be reached regarding the amount of costs payable, the court will assess the receiving party's costs and often a reduction will be made. You should be aware that you may not recover all your costs. It may be that the hourly rate is not recoverable in full or a certain item of work or a disbursement incurred is disallowed on assessment. If you are the receiving party and your costs are reduced on assessment or by agreement you acknowledge that you are still responsible for full payment of our fees.
7 Invoicing Arrangements
7.1 We shall invoice you as frequently as we think appropriate. Issues determining the frequency of our invoices will include the nature of the matters on which we have been asked to act, the amount of our un-invoiced fees, the amount of time spent on your matters and your financial circumstances. On fixed fee divorce matters, we invoice in full prior to the issue of proceedings. On other fixed fee matters, we invoice at the commencement of the matter. Otherwise, we generally invoice our clients on a monthly basis and on completion finally of the transaction.
7.2 Payment of our invoices is due on delivery, and is not conditional upon any event or outcome. Should your matter not proceed, we reserve the right to render an invoice for the time incurred on the matter, plus VAT and any disbursements.
7.3 You can pay our invoices by cheque, credit card (see paragraph 5.12 above for charges), debit card or bank transfer. Our client account bank details are:-
Just Family Law Limited Client Account
Payment can be made directly to our client account
Sort Code 20-97-01
Account No: 63358542
Please ensure that all payments are marked with the invoice number and our reference, which can be found at the top right hand corner of all letters. Payments made by bank transfer should identify your name and matter number.
7.4 Should you fail to pay any of our invoices, we are entitled to retain your papers and refuse to conduct any further work until such point as our invoices are paid in full. Interest is also charged (see paragraph 8.1). This applies equally whether the matter has come to a conclusion, or is only part way through a transaction. Please note that non-payment may mean that we may not be able to represent you in court or file documents on your behalf within court deadlines.
7.5 Invoices that are unpaid after 7 days will be forwarded to Sarah Lowe at SLCM Ltd, who is our credit controller and she will contact you directly to make arrangements for payment.
7.6 Assessment of Invoices
7.6.1 If you are not satisfied with our charges please refer to paragraph 22.4 for details on making a complaint. You may also have a right to object to our bill by applying to the court for assessment of the bill under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974.
7.6.2 If you have instructed us to act in relation to court proceedings which have already been issued you may apply for assessment of an invoice by the court. You should do so within 1 month of delivery of the invoice (although the Court has power to assess an invoice on our application or yours made after 1 month but within 12 months from the delivery of the invoice). After 12 months, or if you have paid the invoice, the Court will accept your application only in special circumstances. The Court has no jurisdiction under the Solicitors Act 1974 to assess the invoice beyond 12 months after you have paid it. The Solicitors Act 1974 contains other detailed provisions about the procedures and costs of the assessment of invoices and the rights of third parties.
7.6.3 A complaint does not avoid liability to pay our invoices and we are entitled to charge interest on the outstanding amount of the invoice in accordance with Article 5 of the Solicitors' (Non-Contentious Business) Remuneration Order 2009.
7.6.4 All invoices referred to the credit control manager but remain unpaid and lead to the issue of a 7 day letter before action, will attract an administration fee of £100 plus VAT.
8 Interest on Invoices
Interest will be charged on unpaid accounts from the invoice date until payment at 4% per annum above National Westminster Bank PLC base rate. We are entitled to retain your files and papers until payment of all sums due to us.
9. Holding Client Money
9.1 If we hold money for you in our client account we will pay to you a gross sum in lieu of interest in accordance with Solicitors' Accounts Rules (unless otherwise agreed with you). Any such sum paid is made without the deduction of tax and you are responsible for the payment of any tax due on the sum received.
9.2 Whilst we will place your funds with our bankers in accordance with the Solicitors' Accounts Rules we will not be liable to refund to you any monies lost through a banking failure which are not covered by any statutory banking deposit scheme.
9.3 We are entitled to pay our invoices out of any sums that we receive or hold on your behalf and if you are selling any land or other property or receiving a lump sum payment, we shall generally settle all outstanding unpaid invoices from the sale proceeds or lump sum received. All monies held for you (including interest earned on monies we hold) will be applied to settle our invoices.
9.4 If there are outstanding invoices due to the firm or outstanding disbursements that have not been paid and you receive a lump sum settlement as a result of the proceedings in respect of which we have advised you and/or represented you, we require your irrevocable authority for the settlement sums to be paid into our client account and for our outstanding invoices to be met in full from such payment.
10 Counsel and other Experts
The firm may in consultation with you instruct Counsel for advocacy and specialist advice if we consider it appropriate. Counsel's fees plus any VAT will be invoiced to you, but we will require money on account of Counsel's fees before Counsel can be instructed. This also applies to the instruction of surveyors, actuaries, medical experts and any other third parties who may be instructed in your matter.
11 Conflict of Interests
As far as we are aware, there is no conflict of interest to prevent us from acting for you. If such a conflict arises or we become aware of a conflict we will contact you to discuss this. If a conflict does arise then we may have to cease acting for you.
12 Joint instructions
12.1 Where we provide services to two or more persons jointly each agrees (unless and until specific written notification is given to us to the contrary) we may rely and act upon the instructions of one only of these persons. If joint instructions are provided to us all persons instructing us will be jointly and severally liable for our fees.
12.2 Any action so taken shall bind all persons instructing us.
13 Third Party Disclosure
We are required to keep your matters confidential. In certain circumstances we may disclose matters to third parties for audit or other examination authorised under the Solicitors Act 1974, or other statute, or pursuant to a court order.
14.1 We will keep you informed of progress on your matter by making regular contact with you or by any other means as agreed with you from time to time. This may include sending you copies of relevant correspondence, or sending you copies of attendance notes of conversations or meetings.
14.2 As part of managing our client relationships, we may also wish to meet with you (or contact you by telephone) from time to time to review the work that we are doing on your behalf.
15.1 We may use email in connection with your affairs. Although every effort is made to ensure that emails only go to the correct addressee and all emails carry the appropriate security notices, email is not a secure medium and it is possible that confidential information may pass to people for whom it was not intended. If you provide us with an email address or communicate with us by email we will take this to mean that you are happy for us to communicate with you in this medium and accept the risks that this may pose. If you do not wish us to use email in connection with your affairs, please inform the person conducting your matter.
16 Money Laundering
16.1 We are professionally and legally obliged to keep your affairs confidential. However, solicitors are required by statute to make a disclosure to the Serious Organised 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.
16.2 It is a condition of your retainer with the firm, both in relation to your current instructions and any future instructions, that you assist us as far as you are able to comply with our duties under the legislation and that you agree to meet all the costs and disbursements incurred thereby. We also reserve the right to refuse to act for you, or to cease acting for you, if our Money Laundering Reporting Officer determines that we have not been provided with sufficient information to be satisfied about the identity or integrity of a person or transaction.
16.3 If we feel that it is appropriate to report the matter to the authorities we may have to stop work on the matter immediately. You agree to waive any losses.
16.4 You should not send any funds to us until you have provided us with evidence of your identity, nor pass our bank account details to any third party without our prior written approval. If you do, we may have to cease work.
17 Identification (for Regulatory purposes)
17.1 All law firms in England and Wales are now subject to stringent regulations concerned with the prevention of money laundering. We are required to identify all new clients, even those introduced by people already known to us. We are also required to renew the identity documents of existing clients every three years, unless a matter is ongoing.
17.2 The type of identity verification documents we are required to obtain varies and therefore the person with day to day conduct of your matter will advise you of the documents we will require from you to meet our obligations under the regulations. However, below are some examples of the types of documents and information we may need to verify identity:
Photographic ID such as a passport or photocard driving licence
17.3 We reserve the right to charge for any searches required to confirm your identity.
18 Data Protection
18.1 We use information that you provide to us primarily to provide you with legal services. We may also use this information for related purposes such as updating and enhancing our client records, statutory returns, legal and regulatory compliance, collecting our fees and sending you legal information such as briefing notes, legal updates and invitations to seminars and events. Our use of that information is subject to your instructions, the Data Protection Act 1998 and our duty of confidentiality and paragraphs 20 and 21. Please note that our work for you may require us to give information to third parties such as expert witnesses and other professional advisers.
18.2 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 we think might be of interest to you. If you do not wish to receive that information please notify us at our office, in writing.
19.1 As part of your instructions to us, we may draft documents on your behalf. The copyright in such documents belongs to us, and will not be transferred to you without an agreement in writing.
19.2 From time to time, we may use documents created in relation to your matter as a template for later documents ("precedents"). All precedents are stored in paper copy and as part of an electronic system to which all staff have access. Before your documents are stored in this manner, they are amended to ensure that no private or confidential information is disclosed to any third parties.
20 Relationships with Third Parties
It is sometimes necessary for us to ask parties outside the firm for advice. We will notify you if this occurs and tell you about the advice or information being sought. If you have any preference for a particular third party please notify us. Whilst we take care in the appointment of third parties we cannot be responsible for the contents of their reports, advice or their performance.
We have arrangements with external service providers which cover a range of services including, but not limited to: secretarial and administration support, credit control, quality control and video/telephone conferencing facilities. Personal data and confidential information that we hold may be passed to the providers. We have confidentiality agreements in place with each of the providers.
22.1 We understand that occasionally issues may arise with communication and mistakes can be made. If at any time you are not happy with the service provided to you or the level of a bill raised by the firm, you should discuss it with the person with conduct of your matter.
22.2 If you feel unable to approach that person or you are not satisfied with their response, you should put your problem in writing to them, with a copy to Joanne Houston at our offices. Please detail the circumstances of your complaint in your letter. Should you wish to receive a copy of our full complaints procedure, please send your request in writing addressed to Joanne Houston at our offices or email email@example.com
22.3 If we fail to respond to your complaint within 4 weeks or if at the conclusion of our complaints process we are unable to resolve matters to your satisfaction you may have a right to make a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman. If you wish to do so, you must contact the Legal Ombudsman within 6 months of your last contact with us. Additionally, you must have raised your complaint with either us or the Legal Ombudsman within 1 year of the relevant act, or omission or 1 year from the date when you realised there was a cause for complaint. Please note that the Legal Ombudsman may not deal with a complaint about a bill if you have applied to court for assessment of that bill.
22.4 You can contact the Legal Ombudsman to make a complaint. This scheme does have its limitations; you eligibility can be checked by calling 0300 555 0333 (or +44 121 245 3050 if you are calling from overseas), emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or writing to Legal Ombudsman, PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ. Further information can be found at http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk.
23 Storage of Papers and Documents
23.1 Once a matter is completed, it is the firm's policy to retain the file in our storage facility for a minimum period of six years after the final invoice is rendered, depending on the type of matter. The file will be kept on the understanding that we have the authority to destroy the file after a minimum period of six years. We will not destroy any documents you ask us to keep in safe custody. If you need any papers to be retained you must advise us in writing and we will then either ask you to collect the papers or charge you for their continued storage.
23.2 We also provide a safe custody service in respect of important documents (such as Wills and passports) but we may charge for the service. If we retrieve deeds or documents from storage in relation to continuing or new instructions, we may charge an administration fee to comply with your instructions.
23.3 If you instruct us to retrieve your file or documentation from store on your behalf, you may be charged for this. The amount charged will depend on the urgency of the request. These fees are unlikely to be less than £10 plus VAT and may be higher.
24 Banks and Other Financial Institutions
We are not and shall not be liable to you or to any other person for any loss, cost or liability whatsoever caused by the act, omission, fraud, delay, negligence, insolvency or default of any bank, financial institution, clearing or payments system or of any regulatory, governmental, or supra-national body or authority or of their directors, officers, employees, agents or representatives.
25 Tax Avoidance Schemes
If you inform us of or we become aware of a tax avoidance scheme, we may be required by law to notify this to HM Revenue& Customs. In order to comply with our obligations we reserve the right to notify HMRC if we believe it appropriate. We will not advise you in relation to any course of action which could be regarded as being abusive within the meaning of the Finance Act 2013.
You may not assign or transfer any rights and obligations created under this agreement without our prior written consent.
27 Changes to our Business
If we merge with another firm or transfer our business to a limited company, a partnership or limited liability partnership (LLP), these arrangements, and all rights and liabilities arising from them, will automatically transfer to the new entity. Where the new entity is a company or LLP, any advice which we give to you after that point will be responsibility of the company or LLP and not that of any individual member, employee or consultant.
28.1 At any time, you are entitled to cancel your instructions to us by providing us with written notice. When we receive your instructions we will stop working on your matter and will raise an invoice for the time incurred to date, unless we have agreed otherwise with you. As explained in 8.5 above we can keep your papers and documents while there is still money owed to us for fees and expenses.
28.2 We may decide to stop acting for you only with good reason and upon reasonable notice. A good reason may include a failure by you to provide us with proper instructions, or as explained in 7.4 above, a failure to pay our invoices in full.
28.3 If we have not met you personally, the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 and Consumer Contract Regulations 2013 may apply to this matter. This affords another level of protection to consumers and may give you the right to cancel your instructions to us up to seven working days from the date you receive the letter of engagement. However, if you wish us to start work before expiry of the 7-day period you must agree in writing that you wish us to start work immediately and in doing so you will lose your right to cancel your instructions to us under the regulations in the 7-day period. By signing and returning the 'Confirmation of Instruction' sheet (by fax or email if necessary), you agree to this and that you wish us to proceed with your work immediately.
28.4 This does not affect your right to cancel your instructions to us as a matter of general law.
29 Notice of the Right to Cancel
If we have met with you away from our offices then the Cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumer's Home or Place of Work etc. Regulations 2008 ("the Regulations") and Consumer Contract Regulations 2013 may apply. If the Regulations apply you have the right to cancel this contract within seven days from the date that it is received by you. You may do this by delivering or sending to us written notice that you wish to cancel the contract. There is enclosed with the letter of engagement a cancellation notice which you may use if you wish to cancel the contract. Notification may be sent by post or email to the email address at the top of the letter of engagement. If you agree to work commencing before the expiry of the cancellation period you may be required to pay us a reasonable fee for the work carried out if you then subsequently cancel the contract.
From time to time we carry out email marketing campaigns. We will send such marketing information to you unless you wish to opt out of this service. If you do not wish your email details to be included in our marketing data, please inform us in writing when sending back .the signed Terms of Business.
31 Equality Policy
Just Family Law Limited treats all clients equally, and does not discriminate on any grounds. If you wish to receive a copy of our diversity policy, please contact Joanne Houston at email@example.com.
33 Anti-Bribery and Corruption Statement
Just Family Law Limited is a firm of solicitors. We operate mainly in the United Kingdom and we pride ourselves on our reputation for acting fairly and ethically wherever we do business. Our reputation is built on our values as a firm, the values of our employees and our collective commitment to acting with integrity. We condemn corruption in all its forms and we will not tolerate it in our business or in those we do business with.
This letter forms the entirety of the agreement between us and you and any dispute arising out of or in connection with the documents or their subject matter shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the law of England and Wales. We provide advice solely on matters that are governed by the law of England and Wales. We are not experts in the laws of any other jurisdiction, and you should not rely on any advice we provide as being applicable in any other jurisdiction.
In last week's blog What happens after financial disclosure in divorce - part 1 I looked at what you should do when you receive your ex's From ...Read more on our blog