Terms of Business
The information contained in this website is not intended to provide you with legal or other professional advice. It is simply provided for general information. Where you would like legal advice the website is intended to help and encourage you to take specialist legal advice (without delay) from a qualified lawyer about your specific circumstances.
This document sets out the terms and conditions on which you instruct us to act as your solicitors and on which we accept your instructions.
2. Service Standards
- We will update you regularly about your matter by way of various communications i.e. by way of telephone, in writing, or by electronic means such as email and will endeavour to use whichever form of communication you would prefer although this may not always be possible.
- We will communicate with you in plain language.
- We will explain to you, normally by telephone or in writing, unless we feel a face to face meeting would be preferable, the legal work required as your matter progresses.
- We will update you on the on the cost of your matter regularly, normally at six monthly intervals unless we have agreed with you alternative intervals.
- We will update you on whether the likely outcomes still justify the likely costs and risks associated with your matter whenever there is a material change in circumstances.
- We will update you on the likely timescales for each stage of this matter and any important changes in those estimates.
- We will continue to review whether there are alternative methods by which your matter can be funded.
- Both you (the client) and us as your legal advisors have respective responsibilities and these include:
Our Responsibilities to you:
- We will review your matter regularly.
- We will advise you of any changes in the law.
- We will advise you of any circumstances and risks of which we are aware or consider to be reasonably foreseeable that could affect the outcome of your matter.
- Your responsibilities to us:
- You will provide us with clear, timely and accurate instructions
- You will disclose to us all information which is necessary and reasonably relevant to your matter and ensure that all information is, and will be, true and accurate and not misleading.
- You will advise us as soon as possible if you become aware of anything which is inconsistent with any of the information previously disclosed or which renders any previous information untrue, inaccurate or misleading.
- You will provide all documentation required to complete the transaction in a timely manner.
- You will safeguard any documents which are likely to be required for discovery.
4. Hours of Business
- Our office hours are 9am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 2pm on Saturdays. However the Practice appreciates that it is sometimes more convenient for a client to meet outside office hours and therefore, if requested, we will endeavour to accommodate an appointment out of normal hours.
- For emergency assistance and advice in relation to matters involving the Police, the Practice operates a 24 hour service and an emergency contact number is available at all Police Stations.
5. Compulsory layer of Professional Indemnity Insurance
- All legal practices are obliged to have in place professional indemnity insurance. Details of our insurance, which covers all work undertaken by the Practice in England and Wales, can be found at our office or you can contact us to request this information.
6. Avoidance of Discrimination and Promotion of Equality and Diversity
- Rubin Lewis O’Brien is committed to promoting equality and diversity in all of its dealing with clients, third parties and employees. Please contact us if you would like a copy of our Avoidance of Discrimination and Promotion of Equality and Diversity Policy.
7. 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. 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 our office in writing.
8. Storage of Documents
- After completing the work, we will be entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is still money owed to us for fees and expenses.
- Once all fees and expenses have been settled, we will return any of your papers which you request be returned to you and we will then either retain and archive the remainder of your physical file, normally for six years, but in some cases it may be kept longer and then we have the right to destroy the file or alternatively we may archive your file into electronic format and immediately destroy the paper file. File notes made by us will always belong to us.
- We will not destroy documents you ask us to deposit in safe custody, but we reserve the right to charge.
- We presently provide a free safe custody service to clients in respect of Wills, Lasting and Enduring Powers of Attorney. If our current policy changes, so that we are required to make a charge, we will give you advance notice to enable you to make other arrangements if you wish.
- If we take papers or documents out of storage in relation to continuing or new instructions to act for you, we will not normally charge for such retrieval. However we reserve the right to make an administration charge should we be required to do more than merely store and retrieve documents from storage, for example:
- Spend time producing stored papers that are requested.
- Reading, correspondence or other work necessary to comply with your instructions in relation to retrieved papers.
9. Outsourcing of work
- Whilst it is uncommon, there is the possibility that sometimes we may need to ask other companies or people to do work on our files to ensure such work is done promptly. 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.
10. Vetting of files and confidentiality
- External firms or organisations may conduct audit or quality checks on our practice. These external firms or organisations are required to maintain confidentiality in relation to your files. In particular, the firm is accredited under the Lexcel Quality Standard and Conveyancing Quality Scheme of the Law Society. As a result of this we are, or may become subject to periodic checks by outside assessors. This could mean that your file is selected for checking, in which case we would need your consent 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 of our clients do object to this we propose to assume that we do have your consent 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 we conduct on your behalf. Please contact us if we can explain this further or if you would like us to mark your file as not to be inspected.
- Nothing in this agreement shall prohibit you or us from disclosing confidential information to professional advisers or Insurers or to a third party in the proper performance of your and our respective rights and obligations under these terms of business.
- Nothing in this agreement shall prohibit us from using techniques, ideas and other know-how gained in the performance of your matter in other client work, provided that this does not result in a breach of our professional obligations to you.
11. Third Parties
- None of the provisions of this Agreement are intended to, or will operate to confer any benefit, (pursuant to the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999) on a person who is not named as a party to this Agreement.
12. Limiting Liability
- Our liability to you for a breach of your instructions is set out in our client care letters and is therefore not set out in specific detail in these Terms of Busines..
- Should you decide to make a claim against us, such a claim must be issued against us in a court of law within a maximum period of three years following delivery of our final invoice on the matter concerned.
- As Rubin Lewis O’Brien is a Limited Liability Partnership, limitations on personal liability for the members, directors and employees of the Practice also apply.
- Should you require any further information in respect of our limited liability please contact us.
13. 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.
14. Terminating the retainer
- You are entitled to terminate this Agreement at any time. Upon termination, we are entitled to retain all your papers and documents, until such time as all money owing to us for our charges and expenses has been paid.
- We may decide to stop acting for you, and where this occurs we will give you reasonable notice where it is possible to do so. There may be any one of a number of reasons why we would wish to cease acting on your behalf, e.g. failure to pay an interim bill, failure to give us proper instructions, or your giving us information which we may be obliged to report to another person, contrary to your interests e.g. to a Lender in a conveyancing transaction.
- If you or we terminate this Agreement, then you will be required to pay our charges and expenses incurred to the date of termination.
- If we have agreed a fixed fee with you and the matter is not finished, the fees will be the lesser of the fixed fee (exclusive of VAT, disbursements and expenses) and a sum calculated by reference to the hours spent.
15. Our Charges & Expenses
- Primarily, our charges are based on the time we spend on your matter which is calculated in 6 minute units. Such time includes meetings with you and others, time spent travelling, considering, researching, drafting, preparing and working on papers and correspondence as well as the time taken in making and receiving telephone calls.
- The hourly charge reflects the cost of overheads and from time to time it is reviewed, having regard to changes in salaries and other overheads. Our charges are communicated to you by way of our client care letters.
- Our overheads include, in addition to staff salaries, such matters as the upkeep of a library, computer equipment, business rates, maintenance of offices, Law Society practising fees and professional indemnity insurance.
- The hourly charge is reviewed in May of each year.
16. High Value Matters
- Where there are complex Court proceedings, for example, probate, corporate, commercial and property transactions which involve substantial financial consideration or benefit, our fees may be calculated by reference not only to time spent but also by reference to value, thus reflecting the importance of the transaction, its urgency, its complexity and the added responsibility falling on the Practice. In such a matter, we will write to you separately if the high value element applies.
17. Fixed Fees
- In some circumstances we may be able to agree a fixed fee with you. The fixed fee will be estimated and agreed on the basis that the transaction will proceed smoothly and without any unexpected additional work.
- In the event of there being additional work, and in the event of unforeseen complications we will (providing the circumstances permit) advise you in writing in advance of the additional cost. Without attempting to be exhaustive, examples might include property matters with title difficulties, planning problems, lenders’ requirements, insurance cover and undue delays in exchange of contracts. We also reserve the right to charge abortive fees if the matter does not complete. These will be based upon the amount of work done and time spent on the matter to the date of billing.
- We will attempt to agree any additional charge with you. If we cannot reach agreement, we would do no further work and we would charge you on the hourly basis as set out in the section entitled Termination.
18. VAT, Expenses and Disbursements
- VAT, expenses and disbursements are payable in addition to our charges, however calculated.
- Rubin Lewis O’Brien is registered for VAT under number 134138982 and therefore VAT is payable at the rate for the time being in force which is presently 20%.
- Examples of expenses include travelling expenses, photocopying charges and Bank transmission fees.
- With regards to disbursements it is frequently necessary to incur payments on your behalf such as fees payable to the Court, Counsels’ and Experts’ fees, Stamp Duty and Search Fees, which you would need to pay us in advance.
19. Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013
- For some non-business instructions you may have the right to withdraw without charge within 14 working days of the date of which you have asked us to act for you. However, if we start work with your consent within that period you lose that right to withdraw. If you seek to withdraw instructions you should give notice by telephone or letter to the person responsible for your work. Further details will be sent to you in our client care letter including a notice of cancellation.
20. Payment of Fees
- You will be required to make a payment on account of the charges and expenses which are expected to be incurred during the course of your matter and we will discuss this with you at regular intervals throughout the retainer.
- Payment is due on delivery of our invoice or request for payment. If payment is not received within one month of delivery interest will become due and payable on a daily rate basis, at the rate of 3% per annum above the Base Lending Rate of HSBC Bank plc for the time being calculated from the date of the invoice. The right is reserved to change the statutory rate if the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 is applicable.
- We will charge interest on any outstanding costs owed by you or your opponent and will retain the same from any monies received. This will not apply to Legal Aid cases.
- If on completion of a transaction, there are sufficient funds available, we will deduct the amounts due to us before accounting to you, unless we have previously agreed to the contrary in writing.
- If by completion we do not have sufficient cleared funds available to pay all costs and disbursements including our own fees, we reserve the right at our absolute discretion to decline to complete the transaction until we are in receipt of sufficient cleared funds.
- In any matter, where payment of our invoice is overdue for a period of more than 14 days, we reserve the right to decline to undertake any further work on your behalf until we are in receipt of sufficient cleared funds and cleared funds on account of any charges and expenses that are estimated to be incurred for the duration of the matter. This will relate to all types of work.
- We are legally bound to inform you of any commission we receive from a third party for business referred to them by us in the course of dealing with your case. In conveyancing matters where commission is received on writing an indemnity policy we will offset our cost of writing the policy (not the premium) against the commission received and limit our charge to the commission received. In most cases the commission will be less than £20. If you wish us to account to you for the commission you will have to inform us on or before completion of your case.
- We reserve the right to render interim invoices for our charges and expenses while the work is in progress and we will send our final bill on or after completion of the work. If requested by you, to help you budget for the transaction, we will send you interim invoices on a monthly, quarterly or other regular basis.
- Payments are accepted by way of cash, cheque and debit card at no charge. Payments made by credit card are accepted (with the exception of American Express), and will be subject to an administration charge of 3% of the balance paid by this method which shall be inclusive of VAT at the prevailing rate.
21. Court Proceedings
- It is important if you are involved in Court proceedings, that you both check with us and check yourself whether your costs may be covered by other persons e.g. an employer or Trade Union. It is also important to check whether you may be covered by pre- purchased insurance for our costs and the other side’s costs.
22. Your costs
- It is important, if you are a private client of Rubin Lewis O’Brien, that you understand that you are responsible for the payment of our costs and expenses, irrespective of whether or not you are successful in your action.
- In the event of a successful outcome to your action, you may be awarded costs from another party. The amount of those costs may be less than the amount of costs due to us. In other words, the other party may not be ordered to pay all your charges and expenses. We may be able to claim interest on the costs awarded and we will retain this interest to the extent that any of our charges are either outstanding or remain to be invoiced.
- If the other party is legally aided from public funds it is unlikely that you will recover any of your costs and expenses even if you win the case.
23. Other Party’s Costs and Expenses
- In some circumstances, the Court may order you to pay or contribute towards the other party’s legal costs and expenses, for example, if you lose the case or an Application made during the case. These costs would be in addition to our costs and expenses.
- We will have discussed with you whether our costs and expenses and the risk of you being ordered to pay the other side’s costs might be covered by existing insurance, and if not, whether it would be advisable for you to have insurance to meet the costs and expenses of the other side, if you are so ordered by the Court.
24. “No Win, No Fee” Agreement
- In certain circumstances, we may offer you a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA). If we agree to take on your case under a CFA, it will be necessary for you to enter into an additional form of agreement with us.
25. Legal Aid Agency
- We will have discussed with you whether legal aid from Public Funding is available for this matter and whether you qualify for it. If you are eligible for Public Funding, you must read the section “Statutory Charge and Public Funding.”
26. Statutory Charge and Public Funding
- If you have applied for and you are granted Public Funding, our costs will be met by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA). You may be required to pay a contribution, and you will be advised of this when you receive your offer. If the offer of Public Funding is accepted by you, then it is important that you are aware of the following:-
- If you recover or preserve property, unless our costs have been paid in full by the other Party, or your case falls into one of the exempt categories, the LAA will claim from you the amount paid to us in costs. This is called the “Statutory Charge”. Any contributions you have paid will be taken into account.
- You have a duty to disclose a change of address or financial means to the LAA. If, at any time, you fail to co-operate with the LAA or fail to pay a contribution, you run the risk of having your Certificate revoked, with the result that you could be personally liable for the costs incurred to date.
27. Family Cases
- The LAA can reclaim the costs paid from your settlement.
- If a property is transferred into your sole name, then the LAA will register a Charge against the property, representing the amount of costs paid on your behalf to us. The Charge operates like a mortgage, and repayment will only apply when you voluntarily sell your property. Interest at a variable rate is payable and the current rate is 8% per annum.
28. Case Strategy
- We will discuss with you how your case will be handled and agree a timetable, a reporting procedure and a fee structure or estimate. The case strategy will be reviewed and may be changed in consultation with you.
29. Conflict of Interest
- We search our records to guard against conflicts of interest. We regret that where a conflict arises, we will be obliged to decline your instructions.
30. Conduct of Business Rules
- We are committed to providing you at all times with a high quality, friendly and efficient service to meet your needs. All our Partners and staff are aware of the need to keep our clients regularly informed of progress and to provide you with appropriate information on the issue involved at all relevant times.
- If at any time you believe our service to you could be improved, or if you are dissatisfied with any aspect of our service, please raise the matter in accordance with our complaints procedure which is referred to in our client care letters and therefore is not dealt with under these Terms of Business. If further information is required in respect of this matter, please contact us.
31. Client Due Diligence in relation to Money Laundering and terrorist financing
- The law requires solicitors to get satisfactory evidence of the identity of their clients and sometimes people related to them. This is because solicitors who deal with money and property on behalf of their client 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. Our normal practice is to verify your identity by obtaining documentation from you, details of which we will either discuss with you when taking your initial instructions or include in our client care letters but we reserve the right to engage the services of a third party search company to ascertain your identity if we deem it necessary and in such cases we will advise you separately to this Agreement as to who we intend to approach and the fee(s) for such searches. These fees will appear on your bill under expenses.
- If you cannot provide us with the specific identifications requested, we will need to discuss with you other ways to verify your identity.
32. Making a Disclosure
- Solicitors are under a professional and legal obligation to keep the affairs of clients confidential. This obligation, however, is subject to a statutory exception. Legislation on money laundering and terrorist financing has placed solicitors under a legal duty in certain circumstances to disclose information to the National Crime Agency.
- Where a solicitor knows or suspects that a transaction on behalf of a client involves money laundering, the solicitor is required to make a money laundering disclosure. If this happens, we will not be able to inform you that a disclosure has been made or of the reasons for it because the law prohibits “tipping off”. Rubin Lewis O’Brien cannot be held responsible for any losses should a situation arise where we are inactive on a case due to an investigation.
33. Mortgage Fraud
- Where we are acting in a property transaction for both the lender and you as a purchaser, we have a duty to fully reveal to the lender all relevant facts about the purchase and mortgage which will include:
- Any differences between your mortgage application and information we receive during the transaction
- Any cash back payments or discount schemes that a seller is giving you.
34. Introductions and Referrals
- Where we have any financial relationship with an organisation regarding your matter we will report to you separately from this Agreement as to the terms of such a relationship i.e. whether we pay for them to refer your matter to us or whether we receive payment from them to provide you with a particular service and we will also advise as to whether or not you will be required to pay any third party for any services.
- Despite any financial relationship with any third party, we will provide you with independent advice and you are able to raise questions with us about any aspect of your matter.
- Any information you provide to us during your matter will not be shared with the third party with whom we have a financial relationship unless you agree.
35. Payment of commissions
- Should Rubin Lewis O’Brien receive any commission as a result of dealing with your matter we will advise you of this and where the sum is over £50 we will account to you for this unless you have agreed to us keeping such sums. If commission regardless of amount relates to activities regulated by the FSA then we will advise you of this but in any event where commission is payable we will provide you with a separate written agreement from these Terms of Business.
36. Payment of interest
- Any money received on your behalf will be held in our Client Account with HSBC Bank plc and interest will be calculated and paid to you at the rate set by HSBC Bank plc in relation to our Client Account. That of course may change. The period for which interest will be paid normally runs from the date(s) when funds are received by us until the date(s) on the cheque(s) issued to you. The payment of interest is subject to certain minimum amounts and periods of time set out in our Payment of Interest on Client Account Policy, a copy of which can be supplied on request. Any payment made will be paid as a gross amount and you will be responsible for reporting to HM Revenue and Customs the credit interest you earn and paying any tax you owe.
37. Financial Arrangements with clients
- Our Practice’s policy is to only accept cash up to £1,000 and payments up to £25,000 by either Debit or Credit Cards. Any higher sums must be paid by direct credit transfer or by Banker’s Draft.
- 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 or where the sum is £10.00 or less we reserve the right to forward the sum to you by way of postage stamps.
- No sum will be paid in cash or to a third party unless there are exceptional circumstances and where it is authorised by a Partner.
38. Financial Conduct Authority
- We are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority. If, while we are acting for you, you need advice on investments, we may have to 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. Such work is regulated by the Law Society of England and Wales.
39. Insurance distribution 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 can carry on insurance distribution activity, which is broadly the advising on, selling and administration of insurance contracts. This part of our business is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and arrangements for complaints or redress if something goes wrong are subject to the jurisdiction of the Legal Ombudsman.
- The register can be accessed via the Financial Conduct Authority website at http://www.fca.org.uk/firms/financial-services-register
40. Future Instructions
- Unless otherwise agreed in writing, this Agreement shall apply to all further instructions given by you to us, save and except that the rates applicable will be those applying at the date of further instructions, and subject to the annual review.
- Please keep this document for future reference.