Terms of Business

These terms of business together with the client care letter sent with them form the basis of the agreement for the supply of legal services by Holmes & Hills LLP (or by any successor to the firm) to you. Both the terms of business and the client care letter are important documents which you should read thoroughly and retain for future reference.

Our professional rules known as the SRA Code of Conduct can be accessed at http://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/handbook/code/content.page

We use “partner” or “partners” to mean a member of Holmes & Hills LLP.

Contents                                       

  1. Service Standards 3
  2. Responsibilities 3
  3. Hours of Business 3
  4. Equality and Diversity. 3
  5. Data Protection. 4
  6. Use of Email 4
  7. Receipt of Money and Payments on Account 4
  8. Bills 5
  9. Conveyancing Transactions 6
  10. Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority Claims 6
  11. Payment of Interest 6
  12. Storage and Retention of Documents 7
  13. Outsourcing of work. 7
  14. Quality Audits 7
  15. Financial Services 7
  16. The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) 8
  17. Visits to your home or place of work. 8
  1. Termination of Retainer 9
  2. Professional Indemnity Insurance. 10
  3. Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) 10
  4. Value Added Tax. 10
  5. Applicable Law. 10
  6. Accessibility. 10
  7. Complaints

 

1. Service Standards

We at Holmes & Hills LLP are committed to providing you our clients with a high level of service.

To assist us in achieving this we will:

  1. update you regularly either by telephone or in writing or by email if agreed
  2. communicate with you in plain language
  3. explain to you the legal work which will be required as the matter progresses
  4. update you with the costs of your matter on a regular basis, our aim is to do this at least once every six months
  5. update you as to whether the likely outcome justifies the likely costs and risks and update you on any likely change in timescale
  6. continue to review whether there are alternative methods by which your matter could be funded

2. Responsibilities

Your responsibilities include and you agree to:

  1. provide us with clear, timely, full and accurate instructions
  2. provide all documentation to enable us to complete the matter in a timely fashion
  3. safeguard any documents that may be required for your matter, including documents that you may have to disclose to another party

Our responsibilities include and we agree to:

  1. review your matter regularly
  2. advise you of any changes in the law during the course of the matter
  3. advise you of any circumstances and risks of which we are aware or we consider may be reasonably foreseeable and which could affect the outcome of your matter
  4. treat you fairly and with respect and communicate in plain language

3. Hours of Business

Our normal hours of business are as follows:

Monday to Thursday 9:00 (Reception 8:30) in the morning to 5:30 (Reception 6:00) in the evening

Friday 9:00 (Reception 8:30) in the morning to 5:00 (Reception 5:30) in the evening

Other times may be accommodated by prior agreement.

4. Equality and Diversity

Holmes & Hills LLP is committed to promoting equality and diversity in all of its dealings with clients, third parties and employees. Please contact us if you would like to have details of this policy.

5. Data Protection

We use the information which you provide primarily for the provision of legal services to you and for related services including:

  1. updating and enhancing client records
  2. analysis to help us manage our practice
  3. statutory returns
  4. 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. It may also include the transfer of the data both within and outside the United Kingdom.

By instructing us to act on your behalf you give your explicit consent to the storage, processing and use of this personal data and sensitive personal data (which means information regarding your racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious and other beliefs, membership of a trade union, your physical or mental health, sexual like, the commission or alleged commission by you of an offence or any criminal proceedings against you) and the possible transfer of the data within and outside the United Kingdom.

You of course have a right of access to the personal data 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 offices in writing.

6. Use of Email

Incoming and outgoing emails are routinely monitored. Whilst we utilise virus protection software we cannot guarantee that emails sent by us will be virus free. It is your responsibility to carry out virus checks before opening any email sent by us to you.

Emails pass through unregulated service providers and may be subject to interception by governments or others. We do not encrypt emails and they may therefore be vulnerable to these risks. Your acceptance of these terms of business specifically operates as your consent to include confidential information to you and third parties in non-encrypted email. If you do not wish us to communicate with you or third parties in connection with your matter by email you must confirm this instruction to us in writing.

7. Receipt of Money and Payments on Account

Our preference is to receive payment of any monies by bank transfer. We are able to accept credit card payments or cheques, however, if you intend to make a payment in cash it is our Firm’s policy is to only accept amounts up to £1,000.00. 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 bank transfer or by cheque. It will not be paid in cash or to a third party.

Any money received on your behalf will usually be held in our client account with Barclays Bank Plc but may also be held at other banks authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority with a view to spreading risk. We are not liable for any losses you suffer as a result of any such banking institution being unable to repay depositors in full. You may, however, be protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

The FSCS is the UK's statutory fund of last resort for customers of banking institutions. The FSCS can pay compensation up to £75,000 if a banking institution is unable, or likely to be unable, to pay claims against it.

The limit is £75,000 per banking institution. If you hold other personal money in the same banking institution as our client account[s], the limit remains £75,000 in total.

Some banking institutions have several brands. The compensation limit is £75,000 per institution, not per brand. You should check with your banking institution, the FCA or a financial advisor for more information.

The FSCS also provides up to £1m of short-term protection for certain high balances, eg relating to property transactions, inheritance, divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership, unfair dismissal, redundancy and personal injury compensation (there is no financial limit on protection for personal injury compensation). This is called the temporary high balance scheme and, if it applies, protection lasts for a maximum of six months.

The FSCS (including the temporary high balance scheme) will apply to qualifying balances held in our client account. In the unlikely event of a deposit-taking institution failure, we will presume (unless we hear from you in writing to the contrary) we have your consent to disclose necessary client details to the FSCS.

8. Bills

Depending on the nature of the transaction or matter, fee accounts will usually be raised towards the end of the matter unless the matter is one which is likely to be ongoing for a period of time in which case either monthly or quarterly fee accounts will be raised depending upon the circumstances of the case. Our quarterly billing cycles are currently January; April; July and October. We will provide you with fee accounts at other times if you request it.

Interim accounts may be issued during the matter.   These are a request for a payment on account towards the final bill issued at the conclusion of the matter.

All accounts whether Interim or Final are payable when you receive them. If an account is not paid promptly we reserve the right to stop working on all of your matters. If the account remains unpaid after 28 days, we reserve the right to charge interest on any amount outstanding at 4% above Barclays Bank base lending rate, subject to a minimum rate of 8%.

If you choose to pay your account (Interim or Final) by a credit card or a Business debit card we will add a surcharge of 2.055% of the payment made on each occasion to reflect the charges made to us by our bank. There is no surcharge for any other method of payment.

You will remain liable for payment of all work undertaken on your behalf even if it is agreed that the account should be paid by a third party. Whilst we will do our utmost to recover the fees from the third party, if that party should default, then you will be liable. In addition, if work is undertaken on behalf of a limited company, then we reserve the right to require the Directors of that company to accept personal responsibility for the payment of our fees in the event of the company being unable to do so.

If you are unhappy about our bill, you may raise the issue under our complaints procedure. You may also have the right to object to the bill by making a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman and/or by applying to the court for an assessment of the bill under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974. The usual time limit for making such an application is one month from the date of delivery of the bill. If the application is made after one month but before 12 months from delivery of the bill, the court’s permission is required for the bill to be assessed.

Unless there are special circumstances, the Court will not usually order a bill to be assessed after:

  • 12 months from delivery of the bill
  • A judgment has been obtained for the recovery of the costs covered by the bill
  • The bill has been paid, even if this is within 12 months

We can keep all your papers and documents while there is still money owed to us for fees and expenses.

9. Conveyancing Transactions

If we are acting for you in a conveyancing transaction you must provide us with cleared funds sufficient to complete the transaction (including the settlement of all of our costs, VAT and disbursements) on or before the day of completion. If sufficient cleared funds are not received we reserve the right not to complete the transaction. You acknowledge that failure to complete the transaction may result in you being liable to the purchaser/seller for failing to complete.

Furthermore, should you decide at an advanced stage of negotiations not to proceed with the transaction, or if the matter becomes abortive for any other reason, we reserve the right to charge the whole of the agreed fee or an appropriate proportion of it in consideration of the work that we have undertaken to that stage.

10. Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority Claims

If we are acting for you in connection with a claim for compensation arising out of a criminal injury, the compensation authority will pay your compensation to you directly. It is a condition of our agreeing to act on your behalf that you agree to send this cheque to us immediately upon receipt of the same.

11. Payment of Interest

We may, depending on the nature of the work undertaken for you, hold money on your behalf.  In these circumstances, we have a policy on the payment of interest to you.  This seeks to provide a fair outcome for all.

A copy of the policy is available on request but essentially the amount of interest paid depends upon the amount of money held and the period over which it is held.  The amount of interest paid to each recipient will take into account various factors that are explained in our Interest policy.

Interest will be calculated on a daily basis, using the average rates of interest offered to business customers on instant access accounts offered by banking institutions where the firm hold general client funds. These are as at April 2015, Barclays Bank plc and Lloyds TSB and the average rate of interest on client deposit accounts is 0.05%. This, therefore will be the rate used by Holmes & Hills to calculate interest payable to clients. Interest will be paid where the amount calculated on the balance held exceeds £20.

These rates will be periodically reviewed

12.      Storage and Retention of Documents

We are entitled to keep all your papers and documents whilst there is still money owed to us for fees and expenses.

We will keep your file of papers for not less than six years, except those papers that you ask to be returned to you. We keep files on the understanding that we can destroy them six years after the final bill. We will not destroy documents which you ask us to deposit in safe custody.

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 may charge you for:

  1. time spent producing stored papers that are requested
  2. reading, correspondence or other work necessary to comply with your instructions relating to the retrieved papers
  3. providing you with copies of any papers

13. Outsourcing of work

From time to time we outsource work on a particular matter to ensure that the work is carried out promptly. We will always seek a confidentiality agreement with these outsourced providers.

If you do not want your file to be outsourced, please let us know as soon as possible.

14. Quality Audits

In order to maintain a high quality service external firms or organisations may conduct audit or quality checks on our practice.   This may mean that your file is selected for checking, in which case we would need your consent for inspection to occur.

Our professional regulator, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (“SRA”), may also request information from us in relation to your matter. This may take the form of requesting us to compile a report or them inspecting your file.

All inspections are 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 will assume that we 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.

15. Financial Services

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 out insurance mediation activity, which is broadly the advising on, selling and administration of insurance contracts. This part of our business, including arrangements for complaints or redress if something goes wrong, is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The register can be accessed via the Financial Conduct Authority website at: www.fca.org.uk/register .

The Law Society of England and Wales is the 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.

16. The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA)

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) is a US piece of legislation which has effect in the UK as a result of an agreement between the UK and US governments. The intention behind the legislation is to ensure US citizens disclose their worldwide income to the US tax authority (the Internal Revenue Service or IRS).

The FATCA regime requires certain financial institutions to identify and report (to HMRC) payments made to a:

  • specified US person or
  • non-US entity with one or more controlling person who is a specified US person

To comply with the law, we may have to share some of your information, including your FATCA status and, if applicable, your Global Intermediary Identification Number (GIIN) with financial institutions.

We also have to establish whether you are a specified US person or an entity controlled by a specified US person. If so, it may be necessary for us to report payments to HMRC. This is explained further in our letter confirming your instructions.

It is vital that we keep your information current at all times. You are responsible for communicating to us any changes in circumstances that may alter your FATCA status.

17. Visits to your home or place of work

If you have instructed us to act in your individual capacity (as opposed to in a business capacity) and we have / or you have asked us to visit you at home or at your place of work, or in the event that we have not yet met with you to discuss your initial instructions, we are required to comply with The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013.

Should the Regulations apply to you a cancellation form will be enclosed with these terms of business.

Right to cancel

You have the right to cancel this contract within 14 days without giving any reason.

The cancellation period will expire after 14 days from the day of the conclusion of the contract.

To exercise the right to cancel, you must inform us of your decision to cancel this contract by a clear statement (eg a letter sent by post, fax or e-mail). You can use the attached Cancellation Form, but it is not obligatory.

To meet the cancellation deadline, it is sufficient for you to send your communication concerning your exercise of the right to cancel before the cancellation period has expired.

Effects of cancellation

If you cancel this contract, we will reimburse to you all payments received from you unless you asked us to start work during the cancellation period. We will make the reimbursement:

  • without undue delay and not later than 14 days after the day on which we are informed about your decision to cancel this contract
  • using the same means of payment as you used for the initial transaction, unless you have expressly agreed otherwise; in any event, you will not incur any fees as a result of the reimbursement

Asking us to start work during the cancellation period

We will not start work during the cancellation period unless you expressly request us to.

In most cases, if you ask us to start work during the cancellation period, you will not lose your right to cancel. If you subsequently cancel during the cancellation period we can charge you for the work we have done on a pro-rata basis. This will be an amount which is in proportion to what has been performed, until you told us you wished to cancel, in comparison with the full coverage of the contract. You will, however, lose the right to cancel and will have to pay in full once the contract had been fully performed (ie we complete the work) even if this happens within the cancellation period.

18. Termination of Retainer

You may end your instructions to us at any time, but we are permitted to retain all your papers and documents whilst there is still money owed to us in fees and expenses.

We may decide to stop acting for you only with good reason. For example:

  • If you do not carry out any of your responsibilities set out above
  • If you do not pay an interim bill or request for payment on account of costs or disbursements
  • If there is a conflict of interest

If we intend to stop acting for you, we will give you reasonable notice.

If either you or we decide to end our relationship you will pay our charges up until that point calculated on an hourly basis plus disbursements as set out in the letter accompanying these terms of business.

19. Professional Indemnity Insurance

We maintain Professional Negligence Indemnity Insurance of £10 million per case. This is the limit of our liability for any breach of your instructions. This is well in excess of the Law Society’s minimum requirement of £3 million for each and every claim. 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 profits or opportunities.

We can only limit our liability to the extent the law allows. In particular we cannot limit our liability for death or personal injury caused by our negligence.

Details of our professional indemnity insurance and the territorial coverage are available at our offices.

20. Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)

Holmes & Hills LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales under partnership number OC352397. As such the partners of the LLP (known as “members”) have limited personal liability. All advice given and work undertaken on your behalf by a partner or an employee, locum or consultant of the LLP is carried out on your behalf by the LLP and no partner individually carries personal responsibility for that work or advice.

21. Value Added Tax

This firm is registered with HM Revenue and Customs for VAT purposes. Our VAT registration number is 102 9725 85.

22. 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.

23. Accessibility

These terms of business are published on the Holmes & Hills website at www.holmes-hills.co.uk/about/tob. Additional copies are available on request and free of charge. If you require, any of your correspondence can also be made available in large print, audio, electronic format and/or braille by contacting us by email at: LegalAdvice@holmes-hills.co.uk . If you require any other format we are committed to try and meet your needs.

24. Complaints

If you wish to make a complaint about the service you have received from Holmes & Hills LLP, please contact Mark Cornell on 01376 320456 or by emailing him at mbc@holmes-hills.co.uk.

Under EU legislation, consumers can use the Euorpean Commission's Online Dispute Resolution platform to resolve a contractual dispute with a business. The following is a link to the platform where you can find more information: https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/odr/main/index.cfm?event=main.home.show&lng=EN

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© Holmes & Hills LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England & Wales under Registration Number OC352397.Registered Office Dale Chambers, Bocking End, Braintree, Essex CM7 9AJ. A list of partners' names is available at this address.

We use "partner" to mean a member of Holmes & Hills LLP or a senior member of staff. Authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority - SRA Number: 534489