The purpose of this document is to explain the basis of how we work with our clients. It explains how your file will be handled, how our fees will be calculated and contains information relating to our complaints procedure. We hope that you will find this helpful.
Barlow Robbins LLP
In these terms of business ‘we’ or ‘our’ or ‘us’ or ‘the firm’ refers to Barlow Robbins LLP (’the LLP’) a limited liability partnership incorporated under OC319529, having its registered office situate at The Oriel, Sydenham Road, Guildford, Surrey GU1 3SR. Any business conducted with us is solely with the LLP and the LLP has sole legal liability for the work done for you and for any act or omission in the course of that work. No member, partner, principal, employee, associate or consultant of the LLP will have any personal liability for work undertaken for you. If a member, partner, principal, employee, associate or consultant signs in his or her own name any letter or other document in the course of carrying out that work it does not mean he or she is assuming any personal legal liability for that letter or document.
We use the term ‘partner’ to refer to a member of the LLP or an employee or consultant with equivalent standing or qualifications. A list of the members of the LLP is available on request.
Responsibility for Work
The letter that accompanies this document tells you who will carry out most of the work in this matter. It also tells you the name of the partner who is ultimately responsible and the name of any other person who will also work on the matter on your behalf (known as the “professional adviser(s)”). We will try to avoid changing the people who handle your work, but if this cannot be avoided, we will inform you promptly who will be handling the matter and why the change was necessary.
We have a duty of confidentiality to all our clients and will only disclose confidential information where we are required to do so or with your consent.
Fees and Expenses
Unless a fixed fee is agreed in advance, our fees are calculated according to the amount of time spent by a professional adviser at his or her respective hourly rate. Our time is charged in minimum six minute units and computerised time records are available. Different hourly rates are applied for work undertaken by different professional advisers and are dependent upon their level of experience and expertise. The accompanying letter sets out the names of those professional advisers who will be working on your file and their current hourly rates. Hourly rates are varied from time to time (usually to take effect from 1 June in any year) and we will notify you in advance in writing of any changes.
Time spent on your affairs is likely to include discussions/meetings with you and with other people involved on your file, attending Court when necessary, considering and working on documents, drafting papers, dealing with correspondence, making and receiving telephone calls and time spent travelling away from the office when this is required. Routine letters are charged at six minutes a page and telephone calls in six minute units.
In addition to the time spent we may take into account a number of other factors such as any work which is undertaken at your request outside normal business hours, the complexity of the issues, the expertise or specialist knowledge required, the speed at which action must be taken and, if appropriate, the value of the property or subject matter involved.
In commercial property transactions, in the administration of estates and in transactions involving a large amount of money or benefit to the client, we may base our charges on the time spent and by referring to a value element such as the price of the property, the size of the estate or the value of the financial benefit. The value element reflects the importance of the transaction and responsibility placed on the firm. You will be notified separately if the value element applies in relation to any particular matter we are dealing with on your behalf.
Any expenses incurred by us on your behalf (“disbursements”) such as court fees, search fees, barrister’s fees, travel costs etc will be charged in addition to the hourly rate or fixed fee. We usually require that disbursements are paid to us before we incur them.
We will add VAT to our fees. Some disbursements also attract VAT.
If we receive a financial benefit from accepting your instructions from a third party, we will inform you of the same.
Variations in our Fees
At the outset it may be very difficult to provide you with a fixed fee or even a reliable estimate of our fees as this is often dependent upon circumstances outside our control. If you prefer to set a financial limit to which we must work we will not go beyond this without your authority. If we have not agreed a fixed fee arrangement, we cannot guarantee that the work will be completed within this limit and we may have to stop doing further work until a further fee limit has been agreed.
If we have agreed a fixed fee we reserve the right to vary this arrangement if unforeseen or exceptional circumstances arise once we have started working with you. We will notify you as soon as possible of any such circumstances and discuss with you the terms of any variation. If you do not want us to continue working on your file after we have identified such circumstances, we will invoice you for the work done at the appropriate hourly rate and disbursements incurred.
In relation to property transactions, we will send you a bill for our charges and expenses, payment of which is due on completion. If sufficient funds are available on completion and we have sent you a bill, we will usually deduct our charges from the funds and your acceptance of these terms constitutes our authority to do so.
In all other cases we will normally submit our bill on completion of the matter, although we reserve the right to submit interim accounts and will normally do so when a matter has been in progress for more than three months or our unbilled fees exceed £500 or if we have incurred disbursements on your behalf.
Bills are payable on delivery. Interest will be charged on any bills that remain unpaid for 30 days at the rate of 12.5% per annum on a daily basis on the amount unpaid from the date of delivery of the bill to the date we receive payment. All costs and expenses incurred by us to recover any unpaid sums will also be due from you.
If you wish to settle your bill or make payments to us on account of costs by credit card we reserve the right to charge you a handling fee calculated at the rate of 2% on the total invoice value or amount paid. Such amount will be debited from your card at the same time as your payment is processed.
In accordance with rules laid down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority we are obliged to transfer funds from any monies we hold on your behalf (including monies collected during the administration of an estate) in settlement of a bill that has been raised, within 14 days of the date the bill is given or posted to you.
If you have any query about your bill please contact the professional adviser responsible for your file straight away. You are entitled to complain about your bill (see “Raising Queries and Concerns with Us”) and may also have the right to make a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman and/or to object to the bill by applying to the court for an assessment of the bill under Part III of the Solicitors’ Act 1974.
Please note that we may suspend or stop work altogether on your matter if our costs remain unpaid. Further we are entitled to retain papers in respect of your matter until our costs have been paid.
Relationship with Third Parties and their Charges
It is often necessary for us to instruct parties (including specialist barristers) outside the firm to give 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 may, from time to time, outsource some of our operational legal activities to third parties, for example to a typing service. This is usually done so as to provide you with a quicker service and you shall not be charged any fees for the outsourcing of such activities unless otherwise stated and agreed by you. Confidentiality is of utmost importance to us and where we outsource any such activities we ensure that the third party has signed an agreement not to disclose any information we give to them or to any other party You have the ability to inform us that you do not wish to have any activities outsourced.
Any work that we carry out for you may involve tax implications or necessitate the consideration of tax planning strategies. We do not provide tax advice, unless specifically stated in our scope of works in the accompanying letter.
Payments on Account
It is normal practice to ask clients to pay sums of money at the outset of a transaction and to make further payments from time to time on account of fees and disbursements which are expected in the following weeks or months. We have no obligation to make any payments on your behalf unless you have provided us with the funds for that purpose.
The accompanying letter sets out the sum required from you (if any) before we start work on your file. When we put these payments towards your bill(s) we will send you a receipted bill. We will offset any such payments against your final bill but it is important that you understand that your total charges and disbursements may be greater than any advance payments.
We may also require guarantees from directors or controlling shareholders of corporate clients. If such a request is refused we will be entitled to stop acting and to require immediate payment of our fees and disbursements on an hourly basis.
If you fail to provide us with monies on account of fees or disbursements when required or if our bills are not paid promptly, we may decline to undertake any further work for you until the necessary payments have been made. You will remain liable for all fees and disbursements incurred to that date.
Our policy is only to accept cash up to £2,000 from clients. If you circumvent this policy by depositing cash direct with our bank we reserve the right to charge for any additional check we deem necessary to make to verify the source of the funds.
Subject to the Solicitors Accounts Rules we are not responsible for any loss arising from the insolvency of any bank where client funds are held. If we made a claim under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in respect of money which we hold for you, you agree that we may give certain information about you to the FSCS to help them identify amounts to which you are entitled in our client account.
Any money which you pay us or which we receive on your behalf otherwise than in respect of invoiced fees or disbursements will be held on a client account and, save as stated below, we will account to you for interest thereon. We will not account for amounts of interest which do not exceed £20 nor for interest accruing on funds held on our client account to cover charges for work which we have undertaken. The full interest policy is available on request.
Disputes/Matters which may involve Court Proceedings
You should read the following very carefully if the work that we undertake for you involves court proceedings including work undertaken before and after proceedings have been issued.
It is important that you understand that you will be responsible for paying our bill(s) on delivery of our account irrespective of whether these can be recovered from another person. We will discuss with you whether your fees and disbursements might be paid by another person. Even if you are successful, the amount of our costs which you will have to pay may be greater than the amount the other party is ordered to pay to you or that you can recover from the other party to the case. If this occurs you will have to pay the balance of our fees and disbursements. If the other party is legally aided, you may not get back any of your fees and disbursements, even if you win the case.
If you are successful and the court orders the other party to pay some or all of your fees and disbursements, interest can be claimed on them from the other party from the date of the court order. We will account to you for such interest to the extent that you have paid our fees or disbursements on account, but we are entitled to the rest of that interest.
You will also be responsible for paying our fees and disbursements if you instruct us to recover any fees and disbursements that the court orders the other party to pay to you.
In some circumstances, the court may order you to pay the other party's legal fees and disbursements; for example, if you lose the case. The money would be payable in addition to our fees and disbursements. It is possible to take out insurance cover for our fees and disbursements and your liability for the other party's fees and disbursements. If this is of interest to you, please speak to us for further information.
Your liability for our costs may be covered by an existing insurance policy and this is something we will discuss with you.
We do not generally offer clients Conditional Fee Agreements or contingency fee (“no win, no fee”) arrangements but it may be possible for you to enter into such an arrangement with us or with another firm and we can advise you on that if necessary. As this is a complicated subject please do not hesitate to ask for more details.
If your case is proceeding in Courts other than the ones local to our offices, it may be necessary at times for us to instruct other solicitors to act as our agents to attend those Courts. The agent’s charges will be passed on to you as disbursements.
Storage of Papers and Documents
After completing the work, we are entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is money owing to us for our charges and expenses. We will keep our file of papers (except for any of your original papers which you ask to be returned to you) for not less than six years. We keep the file on the understanding that we have your authority to destroy it at our discretion after that time. We will not destroy documents you ask us to deposit in safe custody.
If we retrieve papers or documents from storage in relation to continuing or new instructions to act in connection with your affairs, we will not normally charge for such retrieval. However, we may make a charge based on time spent producing stored papers or documents to you or another at your request. We may also charge for reading, correspondence or other work necessary to comply with the instructions given by you or on your behalf.
You may terminate your instructions to us at any time in writing but we will be entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is money owing to us for our fees and expenses. If at any stage you do not wish us to continue doing work and/or incurring fees and expenses on your behalf you must tell us this clearly in writing.
If you or we decide that we will stop acting for you, you will pay our charges on an hourly rate basis and our expenses or as otherwise agreed in any separate correspondence between us. We will only stop acting for you with good reason and on giving you reasonable notice.
Waiver of Cancellation Rights
Once we have, with your permission, started to work for you, you will not be entitled to cancel your instructions during the seven days that follow (starting on the day you instruct us) unless we agree otherwise.
We routinely monitor all incoming and outgoing emails. If you ask us to communicate with you or third parties by email we shall not be responsible for any misdirection or non-delivery of communications sent in this way where fault for non-delivery is not simply a question of a typographical error in the address. Whilst every effort will be made to ensure that communications sent to you by email will be virus free, it is your responsibility to carry out virus checks before opening such communications. The information is therefore sent out at your own risk.
Limitation of Liability
If you are successful in bringing a claim against us (other than one for death, personal injury or fraud) arising from the provision of services to you, our maximum liability will not exceed the sum of £3m (three million pounds sterling). For the purposes of determining our maximum liability all claims arising from the same act or omission or from a series of related acts or omissions or from the same act or omission in a series of related matters or transactions will be regarded as one claim.
We shall not be liable to you for any indirect or consequential loss, damage, costs or expenses of any nature incurred or suffered by you including, without limitation, any economic loss or other loss of turnover, profits, business or goodwill.
We shall not be liable to you for loss damage costs or expenses of any nature incurred or suffered by you arising from compliance with any statutory obligations placed upon us.
Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 ("the Act")
Since February 2003, all solicitors are governed by the Act which may override our duty of confidentiality and privilege. We are required to report all criminal conduct, however minor, to the relevant authority. This duty relates to any information we receive from you, where we have knowledge or reasonable suspicion that there has been or may be criminal conduct.
The Act is intended to cover blatant criminal activity such as drug dealing, money laundering etc, but it also captures other activities such as tax evasion (innocent or otherwise). It is our duty to report any matter where we have either knowledge or reasonable suspicion that there are proceeds of any criminal conduct involved no matter how trivial.
If, while we are acting for you, it becomes necessary to lodge a report we may not be able to inform you that a disclosure has been made or the reasons for it. Further we may have to stop acting temporarily or permanently.
We are required to identify and verify the identity of all new clients and those clients for whom we have not acted within the last three years. We use a variety of methods including electronic identification, requesting sight of original photo style documents, making searches of public databases or obtaining information from other regulated or approved bodies. If you fail to comply with any requests we make for further information or documents to be provided to us then this may result in a delay in dealing with your matter and we may not be able to act for you.
We will use the personal information you provide to us including any sensitive personal information for the purposes of providing legal advice to you and for acting on your behalf, for administration and marketing purposes. If you provide us with the information you agree that we may contact you by post, telephone, facsimile and/or email.
We may keep your information for a reasonable period to contact you about our services in the future. If you do not want us to do this you can opt out at any time by letting us know in writing.
We may share your information with any third party organisations for marketing and promotional purposes or in the course of providing our services to you. We may also share your personal information (including any sensitive personal data) with our service providers (both inside and outside the EEA) in the course of providing our services to you.
If you give us information about another person we are entitled to assume that the other person has appointed you to act on his/her behalf and has agreed that you can give consent on his/her behalf to the processing of his/her personal data (including sensitive personal data) and receive on his/her behalf any data protection notices.
By retaining us to act you agree that if required we may from time to time provide your data to a third party for the purpose of tracing your whereabouts to recover and/or return any fees due. This may include searching on credit reference databases.
Please note that calls to Barlow Robbins LLP may be monitored and/or recorded.
Quality Assurance Audit Authority
Your file may be examined by external auditors. If you do not consent to inspections, you must clearly tell us in writing.
These terms are effective from 11 June 2013 and supersede all other conditions sent to you.
Third Party Rights
These terms do not create any right enforceable by any person who is not a party to it in accordance with the Contract (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999
Financial Services Authority Status
We are not authorised by the Financial Services Authority. However we are included on the register maintained by the Financial Services Authority so that we can carry on insurance mediation activity, which is broadly the advising on, selling and administration of insurance contracts. This part of our business, including arrangements for complaints or redress if something goes wrong, is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The register can be accessed via the Financial Services Authority website at: www.fsa.gov.uk/register.
Sometimes the work we undertake for you will involve investments. As we are not authorised by the Financial Services Authority 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, as we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Raising Queries or Concerns with Us
Whilst we are confident that our service will be efficient, effective and friendly, if any problems arise please let the person dealing with your file know as soon as possible. In the event of a problem, either relating to our service or your bill, you are entitled to complain and if the problem cannot be resolved to your satisfaction or if you would rather not speak with that person please contact the Risk, Compliance and Quality Manager, Rebecca Atkinson at our Woking office, Concord House, 165 Church Street, Woking, Surrey GU21 6HJ, Telephone (01483) 748500. We will try to resolve any problem quickly and operate an internal complaints handling system to help us to resolve the problem between ourselves. If for any reason we are unable to resolve the problem between us, within 8 weeks of it being raised, then you have a right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman. We hope that this will not be necessary but the Legal Ombudsman can be contacted by telephone on 0300 555 0333, by email at email@example.com or by post at Legal Ombudsman, P O Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ. There are time limits within which you are able to complain to the Legal Ombudsman. Currently you must make your complaint within 6 years of the act or omission complained of or within 3 years from when you should have known there was cause for complaint. You also need to raise your complaint with the Legal Ombudsman within 6 months of our written response to your complaint.
Whilst your continuing instructions will amount to your acceptance of these terms of business please sign and date the accompanying letter and return it to us immediately. Then we can be confident that you understand the basis on which we will act for you.
We hope that by sending this document we address your immediate queries about the day-to-day handling of your work and our terms of business. However, if you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact your professional adviser.
This is an important document which we would urge you to keep in a safe place for future reference.
Details of our offices can be found here.