A F HILL SOLICITORS
OUR TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS AND "YOU"
1.1 Unless otherwise agreed, these are the Terms and Conditions of Business which will apply to the services that we provide to you as our client in relation to any matter on which you retain us.
1.2 References in this document and in our Engagement Letter to "we", "our", the firm and "us" are references to A F Hill. Reference to "you" is to our client as identified in our Engagement Letter.
1.3 The contract between you and us for the provision of any services by us shall comprise of the Engagement Letter sent to you by us in relation to any specific matter and these Terms and Conditions of Business (together known as "the Retainer"). In the event of any conflict between any Engagement Letter and these Terms and Conditions of Business, the Engagement Letter shall prevail.
2. OUR AIM
2.1 We aim to offer our clients quality legal advice with a personal service at a fair cost. As a start, we hope you find it helpful for us to set out here the basis on which we will provide our professional services to you.
3.1 Office opening hours: We are open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, excluding bank holidays (appointments can be arranged at other times when this is essential).
Telephone: Our office number is 0203 612 4734. Messages can be left on the answerphone outside normal office opening hours.
E-mail: You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Unless you withdraw consent, we will communicate with you and others when appropriate by e-mail, but we cannot be responsible for the security of correspondence and documents sent by e-mail, nor can we accept responsibility for computer-generated viruses.
3.2 Our contact details:
A F Hill
36, Metro Central Heights
4. QUALITY OF SERVICE & RESPONSIBILITIES
4.1 Our Service Standards
- review your matter and update you in writing with progress on your matter regularly;
- communicate with you in plain language;
- explain to you by telephone or in writing the legal work required as your matter progresses;
- update you on the cost of your matter at regular intervals;
- keep you regularly informed of progress or, if there is none, when you are next likely to hear from us;
- deal with your queries promptly, (e.g. we will always try to return your phone calls the same day);
- 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;
- update you on the likely timescales for each stage of this matter and any important changes in those estimates;
- continue to review whether there are alternative methods by which your matter can be funded;
- advise you of any changes in the law.
4.2 Scope of our Responsibility
- We shall provide legal advice and services to you with reasonable skill and care. However, the nature of many types of legal work is such that it is not possible to guarantee a particular outcome.
- We advise only on English law, and on European Union law to the extent that it has any bearing on English law. We do not advise on domicile status.
- 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. Due to the complexities of the Residential Nil Rate Band we will not advise on this until the Government gives more clear advice.
- We do not advise on financial, investment, surveying, valuation, commercial viability, trading, or marketability issues. We only advise on tax when we have expressly agreed in writing to do so.
- We are not qualified either as accountants or as surveyors and the interpretation of financial information or environmental surveying information should be undertaken on your behalf by specialist advisers qualified to render such advice.
- The advice we give is confidential and for your exclusive use. We do not accept responsibility to any third party who is not our client for the advice we give to you.
- Unless otherwise agreed, the advice we give and the documents we prepare are for use only in connection with the specific matter on which we are instructed and state or comply with the law as in force at the relevant time.
- We rely on you for the accuracy of the information and documentation that you provide to us. We shall not be liable for errors or losses which arise as a result of false, misleading or incomplete information or documentation or which result from any act, delay or omission by you or by any third party.
- When a matter has been completed, we shall report the outcome and explain any further action which needs to be taken. Our engagement in regard to that matter will then come to an end.
- We recommend that you review completed matters from time to time; for example, agreements may require further action or there may be changes in relevant law. Unless we agree otherwise in writing, we shall not be responsible for advising you of any important dates which may arise after completion of a matter (such as the date by when a notice under an agreement should be given or upon which rights may expire or may need to be renewed).
4.3 Scope of your Responsibility
- co-operate with us at all times;
- provide us with clear, timely and accurate instructions, detailing your objectives and you will deal with all queries in a prompt manner;
- provide all documentation required to complete our work in a timely manner;
- safeguard any documents which are likely to be required during the conduct of the matter;
- in contentious matters, cooperate with experts and attend Court or Tribunal hearings;
- notify us immediately if you become aware of any conflict of interest or any other reason which you believe may restrict or prevent us in acting for you or any third party.
You will not:
5. CONFLICT OF INTERESTS
- ask us to work in an improper or unreasonable way;
- deliberately mislead us;
- be rude or abusive to us and treat us with no dignity and respect, especially homophobic abuse. If you do, then we will terminate the retainer and you will have 28 days notice to find another solicitor.
It is our practice to check for any conflict of interests before taking on new clients. We provide a variety of legal services to clients and cannot be certain that we will identify all situations where there may be a conflict with your interest. Please notify us promptly of any potential conflict affecting our appointment of which you are, or become aware.
6. CHARGES AND EXPENSES
6.1 Unless we agree a fixed fee with you, our charges will be based on the time spent dealing with your matter. This will include meetings with you and others, telephone calls, reading and working on papers, correspondence, including e-mails, preparation of any detailed costs calculations, and time spent travelling away from the office when this is necessary.
Our current hourly rate is between £240 and £350 per hour. Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations, fee estimates, bills and expenses are subject to VAT at the current rate, presently 20%. We usually review our charges annually to reflect increases in overhead costs. We will inform you of any such increases.
6.2 In administration of estate matters, we may also charge a value element. This is a charge based on the percentage of the gross estate, as the monetary value involved is one measure of the estate of responsibility falling on our practice. The percentages we may charge are as follows: where we appointed as the clients attorney under a LPA and the clients executors we may charge 5% of the gross value of the estate; where we are appointed executors we may charge 1.5% of the gross value and where we are instructed by the executors we may charge 1% of the gross value of the estate.
We may also take into account a number of factors including any need to carry out work outside our normal office hours, the complexity of the issues, the speed at which action has to be taken, any particular expertise or specialist knowledge which the matter requires. In particular, in property transactions and in matters involving a substantial financial value or benefit to a client, a charge reflecting, for example, the price of the property or the value of the financial benefit may be considered. We will inform you, at the outset of your matter, if we intend to charge a value element.
We may also charge an uplift on our costs for care and conduct. This will be charged at 25% of the time spent element of the bill. This represents not only the firms profit but also an allowance for other indirect expenses. Where a charge for care and conduct is to be made we will explain this to you at the outset of your matter.
6.3 Solicitors have to pay various other expenses, known as disbursements, on behalf of clients, ranging from Land or Probate Registry fees, to court fees, experts fees, and so on. We have no obligation to make such payments unless you have provided us with the funds for that purpose. VAT is payable on certain expenses.
6.4 If for any reason a matter does not proceed to completion, we will charge you for work undertaken and expenses incurred.
6.5 Where we have agreed a fixed fee with you, unless otherwise agreed in the Engagement Letter, we will base our charges on the time that we have spent on the matter, at our hourly rate but the amount charged will not exceed the agreed fixed fee. We will also charge for any expenses that have been incurred during the conduct of the matter.
Funding for litigation/disputes
6.6 You should always check to see whether you qualify for any legal assistance, for instance, under a home or vehicle insurance policy, or with union membership.
Other parties' charges and expenses
6.7 In some cases and transactions a client may be entitled to payment of costs by some other person. It is important that you understand that, in such circumstances, the other person may not be required to pay all the charges and expenses which you incur with us. You have to pay our charges and expenses in the first place and any amounts which can be recovered will be a contribution towards them. If the other party is in receipt of Legal Aid, no costs are likely to be recovered.
6.8 If you are successful and a Court orders another party to pay some or all of your charges and expenses, interest that has accrued can be claimed 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 charges or expenses on account, but we are entitled to the rest of that interest.
6.9 You will be responsible for paying the charges and expenses that we incur in seeking to recover any costs that the Court orders the other party to pay to you.
6.10 A client who is unsuccessful in a Court case may be ordered to pay the other partys legal charges and expenses in addition to their own legal charges and expenses.
7. PAYMENT ARRANGEMENTS
7.1 For administration of estates, we will normally submit interim bills at regular stages during the administration, starting with the obtaining of a Grant of Probate and then usually at 2 monthly intervals thereafter. The final account will be prepared when the Estate Accounts are ready for approval. We sometimes ask an accountant to prepare Estate Accounts for us, if the estate is complex.
7.2 For other types of matters/transactions it is normal practice to ask clients to pay sums of money from time to time on account of the charges and expenses which are expected in the following weeks or months. Interim bills are generally issued at 2 monthly intervals. We find that this helps clients in budgeting for costs as well as keeping them informed of the legal expenses which are being incurred. If such requests are not met with prompt payment, delay in the progress of a case may result. In the unlikely event of any bill or request for payment not being met, we reserve the right to stop acting for you further.
7.3 The firm is entitled to retain your file i.e. exercise a lien over your papers, whilst our costs remain unpaid.
7.4 Except in the case of property transactions, where payment is due on completion, payment in all other cases is due to us within one month of our sending you a bill. If payment is not received within one month, then interest will be charged on a daily basis at the same rate of interest, which is allowed in the County Court for Judgment debts.
8.1 Any money received on your behalf will be held in our client Account. Subject to certain minimum amounts and periods of time set out in the Solicitors Regulation Authority Accounts Rules 2019, interest will be calculated and paid to you. We will only pay interest after three months of the monies being held in our client account. The interest will be paid to you gross; it will be your responsibility to account to the Inland Revenue for tax due on this money. We reserve the right not to pay out de minimis interest earned amounting in total to less than £20 on any one matter.
9. PRIVACY AND CONFIDENTIALITY
9.1 We respect your right to privacy and confidentiality, but would ask you to note the following:
As the firm holds Lexcel accreditation (the quality standard of the Law Society) we are 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 the strictest confidence. If you prefer to withhold consent, work on your file will not be affected in any way. Since very few of our clients object to this, we will assume that we have your consent unless you notify us to the contrary.
We are under an obligation to comply with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). Under data protection legislation, people have the right to see the personal information we hold about them. Further details of how we use your personal information, your increased rights, what information we collect, how we keep it safe and the legal basis upon which we use your information can be found in our Privacy Notice. Our Privacy Notice is available on our website, or you can ask us for a copy.
Please note that in probate matters we will assume you have given your consent for us to provide a list of the deceaseds assets to the appropriate authority, if required by the Social Security Administration Act 1992.
A F Hill is registered with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) and our registration number is ZA538969. Andrew Hill is responsible for managing our obligations under data protection legislation and you can contact him if you require any further information.
It may sometimes be necessary to discuss your matter with one of your nominated advisers such as your accountant, bank manager, estate agent etc. If we have insurance for your matter on your behalf then we may also need to supply basic details about you to the insurance company in order to satisfy their requirements. If you do not want us to discuss your matter or provide any details about you without first consulting you, then please let us know.
Solicitors are under a professional and legal obligation to keep the affairs of clients confidential. This obligation, however, is subject to a statutory exception: recent 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 may be required to make a money laundering disclosure. If this happens, we may not be able to inform you that a disclosure has been made or of the reasons for it because the law prohibits "tipping-off". See section 10 below for further details.
10. IDENTITY AND DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS
10.1 In all client matters we are required under the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 to identify and verify the identities of our clients and, in certain circumstances, other persons such as directors or beneficial owners, and to keep that information updated. You agree that we request from you documentary evidence of identity from you and any other persons involved in your matter whose identity we are required to obtain and verify.
10.2 We are also required under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to report to the National Crime Agency (NCA) any information that may come to our attention whilst dealing with a matter on your behalf, and which gives rise to money laundering or terrorist financing concerns.
10.3 If we make a report to the NCA, we will not be able to inform you and we may be prohibited from continuing with your work while the authorities undertake their own investigations or we may be ordered to stop your work altogether.
10.4 You agree to reimburse us for any costs we reasonably incur in complying with any disclosure requirement referred to above.
10.5 We will not be liable for loss, damage or delay arising out of the firm's compliance with any statutory or regulatory requirements.
10.6 We are entitled to refuse to act for you if you fail to supply appropriate proof of identity for yourself, for any principal whom you may represent, or for any other persons involved in your matter whose identities we are required to obtain and verify.
Disclosure of Documents (Litigation Matters)
10.7 It is vital that any documents that are relevant to your dispute are preserved. As part of the litigation process you will be required to show and produce documents that are relevant to the dispute between you and your opponent. If you destroy such documents or fail to produce them when required, you may face severe penalties (as well as causing prejudice to your own case).
10.8 Please tell us if you are in any doubt as to your obligations concerning disclosure of documents. We shall, of course, provide further advice as to which documents may or may not be relevant, and your disclosure obligations generally, as your matter progresses.
11.1 From time to time, and after consultation with you and with your permission, we may arrange for work to be carried out by persons not directly employed by this firm. We sometimes ask an accountant to prepare Estate Accounts for us if the estate is complex. In such cases, we will maintain responsibility for the quality of work that is undertaken on your behalf. We will also do our utmost to ensure that any outsourced activities are subject to the strictest confidentiality arrangements.
11.2 Where we arrange for some of this work to be carried out by persons not directly employed by this firm, you will be charged at rates not greater than £240 an hour.
12. STORAGE OF PAPERS AND DOCUMENTS
12.1 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. This is known as a "lien".
12.2 We will usually keep your file of papers (except for any papers which you ask to be returned to you) for at least 6 years, after which the file will be destroyed. We will not of course destroy any documents, such as Wills, Deeds, securites or certificates which you ask us to hold for you in safe custody. No charge will be made to you for such storage without prior notice being given to you.
12.3 If we retrieve papers or documents from storage in relation to continuing or new instructions to act on your behalf, we will not normally charge for such retrieval. However, we may pass on to you any delivery charges we incur in producing stored papers or documents to you or someone else at your request; we may also charge for reading correspondence, photocopying documents or carrying out other work necessary to comply with your instructions.
13. FINANCIAL SERVICES
13.1 It is possible that during the course of our work for you we will need to seek specialist advice from a suitably qualified person in connection with financial matters arising out of your transaction (for example: life assurance, investments, trusts and taxation). This firm is not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to provide independent financial advice, but we can arrange for a specialist in this field to provide suitable advice to you.
We may provide certain limited investment advice services where these are closely linked to the legal work we are doing for you. We are able to offer the advice because we are members of the Law Society of England and Wales, which is a 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 and the Legal Ombudsman deals with complaints against lawyers. If you are unhappy with any insurance or investment advice you receive from us, you should raise your concerns with either of those bodies.
Where financial advice becomes relevant during the course of your transaction, we will notify you of this fact and then discuss the most appropriate action.
13.2 We may need to arrange an insurance policy for the benefit of an estate, for example unoccupied property insurance or defective title indemnity insurance to facilitate the sale of the deceased's property. A F Hill is an ancillary insurance intermediary, we are not an insurance company and we do not have our own insurance products but we can recommend a contract of insurance to you. Please note that we only select products from a limited number of insurers. We approach the insurers that we generally deal with in relation to the cover required but we are not contractually obliged to exclusively use one of these insurers. We are not insurance specialists and so any recommendation made is not based on a fair and personal analysis of the insurance market.
A F Hill is not authorised by the FCA but we are included on the register maintained by the FCA so that we can carry on insurance distribution activities, 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 Regulatory Authority. The register can be accessed via the FCA website at www.fca.org.uk/firms/financial-services-register.
14. TAX ADVICE
14.1 Any work that we do for you may involve tax implications or require consideration of tax planning strategies. We may not be qualified to advise you on the tax implications of your transaction or the likelihood of them arising. If you have any concerns in this respect, please raise them with us immediately. If we can undertake the research necessary to resolve the issue, we will do so and advise you accordingly. If we cannot, we may be able to identify a source of assistance for you. We do not offer advice on the domicile status of a deceased's affairs.
14.2 Any advice given is based upon the legislation current at the time of the advice. We are not liable if any subsequent legislation detrimentally alters the position for you or any third party.
14.3 Our liability for advice extends only to you our client and does not extend to any third parties who may be effected by such advice.
15.1 If at any stage you do not wish us to continue doing work and/or incurring charges and expenses on your behalf, you may terminate your instructions to us in writing but we will be entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is money owing to us for our charges and expenses (a lien).
15.2 If we decide to stop acting for you, for example you do not pay an interim bill, or you fail to provide us with adequate instructions or information, or you are being abusive to us and not treating us with dignity and respect, we will tell you the reason and give you notice in writing and you will have 28 days to find another solicitor.
15.3 If you or we decide that we should stop acting for you, you will pay our charges up until that point which will be calculated in accordance with our retainer letter and these terms and conditions.
16. RAISING QUERIES OR CONCERNS WITH US
16.1 We aim to offer all our clients an efficient and effective service. Our clients are of paramount importance to us and we hope that you will be pleased with the work we do for you.
16.2 Should there be any aspect of our service with which you are unhappy, including any bill that we have sent to you, please raise your concerns with Andrew Hill.
16.3 We have a written complaints procedure, a copy of which is available on request.
16.4 If you are still not satisfied following the conclusion of our complaints process, you can then contact the Legal Ombudsman about your complaint at:
PO Box 6806
WV1 9 WJ
16.5 The Legal Ombudsman will consider complaints from members of the public, certain charities, small businesses, clubs, associations, societies and trusts, and personal representatives or the residuary beneficiaries of an estate where a person with a complaint died before referring it to the Legal Ombudsman.
16.6 The Legal Ombudsman may not deal with a complaint about a bill if you have applied to the Court for an assessment of that bill.
16.7 Any complaint to the Legal Ombudsman should be made within:
- 6 months of you receiving a final response from the firm in respect of your complaint; and
- 6 years from the date of the act or omission that has given you cause to complain; or
- 3 years from the date that you should reasonably have known that there were grounds for a complaint.
16.8 If these deadlines are not met, the Legal Ombudsman may refuse to deal with your complaint.
16.9 You should also be aware that we can charge interest on any bill or part thereof that remains unpaid, even those that are subject of a complaint from you.
17. EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY
17.1 We are committed to promoting equality and diversity in all of our dealings with clients, third parties and employees, including our dignity and respect policy. If you would like a copy of our policy, please contact us.
19. PROFESSIONAL INDEMNITY
19.1 We maintain Professional Indemnity Insurance, details of which are available on request at our office.
20. REGULATORY CODES
20.1 A F HILL Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and must comply with any SRA requirements that are in force, including the SRA Codes of Conduct 2019 and the SRA Accounts Rules 2019. Both documents can be accessed via the SRA's website at:
20.2 The SRA is the independent regulatory arm of the Law Society of England and Wales, our professional body.
21. TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS
21.1 Unless otherwise agreed, and subject to any amendments to the hourly charge out rates, these Terms and Conditions of Business shall apply to any future instructions given by you to this firm.
21.2 Although your continuing instructions in this matter will amount to an acceptance of these Terms and Conditions of Business, it may not be possible for us to start work on your behalf until your acceptance has been returned to us for us to keep on our file.
Version: September 2020