Family Arbitrator, Collaborative Solicitor, Accredited Family Mediator.
Terms of Business
Setting out how we meet your needs, what you can expect from us and how you can expect the services delivered. We provide all new clients a copy of this information as part of the contracting process.
Part I: General - Our Aim
Thank you for kindly instructing our firm. Our aim is to provide you with the highest quality service in a professional, approachable way and at a fair cost. When you instruct us in a particular matter, unless we agree otherwise, you authorize us to take such steps as we think necessary to try to obtain the outcome which you require.
You must let us know if there is a limit to what you want us to do on your behalf whilst we act for you.
We will always act independently and in your best interests.
As part of our commitment to you - we will
- Represent your best interests and keep your business confidential.
- Explain to you the legal work which may be required and the prospects of a successful outcome.
- Make sure that you understand the likely degree of financial risk which you will be taking on.
- Advise you on general tax aspects that may need to be considered but only if specifically requested so to do.
- Keep you informed regularly about the progress of your case.
- Try to avoid using technical legal language when writing to you.
- Deal with your queries promptly. For example, we will always try to respond to your telephone calls on the same day if at all possible or within 24 hours if this is not possible for some reason.
How you can help us to help you
- Where possible please telephone or email us to make an appointment if you want to see us.
- Unless it is urgent, please write or email rather than telephone.
- Please avoid unnecessary telephone calls or appointments as they increase your costs and may delay matters for you.
- Give us clear and full instructions. Do not leave out any information about your case.
- Ask for an explanation about anything that you have not fully understood or which concerns you.
- Contact us if you have not heard from us as you expected.
Responsibility for work
Your case or business will primarily be dealt with by Nigel Clarke who is the Practice Principal and a Senior Solicitor
Office hours of business
Our normal hours of business are 9am to 5pm on weekdays but appointments can be arranged outside those hours if this is more convenient to you.
If we are unable to take your telephone calls messages may be left on our answerphone and we will endeavour to return your call as soon as possible.
In the interests of our clients we maintain professional indemnity insurance.
We have a professional and legal duty to keep our clients’ affairs confidential. However, in order to improve and maintain our quality standards your file may be selected for audit by external quality standards auditors (eg Lexcel).
If your file is audited the auditors will be contractually obliged to observe the same standards of confidentiality in respect of your affairs. Please let us know if you do not consent to your file being audited.
In some circumstances we may be required to make a report to an appropriate authority under the terms of the Money Laundering Regulations and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Any authorised or protected disclosure pursuant to these regulatory obligations will not constitute a breach of our duty of confidentiality to you. We may not be permitted to tell you that an authorised or protected disclosure has been made or the reasons for it.
You hereby agree to waive your legal professional privilege to permit us to make any disclosure to an appropriate authority required pursuant to the Money Laundering Regulations and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and to the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Law Society in the exercise of any of their regulatory functions.
Limitation of Liability
We will not be liable for any loss, damage or delay arising out of the firm’s compliance with any statutory or regulatory requirements relating to the conduct of the firm’s business.
We are required by law to obtain satisfactory evidence to establish our client’s identity and address. Where necessary we will provide you with details of our requirements in respect of client identification.
We are entitled to refuse to act for you if you fail to supply appropriate proof of identification for yourself or for any principal whom you represent.
Communications and Data Protection
Email communications are not secure (unless encrypted). The firm’s outgoing email communications are normally sent unencrypted. We will use our outgoing e-mail facilities in your case on your authority, confirmed by your continued instructions after the receipt of this notice, unless you notify us to the contrary.
You are required to complete and return an “email consent form” which gives us your permission to communicate with you by email.
Email communications will be subjected to virus checks but we cannot guarantee that our email communications are virus free. We will not be liable for any loss damage or delay whatsoever arising out of the use of email communications for undertaking work on your behalf.
We will communicate with you by such method as you may request. Unless you withdraw consent, we will communicate with others when appropriate, by email but we cannot be responsible for the security of correspondence and documents sent by email.
We do not operate a fax service.
We retain relevant information about you on our database. We will not disclose your information to third parties unless in accordance with a court order or other statutory or regulatory requirement. We may from time to time use these details to send you information, which we think may be of interest to you unless you notify us in writing that you do not wish us so to do.
Storage of Papers and Documents
At the conclusion of your case or business we will store your papers for six years, or such further period as we consider in our discretion to be appropriate. Papers relating to concluded matters may be destroyed at our discretion after the minimum storage period unless you instruct us to the contrary, in which case we may require you to take custody of the papers.
This provision does not apply to your Deeds, Title Documents or Wills or Securities held by us for safekeeping. We provide a safe custody service for our clients in respect of Wills, Deeds, Title Documents and other securities. No charge will be made to you for such storage and other securities unless we give you prior notice in writing. Where such papers, Wills, Deeds, Title documents or securities are retrieved from storage by us in connection with your continuing or new instructions to act on your behalf no charge will usually be made for such retrieval.
We do reserve the right to make an administration charge at the hourly charging rate then prevailing based on the time spent in retrieval, as well as any perusal of correspondence or other work necessary to comply with your instructions in respect of such stored items in any other circumstances.
If your case involves litigation you will receive further advice about legal costs and funding arrangements. The successful party will usually recover the majority but not all of their legal costs and disbursements from the losing party but this is not always the case, especially if the losing party is publicly funded by the Legal Services Commission.
Even if an order for costs is made it may not always be possible to recover the costs from the party liable to pay the costs. You are responsible for the payment of our costs irrespective of any order or agreement for costs that may be made unless we enter into a conditional or contingency agreement with you.
If you lose a case you are at risk of having to pay the successful party’s legal costs as well as your own legal costs, unless you have taken out insurance to cover such legal expenses.
We do not offer Public funding (previously known as Legal Aid) save in Family Mediation cases for those who qualify.
If you come within the financial limits for eligibility you might apply for Public funding in an appropriate case at any time although Public funding cannot be backdated.
Consumer Protection Distance Selling Regulations
Under the Consumer Protection Distance Selling Regulations 2000 for non-business instructions you may have the right to withdraw, without charge, within seven working days of the date on which you asked us to act for you. However, if we start work with your consent within that period, you lose that right to withdraw.
Your acceptance of these terms and conditions of business will amount to such consent. If you seek to withdraw instructions you should give notice by telephone, email or letter. The regulations require us to inform you that the work involved is likely to take more than 30 days.
Termination of Instructions
You may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time but we are entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is money owing to us for our charges and expenses. If at any stage you do not wish us to continue doing work and or incurring charges and expenses on your behalf, you must tell us this clearly in writing. If we decide to stop acting for you, for example, if you do not pay an interim bail or comply with the request for a payment on account, we will tell you the reason and give you notice in writing.
Execution of Documents
Should a Will or other legal document be signed elsewhere than on our premises we will provide you with the necessary information as to how the document is to be signed and witnessed. If you fail to comply with our instructions for the execution of the document and the failure results in the document being defective, we accept no liability for any consequences which may arise from such defect.
Any work that we do for you may have tax implications or necessitate the consideration of tax planning strategies.
Unless you have instructed us specifically to advise on tax matters our retainer will not include advice on the actual or potential tax implications of a transaction that you instruct us to carry out. 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.
Financial Services Authority
We are not authorized by the Financial Services Authority to be able to offer financial investment advice.
Please always feel free to contact us if you have any query about the service that you receive from us. It is only when you tell us about any dissatisfaction that we can take steps to put matters right for you.
In the first instance, if you have any queries or are unhappy about your case you should arrange to see the fee earner dealing with your case. If the discussion does not resolve the problem please put your complaint in writing to Nigel Clarke who is the Principal.
Our Contact Details are: Kent & Surrey Family Resolution
Milroy House, Sayers Lane, Tenterden, Kent TN30 6BW
Telephone: 01227 811740
Your complaint will be investigated in accordance with our complaints procedure, which is available upon request.
Our complaints investigation procedure will not involve any extra cost to you. If you are still not satisfied you may complain to the Legal Ombudsman who may be contacted at www.legalombudsman.org.uk
Part II - Charges and Payment Arrangements - Introduction to our Charges
Our charges are calculated to reflect a fair and reasonable charge for the work carried out on your behalf having regard to all the circumstances of your case. In most cases, our charges are calculated mainly by reference to the time actually spent carrying out any work undertaken on your behalf. From time to time, we may arrange for some of the necessary work on your behalf to be carried out by persons not directly employed by us.
You will be charged at rates not greater than those set out in these terms of business. The charging rate is based on the cost of time, calculated to cover the firm’s overheads and operating costs together with an element to reflect the responsibility of the care and conduct of your case. In addition to the time spent we may take into account a number of factors including any need to carry out work outside normal office hours, the complexity of the issues, the speed at which action has to be taken and any particular specialist expertise which your case may demand.
It is not always possible to indicate how these aspects may arise but on present information we would expect them to be sufficiently taken into account in the hourly rates provided for in these terms of business. We will notify you in advance, where possible, if any of the additional factors need to be applied to the applicable hourly charging rate.
In transactions involving a substantial financial consideration or benefit to you, our fees may be calculated both by reference to the time spent on your case, and also by reference to a value element, which reflects the overall complexity and importance of the transaction and the consequent responsibility falling upon the firm. If our charges include a value element, we will be happy to explain to you the basis of the value calculation.
In certain instances, you may set a limit on the costs that may be incurred by us without further reference to you. It may not always be possible to estimate your costs in advance for example where it is uncertain at the outset of a matter how much work will be involved but we will always provide you with the best information available.
You may be required to provide a retainer at the outset when your instructions are accepted. If a retainer is required, that will be discussed individually with you.
In most cases we will provide an estimate for our fees in writing. All written estimates are subject to these terms of business.
If you require are asked to obtain a Remuneration Certificate in respect of our charges or have our charges ‘assessed’ by the Court in cases where we have provided a written estimate of our fees, we reserve the right to calculate our charges by reference to the value element and in accordance with the hourly rates set out in these terms of business.
Time spent on your behalf is recorded and charged in standard units of six minutes. Letters sent out and all telephone calls, whether made or received, are charged as a standard unit each unless the actual time involved exceeds six minutes in which case the actual time will be charged.
Routine letters received are charged in units of three minutes per page. Work or attendances by secretarial or support staff in connection with your case will be charged, where the work materially progresses your case.
Where your instructions require that work is carried out or interviews take place necessarily outside normal office hours we reserve the right to increase the charging rate applicable. We will notify you of any increased charging rate where applicable.
We do not charge VAT.
The current hourly rates for legal work are set out below:
Partners and Senior Solicitors £300
Administration / Support Staff £90
These hourly charges are reviewed periodically to reflect increases in overhead costs and inflation. Normally the rates are reviewed with effect from 1st of January each year. If the review is carried out before this matter has been concluded we will inform you of any variation in the rate before it takes effect.
Payment to Others
Solicitors have to pay out various expenses on behalf of clients. We refer to such payments generally as disbursements. VAT is payable on certain disbursements. We have no obligation to make such payments on your behalf unless you have provided us with the funds for that purpose.
You will be required to pay for disbursements as they are incurred.
Payment by Others
In some cases and transactions you may be entitled to payment of your 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 in court or tribunal proceedings another party is ordered to pay some or all of your charges and expenses interest can be claimed on them from the other party from the date of the 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.
You will be responsible for paying our charges and expenses of seeking to recover any costs that the court orders another party to pay to you.
In order to help you to budget for your legal expenses you can request an up-to-date invoice at any time. We will invoice you prior to the completion of your case or quarterly in continuing cases, unless otherwise agreed with us in writing.
It is our normal practice to ask clients to pay sums of money on account of charges and expenses which are anticipated in the following weeks or months. 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 your case may result.
Invoices should be paid within 7 days of delivery. We reserve the right to claim interest on a daily basis from the date of the invoice on all accounts not settled within that time. In the unlikely event of any invoice not being settled within 7 days or a request for payment not being met we must reserve the right to stop acting for you further and to terminate our retainer on your behalf.
We do not accept cash payments in excess of £250
In cases or transactions continuing over at a period of time you may find it convenient to budget for your legal expenses by regular monthly payments on account by standing order or direct debit, which will be credited towards any disbursements paid out on your behalf and settlement of our invoices issued from time to time.
In certain cases in our absolute discretion, and subject to status, arrangements can be made for invoices to be paid by instalments to be agreed in writing. Instalment payments for invoices must be made by standing order or postdated cheque. Interest will be charged daily on balances outstanding from time to time.
The firm may in its discretion require further security from you when instalment arrangements are made in respect of invoices delivered to you. If any instalment payments are not made on the due date or are not honoured the entire balance and accrued interest then outstanding shall forthwith become due and liable for immediate payment. If any instalment payment is not made or honoured we reserve the right to forthwith terminate our retainer on your behalf.
The interest rate charged in respect of unpaid invoices shall be 8% per annum, which is based on the current County Court interest rate in force from time to time and shall be charged on the balance due from 7 days from the date of invoice.
We do not operate a client current account and we do not accept money on account of fees or disbursements.
Part III: Your Agreement with Us
This term of business document contains contractual terms regulating the basis upon which we undertake your instructions.
Liability for Payment of Our Fees
We do not undertake work on the basis that we send our invoice to anyone other than you. By agreement, a third party may act as a guarantor for your costs provided that he or she has accepted our terms of business in writing, although you will still remain liable for our costs jointly and severally with the guarantor.
If we are instructed to act for two or more persons in connection with any matters your instructions will be provided on a joint and several basis (unless you notify us in writing to the contrary) so that we may accept instructions from any one of the joint clients on the behalf of all of the joint clients in connection with all matters relating to the joint instructions.
The terms of business are not intended to be and shall not be construed to be either a Non-Contentious Business Agreement within the meaning of section 57 of the Solicitors act 1974, or a Contentious Business Agreement within the meaning of section 59 of the Solicitors Act 1974.
Terms of Business for Future Instructions
Unless otherwise agreed and subject to the application of the then current hourly rates these Terms of Business shall apply to any future instructions given by you to this firm.
Please note: that your continuing instructions in this matter will amount to an acceptance of these terms of business whether or not you return a signed copy but it would be helpful if you would do so at your earliest convenience.