Terms of business

IMPORTANT INFORMATION:

TERMS OF OUR AGREEMENT WITH YOU

About our Service

What we will do

We will provide you with legal services relating to a case or transaction.

We will give you a personalised explanation of what this includes.  Any written statement itemising what we will be doing for you is what we mean when we refer to “Particulars of Work” in these Terms, and forms part of our agreement with you.

People responsible for your work

We will tell you the name and status of the person who will have day-to-day responsibility for the work.

A team of people will be working for you.  Although we are a firm of solicitors, and you have all the benefit and protection that comes from using a firm that is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, not all of our staff are solicitors.  If you want to know more about the professional status of any person working for you, please ask us.

Other people may take over conduct of the work, normally only in the event of absence or obligations beyond our control or if specialised work is required.  We will tell you at the first convenient opportunity of changes we think you would want to know about.


About you

Communicating with you

We will communicate with you and others by any appropriate means, which may include email, fax or our online portal service.  We will assume you agree to this unless you tell us in writing not to.  We cannot guarantee (nor can we accept responsibility for) the security of items sent by post, email or fax.

Joint instructions

Where we are instructed by more than one client for the same legal services, those instructions will be considered to be joint and several unless we have otherwise agreed in writing.  This means that we will accept instructions from any one of you, and may ask any of you to pay all and any monies due to us, leaving the payer to collect the appropriate contributions from any others.

In this agreement, and any communications with you, the word “you” means you and all other joint clients where the context allows.

If we communicate with you using one postal address, one email address or our online portal service, we will trust and assume:  that you have the authority of all joint clients to send or receive that communication on behalf of all of you; and that you will share with all joint clients the content of those communications.

If for any reason you require us not to share with any joint clients any communications with and/or personal information about you, you must tell us and agree an alternative.  We will try to accommodate any reasonable requests, but we may be restricted by our professional rules.  We will discuss any problems with you.

Bankruptcy

If you are bankrupt, facing a bankruptcy hearing or become bankrupt while we are acting for you, you must advise us immediately because it will affect how we represent you.

 


Paying for our services

We will tell you in writing how our charges are funded, and whether you will have to pay anything.  This will usually be included with the Particulars of Work and forms part of our agreement with you.

We will also tell you in writing the amount of our likely overall charges.  This is referred to in these Terms as “the Estimate”.

Even if you pay a fixed fee or somebody else is paying the charges, we have to explain to you how the cost of our services is calculated.

Fixed fees and estimates

When we provide an estimate or agree a fixed fee with you, this is based upon and subject to the accuracy of the information available to us at that time, and on there being no unexpected, unusual or complex circumstances.

An estimate is not a fixed fee quote and the actual charge to you may differ from the estimate.  Estimates are intended to help you understand approximately the likely overall cost based on what we know at the time we provide it.

If we have agreed a fixed fee with you and it becomes apparent that we need to agree a different fee or charging structure, we will inform you in writing before incurring extra costs and we will attempt to reach a new agreement with you.  If we cannot agree, we will do no further work and charge you for the work done to date.

If it becomes apparent that we need to revise any estimate we have provided, we will provide a new written estimate to you.  If you decide not to continue instructing us, provided you tell us within 14 days of our written estimate and before giving us any instructions to continue working, we will do no further work and charge you the work done to date.  Otherwise, you will accept our revised estimate as if it had been given at the start of our work.

Other changes to our charges

If, after we have started work, your requirements are particularly urgent, have particularly important implications or mean that we have to work outside normal office hours, we may increase the hourly charge by not more than 100% as long as we notify you beforehand.

It is not always possible at the start of our work to know about any unusual circumstances that might arise.  If the work becomes substantially different or more complex than we expected at the start, we may have to vary the basis upon which we will charge for our work.  If this happens, we will contact you to explain the situation and try to agree an alternative.  If we cannot agree an alternative, we may decide to do no further work.

We may make reasonable changes to our hourly rates from time to time.  If we do, we will notify you in writing of any increase.

If for any reason the work we agreed to do is not completed, we will charge you for our time on an hourly-charge basis limited to any fixed fee or 120% of our last written estimate.

If you have a query about any changes to our charges, please let us know straight away, either by contacting the person responsible for the work or our Client Services Team.

Hourly charges (if applicable)

The amount of our charges is based on a number of factors.  The main factors are the time we spend working for you and the hourly charge that applies to that work, which depends on the grade of caseworker and the nature of the work.

We will tell you the hourly charge(s) in writing.

Routine letters and short telephone calls, in or out, will be charged as units of one-tenth of an hour.  Other letters and time spent on calls, in meetings or working on documents will be charged on an actual time basis but may be rounded to the nearest one-tenth of an hour.  Accordingly, whenever we do any work for you, the minimum charge to you will be one tenth of the applicable hourly charge.

Payments to others

We may incur expenses or make payments to others on your behalf.  You will have to pay these.  The charge to you will depend on the amount charged by the other party.

Expenses and payments that we know at the start you are likely to have to pay for, and an estimate of their cost, are set out in the Estimate.  The Particulars of Work explain when payment for those expenses is likely to be needed.

VAT

We will add VAT (or any other applicable tax) to our charges in accordance with HM Revenue & Customs requirements.  If our quote or estimates include tax, the tax you pay will change to reflect any change in the rate of tax or accounting requirements.

We may have to add VAT to some expenses if VAT is not added by the supplier.

Payments on account

You agree that we may request payments on account as the matter progresses, and that we may stop work if you fail to make any payments reasonably requested.

We will tell you if we need money on account before we start work.  We will be under no duty to start work before payment is received, even if this may adversely affect you.

It is important that you understand that our total charges and expenses may be greater than any advance payments.

If we hold money on your behalf and we are entitled to payment for our work or expenses, you agree that any money we hold may be treated as held on account of costs generally regardless of the reason it was paid to us; and that we may use it for our costs and expenses.

Billing arrangements

We will produce a final bill when the work is completed.  We may send interim bills for our charges and expenses while the work is in progress.  Any bill sent to you before the work is completed is not a final bill, even if it describes the work done.  The description is provided as an approximate summary of the work undertaken during the period.

If no payment date is otherwise agreed, all bills are due for payment 14 days after delivery.

Additional billing arrangements may be shown in the Particulars of Work.

We might not send the bill to you if another person is paying the costs or if we provide you with a written cost breakdown, but you may ask us to provide a copy of the bill at any time.

We will charge interest on bills not paid by due payment date at the rate of 4% above the base rate from time to time of Metro Bank plc.  Interest will be charged on a simple basis calculated from the date of the bill.  Any part payment will first be applied towards accrued interest, and the balance on which interest is due will be recalculated only if no accrued interest remains due.

If you have any queries about your bill, you should contact the person with day-to-day responsibility for the work straight away.

We accept debit and credit cards in payment of bills, either by telephone or using our online facility.


Money

Clients’ money

Any money received on your behalf will be held subject to the SRA Accounts Rules, normally in a general client account.

We cannot accept any instructions from you that would breach the Rules, and in particular we will not make payments out of our account that are not normally required in connection with the work.

Banking arrangements

BB Legal Limited operates general client accounts with a number of financial institutions.

In the unlikely event of a UK bank’s failure, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) will repay individual clients up to a maximum of £85,000.  If you hold other funds at any one of the banks we use, the limit applies to your total holding.  Certain institutions trade under more than one brand name (you can check at your branch) and in such cases only one limit will apply.  You should ask us for more information if you are concerned about how this will affect you.  We do not accept any obligation to ensure that your holding remains within the FSCS limit, nor any duty of care in relation to advice about this issue.

Should it be necessary for you to make a claim to the FSCS, we will provide you with reasonable assistance in that process, subject to your confirmation that you agree to the disclosure of your confidential information to the FSCS.

Cash Handling

We do not normally accept cash payments in excess of £500 and it may not always be possible to accept cash at our offices due to security and banking restrictions.  You should ask the person responsible for your work before bringing any cash to our offices.

If you pay cash direct into our bank account without our prior agreement, we may charge you for any additional work or checks we do.

 Interest

We will account for interest on any money that we hold on your behalf in a general client account if it is, and in an amount that is, fair and reasonable taking into account where the funds are held, the amount that we hold for you and the length of time it is held.  The period over which interest will be calculated will normally run from the date on which cleared funds are received by us until the date of any transfers out or the issue of any cheques.  You should note that money held on a general client account will earn interest at a lower rate than a standard personal account, reflecting the immediate access nature of this facility.  We will not normally account for interest if it would amount to less than £20.  If you think we have forgotten to account to you for interest, please contact the person responsible for your work.

All interest earned on funds held in a Designated Deposit account will be credited directly to the account by the bank and belong to you.  The terms and interest rate will be determined by the bank.

If you are borrowing money from a lender, for example in a property transaction, we will arrange to have cleared funds from the lender in advance of the funds being required.  The lender may charge you interest on the money sent to us and this is likely to exceed the amount that we pay to you.

If you wish to contract out of our interest policy and receive no interest on any funds we hold, possibly due to your religious beliefs, please tell us.  You understand that this may not be in your best interests.


Limitation of liability

These are the limits of our liability to you in certain circumstances.

(a)  We do not accept any responsibility for advising you of changes in the law which might affect you, or future critical dates, after completion of the work.

(b)  Our liability to you is limited to exclude liability for any loss or damage caused by the failure of any bank to pay any money when requested to do so, whether by reason of the bank’s administration or insolvency or otherwise.

(c)  Our aggregate liability to you in any circumstances whatsoever is limited to a maximum of £3 million.

(d)  We may choose to convert any paper sent to us into digital format.  We do not accept liability for the destruction of documents in these circumstances and you must tell us if you require any original documents to be preserved.

(e)  We do not provide financial advice and you agree not to rely on us for such advice.

We may agree variations to the above limitations of liability, but we may increase our charges to reflect any higher risk.  No purported agreement to that effect will be effective unless confirmed in writing by us.

Our failure to enforce at any time or for any period any one or more of the terms upon which we do business with you shall not be a waiver of them or of our right at any time subsequently to enforce all applicable terms and conditions.


Privacy and sharing information

How we use your information

Solicitors are under a professional and legal obligation to keep their clients’ affairs confidential.

This obligation, however, is subject to our legal obligations regarding the proceeds of crime and terrorism.

In addition, we will have to use information about you so that we can provide our service; and we may have to allow third parties access to our files, papers and other records.

Our Privacy Notice explains in more detail how we will use your information.

You agree that information relating to you will be processed in the manner described in this agreement, the Privacy Notice and any other notice supplied from time to time.

 Identity Checks

We are required by law to obtain and independently verify evidence of your identity.  We require evidence of who you are and where you live.  This applies to all clients and includes both individuals and corporate bodies (and key personnel within those organisations).  The requirement also applies to new work for existing clients.

We may require identification evidence from others such as beneficiaries or people providing funds to you.  If they object, we may stop acting for you.  We will discuss the problem with you first.

If we ask you for proof of identity or information about your funds, wealth or personal circumstances, and you do not provide it, we may refuse to act for you.

We have absolute discretion as to what information we choose to request from you in order to comply with our legal obligations.

We may arrange to verify your identity using a third party’s electronic database, if we consider it appropriate to do so.  We will take your continuing instructions as your consent to undertake such a search.  We may charge a reasonable administration fee for doing so.

The relevant Regulations require us to retain such evidence for at least 5 years and to produce it on request to the Police.

Reporting Criminal Conduct

The law also requires us to make a report to the National Crime Agency (NCA) if we suspect that the work we are dealing with involves the proceeds of any criminal activity or financing of terrorism.  Failure by us to comply is itself a criminal offence.

If we have to make a report, the legislation requires us to stop working unless and until authorised to proceed by NCA.  It also prevents us from telling you that a report has been made or giving you an explanation as to why we have ceased work.

These duties take precedence over all our professional and contractual obligations to you.  Accordingly, by instructing us you accept that we will not be liable for any loss you may suffer because we have made a report to NCA and/or have ceased work when we require authority to proceed.


Documents

Paperless files

We may operate a “paperless” file for your matter.  If so, we will not normally keep paper copies of any letters or emails, or of any documents that we generate; we will encourage the use of paperless communication where possible; we will store copies of correspondence and documents electronically; and incoming mail will generally be converted into digital format.

You authorise us to destroy all paper letters and documents provided we have digital copies.

If you require us to return to you any letter or document that you provide to us, you must inform us in writing at the same time as you provide it.  General requests that are inconsistent with our paperless working may result in us terminating the retainer or agreeing an additional charge, but we will first discuss the situation with you.

We will retain digital copies in accordance with our Privacy Notice.

Paper records

If we retain any paper records of the work we have done for you, we will keep them for at least one year from the date of our final bill.

Providing copies

During the first year after the date of our final bill we will provide to you, on your written request, any documents that belong to you (or copies of any documents that are jointly owned).  If we have converted them into digital format, we will provide copies.  We will not provide to you copies of documents that we have already provided to you or that belong to us.

You agree that, after that first year, all documents (or copies) will belong to us and we may choose how to respond to any request for copies.

We will not supply copies or notes of communications between us, so you must keep your own records of anything important.

We may choose to supply copy documents in electronic format.

If we are willing and able to provide any documents or copies to you, you agree to pay in advance an administration fee of no more than £60 if we request it.  No administration fee will be payable during the first five years if you have previously paid an archive charge.

You will be responsible for any collection or delivery charges.  We may require you to make arrangements for collection.

If you ask us to store deeds, documents of title or other important items that would not normally be kept by us, you must agree any such arrangement with us separately.  We will make a charge for doing so.


Investment & Insurance Advice

Sometimes the work we do for you will involve investments or insurance mediation.  We are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority and so 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.

We are included on the register maintained by the Financial Conduct Authority so that we can carry on insurance distribution activity, which is broadly the advising on, selling and administration of insurance contracts.

The register can be accessed via the Financial Conduct Authority website at www.fca.org.uk/register.

This part of our business, including arrangements for complaints or redress if something goes wrong, is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.


Regulation and law

We are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).  As a firm of Solicitors we are at all times governed by our Code of Conduct and other rules and principles contained in the SRA Handbook.  Our agreement with you does not permit or require us to do anything that would breach those provisions.

The agreement between us is governed exclusively by English Law and subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.  If you are resident outside England or Wales, you agree to accept service at the address of any property in England or Wales that you own or any address you have provided to for communication (whether or not you provided it as an address for service).


Commencement

We may ask you to sign and return a form of acknowledgement or accept our terms using our online portal; but your continuing instructions will amount to your acceptance of these Terms.

Unless otherwise agreed, these Terms apply to any future instructions you give us.


Ending our agreement

Cancellation

You have the right to cancel this agreement within 14 days without giving any reason.  The cancellation period will expire at the end of 14 days after the day on which the agreement is entered into.  To exercise the right to cancel, you must inform us, BB Legal Limited, of your decision to cancel this contract by a clear statement.  You may use the Cancellation Form we provide, but it is not obligatory.  To meet the cancellation deadline, it is sufficient for you to send your communication exercising the right to cancel before the cancellation period has expired.

If you cancel this agreement, we will reimburse you all payments received from you on account of the cost of our services.  We will make the reimbursement without undue delay, and not later than 14 days after the day on which we are informed of your decision to cancel this contract.  We will make the reimbursement 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.

The right to cancel does not apply as regards the supply of goods that are made to your specifications or are clearly personalised (for example, a report that we obtain for you).  We will not reimburse any payments to third parties on your behalf but will provide you with any items you have paid for (if we receive them).

Termination

You may terminate your instructions at any time.

We will only stop acting for you with good reason (eg., if we do not consider we can provide the service you require, you fail to co-operate with us, or you do not make a payment when requested).

If our agreement comes to an end:

  • you must pay us for the work we have done;
  • we may keep your money, papers and documents while there is money owed to us
  • the Particulars of Work may set out other contractual consequences.

Raising queries or concerns with us

We are committed to providing the highest standards of client care.  If you are unhappy about any aspect of the service you have received, please let us know.  A copy of our complaints procedure is available on request.

If possible, you should raise any problems with the person who has day-to-day responsibility for your work or their supervisor so that they can try to resolve your concerns.  If that is not possible, please contact our Client Services Team:

  • 20 Kennedy Street, Manchester, M2 4BY
  • enquiries@birchallblackburn.co.uk
  • telephone 0161 238 5634.

Within six months of the conclusion of any complaint and no later than six years after the issue arose (or three years from the date on which you became aware of the issue), you may ask the Legal Ombudsman to consider your complaint:

You may make a complaint about our bill and may have a right to object to it by applying to the court for an assessment under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974.  Please note, though, that if all or part of the bill remains unpaid we are entitled to charge interest.

Further information about our service can be obtained on our group website (www.birchallblackburn.co.uk) or on request by contacting our Client Services Team.