Terms and Conditions of Business

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Terms and Conditions of Business

Introduction

1. Our regulator, the Solicitors Regulation Authority, requires us to give you certain information at the start of your case. If you accept the contents of these terms, it will form the basis of a contract between you and Family Law Partners (FLP). It is important that you read through this carefully and completely to ensure that you understand the contents. If you are unsure about any aspects at all, please do not hesitate to telephone us or write for further clarification.

2. These Terms and Conditions of Business, covering email, Costs & Time Estimate and any Fixed Fee Agreement if applicable (Terms) apply to any services provided to you by Family Law Partners (FLP). References in these Terms to ‘we’, ‘us’ or ‘our’ are references to FLP. You agree the Terms constitute the entire agreement between you and us and you have not relied on any statement, promise, representation, assurance or warranty made or given by or on behalf of FLP which is not set out in the Terms.

3. These Terms supersede any earlier terms of business we may have provided you. We would ask you to sign and return a copy of the Costs & Time Estimate to indicate your agreement to the Terms. If we do not receive a signed copy, your continuing instructions will amount to acceptance of these Terms.

Resolution

4. The Directors, Solicitors and Consultants of FLP are Members of Resolution. It is an organisation of Family Lawyers that aims to promote a fair and conciliatory solution to the issues arising at times of family breakdown or crisis. Resolution lawyers adhere to a Code of Practice (the code appears on the Resolution website www.resolution.org.uk). Although the Code is prepared for Solicitors, it is designed to benefit you in the way the work is undertaken. We will try to conform to the Code in dealing with your case.

5. We will also adhere to the Law Society’s Family Protocol, which embraces the Code of Practice (see Law Society Protocol).

Our Commitment

6. FLP will use reasonable care and skill to:-
(a) Carry out your legal work in accordance with your reasonable instructions.
(b) Explain to you the legal work that may be required.
(c) Ensure that your interests are represented.
(d) Ensure that you understand any financial risk that you may be taking.
(e) Keep you regularly informed of progress.
(f) Try to use plain language.
(g) Try to be available to deal with your queries and concerns.

Liability

7. Your contract is a contract with FLP which is a limited company registered in England and Wales under registration number 07483122. FLP’s registered office is 5 Clifton Mews, Clifton Hill, Brighton, BN1 3HR: Our email is [email protected]

8. There is no contract between you and anyone other than the limited company. Any advice given to (or other work done for) you by a Director, employee or consultant of FLP is given (or done) by that person on behalf of FLP and not in his or her individual capacity and no such person assumes any personal responsibility to you for the advice or other work.

9. You agree that if, as a matter of law, a duty of care would otherwise be owed to you by any Director employee or consultant of FLP, such duty is hereby excluded and you agree that you will not bring any claim against any Director, employee or consultant of FLP in respect of any loss or damage that you or any person or company associated with you suffer or incur, directly or indirectly, in connection in any way with any advice given to or other work done for you. Accordingly, any claim that you wish to make can only be made against FLP and not against a Director, employee or consultant of FLP.

10. Each member, employee and consultant of FLP shall be entitled to the benefit of these provisions under the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999, but FLP’s contract with you may be varied from time to time or terminated without the consent of any such person.

11. To the extent permitted by law and by professional regulation, any liability to you (on the part of any person) in connection with or arising directly or indirectly from any matter in which we are instructed, whether arising in contract, tort, negligence, equity, breach of statutory duty or otherwise, shall be limited to an aggregate amount of £3 million. This limit will apply on all claims of any sort whatsoever or howsoever arising and for all losses or damage including interest, costs and expenses.

12. In any event, and unless otherwise agreed in writing, we will not be liable to you in respect of any matter that may require further action or advice once we have completed a transaction and/or ceased work on a matter including (by way of example and not intended as an exhaustive list) advice on significant dates, limitation of action, and other such matters. If you agree with any other person (for example, another adviser) in connection with a matter or case on which we are advising or acting for you, that their liability to you is limited or excluded, and if, but for your agreement with them, we would be able to seek from them a contribution or indemnity in respect of our liability to you, to the extent permitted by law and by professional regulation, you agree that we will not be liable to you for any amount in excess of the amount you are able to recover from that other person, having regard to your agreement with them.

13. FLP holds professional Liability Insurance to cover advice rendered and transactions conducted in accordance with English Law. The name and address of our Professional Liability Insurers can be provided upon request. This insurance is held in accordance with our regulators requirements.

14. Our services are provided for your sole use. They are confidential to you. You should not disclose our advice, in whole or in part, to any third party unless we agree in writing. We accept no liability to any third party to whom our advice is provided. Except as set out above, no provision of our contract with you is intended to be enforceable pursuant to the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999. Accordingly, no third party shall have any right to enforce or rely upon any provision of our contract with you.

15. We will not be liable to you if we are unable to provide services, or the provision of our services is delayed, as a result of any cause beyond our reasonable control. In the event of any such occurrence affecting us, we will notify as soon as reasonably practicable.

16. Nothing in these Terms limits our liability in respect of:
(a) death or personal injury caused by our negligence or that of our employees or agents;
(b) our fraud or our reckless disregard for our professional obligations or that of our employees or agents.

Our Charges and Timescale

17. Our charges may be calculated by reference to the time actually spent by the Directors, Consultants, Solicitors, and any other staff on work carried out on your behalf. Time spent will include, amongst other things, meetings with you and others relevant to your matter, reading and preparing documents, correspondence, telephone calls, correspondence, time spent on travelling, attendance at Court and any other work required.

18. The length of time that we anticipate it will take to deal with your matter will be set out in the Costs & Time Estimate or otherwise in writing.

19. We record time spent on your matter in units of six minutes. The current hourly rates which we apply (unless otherwise agreed) are:

Mark Harrop (Director) £400.00
Emilie Helm/Farhana Shahzady/Trisha Siddique (Directors) £325.00
Alan Larkin/Robert Williams/Kate Elliott (Directors) £300.00
Sarah Jelly/Alice Scambler (Consultants) £300.00
Jayne Llewellyn (Consultant) £285.00
Lisa Burton-Durham/Gemma Hope (Directors) £275.00
Emily Pain (Consultant) £295.00
Zoë Summers (Consultant) £280.00
Louise Buttery (Consultant) £275.00
Hazel Manktelow (Consultant) £265.00
Rachel Nicholl/Hannah Viet (Directors) £260.00
Sarah-Jane Riddell (Senior Associate) £260.00
Chris Maulkin (Senior Associate) £250.00
Rosa Schofield (Assistant Solicitor) £225.00
Charlotte Plowman (Senior Associate Solicitor) £235.00
Polly Dallyn (Senior Associate Solicitor) £235.00
Harriet Gibson (Associate Solicitor) £235.00
Raj Patel/Eleanor Pollard (Assistant Solicitor) £220.00
Prima Patel (Trainee Solicitor) £175.00
Nina Gohil/Sophie Shardlow (Paralegal) £175.00
Mimi Hadley (Solicitor) £190.00
Sharna Hoskin (Paralegal) £145.00
Sophie Reynish/Phoebe Roxbee/Grace Savage (Paralegal) £140.00
Laura Peters/Lucy Fowler/Beth Watson/George Burton-Durham (Operations) £35.00

The above rates do not include VAT. All charges are subject to VAT at the standard rate.

20. These rates will not be changed without informing you in advance. They will be reviewed on 1st January of each year. In addition to time spent, we may take into account other factors that affect the amount charged to you, such as the need to work outside normal office hours, the complexity of the matter, the number and importance of documents involved, the amount or value of the transaction, if the proceedings (actual and contemplated) are in a London Court, and any special priority or urgency that is involved.

21. Where our charges reflect any of these factors we will explain this to you.

22. Where a fixed fee has been agreed, we will only deviate from it if the nature of the transaction changes and upon prior notice to you. In the event that a fixed fee has been agreed but the matter does not proceed to a conclusion, our fees will be charged at the hourly rate together with any outstanding disbursements.

23. We will give you an estimate of fees at the outset and if it needs to be revised during a matter we will tell you. An estimate is only an estimate and, though given in good faith, no estimate given by us is fixed or binding.

24. It may be convenient or more cost effective for other members of the FLP team to work on your case to ensure that your matter is handled promptly and efficiently. However, the person with conduct of your case will retain overall supervision.

Monies spent or to be spent on your behalf (payments to third parties)

25. At various stages in a transaction we may have to pay out money on your behalf, for example Land or Probate Registry fees, court fees, counsel’s fees, expert’s fees, courier’s fees, travelling fees and so on. We will endeavour to provide you with an estimate of disbursements at the outset and as the matter progresses. We are not obliged to make these payments unless we are in possession of cleared funds or we are otherwise satisfied that funds will be available to reimburse these expenses.

26. If we require cleared funds then we must receive any cheques or bankers drafts payable to us in respect of those disbursements at least eight working days before the monies are to be paid out. We will charge you interest on all sums paid out by us on your behalf when we have requested funds from you.

Invoicing and Payment Arrangements

27. We will agree with you, and confirm in the Costs & Time Estimate or otherwise in writing, how and when we will invoice and be paid for the work carried out on your behalf.

28. If we accept instructions from more than one person, each person will be liable for the entire amount of our fees and expenses.

29. Where sums are held on your behalf for any reason and money is owed to us for any reason, we are permitted by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to deduct funds in settlement of our outstanding bills. Our normal practice is to notify you of the sum of money that we should hold on account of costs and disbursements. The transaction will then be billed regularly depending on the value of the work undertaken and in any event each monthly.

30. If we send you an invoice for our fees or for expenses, and there is insufficient money held to your credit in our client account to discharge such fees, we will require payment of the balance of the invoice within 14 days.

31. If an invoice balance remains outstanding for more than 14 days, we may cease acting for you, and will be entitled to charge interest at the rate set by the Judgment Debts (Rates of Interest) Order 1993.

32. We are able to accept standing order payments, and we accept most major debit and credit cards. We do not accept American Express.

33. If we owe you money and you ask that it be sent by bank transfer rather than cheque, we will raise a charge that will be notified to you.

34. We do not accept cash payments in excess of £500 throughout the matter. We only accept payment in GB Pounds.

35. In some types of matter special funding arrangements may apply. For example:

(a) You may be able to recover some of your fees from the other party.
(b) You may be able to have your fees (and/or the fees of the other party) paid by an insurer under an insurance policy you already have, or one that can be purchased.
(c) We may be able to offer you a Conditional Fee Agreement, which means we only receive fees if your case is successful, or a Discounted Fee Agreement, whereby you pay us a higher fee if your case is successful.
(d) If your case is unsuccessful, or you do not accept a reasonable settlement offer, you may be required to pay the other party’s fees and expenses.
(e) We may be able to offer you litigation funding as we shall speak to you about this if we think you may be eligible.

The law relating to such funding is complex, and will be explained to you in detail if appropriate to your matter.

36. Third party charges and expenses

(a) Costs recovered – In some litigation cases if you are successful you may be entitled to the payment of costs by some other party to the proceedings. The amount to be paid to you (if not agreed) is reviewed by the Court in a process known as ‘assessment’. However, it is rare for the system of assessment of costs to result in the other party having to pay the full amount of the costs incurred by you with us. If the other party is in receipt of Legal Aid, has no money or defaults in payment, costs will probably not be recovered. If costs are to be paid by the other party, interest may sometimes be claimed against the other party from the date the order for costs was made. We will retain this unless you have paid us in full. You are liable for all costs incurred with us, even when an order for costs has been or is expected to be made. Fees for enforcing a costs award have to be met by you.

(b) Costs payable – If you are unsuccessful in Court proceedings, fail to meet Court deadlines, miss hearings, make applications within Court proceedings which fail (or have an order made against you) it is very likely that you will be ordered to pay the other party’s costs.

(c) Funding Options – Clients will normally meet the legal fees and expenses of their own case but in contentious cases there are a number of options which include Legal Aid, funding from a third party such as a Trade Union or insurance. Insurance might be a ‘before the event’ policy which you have taken out or which may be attached to your car or house insurance. If you think you have such a policy please tell us. We do not undertake Legal Aid. If you wish to check your eligibility for Legal Aid, please visit the website www.gov.uk/legal-aid

Banking arrangements

37. Client bank account – Our client account is held with Lloyds PLC. If we are holding money on your behalf in our client account, it will count towards the per person limit applicable under the FSCS deposit guarantee scheme (currently £85,000.00) and may therefore affect your potential compensation under that scheme if you hold deposits with that bank separately.

38. Client Account Interest Policy – Our policy is to pay to our clients all interest earned (at our bank’s current base rate for the period that it was held) on money held on that clients behalf in this firms client account unless the amount of interest earned is less than or equal to £25. Interest payments are made in accordance with our regulators accounts rules.

Identification

39. The Solicitors Regulation Authority requires us to obtain evidence of identity from clients in relation to all transactions. This is similar to the requirements of most banks and building societies. We shall ask you for evidence of your identity e.g. a passport/driving licence and we will need evidence of your address e.g. a bank statement/utility bill. Please provide this documentation as soon as possible. Following regulations introduced by the Government in December 2007 we may carry out electronic online ID checks against your name. The regulations require us to undertake what is described as ‘Due Diligence’ on our clients, which includes searches on certain prescribed databases. There will be a fee of £5 plus VAT per search if one is undertaken.

Your File

40. We are entitled to keep all your papers, electronic files and documents if there is money owing to us in respect of our fees, expenses and VAT. This is known as a lien. Once these charges have been paid we will return to you any original documents or personal papers that you lodged with us during the conduct of the case. Our own file will normally be stored electronically for at least six years and then destroyed. If you have any objection to these arrangements or need more information please contact us.

Termination

41. We are not obliged to accept instructions on any new matter, but if we have accepted instructions to act, we may only stop acting for you for good reason (e.g. if you do not pay a bill, if you do not give me clear or proper instructions, if there has been an irretrievable breakdown in trust and confidence) and upon giving you reasonable notice. Subject to any separate agreement we may have made with you (for example, in a Conditional Fee Agreement), you may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time.

Communications Policy

42. FLP aims to be a paperless office. If it is available and unless you tell us otherwise, we will communicate with you and others involved in your matter by email, with or without attachments. Whilst we take every reasonable precaution, email, as with other systems of communication, cannot be guaranteed to be secure.

43. Although we maintain sophisticated virus detection systems we cannot guarantee against viruses and so, any attachment sent or received by you and sent by us should be scanned with your own up-to-date virus detection software. We are not responsible for any loss or damage caused to a client’s computer, other hardware or software, resulting from a transmission sent by us.

Cancellation Rights

44. If you retained our services away from our office premises and the retainer is an ‘off premises’ contract as defined in the Consumer Contract Regulations 2013 we will write to you separately regarding your cancellation rights.

Other advice

45. We are not qualified to give you advice on tax. You should obtain advice regarding taxation from an accountant.

46. We are not permitted or authorised to give you financial advice. If you require financial advice, you should obtain such advice from a specialist Independent Financial Advisor.

47. We are not trained counsellors, if you are finding the breakdown of your relationship difficult to cope with emotionally you may benefit from professional assistance from a Family Consultant.

Separate Businesses

48. The Directors of FLP have a financial interest in Family Law Financial Planning Ltd (FLFP). FLFP is an appointed representative of North Laine Financial Management Ltd (NLFM), which is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, Financial Services Compensation Scheme and the Financial Ombudsman Scheme in respect of any work that they carry out for their clients. The financial interest that the Directors of FLP have in FLFP is that they have a shareholding in FLFP. The shareholding is held by each of the Directors as individuals.

49. If we recommend to you that you may wish to use the services of FLFP we will advise you in writing at the time of the interest that the members of FLP have in FLFP. This ensures that we comply with Chapters 9 and 12 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.

50. We do not have any other financial interests in separate businesses that are linked to the firm.

Privacy of Third Parties

51. There are very strict rules relating to the privacy of others regarding their letters, documents and data. You must not copy, read or download any private information belonging to a third party. In family cases the courts will take an extremely dim view if any breaches of privacy take place, and there can be very serious civil and criminal consequences when a party does breach the privacy of another. Please do not be tempted to look at private emails, documents or letters belonging to your ex-partner or any other person or organisation. If you ignore this warning and breach the privacy of another, then we may be prevented from continuing to act for you.

What you can do if dissatisfied

52. We always strive to provide a high quality service. If, however, you have any queries or concerns about our work, please raise them initially with the person dealing with your case. If that does not resolve the problem, please contact Robert Williams, Director, on 01273 646903 or [email protected]

53. Our full Complaints Procedure is available here.

54. Complaints can include concerns regarding the firm’s charges and/or any invoice which you have received.

55. There may also be a right to object to a bill by applying to the Court for an assessment of the bill under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974.

56.The Legal Ombudsman can help you if we are unable to resolve your complaint ourselves. They will look at your complaint independently and it will not affect how we handle your case. Before accepting a complaint for investigation, the Legal Ombudsman will check that you have tried to resolve your complaint with us first. If you have, then you must take your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman: a) Within six months of receiving a final response to your complaint and b) No more than six years from the date of the act/omission; or c) No more than three years from when you should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint. Their address is PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ. Phone: 0300 555 0333; website www.legalombudsman.org.uk.

57. The Solicitors Regulation Authority can help you if you are concerned about any non-service aspect of the firm. This includes any practice or regulatory issues, which you believe should be considered by the professional regulator of solicitors.

You can raise your concerns with the Solicitors Regulation Authority at www.sra.org.uk.

58. The European Commission has established an ODR platform that will allow consumers who have a complaint about a product or service bought online to submit the complaint via an online complaint form to a trader based in another EU member state. For details of this platform please visit http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/odr/

59. You will not be charged, either by this firm, by the Legal Ombudsman or the SRA for investigation of a complaint.

Money Laundering Regulations

60. Strict duties have been imposed upon us by the Money Laundering Regulations 2017 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. As a result we are required to obtain and retain documentary evidence of identity from all clients, even if you have been a client for some time. We may also carry out online identity checks. Furthermore, we will be committing a criminal offence if we fail to report to the National Crime Agency that we know or suspect, or have reasonable grounds to know or suspect that you (or somebody else we learn about in the conduct of your case) are laundering the proceeds of criminal conduct. This might include, for example, earnings not reported to HM Customs and Revenue or state benefits wrongly obtained. We are required to report our suspicions without telling you or anybody else that we have done so. If we report you we may not be allowed to carry out any further work until the authorities allow this and we are not allowed to explain to you or anybody else whether we have reported you or why we have done so. We will not be allowed to explain why work has stopped. We may need to enquire into the source of payments made to us. We will not accept cash payments of more than £500, nor can cash in excess of this sum be paid directly into our bank account. You agree that we will not be liable for any loss or damage arising out of the firm’s compliance with any statutory or regulatory requirement.

Data Protection & Privacy Policy

61. All information that we hold concerning you as an individual will be held and processed by the firm, and any sub-processors at our behest, strictly in accordance with the provisions of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (Regulation (EU) 2016/679, and the UK Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA).  We will use such data to provide you with legal services. We will not supply your name and address to any third party except where such supply is a part of the services we undertake, or the marketing of such services, or where we are required to do so by operation of law. Your rights under the GDPR and DPA are set out in our privacy policy on our website. We suggest that you read it as soon as possible. If you require a copy of the privacy policy to be sent to you, please let us know and we can arrange this.

Should you have any queries concerning this right, please contact our Practice Manager, Miriam Walters.

Code of Conduct

62. We operate in accordance with the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2011, as amended from time to time. Details of the Code of Conduct can be found on the website of the Solicitors Regulation Authority at www.sra.org.uk

Confidentiality

63. The information you provide to us is confidential and will not be disclosed save as mentioned in paragraph 14 above or for purposes of quality audit or when necessary to instruct an expert or professional colleague on your behalf. We may also be required to disclose information due to legal or regulatory requirements. Examples of this might be a surveyor, estate agent, doctor or accountant. By signing the Costs & Time Estimate you give us permission to disclose such information as we deem necessary to those we instruct or with whom we deal on your behalf.

64. The advice we provide to you is for your use as our client and is confidential. It should not be disclosed to a third party without our consent.

Hours of Business

65. We are available to see clients outside normal office hours by prior appointment although this may result in an increase in the estimated charge. If you are disabled, within the meaning of The Equality Act 2010, and are unable to access our offices we will visit you at no extra charge, if you live within a reasonable distance of our office. In other circumstances we can make arrangements to visit you at home, but reserve the right to make an appropriate charge. We will ensure that during ordinary office hours you are able to make contact with us. If the person responsible for your case is not available immediately you may leave a message and we will return your call as soon as we are able.

Equality and Diversity

66. We are fully committed to equality and diversity in all of its functions. We believe
that everyone has a right to be treated with dignity, fairness and respect and we seek to ensure that the principles of fairness and equality of opportunity underpin all our policies, practices and procedures.

Client Satisfaction

67. We aim to put clients first. From time to time we may send you a client satisfaction survey seeking your comments and opinions on the service we provide and would greatly appreciate any feedback. However, if you have any views on our service, please do not wait for a form, let us know.

Governing Law and Jurisdiction

68. These Terms and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with them (including non-contractual disputes or claims) shall be governed by the law of England and Wales and the Courts of England and Wales shall have exclusive jurisdiction.

Family Law Partners is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The SRA registration number is: 558220.