TERMS OF BUSINESS
The detailed terms of our engagement follow and they will apply to all matters on which we are retained, and in the absence of any other agreement on terms of business to any other matters you may instruct us on.
1 YOU AS OUR CLIENT
The legal services we provide are provided solely for your benefit and for the purpose for which you have instructed us. They may not be relied upon by any other person or for any other purpose without our prior written agreement.
If we agree to provide legal services to or for the benefit of any other person at your request (Associated Person), including any group companies if you are a company, you agree either that these Terms of Business apply to the provision of such services (where you have authority to retain us on the Associated Person’s behalf) or you agree to procure that the Associated Person will accept and comply with these Terms of Business.
2 OUR RESPONSIBILITIES
During the course of working with you on your matter, we will:
2.1 treat you fairly and with respect;
2.2 communicate with you in plain language;
2.3 review your matter regularly;
2.4 advise you of any changes in the law that affect your matter; and
2.5 advise you of any reasonably foreseeable circumstances and risks that could affect the outcome of your matter.
3 YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES
3.1 provide us with clear, timely and accurate instructions;
3.2 provide all documentation and information that we reasonably request in a timely manner; and
3.3 safeguard any documents that may be required for your matter, including documents that you may have to disclose to another party.
4 LIMIT OF LIABILITY
4.1 We will not be liable for any consequential, special, indirect or exemplary damages, costs or losses, or any damages, costs or losses attributable to lost profit or opportunity. We shall not have any liability to any person who is not our client unless we expressly agree otherwise.
4.3 Helen Wong operates as a freelance solicitor. Helen Wong holds a practising certificate and her SRA number is 29900.
5 UNREGULATED SERVICES
5.1 Helen Wong is freelance solicitor providing unregulated services so is not governed by the SRA. However, Helen Wong holds a valid practising certificate from the SRA and her SRA number is 29900.
6 OUR ADVICE
Our advice to you relates to the specific circumstances that you have instructed us to act for you. Our advice will be based on our understanding of the law and practice at the time we provide it. You must not rely on our advice in different circumstances or at a different time to when we provide it. Unless we agree otherwise, we will not be under any obligation to update our advice to take account of any changes in law or practice that may subsequently affect our advice to you.
7 FEES AND OTHER COSTS
7.1 In the absence of any alternative agreed fee agreements we will charge based on time incurred and by reference to the hourly rates and Helen Wong’s hourly rate will be provided to you in the terms of engagement.
7.2 Time incurred may include meetings (with you and any third parties), time spent travelling, considering, preparing and working on papers, file opening and compliance procedures, attending court (if relevant), legal research, correspondence (including emails) received and sent, preparing attendance notes, making and receiving telephone calls and preparing and providing copies of documents for you.
7.3 Short letters and routine phone calls are charged at 1/10 of an hour (six minutes). All other work is timed in six minute units and charged at the relevant hourly rate.
7.4 We reserve the right to increase the hourly rates or any fixed fee if the work done is particularly complex or urgent, or the nature of your instructions means that, through no fault of our own, we have to work after 7pm or over the weekend.
7.5 Our hourly rates are subject to annual increase in line with changes in the Retail Prices Index (if any). This is usually done annually each December.
7.6 We reserve the right to add VAT to our charges at the prevailing rate.
7.7 If we have agreed a limit on the amount of costs that we will incur without recourse to you then that limit covers our charges and disbursements only; it does not cover any costs that you may have to pay another party and it does not include VAT. We will contact you if and when this limit is reached, to discuss and agree further costs.
7.8 Work will be allocated to team members with the most appropriate level of expertise and experience. This helps ensure that all work is carried out on the most cost effective basis possible.
8 FIXED OR CONTINGENT FEES
8.1 Where we agree a fixed fee arrangement and:
8.1.1 you expect us to carry out major chasing and reporting back; and/or
8.1.2 the transaction or matter, through no fault of ours, extends beyond the original timescale contemplated by you in our instructions; and/or
8.1.3 the key documents change,
then any work required to deal with such matters will be considered as outside our agreed scope of work and we may charge in addition for this work.
9 DISBURSEMENTS AND CHARGES
9.1 By instructing us you authorise us to incur such disbursements on your behalf as we consider necessary. However, we will consult you before incurring any significant disbursements and we reserve the right to request you to make a payment on account of disbursements incurred or to be incurred where we believe it is reasonable to do so.
9.2 If we need to send money to you or a third party quickly we will generally send it by electronic means (telegraphic transfer or BACS), unless we agree a different method with you. There will be a bank charge for each electronic payment we send.
9.3 Should your matter require the instruction of a barrister then we will require the barrister’s fee to be paid to us on account before they are instructed. Agreed fees or quotes for the proposed work will be obtained prior to any formal instruction and agreed by you. Once we are placed in cleared funds the money will be held in our client account pending the raising of the barrister’s fee note and may be used by us to settle the barrister’s fee following presentation of an invoice.
9.4 In relation to expenses, we reserve the right to levy a charge of 2% of our fees (which will cover any actual cost to us and an administration charge). Such expenses may include travelling, online meeting and webinar services, providing data on electronic media, routine postage, telephone calls and incoming and outgoing faxes.
9.5 We attach at Annex A a list of our standard charges which will be charged in addition.
9.6 Although we try to include all disbursements and charges in our final invoice, there may be times when we receive invoices for disbursements some time later. If this happens, we will submit a supplemental invoice to cover them.
10 PAYMENTS ON ACCOUNT
10.1 We reserve the right to request you to make a payment on account of fees, disbursements and expenses incurred or to be incurred where we believe it is reasonable to do so. Should you refuse to comply with such a request or fail to make that payment within a reasonable time then we may terminate our engagement.
10.2 Our final bill may be higher than the amount you have paid on account. Money paid on account which is not subsequently required for fees, disbursements or expenses will be refunded to you.
11 OUR BILL
11.1 You are liable to pay our legal costs. If we are acting for more than one client in a single matter, then unless we agree otherwise in writing, each client will be jointly and severally liable for the payment of our costs.
11.2 We will bill on a monthly basis unless we agree otherwise with you.
11.3 If a third party agrees to be responsible for some or all of our fees, disbursements or expenses and payment is not made in accordance with these Terms of Business, you will be responsible for paying to us any outstanding amount.
11.4 Payment is due on receipt by you of our bill. We may charge interest on overdue bills at the rate for the time applicable to the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1988 which is currently 8% above the Bank of England base rate. Our bills are due for payment without any deduction, set-off or counterclaim.
11.5 Our bills will be final for the time period that they cover.
11.6 We may suspend work or cease acting for you if a bill remains unpaid after 30 days or if our reasonable request for a payment on account of costs is not met.
11.7 Unless otherwise agreed in writing, you must pay all bills in sterling. If you pay a bill in any currency other than sterling and we incur charges for currency conversion or other bank charges or we suffer exchange rate losses we reserve the right to charge additional sums to cover such amounts.
11.8 You have the right to challenge or complain about our bill. Please see the Complaints section below for details of how to complain about our bill.
11.9 You have the right to challenge our bill by applying to the court to assess the bill under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974. The usual time limit for making such an application is one month from the date of delivery of the bill. If the application is made after one month but before twelve months from delivery of the bill, the court's permission is required for the bill to be assessed.
11.10 Unless there are special circumstances, the court will not usually order a bill to be assessed after:
11.10.1 twelve months from delivery of the bill;
11.10.2 a judgment has been obtained for the recovery of the costs covered by the bill; or
11.10.3 the bill has been paid, even if this is within 12 months.
11.11 We can keep all your papers and documents while there is still money owed to us for fees and expenses.
12 CLIENTS’ MONEY
12.1 We do not hold a client account.
13 DATA PROTECTION AND GDPR
13.1 When dealing with your instructions we may collect, hold and use your personal information. We use the information you provide primarily for the provision of legal services to you and for related purposes including:
13.1.1 updating and enhancing client records;
13.1.2 analysis to help us manage our practice;
13.1.3 statutory returns;
13.1.4 legal and regulatory compliance; and
13.1.5 marketing our own products and services.
13.2 Our use of that information is subject to your instructions, the Data Protection Act 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679 and our duty of confidentiality. Please note that our work for you may require us to give information to third parties such as expert witnesses and other professional advisers. Under data protection legislation you have a right of access to the personal data that we hold about you. We may transfer any information that we hold about you to other people or organisations who process information on our behalf and other organisations (e.g. the courts or the police) if we have a legal duty to do so.
14 STORAGE AND RETRIEVAL OF FILES
14.1 After completing the work, we will be entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is still money owed to us for fees and expenses.
14.2 We will store your file electronically for up to 7 years, except for original documents which we will return to you at the end of the matter. We keep files on the understanding that we can destroy them 7 years after the date of the final bill or conclusion of the matter.
14.3 If we take papers or documents out of storage in relation to continuing or new instructions to act for you, we will not normally charge for the retrieval. However, we may charge you for:
14.3.1 time spent producing stored documents (including emails) that are requested; and
14.3.2 time spent reading, correspondence or other work necessary to comply with your instructions in relation to the retrieved papers,
in each case in accordance with our standard hourly rates.
15 OUTSOURCING AND CLOUD COMPUTING
15.1 Sometimes we ask other companies or people to do photocopying on our files to ensure this is done promptly and/or in the most cost effective manner. If you do not want your file to be outsourced, please tell us as soon as possible.
15.2 We use cloud computing in our business and therefore information relevant to your matter (including client contact details, documents and emails) will be passed to our external cloud service providers. If you would like further information on our cloud service providers please do let us know.
16 CYBER CRIME
You may be aware that cyber crime is on the increase and that like other business sectors, law firms and their clients are being targeted. We take our responsibilities to look after your information extremely seriously, which is why we employ security measures to try and avoid you and our firm from becoming victims. One way criminals try and steal money is to hack into legitimate emails passing between a law firm and their clients, they then try and convince the client that their law firm has changed its bank account details and get them to transfer money to this fraudulent account. We do not change our bank account details very often, so if you ever receive correspondence saying we have please contact us before transferring any money to the "new" account, as it is likely to be a fraud. We will also try and avoid changing the people who deal with your matter, so if anyone contacts you with a different name to that notified to you by us, please contact us before doing anything further.
If we are required to send your money to an account whose details we have received electronically we will take reasonable precautions to verify the bank account details first such as telephoning to check or carrying out electronic checks (for which there may be a small charge which we will pass onto you). If we send you our account details electronically we would request that you also telephone the person dealing with your matter to double check the account details in case any of the emails have been intercepted by criminals. We will not accept liability if you transfer money into an incorrect account.
17 EXTERNAL AUDITING
External firms or organisations may conduct audit or quality checks on our practice, e.g. our regulator, the SRA. These external firms or organisations are required to maintain confidentiality in relation to your files. Please contact Helen Wong at firstname.lastname@example.org if you do not wish your files to be disclosed to external auditors.
18 TERMINATING YOUR INSTRUCTIONS
18.1 You may end your instructions at any time, by giving us notice in writing. We can keep all your papers and documents while our charges or disbursements are outstanding.
18.2 We can only decide to stop acting for you with good reason and we must give you reasonable notice.
18.3 If you or we decide that we should stop acting for you, you are liable to pay our charges up until that point. These are calculated on the basis agreed with you. Where appropriate we will also charge fees and disbursements for transferring the matter to another solicitor.
19 PREVENTION OF MONEY LAUNDERING AND TERRORIST FINANCING
19.1 The law requires us to get satisfactory evidence of the identity of our clients and sometimes people related to them. This is because solicitors who deal with money and property on behalf of their clients can be used by criminals wanting to launder money.
19.2 To comply with the law, we need to get evidence of your identity as soon as possible and before we start doing any work for you (except in an emergency). Our practice is to:
19.2.1 Corporate Clients
In the first instance we will check the information at the relevant company registry to establish that the company exists. We also need to identify the beneficial owners, if the information held at the company registry is insufficient to enable us to do so then we will ask you to provide additional information. Further corroborating evidence may be required if we have not met at least one director or beneficial owner.
19.2.2 We usually also conduct an electronic credit search to verify the identity of the business instructing us as well as electronic PEP (politically exposed person) and sanctions checks on the company and its directors and beneficial owners.
19.2.3 Individual Clients
This involves verifying that you are who you say you are. As long as we have met you we will require you to provide the following:
188.8.131.52 original and current passport or original photo-card driving licence; PLUS
184.108.40.206 original utility bill (not mobile phone bill), bank statement, council tax bill, HMRC official documentation e.g. P60, firearms licence in each case showing your name and home address and in each case not more than three months old.
19.2.4 We usually also carry out an electronic search to verify your identity and to carry out an electronic PEP (politically exposed person) and sanctions check on you.
19.3 We may require additional information from you or from independent sources in certain circumstances.
19.4 If you cannot provide us with the specific identification requested, please contact us as soon as possible to discuss other ways to verify your identity. We may not be able to act for you if we are unable to promptly verify your identity to our satisfaction.
19.5 To meet our ongoing legal obligations it may also be necessary to repeat our checks or obtain additional information during the course of our relationship.
19.6 The cost of any searches conducted to verify your identity will be payable by you.
19.7 We are professionally and legally obliged to keep your affairs confidential. However, solicitors may be required by statute to make a disclosure to the National Crime Agency where they know or suspect that a transaction may involve money laundering or terrorist financing. If we make a disclosure in relation to your matter, we may not be able to tell you that a disclosure has been made. We may have to stop working on your matter for a period of time and may not be able to tell you why.
19.8 In the event that we or you instruct a third party to act for you in connection with the work we are doing for you (e.g. a barrister or an expert) we may be requested to provide that third party with copies of your identification documents. Unless you tell us otherwise we will be entitled to assume that we have your consent to comply with that request.
20 RECEIVING AND PAYING FUNDS
Our policy is not to accept cash from clients. If you try to avoid this policy by depositing cash directly with our bank, we may decide to charge you for any additional checks we decide are necessary to prove the source of the funds. Where we have to pay money to you, it will be paid by cheque or bank transfer. It will not be paid in cash or to a third party.
21.1 The information and documentation you provide us is confidential unless:
21.1.1 stated otherwise in these Terms of Business or other correspondence confirming your instructions, e.g. in relation to prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing;
21.1.2 we advise you otherwise during the course of your matter.
21.2 However, unless you tell us otherwise, we will be entitled to assume that we are authorised to make any information about you available to your other advisers if we consider it is appropriate to do so. We may transfer any information that we hold about you to other people or organisations who process information on our behalf and other organisations (e.g. the courts or the police) if we have a legal duty to do so.
21.3 To comply with our regulatory obligations and the terms of our professional indemnity insurance, we may disclose relevant documents and information to insurers, brokers and insurance advisers on a confidential basis. This could include details of any circumstances arising from our work for you that might give rise to a claim against us. You agree to such disclosure by us even if the documents and information in question are confidential and/or subject to legal professional privilege.
22.1 We cannot guarantee the security of information communicated by email or mobile phone. Unless we hear from you to the contrary, we will assume that you consent for us to use these methods of communication. We have the ability to use encrypted email communication. If you wish us to communicate with you via encrypted email please let us know.
22.2 We are careful to ensure that our computer system is free from viruses and secure but we cannot be held responsible for the late arrival of emails, any loss or damage caused by email security being compromised or damage to your computer system caused by electronic communication with us.
22.3 We use filtering software to limit the effects of unwanted emails and viruses. That means that there is a risk that genuine correspondence may not always reach the person it is meant for or that its receipt may be delayed. We therefore recommend that you follow up all important emails by an alternative form of communication.
We are committed to providing high quality legal advice and client care. If you are unhappy about any aspect of the service you receive or about the bill, please contact the firm’s Compliance Officer for Legal Practice, Helen Wong Email email@example.com.
23.1 Our complaints policy sets out the timescales that we have to consider your complaint. If we have not been able to resolve your complaint ourselves the Legal Ombudsman may be able to help.
The Legal Ombudsman will look at your complaint independently and it will not affect how we handle your matter.
23.2 Before accepting a complaint for investigation, the Legal Ombudsman will check that you have tried to resolve your complaint with us. If you have then you must take your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman
23.2.1 within six months of receiving a final response to your complaint; and
23.2.2 no more than six years from the date of the act or omission you are complaining about; or
23.2.3 no more than three years from when you should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint.
The Legal Ombudsman's contact details are:
PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ | 0300 555 0333 (from 8.30am to 5.30pm)
23.3 The Legal Ombudsman deals with complaints by consumers and very small businesses. This means some clients may not have the right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman, e.g. charities or clubs with an annual income of more than £1 million, trustees of trusts with asset value of more than £1 million and most businesses (unless they are defined as micro-enterprises). This does not prevent you from making a complaint directly to us about the service you have received or about the bill.
23.4 If we are unable to resolve your complaint, and it relates to a contract we entered into online or by other electronic means, you may also be able to submit your complaint to a certified alternative dispute resolution (ADR) provider in the UK via the EU Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform.
23.5 The ODR platform is an interactive website offering a single point of entry for disputes between consumers and traders relating to online contracts. The ODR platform is available to consumer clients only, i.e. where you have instructed us for purposes outside your trade, business, craft or profession.
The website address for the ODR platform is: http://ec.europa.eu/odr.
Unless you have directed us otherwise, we may disclose the fact that you are our client although we will not disclose the matter or the nature of the work unless that information is already in the public domain. In such circumstances, we may refer to our business relationship and an outline description of the work involved and we may use your business name and/or logo on our website or otherwise for marketing purposes.
25 APPLICABLE LAW
Any dispute or legal issue arising from our Terms of Business and contract with you will be determined by the law of England and Wales, and considered exclusively by the English and Welsh courts.
26 FUTURE INSTRUCTIONS
Unless otherwise agreed, these Terms of Business will apply to all future instructions you give us on this or any other matter.
27 CHANGES TO THESE TERMS
We reserve the right to change these Terms of Business from time to time. Any such changes will be notified on our website, although we will write to you if any of the changes are material.