Terms of Business
At the beginning of a new matter clients will receive a letter confirming the instructions received, the action proposed, the name of the supervising Partner responsible, other professional staff involved and information about costs. This information is updated as necessary.
Please check our letter confirming instructions carefully because we will be relying on it. The client care letter together with these terms of business set out the terms on which SW19Lawyers LLP accepts instructions and charges for its services. If there is any conflict between these terms and the engagement letter then the client care letter will take precedence.
Any reference to “firm” is a reference to SW19Lawyers LLP.
Your contract is with SW19Lawyers LLP, a limited liability partnership.
Place and hours of business
Our office is located at Walnut Tree House, 17a Church Road, London SW19 5DQ. The normal hours of operating are between 9 am and 6 pm (by appointment only).
We also have consulting rooms at St Michael’s Rectory, St Michael’s Alley, Cornhill, London EC3V 9DS (by appointment only).
We will review the matter regularly and advise you of any change in the law, circumstances or risk of which we are aware or which we consider to be reasonably foreseeable that could affect the outcome of the matter.
We depend upon clients giving clear and prompt instructions, responding promptly to communications and providing full and accurate information. You will safeguard any documents that are likely to be required for discovery.
We will endeavour to keep you regularly informed of progress on your matter, explain the legal work that may be required and will communicate with you in plain language, advising you of the cost/risks benefit of pursuing the matter and inform you of the likely time scale involved.
We will explain to you on the telephone or in writing as appropriate the legal work required as your matter progresses. We will update you on whether the likely outcome still justifies the likely costs and risks associated with your matter whenever there is a material change in circumstances.
If we are not available when you telephone, then please leave a voice mail or send an email and we will endeavour to return your call or email that day or the day after.
Equality and Diversity
The firm is committed to promoting equality and diversity in all its dealings with its clients, third parties and employees and is required to produce a written equality and diversity policy. If you would like to see a copy of this, please let us know and we will forward a copy to you.
If it is necessary to engage other professionals on your behalf (such as counsel, overseas lawyers, accountants) whether in the UK or abroad we will do so as your agent. The firm cannot be responsible for any act or omission of such professional unless otherwise agreed in writing.
Fees and Disbursements
At the outset of a matter, we will agree the basis on which the firm will charge you and arrangements concerning its fees will be set out in the engagement letter. Once we have enough information about the matter, we will estimate the time and likely costs to be incurred. It should be noted that on some matters it may be very difficult to give an estimate, but we will give you an estimate or a forecast within a possible range of costs including information about the costs up to the next stage.
Charges are calculated primarily by reference to the time spent on the matter. In certain matters we may base our charges on partly on the time spent and partly on the value element. You will be advised in writing of any such arrangement. Sometimes we may agree a fixed fee, at our discretion. In such cases, we reserve the right to require a review of the basis for invoicing if unforeseen issues arise in the matter beyond the agreed scope of the work or which add significantly to the time we will have to spend.
The firm maintains a detailed record of the time spent on a matter. We record time in 6-minute units. Hourly rates are subject to review every September and may be revised at any other time. You will be notified of any changes to the firm’s hourly rates.
Payments to third parties (“disbursements”) which we make on your behalf will be charged separately. VAT will be added to all fees and most disbursements at the appropriate rate (unless the disbursements or you are exempt).
Billing and Payment
Our invoices will include our fees, disbursements and VAT charged at 20%. Unless otherwise agreed in writing, all bills are for payment in sterling within 21 days from the delivery of the invoice. Interest will be charged on any balance outstanding after this 21-day period and will be charged at the rate of 2 percent over HSBC’s base rate from time to time.
We accept payments by transfer to our bank account (details of which will be included on the invoice) or alternatively by cheque. Where payments have been made by you, on dates and in amounts different from those agreed by the firm, and the firm has suffered exchange rate losses in excess of 5% of the sums due, the firm reserves the right to charge additional amounts to cover its costs.
Payments on Account of Fees and Expenses
We may require payments in advance for our fees and expenses. We will put them in a Client Account and set them, with interest earned, against future bills.
We will not pay to you small amounts of interest (as described in the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules) or credit them to your account against future bills. Where we have sent you a final bill, but we keep back money to use against future expenses, we will not pay you interest on such amounts.
Where we are holding less than £10 on your client account we reserve the right to pay this to a registered charity of our choice if, after a reasonable period, we cannot credit you with this money, having made all reasonable efforts to do so.
Where you send monies to us to be held in our client account we shall hold these monies on your behalf as trustee. We deposit these monies with such banks as we may from time to time decide in accordance with the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules. It follows that we have no immediate control over these monies while they are held on deposit.
It follows that in the unlikely event of the failure of a bank that holds client monies we will not be liable to you for any monies lost. You may in these circumstances be entitled to compensation under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. You should check with the Financial Services Authority to find out whether or not you would be entitled to compensation.
If you want to know the identity of the bank where your funds are held then we will provide you with details following the request.
Where funds are held by us in or sent to our client account, you authorise us to make payment of our fees or expenses by deduction from such funds.
Papers Held by SW19Lawyers LLP
On completion of a matter and payment of all fees, the firm will return to you, at your request in writing, any documents provided to it for the purposes of that matter and any other papers to which you are entitled. The firm will retain all other papers but cannot undertake to retain files for any specific period of time but will endeavour to keep all files for a minimum of six years, after which time it reserves the right to dispose of them.
If the firm is required for any reason (whether during the course of a matter or after it has terminated) compulsorily to disclose documents or to give information orally or in writing relating to a matter or your affairs pursuant to a court order, notice or demand served by an entity or person with the authority to compel such disclosure, then it shall comply. The firm will be entitled to be paid for the costs of such compliance by you at its hourly rates then in force. If any documents or information are subject to legal professional privilege, the firm will let you know and advise you of the opportunity to waive privilege. If you decide not to waive privilege and this is challenged, the firm will be entitled to be paid by you for the costs incurred in preserving privilege on your behalf.
Unless you tell the firm otherwise, any documents prepared by a third party for you on the firm’s instructions in which you own the copyright or have a licence to use may be stored on the firm’s database in any format for future reference by the firm’s lawyers.
Insurance for costs
We remind you that you may have taken out insurance to meet legal cost or alternatively you may be covered by a trade union or employer. If so, please let us know immediately any new matter commences, as insurers and others will normally expect to be notified and will want to confirm cover before legal costs are incurred. Failure to notify may result in the policy being vitiated or restricted. We would advise that you review your insurance cover as soon as possible to ascertain whether cover for your legal costs may be obtained.
We retain the copyright in any work created for you but, subject to your having paid all costs promptly, you have the right to use such copyright material for the purpose for which it was created.
Please note that we do not provide tax advice and we strongly recommend that you take specialist advice on any tax matters.
The Liability of SW19Lawyers LLP
The instructions given by you to the firm create a contract for the provision of services between you and the firm. The firm owes you a duty to provide the services with reasonable care and skill.
The firm is a limited liability partnership. A limited liability partnership is a body corporate that has “members”. It is more usual for senior professionals to be referred to as “partners”. Our members have decided to retain the traditional title of “partner”. There is, however, no partnership between the members or between the members and the firm. A reference in these terms of business or in the course of your dealings with the firm to a person being a “partner” is a reference to that person as a member of the firm.
There is no contract between you and any member, employee or consultant of the firm. Any advice given to you, or any other work done for you, by a member, employee or consultant of the firm is given or done by that person on behalf of the firm and not in his or her individual capacity and no such person assumes any personal responsibility to you for the advice or work.
You agree that if, as a matter of law, a duty of care would otherwise be owed to you by any partner, employee or consultant of the firm, such duty is hereby excluded and you agree that you will not bring any claim against any partner, employee or consultant of the firm for any matter arising in any way out of the provision of the services to you.
Accordingly, any claim that you wish to make can only be made against the firm and not against a partner, member, employee or consultant of the firm.
You also agree that in the particular circumstances of the services to be provided to you, including in particular those described in any engagement letter sent to you at the commencement of a matter, the aggregate liability of the firm to you for losses for which it is liable at law shall not exceed the amount of our total cover at the time the claim arises. We shall not be liable for consequential, special, indirect or exemplary damages, costs or losses or any damages, costs or losses attributable to loss of profits or opportunities (whether or not it might have been foreseeable at the commencement of the matter).
You agree that where we are unable to perform our services as a result of any cause beyond our reasonable control, we shall not be liable to you or any third party. If any such event occurs we will notify you as soon as reasonably possible.
Where the firm is acting for more than one person, the limit of liability will have to be allocated among you. If this allocation is not expressly stated in the engagement letter, such allocation will be a matter entirely for you. If for whatever reason no such allocation is agreed by you, then you will not dispute the limit of liability on the grounds that no such allocation was agreed.
The liability of the firm to you shall also be limited to that proportion of the loss or damage (including interest and costs) suffered by you, which is ordered against it by a court of competent jurisdiction after taking into account of the contribution to the relevant loss and damage of any other person responsible and/or liable to you for such loss or damage.
For the purpose of assessing such contribution of any other person, no account shall be taken of any limit imposed on the amount of any liability for death or personal injury caused by our negligence or for any other liability which cannot lawfully be excluded or limited. The limitations and exclusions of liability in this section shall have no application to any liability for death or personal injury caused by our negligence or for any other liability which cannot be lawfully excluded.
Termination of Instructions
Once instructed, the firm will normally continue to act for you in the matter until its conclusion. If circumstances arise where it is appropriate for either the firm or you to terminate the arrangement, such termination must be in writing and you will be responsible for the firm’s fees and disbursements up to the date of termination and any fees and disbursements necessarily associated with it ceasing to act or the transfer or work to another adviser of your choice.
The firm shall only terminate the retainer with good reason. This may occur, for example: if we are prevented from continuing due to Practice Rules or ethical code; in the event of non-payment of our bills or expenses; if there is a breach of good faith; or if you refuse to accept our advice and there is a breakdown of the solicitor/client relationship. In cases funded by insurance we have the right to terminate the retainer if the insurance cover is withdrawn. We shall be entitled to retain your papers and documents until our fees and expenses are paid. In court matters we shall require to be removed from the record as acting.
Information passed to the firm is kept confidential and will not be disclosed to third parties except as authorised by you or required by any regulatory authorities or the law. If, on your authority, the firm is working in conjunction with other professional advisers, the firm will assume that it may disclose any relevant aspect of your affairs to them. Where you provide the firm with fax or computer network addresses to which material is to be sent it shall assume, unless you tell us otherwise, that your arrangements are sufficiently secure and confidential to protect your interests.
It should be recognised that the Internet is not secure and that there are risks if sensitive information is sent in this manner by you or you request the firm to use the same system. Data sent by the firm by email is not routinely encrypted and so if you do not want the firm to use email as a form of communication with you or if you require data to be encrypted then please advise us. The firm will use its best endeavours to protect the integrity of computer systems by screening for viruses on email sent or received and would expect you to do the same.
Privacy and Data Protection
The firm is committed to respecting the data which it holds on you. Your details will be kept on its database primarily for the provision of legal services to you and of related purposes including updating and enhancing client records, analysis to help us manage our practice, statutory returns and legal and regulatory compliance.
Our use of that information is subject to your instructions, the new GDPR regulations and our duty of confidentiality. Please note that our work for you might require us to give information to third parties such as expert witnesses and other professional advisers. You have a right of access under data protection legislation to the personal data that we hold about you.
The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and the Regulations made pursuant to such Act which are aimed at preventing money laundering, require that the firm obtain proof of identity from clients for whom it acts in connection with relevant financial business. Accordingly, you will be asked to supply the firm with the necessary details. In certain circumstances, the firm is required by law to report to the National Criminal Intelligence Service any evidence or suspicion of money laundering. The firm is prohibited from notifying you of the fact that a report has been made.
Our firm’s policy is not to accept cash or to only accept cash up to £500. If clients circumvent this policy by depositing cash directly at our bank, we reserve the right to charge for any additional checks we may deem necessary regarding the source of the funds.
Standard Complaints Procedure
We have an established complaints for dealing with complaints from clients. The procedure has been established so that we can resolve as many problems as possible within our office and avoid having complaints and problems reported and escalated, and to preserve the goodwill of our clients, even if things have gone wrong. Our procedure also assists the Firm in identifying the cause of any problem if which the client has complained offering any appropriate redress, and correcting any satisfactory procedures.
Such complaints must be dealt with sympathetically and quickly. Our reputation depends on this, as it is all part of our high standard of service and incorporates client care. Clients are notified in our Client Care Letter/Terms of Business of their right to complain. If the client also asks for a copy of our standard procedure, it is at this point forwarded to them in writing.
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 Belinda Eriksson (Belinda.Eriksson@sw19lawyers.co.uk). An alternative contact will be appointed in the event that a concern is raised in respect of Belinda Eriksson or in relation to a matter she is supervising.
Making a Complaint
You can register the complaint with the person dealing with your matter, the lawyer supervising your matter as detailed in the Client Care Letter sent to you, or Belinda Eriksson. She is responsible for ensuring that complaints are handled effectively and in accordance with this procedure.
Investigating and Resolving the Complaint
We will acknowledge the complaint within seven days. The complainant will also be advised in what timescale they will be given an initial/substantive response. We aim to respond in full within 28 days. However, if the complaint is of a more complex nature we will require more time but we will let the complainant know when they will receive a full response.
We will conduct a full investigation and an independent review of the matter.
We will reply to the complainant, usually in writing to tell him/her of our views on the complaint and how we propose to resolve it, hopefully to the complainant’s satisfaction.
If the complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome, or the way the complaint has been handled, we will provide the name of another lawyer in the team who will make such further investigations as are necessary.
This will inform the complainant of the conclusions and any alternative proposals to resolve the complaint, usually within 28 days of this being referred to him/her.
We will record and report centrally all complaints received from clients.
We will identify the cause of any problems of which the client has complained offering appropriate redress and correcting any unsatisfactory procedures.
We have eight weeks to consider your complaint. If we have not resolved it within this time, you may complain to the Solicitors Regulation Authority SRA number 545144. Solicitors Regulation Authority, The Cube, 199 Wharfside Street, Birmingham, B1 1RN.
What to do if the SRA cannot resolve your complaint
You can access a free and independent service from the Legal Ombudsmen, if necessary. The Legal Ombudsman can help you if the SRA are unable to resolve your complaint. They will look at your complaint independently and it will not affect how they handle your case.
Before accepting a complaint for investigation, the Legal Ombudsman will check that you have tried to resolve your complaint with the SRA first. If you have, then you must take your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman:
- Within six months of receiving a final response to your complaint
- No more than six years from the date of act/omission; or
- No more than three years from when you should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint.
If you would like more information about the Legal Ombudsman, please contact them.
Call: 0300 555 0333 between 9.00 to 17.00.
Legal Ombudsman PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ
You may also want to look at guidance provided by the Legal Ombudsman, signposting consumers to the legal ombudsman, which provides further help on handling complaints.
Contract (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999
For the purposed of section 1(2) of the Contract (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999, it is agreed that no term of this agreement with you shall be enforceable by a third party, save that the partners, consultants and employees of the firm may enforce the exclusions contained in the section above headed “The Liability of SW19 Lawyers”.
The relationship of SW19Lawyers LLP with you will be governed by English Law and will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English Courts.
We are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. We are not separately authorised or regulated by the Financial Services Authority.
Any notice to be given to us may be sent to us at Walnut Tree House, 17 a Church Road, London SW19 5DQ and any notice to be given by us may be given to you at your last address known to us.
Your continuing instructions to us will amount to your acceptance of these terms of business.
From time to time it may be necessary for us to amend the terms on which we act. In such a case, we will inform you of the proposed changes and, unless we hear from you in writing to the contrary within 21 days, such amendments will be deemed to come into effect from the end of that period.