TERMS OF BUSINESS
This document sets out the terms on which we accept instructions and charge for services. The aim of the practice is to provide you with high quality and professional services tailored to meet your particular requirements.
KEEPING YOU INFORMED AND MANAGING YOUR CASE
As your Solicitors, it is our duty to use our professional skills and expertise to advance your case. We will use our professional judgment to take steps to protect your interest. This means that we will receive letters, emails and phone calls, which we will be obliged to consider and respond to if it is in your interest. We will also have to write and make telephone calls to try to advance your case. We cannot contact you for instructions every time we receive communication or we need to make an enquiry, as this will unnecessarily increase the costs of your case. We assure you that every effort will be made to keep you informed about the main developments in your case and we will contact you immediately for your instructions if anything significant or unusual occurs.
We will also contact you if we receive information that affects our current views. We will seek your instructions and give you a written review of the issues at that point. You should bear in mind that as a case develops the length of time it takes to resolve and the way in which it is progressed is influenced not just by what we decide to do together but also how others decide to deal with your case. If there is any new information that might affect your instructions it is important that you tell us about it as soon as possible. It is useful to receive written confirmation of that information by either letter or electronic means.
CONDUCT OF PROCEEDINGS
We will not institute any legal proceedings without first obtaining your authority but once legal proceedings have been instituted, it is important that you understand that we are entitled to take steps which are usually taken in proceedings of this nature. Apart from our duty to you, we have obligations to the Court as Officers of the Court. It is important that you respond promptly to requests for information or instructions as failure to do so could harm your case. It is also important that you abide by any advice given by us or by Counsel. We shall assume that we have your authority to incur routine expenditure e.g. police and medical reports as necessary. We shall assume that we have your authority to incur routine expenditure to include obtaining Police Reports, Medical Reports and to where necessary the engagement of Junior Counsel. We shall however revert to you regarding incurring any significant expenditure such as the retaining of Senior Counsel or the services of a particular Specialist.
MONEY LAUNDERING – GOVERNMENT RULES
We are required by the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 and any subsequent amendments to verify your identity before we can act or continue to act on your behalf in connection with this matter. You will need to produce your original passport, driving licence or other official photographic identity document and either a recent utility bill or bank statement to confirm your address, as we need a copy of each for our file. You should do this as soon as possible as otherwise we will not be able to continue to act for you. We may have to ask questions about the proposed source and flow of funds for cases involving finance and make such enquiries as may be relevant to the transaction. There are also circumstances under the regulations in which we are required to make a confidential report to the Serious Organised Crime Agency when we either know or suspect or have reasonable grounds for suspecting that a criminal offence has been committed and may be prevented from informing you of this under the Regulations. In light of the provisions of these Regulations and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, the Policy of the practice is not to accept payments in cash exceeding £300.00.
CHARGES AND EXPENSES
Fees and expenses payable in respect of invoices are payable within 30 days of the date of the Invoice. If you do not pay within 30 days from the date of the invoice, we will charge interest on the amount outstanding on the due date at the rate of 8% per annum. We will not carry out further work until any outstanding bill is paid. If you have difficulty paying our fees then you should contact us as soon as possible. When your case is concluded and we are holding money on your behalf we will deduct our fees and expenses from the monies due to you and pay you the balance. Alternatively in Conveyancing transactions our fees are based on the written estimate of costs sent to you at the outset of the transaction.
You may be entitled to Legal Aid if you are in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income Support or otherwise come within the financial limits applicable. If you wish to avail of Legal Aid, you must bring to us at the earliest opportunity current documentation confirming your benefit details and those of any spouse or partner. If you are on a low income or other benefit, you may also qualify to an extent for Legal Aid. Again current pay slips and benefit details should be brought as soon as possible. Legal Aid rules provide for a contribution from you if your income exceeds the maximum level for free Legal Aid. If you are granted Legal Aid subject to a contribution then any contribution is payable to the Legal Services Commission. Failure to make payments will result in a Legal Aid Certificate being withdrawn and you will be responsible for all our costs. The Social Security Agency will make an assessment of your means and it is important you co-operate with them. The assessment is based on your net income, including that of any partner, how much money you have in savings, the number of your dependents and your outgoings. If your financial circumstances change, you should tell the Legal Services Commission immediately.
The Legal Services Commission operates what is known as a statutory charge over any money recovered through proceedings. This means that if you receive a financial benefit i.e. damages from the proceedings the Commission is entitled to be paid that sum, which it will use to repay itself any money which has been paid out on your behalf and which may not be recovered from your opponent. The balance of the money will then be paid out to you. This means that any compensation monies are payable to this office and we are required to remit same to the Legal Services Commission before it can be paid out to you.
Please note there is usually a significant time delay between applying for and the granting of Legal Aid. Legal aid is not backdated and therefore any costs incurred before you are in receipt of a full Legal Aid Certificate are not covered and remain your responsibility. If you cannot afford to pay for your case to progress you will have to wait until a Legal Aid Certificate is available before we can take any further steps to progress your case.
Legal Aid is not available for all types of work, for example Fair Employment Tribunals, Industrial Tribunals, libel and slander.
CRIMINAL LEGAL AID
Legal Aid may be available for persons charged with more serious criminal offences i.e. not motoring offences. This depends on the nature of the case and your income will be taken into account. We will make an application to the Court for Legal Aid on your behalf as appropriate.
LEGAL EXPENSES INSURANCE
In some circumstances, you may find your household or car insurance policy includes provision for the payment of legal expenses. In these circumstances, you should check your Policy and let us know whether it will cover the cost of our representation of you.
We may arrange on your behalf ‘After The Event’ Insurance in Litigation cases or Title Indemnity Insurance in Conveyancing cases. We do not receive commission in respect of such Policies.
INTEREST ON CLIENT’S MONEY
Any money held or received by us on your account will be placed and held in your Client Account in accordance with Law Society rules. We will account to you for interest on sums exceeding £20,000 held by us for long periods of time. Interest Rates are equivalent to small sums held in Instant Access Bank Accounts.
ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
Most contentious Court and Tribunal proceedings allow for the possibility of considering alternative dispute resolution whether by way of conciliation, arbitration or mediation. Such mechanisms can be quicker and cheaper and we are happy to discuss these with you at an early stage.
You will have received from us details of our costs on connection with your Conveyancing transaction in which you have instructed us. To enable us to properly advise you in connection with such transactions it is important that you provide us with the information requested and in particular that you have disclosed full details of all properties owned by you on a world-wide basis where you require us to provide quotations in respect of the requirement to pay Stamp Duty and any other associated Taxes.
RECOVERING YOUR COSTS FROM YOUR OPPONENT
In litigation even when you are successful, you may not recover the full costs of pursuing your case. There is almost always an element of non-recoverable costs irrespective of the outcome of legal proceedings brought or defended on your behalf. Some Courts such as the County Court operate scale fees, which set out the amount that can be recovered for legal costs. However, we may have to charge you more than the scale fee. If you are unsuccessful in the legal proceedings then the Court may make an order for costs against you for some or all of the costs of other parties. These costs and expenses are in addition to our own professional fees and expenses. If you are successful in the proceedings then in certain circumstances even if an order for another party to pay your costs is made that party may not be willing or able to pay you. We expect that at the conclusion of the proceedings you will if requested make full payment of our costs and outlay without waiting for payment from any other party. In the event of our recovering all or part of these costs from another party, we will then account to you for that money.
HOW WE HANDLE DATA AND RECORDS
It may be necessary for us to retain personal data about you on our files and our computer records. Examples include financial information, bank details, sensitive personal data and medical records. In accepting these terms of business, you confirm that we may receive and hold confidential and/or sensitive personal data in relation to you and that where appropriate this may need to be disclosed to others such as counsel, experts and other parties. If you have a concern about disclosure of any particularly sensitive personal or commercial data, please raise this with us at an early stage. We will communicate with you by the most effective means but we cannot be responsible for the security of correspondence and documents sent by fax, email or other electronic means. If you have concerns about the confidentiality of any information sent by electronic means, please let us know so we can arrange for secure transmission.
When a matter has completed we normally retain our correspondence file for a period of up to 6 years. Thereafter the file will be destroyed without reference to you unless you notify us that you wish to retain some part of the file. Original documents will usually be returned to you.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
On occasions we may be asked to advise a client in a similar line of business. In accepting these terms of business you agree that we will not be prevented from acting on behalf of other clients whether current or future who are in a similar line of business to you during the conduct of this matter or after our retainer has been completed unless there is a clear conflict of interest arising from the specific work that we do for you.
ENDING THE SOLICITOR/CLIENT RELATIONSHIP
You may terminate our engagement on this matter in writing at any time. You will have to pay all outstanding fees and expenses up to the date of termination. We may retain all documents, deeds and other papers until payment of all monies due to us has been made. We may at some time consider that we ought to stop acting for you, for example if you do not respond to any requests for information or do not abide by or accept any advice given. You will be responsible for all the fees and expenses incurred to the date we cease to act and we may retain all documents, deeds and other papers until payment of all monies due has been made. On the termination of the retainer we will notify all relevant parties accordingly and if appropriate apply to the Court to come off record on your behalf.
LIMITATION OF LIABILITY
In no circumstances will we be liable to you for any loss arising out of or in connection with this engagement in contract, tort, by statute or otherwise unless the loss is caused directly as a result of our negligence or default. In all circumstances the potential total aggregate liability of our firm whether for breach of contract, tort, including negligence and/or misrepresentation, breach of statutory duty or otherwise arising out of or in connection with our engagement will be limited to an amount not exceeding £3,000,000.00.
The potential total aggregate liability of our firm to you arising out of or in connection with our engagement will in addition be limited to the amount that could be met without recourse to the personal assets of any principal or partner.
We shall not be liable for any indirect consequential loss or for loss arising out of any action necessary for us to comply with the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 and any subsequent amendments. Where any loss is suffered by you for which we and any other party are jointly and severally liable the loss recoverable by you from us shall be limited so as to be in proportion to our relative contribution to the overall fault taking into account that other party’s liability. That other party may include you for example in a situation of contributory negligence. If as a result of any exclusion or limitation of liability agreed by you with any other person, the amount which you are able to recover is reduced, then our liability to you will be reduced by an equivalent amount. We shall not be liable to any third party for any services or advice that we provide to you nor shall we have any liability to you for any service or advice given by any third party whom we instruct on your behalf, for example in relation to legal, financial or other professional advice.
Our advice does not include the taxation implications of any transaction which include a requirement to pay Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax or other Tax such as Stamp Duty. We may offer assistance in connection with the payment of such Taxes but ultimately the responsibility for payment of same rests with you. If you require advice on Taxation or the implications of Stamp Duty you should seek advice from a Tax Expert
These terms of business are governed by and construed in accordance with the Laws of Northern Ireland. We would ask you to return one signed copy of this letter as an acknowledgement that you accept these terms.
In the meantime, insofar as we carry out work for you prior to receipt by us of the signed copy of this letter or you raise any particular concerns or issues about its content the work will be deemed to be done on the basis of the terms set out above.
We may disclose that you are a client and that in relation to any matter we are acting or have acted for you if information about that matter is otherwise in the public domain or you specifically consent to that disclosure.
CONCERNS AND COMPLAINTS
At all times, we try to deliver a high quality, client focused service. If at any time you are worried about how your case is being processed please contact the Solicitor primarily responsible for dealing with you.
If you do not get a satisfactory explanation then you may invoke our formal complaints procedure. Details of this is available on request. In the event that you need to complain please write directly to Mr. Sean G. Murphy setting out your concerns and he will reply as soon as possible. We anticipate that we will be able to resolve your concerns through our internal procedure.
WHO TO CONTACT
Mr. Sean G. Murphy will be primarily responsible for dealing with your case with support as appropriate from members of staff.
Our contact details are as follows:- Telephone: 028 9036 5595