Introduction

These Terms and Conditions of Business along with the accompanying engagement letter set out our service standards and the terms of business on which we agree to act for you. If you have any questions about any of the information contained herein, please contact the person dealing with your matter. By continuing to instruct the practice we shall be entitled to assume that you have agreed to the terms and conditions set out here.  For the purpose of these terms, “we” “our” “us” or “the firm” refers to Samuel Phillips Law.

About the firm

Samuel Phillips Law is a trading name of Samuel Phillips Law Firm which is a private legal practice authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) under number 59299. Our registered office is 18-24 Grey Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 6AE. A list of Partners is available for inspection at the above office. The SRA Code of Conduct sets out the regulatory framework applicable to service providers such as ours. The current edition of the Code is available on the SRA Website at www.sra.org.uk. Under Law Society Lexcel requirements, we have adopted administrative procedures which are designed to promote efficiency and quality of service.

Our commitment to you

We aim to offer our clients quality legal advice with a personal service at a fair cost. We hope it is helpful to you to set out in this statement the basis on which we will provide our professional services. We will:

  • Explain to you the legal work which may be required and the prospects of a successful outcome.
  • Keep you regularly informed of progress.
  • Update you on the cost of your matter, as appropriate.
  • Try to avoid using technical legal language.
  • Deal with your queries promptly.

Our hours of business

The normal hours of opening at our offices are between 9.00am and 5.00pm on weekdays. Messages can be left on the answerphone outside those hours and appointments can be arranged at other times when this is essential.

Charges and expenses

The fee structure applied to our work is dependent on the nature of the matter.

It is our policy to be open and transparent about our prices and services.  To this end, costs information will be published on our website from 6 December 2018 in accordance with the SRA Transparency Rules.  The information is published to assist clients in understanding generic costs likely to be involved in a matter and the factors that can influence them.  The prices are not binding on us, as they are unable to address each and every scenario presented to us, nor address any unusual complexities in a matter.  Where there is a conflict between the generic prices set out on our website, and the individual prices quoted in our engagement letter, the latter will take precedence.

If your matter is to be funded by way of a Conditional Fee Agreement or Damages-Based Agreement, also known as a ‘No Win No Fee Agreement’, then you will also be bound by the terms set out in that Agreement. Where the Agreement is in conflict with these Terms and Conditions of Business, the Agreement will take precedence.

If we have agreed a fixed fee for work on your case, the arrangements will be set out in the engagement letter.  Provided we are not requested to do any more work than when that fixed fee was agreed, we will not make any additional charge.  However, we reserve the right to make an additional charge in the event that the matter becomes more complex or lengthier than originally estimated.  This would entail either increasing our fee estimate or charging at an hourly rate for the additional work involved.  In the latter case we would try and give you our best estimate of the likely additional cost or, where this is not possible; we would obtain your authority to carry out work to an agreed fee limit.

On matters funded on an hourly rate basis, our fees are based on the amount of time which has been spent in dealing with the matter and the seniority of the personnel involved. This may include meetings with you and perhaps others; reading, preparing and working on papers; making and receiving telephone calls, e-mails, faxes and text messages; preparation of any detailed costs estimates, schedules and bills; attending at court; and time necessarily spent travelling away from the office. From time to time we may arrange for some of this work to be carried out by persons not directly employed by us; such work will be charged to you at the hourly rate which would be charged if we had done the work ourselves.

Routine letters, e-mails and texts that we send and routine telephone calls that we make and receive, are charged at one-tenth of the hourly rate. Other letters, e-mails and calls are charged on a time spent basis.

The current hourly rates are set out below.

  £
Partners 250.00
Associates & Senior Solicitors 220.00
Solicitors 200.00
Trainee Solicitors 180.00
Paralegals 160.00

We will add VAT to the above at the rate that applies when the work is done. At present, VAT is 20%. Our VAT registration number is 177084639.

We will be happy, on request, to provide estimates where possible or up to date statements of our charging rates.

These hourly rates are reviewed periodically to reflect increases in overhead costs and inflation. Normally the rates are reviewed with effect from 1st January each year. If a review is carried out before this matter has been concluded, we will inform you of any variation in the rate before it takes effect.

In addition to the time spent, we may take into account a number of factors including any need to carry out work outside our normal office hours, the complexity of the issues, the speed at which action has to be taken, any particular specialist expertise which the case may demand. An increase in the rates may be applied to reflect such factors.

Solicitors have to pay out various other expenses on behalf of clients ranging from Land or Probate Registry fees, to Court fees, experts’ fees, and so on.  We have no obligation to make such payments unless you have provided us with the funds for that purpose. VAT is payable on certain expenses.

Payment arrangements

We accept payment by cheque which should be made payable to Samuel Phillips Law Firm (unless directed otherwise by the firm),  Bank Giro Credits, BACS, CHAPS and Electronic Transfer.   We also have the facility to accept all major debit/credit cards (we do not accept American Express), please discuss with your solicitor at the point of instruction for further information.

Monies due to you from us will be paid by cheque or BACS.  We can also pay you by Faster Payment or Electronic Transfer but there is a charge for this service. We will not pay you cash, and payment(s) will not be made payable to a third party.

It is normal practice to ask clients to pay sums of money from time to time on account of the charges and expenses which are expected in the following weeks or months. We find that this helps clients in budgeting for costs as well as keeping them informed of the legal expenses which are being incurred. If such requests are not met with prompt payment, delay in the progress of a case may result. In the unlikely event of any bill or request for payment not being met, this firm must reserve the right to stop acting for you further.

Payment is due to us within 28 days of us sending you a bill. Interest will be charged on a daily basis at 8% over the Bank of England base rate from time to time from the date of the bill in cases where payment is not made within 28 days of delivery by us of the bill.

We do not accept payments in cash in excess of £500. If you try to avoid this policy by depositing cash directly with our bank, we will charge you for any additional checks we decide are necessary to prove the source of the funds.

The common law entitles us to retain any money, papers or other property belonging to you which properly come into our possession pending payment of our costs, whether or not the property is acquired in connection with the matter for which the costs were incurred.  This is known as a “general lien”.  We are not entitled to sell property held under a lien but we are entitled to hold property, other than money, even if the value of it greatly exceeds the amount due to us in respect of costs.

Conditional Fee Arrangements: Insurance to cover legal costs

Samuel Phillips Law provide clients with a number of case funding options including insurance policies that cover the costs of your case and/or expenses and your opponent’s costs.  This cover is only suitable and allowable on certain matters and your solicitor will advise you as to the best option available at instruction and during the case if circumstances change.

Some Insurers pay us a Commission on the Policies.  If you require further informnation on this issue please discuss with the solicitor handling your case.  In such circumstances when insurance cover is arranged to cover your legal costs the Insurers will use your details for administrative purposes only and not for any other purpose.

You may have a pre-existing policy of Insurance which might cover your legal costs and expenses.  This could be part of an existing Insurance Policy on your home and contents or other policy.  You may also have cover through a Trade Union or other organisation.  Please inform us if you believe you may have legal expenses insurance and/or other protection in place.

Financial services and insurance contracts

We are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).  If, while we are acting for you, you need advice on investments, we may have to refer you to someone who is authorised to give that advice. We are, however, included on the register maintained by the FCA so that we can carry on insurance distribution activity, which is broadly the advising on, selling and administration of insurance contracts. This part of our business, including arrangements for complaints or redress if something goes wrong, is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The register can be accessed via the FCA website at www.fca.org.uk/firms/financial-services-register.

Tax advice

Any work that we do for you may involve tax implications or necessitate the consideration of tax planning strategies. If we are not qualified to advise you on the tax implications of a matter, we will say so. However, even if we do not, we always recommend clients to obtain tax advice from qualified accountants.

Abortive costs

If, for any reason, this matter does not proceed to completion, we will be entitled to charge you for work done and expenses incurred, which would be on a proportion basis for example if half of the work has been completed then you will be charged half of the estimated costs.

Other parties’ charges and expenses

In some cases a client may be entitled to payment of costs by a third party. It is important that you understand that in such circumstances, the other person may not be required or able to pay all the charges and expenses which you incur with us. You have to pay our charges and expenses in the first place and any amounts which can be recovered will be a contribution towards them. If the other party is in receipt of legal aid no costs are likely to be recovered.

If you are successful and a court orders another party to pay some or all of your charges and expenses, interest can be claimed on them from the other party from the date of the court order. We will account to you for such interest to the extent that you have paid our charges or expenses on account, but we are entitled to the rest of that interest. You will also be responsible for paying our charges and expenses of seeking to recover any costs that the court orders the other party to pay to you.

A client who is unsuccessful in a court case may be ordered to pay the other party’s legal charges and expenses. That money would be payable in addition to our charges and expenses. Arrangements can be made to take out insurance to cover liability for such legal expenses. Please discuss this with us if you are interested in this possibility.

Client accounts and interest payment

Any money received on your behalf, as part of the retainer or to facilitate the carrying out of your instructions, will be held in our Instant Access Client Account on which, interest will be calculated monthly or on conclusion of the matter and will be paid Gross of tax.

We will calculate the sum of interest due using Lloyds Bank rates, applicable to the sum(s) of money held and the length of time cleared funds are available.  We have applied a charge of £20.00 so that no interest will be paid if the amount calculated is for £20.00 or less.

The period of which interest will be paid will normally run from the date(s) on which funds are received by us until the date(s) of issue of any cheque(s) from this Account.

Subject to certain conditions money will be placed on Lloyds Bank Designated Deposit Accounts.  Interest will be calculated at the rates provided by Lloyds Bank and tax will be deducted at source based on the tax status of the individual.

Although we recognise interest earned on Designated Deposit Accounts is Office Money under the Solicitors Regulation Authority Accounts Rules we will continue to pay this into the Designated Deposit Account.

If money is to be held in a Joint Account with you, all interest earned will be for your benefit unless otherwise agreed.  If money is to be held jointly with another practice, the allocation of interest earned will depend on the agreement reached.

Acting for your Lender

Please note that if we are also acting for your Lender in a Conveyancing transaction, we have a duty to make full disclosure to the lender of all relevant facts relating to you, your purchase and mortgage. This could include the disclosure of any discrepancies between the mortgage and application and information provided to us during the transaction and any cashback payments or discount schemes which a seller is providing you. If a conflict arises between our duties to you and our duties to the Lender, we must cease to act for you.

Deposit protection

Please note that if we do hold any of your money at any point we will take good care of it and we only bank with UK banks. We are unlikely however to be liable to repay money lost through a banking failure. If we do hold any of your money, it will be held with Lloyds Bank plc and that money will have the same protection (up to £85,000) under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) as if you held the money in that bank personally. If you hold other personal monies in that same bank you should note that the limit of £85,000 remains the same for the total. You also need to be aware that some deposit taking institutions/banks have several brands, i.e. where the same institution is trading under different names. You should check either with your bank, the Financial Conduct Authority or a financial adviser for more information. If we do have to make a claim under the FSCS in respect of your money we will, subject to your consent, need give certain information to the FSCS about you to help them identify you and any amount to which you would be entitled within our client account. Further details are available at www.fscs.org.uk.

Storage of papers and documents

After completing the work, we are entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is money owing to us for our charges and expenses. In addition, we will keep your file of papers for you in storage for not less than one year. After that, storage is on the clear understanding that we have the right to destroy it after such period as we consider reasonable or to make a charge for storage if we ask you to collect your papers and you fail to do so. We will not of course destroy any documents such as Wills, Deeds, and other securities, which you ask us to hold in safe custody. No charge will be made to you for such storage unless prior notice in writing is given to you of a charge to be made from a future date which may be specified in that notice.

If we retrieve papers or documents from storage in relation to continuing or new instructions to act in connection with your affairs, we will not normally charge for such retrieval. However, we may make a charge based on time spent for producing stored papers or documents to you or another at your request. We may also charge for reading, correspondence or other work necessary to comply with your instructions.

Termination

You may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time but we will be entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is money owing to us for our charges and expenses. If at any stage you do not wish us to continue doing work and/or incurring charges and expenses on your behalf, you must tell us this clearly in writing.

If we decide to stop acting for you, for example if you do not pay an interim bill or comply with the request for a payment on account, we will tell you the reason and give you notice in writing.

Under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, for some non-business instructions, you may have the right to withdraw, without charge, within fourteen working days of the date on which you asked us to act for you. However, if we start work with your consent within that period, you lose that right to withdraw. Your acceptance of these Terms and Conditions of Business will amount to such a consent. If you seek to withdraw instructions, you should give notice by telephone, e-mail or letter to the person named in the engagement letter as being responsible for your work. The Regulations require us to inform you that the work involved is likely to take more than 30 days. Please note that the Regulations do not apply to legally-aided work.

Limited Companies

When accepting instructions to act on behalf of a limited company, we may require a Director and/or controlling shareholder to sign a form of personal guarantee in respect of the charges and expenses of this firm. If such a request is refused, we will be entitled to stop acting and to require immediate payment of our charges on an hourly basis and expenses as set out earlier.

Identity, confidentiality and disclosure requirements

The law requires solicitors to get satisfactory evidence of the identity of their clients and sometimes people related to them. This is because solicitors who deal with money and property on behalf of their client can be used by criminals wanting to launder money. To comply with the law, we need to verify your identity. To do this we will conduct an electronic identity check (‘E-ID check’) via SmartSearch using the information and ID documents that you provide to us.

The E-ID check will search various databases (public and otherwise). The search will leave a ‘soft footprint’ on your credit file. This records that an identity search has been carried out. We must stress this is not a credit search and will not affect your credit rating.

We charge a small administrative charge to cover the costs involved in verifying your identity. If you instruct Samuel Phillips Law in relation to other matters in the future, you will not usually incur these charges again unless it is over 3 years since our last E-ID check was conducted, or your circumstances have changed within that period (e.g. change of name, address etc.).

Our charges are as follows:

Type of ID Check Cost per search (excl. VAT)
UK Individual £5.00
UK Incorporated Business £15.00
Director’s Home Addresses £5.00
UK Business (Other) £10.00
International Individual (Basic) £12.00 (per document)
International Individual (Full) £25.00 (per document)

 

By accepting these Terms and Conditions of Business, you consent to all necessary E-ID checks being made.

We are entitled to refuse to act for you if you fail to supply appropriate proof of identity for yourself or for any principal whom you may represent. We may arrange to carry out an electronic verification of your identity if we consider that a saving of time and cost will be achieved by doing so. The cost of any such search will be charged to you. If the amount is in excess of £10 including VAT, we will seek your prior agreement.

Solicitors are under a professional and legal obligation to keep the affairs of the client confidential. This obligation, however, is subject to a statutory exception: legislation on money laundering and terrorist financing has placed solicitors under a legal duty in certain circumstances to disclose information to the National Crime Agency (NCA). Where a solicitor knows or suspects that a transaction on behalf of a client involves money laundering, the solicitor may be required to make a disclosure. If, while we are acting for you, it becomes necessary to make such a disclosure, we may not be able to inform you that it has been made, or of the reasons for it, because the law prohibits ‘tipping-off’. Where the law permits us, we will tell you about any potential money laundering problem and explain what action we may need to take.

External firms or organisations may conduct audit or quality checks on our practice. These external firms or organisations are required to maintain confidentiality in relation to your files. We may need to disclose your information to third parties (such as barristers, accountants or government agencies) to enable us to handle your affairs.  We may also need to permit third parties (such as our auditors, Lexcel assessors and the SRA) to have access to your information for administrative or regulatory purposes.  We may also outsource work.  This might be for example costings, research and preparation to assist with your matter.  Information from your file may therefore be made available in such circumstances.  We will always aim to obtain a confidentiality agreement with the third party.  We will not otherwise disclose your information to any third party unless permitted or required to do so by law.  If you do not want your file to be outsourced please tell us as soon as possible.

We will not be liable for any loss, damage or delay arising out of the firm’s compliance with any  statutory or regulatory requirement.

Complaints

Our aim is to offer all our clients an efficient and effective service at all times. We hold the Law Society’s Lexcel quality standard for practice management.  We hope that you will be pleased with the work we do for you. However, should there be any aspect of our service with which you are unhappy, please raise your concern in the first place with the solicitor handling your matter. If you still have queries or concerns, please contact Sharon Boyd at 18-24 Grey Street, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 6AE Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority for details of their code of conduct for law firms visit   http://www.sra.org.uk/consumers/using-solicitor/what-to-expect.page

If you have a query with the bill you should first contact our Accounts Department on 0191 2328451. If the query remains unresolved you may make a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman (see below), and/or by applying to the court for an assessment under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974.

If you remain unhappy with our final response to your  complaint or 8 weeks have passed since first raising the issue you may  contact the  Legal Ombudsman at PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ, email: enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk,  telephone 0300 555 0333. The Legal Ombudsman will expect you to have given us a chance to resolve your complaint before it will get involved.  Normally, you will need to bring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within 6 months of receiving a final written response from us and within 6 years from the date of the act or omission about which you are complaining, or 3 years from the date you should reasonably have known there were grounds for complaint. For more information see www.legalombudsman.org.uk.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) can help you if you are concerned about our behaviour. This could be for things like dishonesty, taking or losing your money or treating you unfairly because of your age, a disability or other characteristic. You can find information about raising your concerns with the SRA at www.sra.org.uk in the ‘For the public’ section.

Communications

We will aim to communicate with you by such a method as you may request. We may need to virus check e-mails. Unless you withdraw consent, we will communicate with you and others when appropriate by e-mail or fax but we cannot be responsible for the security of correspondence and documents sent by e-mail or fax. Please note that neither Samuel Phillips Law nor the sender accepts any responsibility for viruses and it is your responsibility to scan attachments (if any).  No contracts may be concluded on behalf of Samuel Phillips Law by means of e-mail communications.

Cybercrime warning

Please be vigilant to the risk of email hacking and cybercrime particularly in relation to electronic bank transfers. You should be alive to the possibility that a fraudster might deliberately misrepresent himself or herself as a member of, or as someone acting on behalf of, or working with, Samuel Phillips Law, for criminal purposes.

Please note, our bank details will not change during the course of acting for you. We do not send our bank details by email. If you receive an email asking you to pay money into an account other than our client bank account, the details of which have been notified to you in our Letter of Engagement enclosed with these Terms and Conditions of Business, please contact the person dealing with your matter and in no circumstances action the request. Before transferring any money to us you must call us on our main office phone number and speak to the Department responsible for your matter to check that the bank details you have received are correct. We cannot be responsible for any loss you suffer if you fail to take this very simple precaution.

We do not accept bank details transmitted to us via email. If we receive any email communications from you informing us of a change to your account details or instructions for payment, we will not make any payment until such time as we have been able to confirm those instructions directly with you. If you do change your bank details whilst we are acting for you please notify us in person or by telephone as soon as possible to ensure that this does not result in any delay as we will need to verify the change directly with you to ensure that they are not from a fraudulent source.

Data protection

We use the information you provide primarily for the provision of legal services to you and for related purposes including updating and enhancing client records, analysis to help us manage our firm, statutory returns and legal/regulatory compliance. Our use of that information is subject to your instructions, data protection law and our duty of confidentiality.

Please note that our work for you may require us to pass on such information to third parties such as expert witnesses and other professional advisers, including sometimes advisers appointed by another party to your matter. We may also give such information to others who perform services for us, such as typing or photocopying. Our practice may be audited or checked by our accountants or our regulator, or by other organisations. We do not normally copy such information to anyone outside the European Economic Area, however we may do so however when the particular circumstances of your matter so require. All such third parties are required to maintain confidentiality in relation to your files.

You have a right of access under data protection law to the personal data that we hold about you. We seek to keep that personal data correct and up to date. You should let us know if you believe the information we hold about you needs to be corrected or updated. The person with overall responsibility for data protection compliance is the Data Protection Manager, Sharon Boyd, email informationrequest@samuelphillips.co.uk. The firm is registered with the Information Commissioner.  Further information regarding data protection and privacy is available from the Information Commissioner’s Office www.ico.org.uk.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) you, as a data subject, have a number of rights. These include the right to be informed, the right of access, the right to rectification, the right to erasure, the right to restrict processing, the right to data portability and the right to object. Further information about these rights is set out on the ICO website referred to above and also in our privacy policy at www.samuelphillips.co.uk.

We may receive personal data from you for the purposes of our money laundering checks, such as a copy of your passport. These will be processed only for the purposes of preventing money laundering and terrorist financing, or as otherwise permitted by law or with your express consent. You consent to us retaining such data for longer than the five-year statutory period, unless you tell us otherwise.

If you send us personal data about anyone other than yourself you will ensure you have any appropriate consents and notices in place to enable you to transfer that personal data to us and so that we may use it for the purposes for which you provide it to us.

Equality and diversity

We are committed to promoting equality and diversity in all our dealings with clients, third parties and employees.  Please contact us if you would like a copy of our Equality and Diversity Policy.

Professional indemnity insurance

For the protection of our clients, we carry professional indemnity insurance for legal services undertaken in the UK up to a maximum indemnity limit of £10M. Our insurance is handled by our brokers Lockton Companies LLP and cover is provided by International Insurance Company of Hannover SE.

Lockton Companies LLP address is The St. Botolph Building, 138 Houndsditch, London EC3A 7AG – Company number: OC353198

They are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Terms and Conditions of Business

Unless otherwise agreed, and subject to the application of then current hourly rates, these Terms and Conditions of Business shall apply to any future instructions given by you to this firm.

Although your continuing instructions in this matter will amount to an acceptance of these Terms and Conditions of Business, it may not be possible for us to start work on your behalf until one copy of them has been returned to us for us to keep on our file.