TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF SERVICE

 

 

        INTRODUCTION

 

  • You will be a client of CITYWIDE Solicitors, which is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).  The detailed professional rules applicable to those who are regulated by the SRA are contained in the “Handbook” which you can access through their website http://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/handbook/code/.
  • Our goal is to provide clear and effective legal services to you and it is important for us to explain exactly what we will do for you and how we will do it.  Please read these terms & Conditions carefully to ensure you understand them, as they form part of our agreement with you.

 

  • HOURS OF BUSINESS:

       Our offices are opened from 9:30am to 5:30pm on weekdays except for Bank Holidays.  Our switchboard deals with all incoming calls during this time on the days when our offices are open.

  • APPOINTMENTS:

Normally, during the course of your case, we would request that you telephone us to arrange a mutually convenient appointment, as and when necessary.  However, if you need to see any member of the professional staff because of some special development in your case, you should first telephone our switchboard to arrange an appointment. Appointments will usually be between 11:00am to 4:00pm.  If there is an emergency and you need to see a member of professional staff outside these hours, please telephone to let us know the nature of the emergency and we would endeavour to arrange a special appointment for you where possible.  Please note that if you attend our offices without an appointment, the lawyer handling your case may not be able to see.

  • THE LEVEL OF SERVICE:

4.1. We have discussed with you the level of service that is appropriate to your case, which we will be providing you.

4.2. It is important that you bear in mind that the level of service to be provided will have a direct impact on the costs of your case.  The level of services and complexity of the services we have agreed to undertake on your behalf will affect the costs of your matter as we have discussed.  WE WILL:

  • Provide you with regular updates as to the progress on your matter.
  • Communicate with you in plain language.
  • Explain to you the legal work required as your matter progresses.
  • Update you on the cost of your matter at least every three months.

 

  • Update you on whether the likely outcomes still justify the likely costs and risks associated with your matter whenever there is a material change in circumstances.
  • Update you on the likely timescales for each stage of your matter and any important changes in those timescales.
  • OUR RESPONSIBILITIES:
  • We shall act in your best interests, subject to our duty to the Court.
  • We shall review your matter regularly and advise you of any circumstances and risks of which we are aware or reasonably foreseeable that could affect the progress and outcome of your matter.
  • We shall advise you of any relevant changes in the law and give you our best advice.
  • We shall give you the best information possible about the likely costs of your case.
  • CITYWIDE Solicitors are committed to equality and diversity in all aspects of our work.  We have an Equality and Diversity Policy, which states our values, commitments and aims.  A copy is on our website and available on request.  
  • YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES:

YOU MUST:

  • Provide us with clear, timely and accurate instructions to enable us to perform our duties on your behalf properly.
  • Place us in funds (your fees and disbursements) on time for your matter.
  • Provide all documentation required to undertake and complete work in a timely manner and keep safe any documents that are likely to be required for disclosure.
  • Not ask us to work in an improper or unreasonable or unlawful way.
  • Not deliberately mislead us.
  • Must co-operate with us to enable us to progress your case.
  • Not, unless we have made alternative arrangements, attend any appointment and Court/Tribunal Hearings without our knowledge and advice.

6.1. You must also let us know if you are subject to a bankruptcy order of a bankruptcy petition that has been presented by or against you or you are subject to any other form of the insolvency process.

  1. IMPLIED AUTHORITY:

7.1. Unless you advise us to the contrary, we will assume that we have your authority to take all steps that we consider reasonable and necessary in the conduct of your matter and incur necessary expenses (known as ‘disbursements’, e.g., Court/Tribunal Fees, Barrister’s fees, medical report fees, any other relevant expert’s fees, etc.).  We shall of course inform you in advance if unusual or high expenses are to be incurred.  We will not incur any disbursements unless you have made payments to us on account of them.

  1. CHARGES AND EXPENSES:

8.1. We confirm that we will agree to a fee with you, which is either a fixed fee or hourly rate unless we agree to act on your behalf on pro bono or under a special fee arrangement.  You will be, however, be responsible for all other expenses which may be incurred.  In addition, if your matter becomes complex, we would have to bill you at our new charge rate. However, we will of course inform you about this if it does happen.  This may also include Counsel’s fee, Courts costs, and any other necessary expenses if required.

8.2. We will inform you if any unforeseen additional work becomes necessary (for example, due to unexpected difficulties, for example, your case takes longer than anticipated, or if your requirements or the circumstances significantly change during the course of the matter). We will also inform you of its estimated costs in writing before any extra charges or expenses are incurred.

  1. BILLING ARRANGEMENTS:

9.1. We will send you an interim bill for our charges and expenses at intervals of six months at least while the work is in progress.  This enables you to budget as the matter progresses.  The bills we send out while we are still working on your case are not an exact costing of the full amount due.

9.2. If there is not enough money to pay an expense or our bill, we will ask you to pay the balance promptly and we may also ask you to pay a further amount to be held on our client account in your name for anticipated work on your behalf.

9.3. Payment is due once we have issued a bill to you.  But we will allow you seven days to make payment.  We will charge you interest on the bill at 8% per year seven days from the date of our bill if you do not pay our bill within this time.  Interest will be charged on a daily basis.

9.4. We understand that sometimes it is easier for people to pay bills than at other times.  If you have difficulty in paying for the work as it progresses, please do speak to the person who is dealing with your case straight away.  You should tell us if your financial circumstances change and we will do our best to develop the right payment plan for you.  Although, we cannot work free of charge in this case, but we will try to assist you with the right payment plan.  

9.5 If you or we decide that we should stop acting for you, you will pay our charges up until that point.  These are calculated on an hourly basis plus expenses (and if we are acting under a fixed fee agreement, by a proportion of the agreed fee.

  1. LIEN FOR UNPAID COSTS:

A “lien” means the right to hold someone else’s property as security for a debt.  If you do not pay our bills or disbursements, CITYWIDE Solicitors have the right to hold onto your documents/paperwork as security for the outstanding bills. This also applies if you decide to change solicitors, where there are fees outstanding.  In practice, CITYWIDE Solicitors will release your papers to your new solicitor if a satisfactory Undertaking has been provided by the new solicitors or legal representatives that they will obtain and pay us our outstanding fees and unpaid disbursements.

 

  1. CONCERNS ABOUT OUR BILLS:

11.1. You have a right to know how much you are likely to have to pay CITYWIDE Solicitors and should never feel uncomfortable about asking.  If you ever want to know anything about cost, all you need to do us ask the lawyer handling your case.

11.2. If you are unhappy about the amount of fees and other costs you are asked to pay because you believe it was not what you had agreed to, please speak with the lawyer dealing with your case.  CITYWIDE Solicitors also has our own complaints procedure and if you remain dissatisfied, in certain circumstances, you may ask the Law Society or the Court to assess whether or not the costs we have asked you to pay are reasonably provided that you have made some payment to us.  If you would like further details of these procedures, please let us know. 

  1. OTHER PARTY AND THEIR CHARGES AND EXPENSES:

12.1. Just as we will do our best to achieve the most cost-effective outcome for you, we will try to ensure that as much as possible of your own legal costs is paid by the other side.  In the civil courts, such as the County Court or High Court, Court of Appeal, etc., the general rule is that if you win, the other side will have to pay your costs (but Judges have the discretion to order any costs).  However, the other party may not be able to pay all your charges and expenses, or these may not be recovered from them in full; if this happens, you will still be responsible for the whole of our fee and other disbursements.  If the other party is legally aided, you may not get back any of your charges and expenses even if you win the case. 

12.2. If you are successful and the court ordered the other party to pay some or all of your charges and expenses, interest can be claimed on them from the other part 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 expense on account, but we are entitled to the rest of that interest.

12.3. You will also be responsible for paying the charges and expenses of seeking to recover any charges and expenses that the court orders the other party to pay. 

12.4. In some circumstances, the court may order you to pay the other party’s legal charges and expenses, for example, if you lose the case or have acted very unreasonably in the process of your case.  The money would be payable in addition to our charges and expenses.  We could discuss with you whether our charges and expenses and your liability for another party’s charges and expenses may be covered by insurance, and if not, whether it would be advisable for you to have insurance to meet the other party’s charges and expenses.

  1. FINANCIAL, TAX, AND INSURANCE ADVICE; AND BANKING INFORMATION:

13.1. Unless expressly agreed to the contrary, the scope of this firm’s work for you will not include tax, investment, or other financial advice.

  1. EFFECTS OF ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING AND COUNTER-TERRORISM OBLIGATIONS:

14.1. Identity evidence:

14.1.1. The law requires solicitors to get evidence of the identity of their clients and sometimes people related to them in order to satisfy that they are who they claim to be and to confirm their address.  This is because solicitors who deal with money and property on behalf of their clients can be used by criminals wanting to launder money.

14.1.2 To comply with the law, we need to get evidence of your identity as soon as possible.  Our practice is to require the production of a current passport or valid photocard driving license.  We need the original evidence of identity.  We will obtain a copy for retention and return the originals to you.

14.1.3 If you have not already provided and cannot provide us with the specific identification requested, please contact us as soon as possible to discuss other ways to verify your identity.  If you fail to provide us with satisfactory evidence of identity, we would have to decline to act for you or cease acting for you.

15.2 Disclosure Obligations:

15.2.1 We are professionally and legally required to keep your affairs confidential.  However solicitors may be required by statute to make a disclosure (without your permission to ) to the Serious Organised Crime Agency where they know or suspect that a transaction may involve money laundering, terrorist financing, or a “criminal property” (e.g. proceeds of tax evasion or benefits fraud).  The requirement for us to make this report would override the normal rule of client confidentiality.  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. 

  1. CONFIDENTIALITY:

16.1 Generally speaking, the law says that the information you give to your solicitor for the purpose of obtaining legal advice or because you are involved in litigation is confidential.  Your solicitor may not disclose it to anyone, even members of your family, without your permission.  This duty to preserve your confidential information applies both to individual and institutional clients of the firm.

16.2 However, it is important that you are aware that there are some exceptions to this:

  • If you receive Public Funding for your case, we have a duty to tell the Legal Aid Agency about your case whether you want us to or not, and we have a duty to tell them if your financial circumstances change, whether you want us to or not.
  • If you have insurance to cover your legal costs, we will also have to provide information to other third parties, such as this firm’s professional indemnity insurers, banks, financiers, and other finance houses.

16.3 If you have any concerns about confidentiality, please let us know.

  1. AUDITING OF FILES AND CONFIDENTIALITY:

17.1 External firms or organisations may conduct audits or quality checks on our practice.  For example, where a matter is publicly funded by the Community Legal Service, your file may be seen by the staff from the Legal Aid Agency as part of their assessment of the quality of this firm’s work.  Additionally, the firm is required to maintain the quality standard set by the Law Society, Solicitors Regulation Authority and other Quality Mark Accreditation providers such as Lexcel.  As a result of this, we are or may become subject to periodic checks by outside assessors.

17.2 These external firms or organisations are required to maintain confidentiality in relation to your files.

  1. DATA PROTECTION:

18.1 You have given us permission to hold your information.  All information that we hold concerning you as an individual will be held and processed by the firm subject to your instructions, in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 and our duty of confidentiality.  Such personal data will be primarily used by the firm in the provisions of legal services to you and for related purposes including:

  • Updating and enhancing client records;
  • Analysis to help us manage our practice;
  • Statutory returns;
  • Legal and regulatory compliance

18.2 We will not, without consent, supply your name addresses to any third party except where:

  1. i) such transfer is a necessary part of the legal services that we undertake (e.g. to expert witnesses and other professional advisers);
  2. ii) the transfer is necessary to comply with the reasonable requirements of a third party who is funding your case; or

iii) we are required to do so by operation of law.

18.3 As an individual, you have a right under the Data Protection Act 1998 to obtain information from us, including a description of the data that we hold on you.  Should you have any queries concerning this right, please contact our Data Protection Officer, Mrs. Rachel Clarke.

18.4 A copy of our firm’s Data Protection Policy is available on request.

  1. TERMINATION:

19.1 You may end your instructions to us in writing at any time, but we can keep all your papers and documents while there is money owed to us for our fees and expenses.

19.2 We may decide to stop acting for you only with good reason, for example, if you require us to act unlawfully or unreasonably, or if you do not pay an interim bill or comply with our request for a payment on account.  We must give you reasonable notice that we will stop acting for you.

19.3 If you or we decide that we should stop acting for you, you will pay our charges up until that point.  These are calculated on an hourly basis plus expenses (and if we are acting under a fixed fee agreement, by a proportion of the agreed fee] as set out above.

  1. STORAGE OF PAPERS AND DOCUMENTS:

20.1 After completing the work, we will keep our file of papers (except for any of your papers that you ask to be returned to you) for such a period as we deem appropriate in our absolute discretion, which is not exceeding 6 years. We keep the file on the understanding that we have the authority to destroy it six years after the date of the final bill we send you for this matter.  We will not destroy documents you ask us to deposit in safe custody.

20.2 If we take papers or documents out of storage in order to provide copy documents to any new legal representatives you instruct to take over your matter, we will charge you £50 to retrieve the file and £0.10 per copy. But 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 such retrieval.  However, we may charge you for:

  • Time spent producing stored papers that are requested
  • Reading, correspondence, or other work necessary to comply with your instructions in relation to the retrieved papers.
  1. COMPLAINTS:

       INTRODUCTION

21.1 All solicitors will attempt to resolve concerns that may arise with their services professionally and promptly. It is therefore important that you immediately raise any concerns you may have with the lawyer handling your case. We value you and would wish to thank you and your custom. 

FIRST STEP: RAISING CONCERNS WITH YOUR LAWYER/CASEWORKER

21.2 We are committed to, and confident in, providing high-quality service to all our clients in all respects of their matter with us. If, however, you have any queries or concerns about any aspect of our service to you, or about our bill, please raise them in the first instance directly with the lawyer/caseworker who is dealing with your matter. In the event that the lawyer/caseworker dealing with your case was unable to resolve the issue to your satisfaction, we still value you and will review the decision of your lawyer/caseworker. 

SECOND STEP: REVIEW OF YOUR LAWYER/CASEWORKER’S DECISION BY A SENIOR DIRECTOR

21.3 If you remain unsatisfied with the decision or how your lawyer/caseworker handled the concerns you raised with them, please contact Mr. Theo Mathias-Nwaulune, the Managing Director of the Firm and he will either review or appoint one of the other senior Directors to review the matter.  We have eight weeks to consider your complaint internally.

RAISING YOUR CONCERNS WITH THE LEGAL OMBUDSMAN 

21.4 We believe that this will never be necessary, but if one of our Directors has not resolved your concerns within eight weeks or all to your satisfaction, you have the right to raise your complaint with the Legal Ombudsman. If you are not satisfied with our handling of your concerns, you can contact the Legal Ombudsman at:

PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, West Midlands WV1 9WJ Telephone: 0300 555 0333 or by email: enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk to consider the complaint. The Legal Ombudsman’s website is at www.legalombudsman.org.uk.

21.5 The Legal Ombudsman cannot consider a complaint about our Bill of Costs if you have applied to the Court for assessment of the Bill. Also, note that we may be able to charge interest on all or part of an unpaid bill.

If you require a hardcopy of this document, please contact our Administration Team on 0203 490 1221, or by emailing admin@citywidesolicitors.co.uk