We can never thank you enough for all the help & support you have given us in such sad circumstances & will always be grateful for the care & understanding you have shown to us all, but in particular to Mum. (Maybe you should have been a nurse with your empathy & listening skills – that’s not to say you’re not a great solicitor though)!
Mrs D, Kent
Terms and Conditions
1.1 Blake Lapthorn is a partnership constituted under the laws of England and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority of England and Wales. Our SRA number is 448793.
1.2 Details of the professional rules which apply to us as an English law firm may be viewed on the Solicitors Regulation Authority website at www.sra.org.uk.
1.3 A full list of our partners is available at all of our offices. Our office opening hours are 8 am to 6 pm.
1.4 Our VAT registration number is GB 107315992.
2 Our work for you
2.1 We aim to offer all our clients a quality legal service at a fair cost and we are confident that we will do so in your case.
2.2 You will be told the name of the partner responsible for your case and the name of any solicitor or executive employed by the firm who will be involved. Everything you tell us about your affairs is confidential.
2.3 We shall keep you informed of developments in your case. An engagement letter dealing with how we will act for you is enclosed.
2.4 If there is an aspect of our service with which you are unhappy please raise it with initially with the person with whom you have been dealing. If you remain unhappy, you should refer the matter to the head of the department in which the person works. If this does not resolve the problem, then you may ask our Complaints Handling Partner, Niall Brook, to look at it. He is based at our Oxford office at Seacourt Tower, West Way, Oxford, OX2 0FB.
2.5 If you are still unhappy about our service you may be entitled to direct your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman who will consider the matter. Their address is PO Box 15870, Birmingham, B30 9EB. Their helpline number is 0300 555 0333 and their website is http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk.
2.6 If you are still unhappy with your bill you may also have a right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman and/or have a right to apply to the Court for the assessment of the bill under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974.
The firm maintains professional indemnity insurance in accordance with the rules of the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Details of our insurers and the territorial coverage of the policy are available for inspection at our offices.
4 Our fees
4.1 Our fees will be calculated on the basis of the urgency, complexity, value or importance to you of the work and of the time spent on your case by the person dealing with it, together with the expenses we incur on your behalf. We may, however, agree with you a different basis for calculation of our fees. Our hourly charging rates are reviewed from time to time and we try to ensure that we are fair to you and competitive with others providing the same level of service. Our current hourly rates if applicable are set out in the engagement letter.
4.2 In certain cases we will charge an administration fee for additional work carried out on your behalf, for example arranging a telegraphic transfer, photocopying. Where an administration fee is likely to be incurred you will be notified in advance and the administration fee for carrying out this work will be shown separately in your bill.
4.3 Wherever possible, we will give you an estimate or budget of our likely fees for the work we are doing for you. This estimate is not a fixed quotation. If because of the nature of the work we cannot give an estimate or budget, we will inform you and will tell you how the fees will be calculated. We will inform you if any difficulties arise or if anything occurs which makes it necessary to revise an estimate and we will regularly review the estimate.
4.4 If you wish, you may place an upper limit on the amount of our fees for which you will be liable. In that case we will notify you if that upper limit is reached, so that you can determine whether further work should be done. Please inform us if you want to set such a limit.
4.5 In all cases we will consider with you whether the likely outcome will justify the expense or risk involved.
4.6 We are entitled to render periodic bills at monthly intervals (or more frequently if agreed or if the amount of work justifies this) during the course of our work and at the end of your case. In addition we may render bills for expenses as they arise, for example Counsel’s fees and Expert’s fees.
5 Payments on account
We may ask for one or more payments on account of our anticipated fees and expenses both at the beginning and during a case.
6 Responsibility for fees
6.1 Unless otherwise agreed in writing, the client by whom we are retained is responsible for payment of our fees and VAT and for reimbursing any expenses we incur on behalf of the client.
6.2 Directors of a company which instructs us may be asked to be personally responsible for the payment of our bills so that we are then happy to advise, even if we know that the Company is in financial difficulties.
6.3 In the event of any fees, expenses or VAT not being paid, we reserve the right to decline to act any further in relation to any or all of your cases. If we are on the court record as acting for you we may in these circumstances apply to come off the record in which case the cost of the application will be charged to you.
6.4 If we are asked to give a solicitor’s undertaking on your behalf we may require you to make a deposit of funds with us or give other security.
6.5 Even if you are successful in a contentious matter or a contested matter the other party may not be ordered to pay your charges and expenses and these may not be recoverable from them in full. 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 has Public Funding you may not get any of your charges and expenses even if you win the case. The other person will not be liable to pay the VAT element of your costs if you are able to recover the VAT yourself.
6.6 If you are successful and the 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 the Court case may be ordered to pay the other party’s legal charges and expenses. That money will 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.
6.7 If we pay any disbursement on your behalf, e.g. court, barristers, expert’s fees or travel expenses, we will invoice you for them and payment will be due from you on delivery of the invoice.
6.8 Telephone calls, postage and faxes are not normally charged as disbursements unless a particularly large or unusual cost is incurred.
7 Payment terms
7.1 Unless otherwise agreed, payment of each of our bills, including interim bills, is due when received without any deduction, set off or counter claim. Where payment of the bill is received after the due date we are entitled to charge interest from the date of the bill on the amount unpaid at the rate of 5% per annum above the Royal Bank of Scotland Group base rate from time to time. A bill will be deemed to have been received 7 days after the date of the bill. We are entitled to retain any deeds and documents belonging to you, until payment has been made and we may apply money held on your behalf towards payment of any outstanding bills. As required by the Solicitors Accounts Rules money held by us will be taken in payment or part payment of our invoices within 14 days of the date of the invoice, unless that money is held for any other purposes.
7.2 Our bills are normally payable in £sterling but you may ask us to bill or be paid in €Euros if that assists you. If you do, we will discuss arrangements with you to ensure fairness between us.
7.3 Payments of fees and expenses up to £1500 may be made in cash but greater amounts must be paid by cheque or bank transfer. You are responsible for any charges in respect of any payment to us, for example, bank charges deducted by your bank from a bank transfer to us or charges in respect of payments made to us by credit card. If clients circumvent this policy by depositing cash direct with our bank, we reserve the right to charge for any additional checks we deem necessary regarding the source of the funds.
7.4 We accept payment of fees by credit card and debit card. If you pay our fees by credit card a fee is payable by us to the credit card company for this service and you will be required to pay that fee as a disbursement. There is currently no charge for payments made by debit card.
7.5 Where we have to pay money to you it will be paid by cheque or bank transfer. It will not be paid in cash.
8 Clients' Money and Exclusion of Liability
8.1 Where we receive money from you which is to be applied on your behalf, it will be held in a separate client bank account which will be subject to the strict provisions of the Solicitors Accounts Rules.
8.2 All client monies are held in bank accounts with banks backed by the Financial Services Authority in accordance with recommended guidance by the Law Society.
8.3 In the event of one of those banks where client money is being held, collapsing and monies being lost as a result, we will not be liable to you for any losses arising out of the collapse of the bank which was holding client monies. You may however have recourse to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme for some compensation.
If we hold money on your behalf then in accordance with the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules we will account to you for interest or a sum in lieu of interest calculated in accordance with the Rules. We will not pay a sum in lieu of interest if the amount calculated is £20 or less. We may apply interest and sums in lieu of interest towards settlement of any unpaid bill delivered to you or hold the same on account of work in progress.
We may receive commissions if we arrange insurance policies for you or deal with the annual renewal of those arrangements or if we are involved in investment activities complementary to the professional services we will be undertaking on your behalf. Unless otherwise agreed any commission received is held to your order.
11 Financial Services and Markets Act 2000
11.1 We are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority but not by the Financial Services Authority. The complaints procedure referred to in paragraph 2.4 is in accordance with mechanisms provided through the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The Legal Ombudsman is a separate independent body which investigates and takes action on complaints and concerns about professional misconduct and inadequate professional service.
11.2 Although we are not authorised under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 we are able in certain circumstances to offer a limited range of investment services to clients because we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. We can provide these investment services if they are an incidental part of the professional services we have been engaged to provide.
12 Insurance Mediation
As stated in paragraph 8 we are not authorised by the Financial Services Authority. However, we are included on the register maintained by the Financial Services Authority so that we can carry on insurance mediation 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. The register can be accessed via the Financial Services Authority website at www.fsa.gov.uk/register and we are registered in the 'EPF' section.
13 Storage of papers and deeds
13.1 Following the conclusion of your case we will retain your file free of charge for an appropriate period and tell you what that is. At the end of that period it will be confidentially destroyed unless you have asked us to return documents to you to which you are entitled. If you require any papers to be kept for any specific period you must tell us. This provision does not apply to current deeds, wills, securities and grants of probate or letters of administration which will not be destroyed.
13.2 We provide a safe custody service to clients in respect of wills, deeds and other securities. We will notify you before any charge is made.
13.3 Where stored papers, wills, deeds or securities are retrieved from storage by us in connection with continuing or new instructions to us to act in connection with your affairs, no charge will be made for such retrieval. However, we reserve the right in other circumstances to make an administration charge based on time spent retrieving stored papers that are requested and other work necessary to comply with your instructions in relation to the retrieved papers.
14 Communication by Electronic mail
We will aim to communicate with you by such method as you request. Unless you notify us otherwise, we may communicate with you and others in connection with your matter by e-mail or fax but we cannot be held responsible for the security of correspondence sent by e-mail or fax.
15 Data Protection
The Data Protection Act 1998 requires us to advise you that your contact details will be held on our system even after your file is closed and we may use these details for internal marketing purposes. We may from time to time contact you by mail, telephone or e-mail to provide information that might be of interest to you, including details of the service we offer, newsletters, legal updates and invitations to events. If you do not wish us to use your details for this purpose, please notify us in writing. We may disclose these details to third parties where necessary for the purpose of the matter upon which you have instructed us.
16 Third Party Rights
16.1 All work done and advice provided by us is for your use only as our client and should not be relied upon by anyone else. Our duty of care is owed to you only, not to third parties, unless we have agreed otherwise in writing.
16.2 No person other than you, the client, may enforce the terms of any agreement between us by virtue of the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999.
17.1 Our advice is provided solely for the purpose of the transaction and only to you and may not, without our prior written consent, be used for any other purpose, or disclosed to any person other than your other advisors (who may not rely on such advice).
17.2 You will not refer to us or our advice in any public document or communication without our prior written consent, which will not be unreasonably withheld.
17.3 Except in respect of any public document consisting of a letter issued by us, you will be solely responsible for any such public document or communication and we do not and will not accept responsibility for or authorise the contents of, and shall not be represented as having accepted responsibility for or authorised the contents of, all or any part of any such document or communication for any purpose, including for the purpose of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 or the Public Offers of Securities Regulations 1995.
17.4 Where any loss is suffered by you for which we and any other person are jointly and severally liable to you, the loss recoverable by you from us shall be limited so as to be in proportion to our relative contribution to the overall fault of ourselves, you and any other person in respect of the loss in question.
18 Money Laundering
18.1 Proof of Identity.
For the protection of all our clients and, as required by law, we operate a money laundering reporting procedure. This is because solicitors who deal with money and property on behalf of their clients can be used by criminals wishing to launder money. If there is a suspicion of money laundering, information will be given to the appropriate authorities and we may not be at liberty to tell you that this has been done. Anti-money laundering regulations require us to obtain evidence of the identification of clients. We may, therefore, require you to produce photographic identity in the form of a driving licence or passport together with a further document verifying your address. We may alternatively carry out an electronic verification of your identity. Directors and officers of any company and partners in any firm instructing us may also be asked to produce such evidence of identity. Where you do not attend at our offices in person then a copy of identification documents certified as accurate by a solicitor, accountant, bank or post office may be required. If we do not obtain satisfactory evidence of identity we may not be able to proceed with your work.
Recent legislation on money laundering and terrorist financing has placed solicitors under a legal duty in certain circumstances to disclose information to the Serious and Organised Crime Agency. Where a solicitor suspects that a transaction on behalf of a client involves money laundering, the solicitor may be required to make a money laundering disclosure.
If, while we are acting for you it becomes necessary to make a money laundering disclosure, we may not be able to inform you that a disclosure has been made or the reasons for it. When the Law permits us to do so, we will tell you about any potential money laundering problem and explain what action we may need to take.
19 Conflicts of Interest
19.1 We take conflict issues seriously. We have procedures in place to ensure that conflict checks are carried out on every matter as soon as practicable so that, if an issue arises, it can be discussed with you and dealt with as soon as possible.
19.2 Our conflict procedures help us fulfil our professional obligation not to act for one client in a matter where there is an actual (or significant risk) of a conflict with the interests of another client for whom we are already acting.
19.3 If at any time you become aware of an actual or potential conflict of interest, please raise it with us immediately.
19.4 Subject to our professional duties, we will always seek to resolve any conflict issues in the most advantageous way to the clients concerned.
19.5 Where our professional rules allow, you agree that after termination of our retainer, we may act or continue to act for another client in circumstances where we hold information which is confidential to you and material to the engagement with that other client. We will not, however, disclose your confidential information to that other client.
20 Confidentiality and Use of Information
20.1 We will keep confidential any information which we acquire about your business and affairs, unless we are required to disclose any such information:
- To our auditors, external assessors or other advisors or for the purposes of our professional indemnity insurance who are required to maintain confidentiality in relation to your files; or
- By law or other regulatory authority to which we are subject.
20.2 If you or we engage other professional advisers to assist with a matter we will assume, unless you notify us otherwise, that we may disclose any such information to such other advisers as necessary.
20.3 Where possible we will disclose to you all information which is material to your affairs and business regardless of the source of that information. However, we will not disclose to you any confidential information about the business and affairs of any other existing or former client, or any information in respect of which we owe a duty of confidentiality to a third party.
20.4 If at any time a third party requests access to documents held by us or asks us to interview any of our partners or employees in connection with the services we have provided, we may be required as a matter of law to comply with their request.
20.5 We will use the personal information we receive about you for the administration of our relationship with you, billing (and where necessary debt collection) and marketing. To help us to make credit decisions about you, to prevent fraud and to check your identity and prevent money laundering, we may also use the information to search the files of credit reference agencies who will record any credit searches on your file. The information may be used by other credit grantors for making credit decisions about you and the people with whom you are financially associated, for fraud prevention and occasionally for tracing debtors. We may disclose your details to our agents and service providers for any of the purposes set out in this paragraph.
20.6 We may also outsource work such as typing and photocopying to assist with your matter. In these circumstances we will obtain a confidentiality agreement where appropriate with the third party. If you do not want your file to be outsourced, please tell us as soon as possible.
21 Equality and Diversity
We are committed to promoting equality and diversity in all of our dealings with clients, third parties and employees. Please contact us if you would like a copy of our Equality and Diversity policy.
22.1 At any time whilst we are acting for you, you have the right to withdraw, without charge, any new matter on which you have instructed us within seven working days of such instructions. Please note that this right will cease if we start work with your consent within this period.
22.2 You may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time for any reason. However, we reserve the right to keep 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 on your behalf, you must tell us this clearly in writing.
22.3 Provided we have fulfilled our obligation to you to provide a professional service, we may terminate our agreement to provide services to you on written notice. This may be necessary where, for example, you fail to give us proper instructions, where continuing to provide our services would be impractical, unethical or unlawful or you fail to pay our invoices in accordance with these terms.
22.4 If you or we decide that we should stop acting for you, you will pay our charges up until that point in accordance with these terms and conditions and our letter of engagement with you.
23.1 We work hard to give a good quality and efficient service. We are proud of approvals that we hold from regulatory bodies in recognition of our high standards. We may need to show that we keep to these standards and unless you notify us otherwise, we will assume that we have your authority to produce your file and other documents and to give information for that purpose only, as an exception to our undertaking as to confidentiality.
23.2 We will not be liable for any loss, damage or delay arising out of the firm’s compliance with any statutory or regulatory requirement.
23.3 We will not be responsible after completion for reminding you of any specific dates within any agreement that fall due.
23.4 We may vary these terms of business from time to time by giving you reasonable written notice.
23.5 These terms of business are governed by English & Welsh law. By instructing us you agree that any dispute arising in connection with these terms or our services shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English & Welsh courts.
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Call us between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday, or use the enquiry form outside office hours
Or call us on 0844 620 6600