Terms and Conditions of Business

LEGAL AID - CRIME

  1. Introduction

These Terms and Conditions of Business along with the accompanying engagement letter govern the lawyer-client relationship which will exist between us.  By continuing to instruct this firm we shall be entitled to assume you have agreed to the terms and conditions set out here.  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. Nobody is authorised to alter these terms other than in writing.


  1. Service Standards

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


The firm sets the following standards:

  • We will regularly update you with progress on your matter

  • We will communicate with you in plain language

  • We will explain to you the legal work required as your matter progresses

  • We will update you on the cost of your matter, as appropriate

  • We will 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

  • We will update you on the likely timescales for each stage of this matter and any important changes in those estimates

  • We will continue to review whether there are alternative methods by which your matter can be funded


In return, we request that our clients assume the following responsibilities:

  • To provide clear, truthful instructions to us at all times

  • To respond to communications from us promptly and to attend arranged appointments

  • To notify contact details, change of address, telephone numbers etc. promptly

  • To discharge payments requested from you promptly


  1. Hours of business

The normal hours of opening at our offices are between 9.30am and 5.30pm on weekdays. Messages can be left via voicemail outside those hours and appointments can be arranged at other times when this is essential.


  1. People responsible for your work

The person responsible for dealing with your work and the person responsible for the overall supervision of the matter will be set out in the engagement letter. We will try to avoid changing the people who handle your work but if this cannot be avoided, we will tell you promptly of any change and why it may be necessary.


Due to the nature of our work the Solicitors and Legal Advisors are often out of the office during the day either in Court at Police Stations or visiting Prisons.  The firm works as a team and you may well meet other members of staff from time to time either in the office or at Court hearings.


  1. Legal Aid

If your matter is financed via legal aid, the terms and conditions may differ according to the type of matter and legal aid cover which applies.  The different conditions are set out below.  You agree that you will keep us and the Legal Aid Agency informed of any change in your financial circumstances once in receipt of legal aid.


Police Station

We are contracted with the Legal Aid Agency to provide criminal defence services and, as such, the costs of assisting you with your case at any police station are paid from the Legal Aid Fund. This covers all the advice we may have provided to date and up to the point at which you might have to appear at Court if you are charged.


Magistrates Court

If we are assisting you to submit an application to the Court for a ‘Representation Order’, the court has to be satisfied that it is in the interests of justice that you are represented by a solicitor. The application is also means-tested. You will be advised as to what documentation and/or information we require. It is important that you provide this information and assist ourselves in the preparation of this application. It is also important that you keep us and the Court aware of any changes in your circumstances.  Failure to do this or failure to provide us with further instructions can result in your representation order, once granted being withdrawn.  If this were to happen it would leave you without legal aid for your case.


We should also advise you at this stage of the possibility that, should you lose your case, you might have an order made requiring you to pay towards the Prosecution’s costs.


Crown Court

If your case goes to Crown Court, you will automatically qualify for legally-aided representation once you have completed an application form, provided that your disposable household income does not exceed £37,500. After you have been means-tested, you may have to pay towards the cost of your defence. This could be from your income while the case is ongoing and/or from your capital, if you are convicted.


You will be asked to provide evidence of your income and assets. If you do not, your payments could be increased which would result in you paying more towards your defence costs. If you do not tell the truth on your legal aid application about your income, assets and expenditure you could be prosecuted.  You will not have to pay towards the costs of your case if you are under 18 when you make your application or if you receive any of the following benefits: Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Guaranteed State Pension Credit or Income-related Employment and Support Allowance.


You may have to pay towards the costs if your monthly disposable income is above a certain level. If this is the case, you will receive a Contribution Order from the Court and you will have to make payments as required under the order. The first payment will be due within 28 days of your case being committed, sent or transferred for trial to the Crown Court. You must tell the Court about any changes to your financial circumstances during your case because a change may affect the amount you have to pay towards your defence costs. If you don’t think you can afford to pay, or you think that a mistake has been made, you can ask for a review of the amount the court has told you to pay.


If your disposable household income exceeds £37,500 then you will not be eligible for legal aid in the Crown Court.  You can continue to instruct the firm on privately paying basis.


Please note that if you do pay for your legal fees privately and are acquitted of the offence(s) that you faced then an application can be made for the return of some of your money, provided that you made an application for legal aid and were deemed to be financially ineligible; the application is called a Defendants Costs Order and any monies returned via such an Order are limited to Legal Aid rates. This means that unless agreed otherwise you are financially responsible for the difference between our private charging rates and the current Legal Aid rates.  Should this situation arise, we will advise you accordingly.


If you are found not guilty, any payments you have made will be refunded with interest. If you paid late or not at all and action was taken against you, the costs of this action will be deducted from the refund. If you are found guilty, you may have to pay towards your defence costs from any capital assets you may have.


This would only apply if you have £30,000 or more of assets (for example: savings, equity in property, shares or Premium Bonds) and any payments you have already made have not covered your total defence costs.


You will be told at the end of your case if you have to make a payment from capital.

                                                                                            

  1. Storage of papers and documents

We may be entitled to keep certain of your papers and documents while there is still money owed to us for fees and expenses. In accordance with our Data Protection Policy, we will keep your file of papers in storage for not less than 6 years, except those papers that you ask to be returned to you.  After that, storage is on the clear understanding that we have the right to destroy your file after such period as we consider reasonable without further reference to you, 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 we agree 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 at our lowest charge out rate 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.


  1. Financial services

We are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).


  1. Termination

You may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time but we may still be entitled to keep certain of 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. We may only decide to stop acting for you if we have good reason, for example, if you do not pay an interim bill, fail to provide us with instructions or if a conflict of interest arises.  We will tell you the reason and give you notice in writing.


Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013, you have the right to cancel this contract within 14 days without giving any reason. This only applies where contracts are agreed away from our premises or where we are not both physically present. To exercise the right to cancel, you must inform us of your decision to cancel this contract by a clear statement (e.g. a letter sent by post, fax or e-mail). To meet the cancellation deadline, it is sufficient for you to send your communication concerning your exercise of the right to cancel before the cancellation period has expired. Please note that should you exercise your right to cancel, reapplying for legal aid for the same issue might be difficult if our retainer is terminated.


  1. 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 practice, statutory returns and legal/regulatory compliance. Our use of that information is subject to your instructions, the General Data Protection Regulation 2018 and our duty of confidentiality. Please note that our work for you may 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. Further details on how we handle your data may be found in our Privacy Notice which is either enclosed or may be viewed on our website at www.stewartbegum.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.


  1. 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.  The firm’s diversity data is available upon request.


  1. Communications

We shall communicate with you in the most effective way, as agreed between us. You should be aware that the use of e-mail is not secure for confidential matters. We take every precaution to ensure that e-mail is virus free but we cannot guarantee this. If you require correspondence to be addressed to a particular person or marked private and confidential then you must tell us.


  1. Identity, disclosure and confidentiality 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 get evidence of your identity as soon as possible. If you cannot provide us with the specific identification requested, please contact us as soon as possible to discuss other ways to verify your identity.


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. 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 and the Solicitors Regulation Authority) 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. All outsourcing activity is performed in accordance with Data Protection Policy the relevant details of which are explained in our Privacy Notice.


  1. Limit on our liability for professional negligence

Our liability to you for a breach of your instructions shall be limited to £2M, unless we expressly state a higher amount in the letter accompanying these terms of business. We will not be liable for any consequential, special, indirect or exemplary damages, costs or losses, or any damages, costs or losses attributable to lost profits or opportunities. We can only limit our liability to the extent the law allows. In particular, we cannot limit our liability for death or personal injury caused by our negligence.


  1. Complaints Procedure

At Stewart Begum Solicitors we aim to provide the best possible service to our clients and, in order to do this, we need to know from you if you feel dissatisfied.  Should you have any occasion to feel unhappy about our service, or about the bill, please let me know straight away and I will discuss this with you.  Should you wish to make a complaint, Mark Stewart is the person who deals with these matters and he will be prepared to meet with you to discuss your complaint. We have a procedure in place which details how we handle complaints which is available upon request.  We have eight weeks to consider your complaint. If we have not resolved it within this time, or if you are not happy with our handling of your complaint, you may complain to the Legal Ombudsman (PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ, telephone 0300 555 0333, website www.legalombudsman.org.uk). The Legal Ombudsman will expect you to have given your lawyer a chance to resolve your complaint before it will get involved. Normally, you will need to bring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within six months of receiving a final written response from us and within six years from the date of the act or omission about which you are complaining, or three years from the date you should reasonably have known there were grounds for complaint.


You also have a right to complain about or challenge your bill by applying for an assessment of the bill under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974. The Legal Ombudsman may not consider a complaint about a bill, if you have applied to the court for assessment of that bill.


  1. Provision of Service Regulations 2009

In accordance with the Provision of Service Regulations 2009 details of our Professional Indemnity Insurance can be obtained by contacting our offices. Our VAT number is 279542756. We are regulated and authorised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) under number 568564. The SRA Code of Conduct sets out the regulatory framework imposed on service providers such as ours. The current edition of the SRA Code is available on the SRA website at www.sra.org.uk.

 

LEGAL AID - CIVIL

  1. Introduction

These Terms and Conditions of Business along with the accompanying engagement letter govern the lawyer-client relationship which will exist between us.  By continuing to instruct this firm we shall be entitled to assume you have agreed to the terms and conditions set out here.  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. Nobody is authorised to alter these terms other than in writing.


  1. Service Standards

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


The firm sets the following standards:

  • We will regularly update you with progress on your matter

  • We will communicate with you in plain language

  • We will explain to you the legal work required as your matter progresses

  • We will update you on the cost of your matter, as appropriate

  • We will 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

  • We will update you on the likely timescales for each stage of this matter and any important changes in those estimates

  • We will continue to review whether there are alternative methods by which your matter can be funded


In return, we request that our clients assume the following responsibilities:

  • To provide clear, truthful instructions to us at all times

  • To respond to communications from us promptly and to attend arranged appointments

  • To notify contact details, change of address, telephone numbers etc. promptly

  • To discharge payments requested from you promptly


  1. Hours of business

The normal hours of opening at our offices are between 9.30am and 5.30pm on weekdays. Messages can be left via voicemail outside those hours and appointments can be arranged at other times when this is essential.


  1. People responsible for your work

The person responsible for dealing with your work and the person responsible for the overall supervision of the matter will be set out in the engagement letter. We will try to avoid changing the people who handle your work but if this cannot be avoided, we will tell you promptly of any change and why it may be necessary.


Due to the nature of our work the Solicitors and Legal Advisors are often out of the office during the day either in Court at Police Stations or visiting Prisons.  The firm works as a team and you may well meet other members of staff from time to time either in the office or at Court hearings.


  1. Legal Aid

If your matter is financed via legal aid, the terms and conditions may differ according to the type of matter and legal aid cover which applies.  The different conditions are set out below. 


Legal Help


If we are advising you under what is commonly known as the Legal Help Scheme, this entitles you to initial legal advice and assistance which will be paid for from the Legal Aid Fund. If there is any change in your financial circumstances you must notify the person who has care and conduct of your case, in order that they can decide if a reassessment of your means and eligibility for legal aid is required.


It is important to tell you at the outset of the case that this scheme does not cover the costs of representing you in most court hearings and taking certain steps in legal proceedings.


Statutory Charge (Legal Help)


If we are successful in recovering money or recovering property on your behalf, it is possible that you might have to pay for some of your legal charges out of any money or property that you recover or preserve. This will only apply if the costs of your case become ‘exceptional’. This means that the costs of your case are in excess of three times the standard fee(s) that would normally be payable to us by the Legal Aid Agency.  If the costs are in excess of this then you may have to pay back any further costs incurred above this amount.  This is known as the ‘Statutory Charge’.


In these circumstances, it is the firm’s policy to provide you with a cost estimate, which will be detailed within the accompanying engagement letter. We will keep you appraised throughout the lifetime of the case as to whether or not this estimate will change.  If your case cannot be settled by negotiation we may need to apply for a legal aid certificate to represent you in proceedings. In such circumstances, you may have to pay back all the costs of your case, including any costs incurred before the certificate was issued.  This is also known as the ‘Statutory Charge’.


Application for Legal Representation


In order to allow us to represent you and take certain steps in legal proceedings, it is possible that we will also be assisting you to apply for full Legal Representation (also known as a Legal Aid Certificate) and will forward an application to the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) for consideration.  In granting this, the LAA will consider both the legal merits of your case and your own financial circumstances.  It is essential that you co-operate with this assessment of your income and savings as failure to do so can result in a refusal to grant and, even, in you becoming personally liable for your legal costs to date.


If you misrepresent or withhold information about your circumstances this can result in Legal Representation being revoked and, in these circumstances, you personally would be required to pay the costs of conducting your case until that point.  From then on, you would also have to pay for our legal costs as a private client.


You also need to be aware that it is possible that you might be assessed as having to make a monthly contribution to your legal costs. Should this be the case, it is essential that you maintain these payments, as failure to do so could result in the funding being discharged, which means you will have to pay us personally for any further legal costs at our private rates.


If you are granted emergency representation and fail to accept the offer of full Legal Representation once your financial eligibility has been assessed, the emergency funding may be revoked.  This would mean that you would lose your Legal Representation and would be responsible for all the costs that have been incurred to that point.


If, during the lifetime of your case, you cease to provide us with instructions or do not respond to correspondence from the LAA, it is possible that your Legal Representation will be discharged.  This means that, from the point of discharged, you no longer have the benefit of Legal Representation and you will have to pay for your continuing costs personally. Please note that you must keep the Legal Aid Agency informed of any changes in your address.


Similarly, during the lifetime of your case you must keep the LAA and us aware of any changes in your circumstances, and must also respond to all requests for further information.  Once again, failure to do this can result in Legal Representation being revoked, and you becoming liable to pay for your legal costs.


‘Statutory Charge’ (Legal Representation)


If a legal aid certificate is granted, and the result of the case is that you keep or gain property or money, then you may have to pay back some or all of your legal aid costs to the LAA after the case ends, including those incurred before the certificate was issued.  This is called the Statutory Charge.  The Charge is made by law on the money or property concerned.  In these circumstances, it is the firm’s policy to provide you with a cost estimate, which will be detailed within the accompanying engagement letter.


The amount you will have to pay depends on the outcome of the case. If you make contributions to your legal aid costs during your case, these will be taken off your legal aid bill.


In some cases we can claim our costs from your opponent and therefore this will not apply.  It is important, however, that you should be aware of the Statutory Charge and that there is a possibility it might apply in your case.  It is also important to realise that if we do get a cost order against your opponent, this might not cover all your costs and also they might not be able to pay all they are ordered to.  In these circumstances, the Statutory Charge would apply to the difference between the two figures.


If you succeed in getting your opponent to repay your legal costs, you must use the money to repay the LAA immediately.


If you have to repay some or all of your legal aid costs, you have a right to comment on these costs. We are required to show you the bill before sending it to the LAA for assessment.


In either of the following circumstances, the LAA may allow you to repay your legal aid costs at a later date if this is reasonable:


  • If you keep or gain property that is to be used as your home at the end of your case.

  • If you gain money in a financial settlement that is to be used to buy a home.


The LAA will register a charge on your home, similar to a mortgage, with the Land Registry to secure the debt. Interest – currently 8% – is charged on this debt. Please note that if this applies, you cannot:


  • Sell your home until you have paid back all of your Statutory Charge, or

  • Use your home as security for a loan unless the loan is to pay off your Statutory Charge.


Once you have paid the total sum owing, the LAA will remove the charge from your home.


You can repay the money you owe in one lump sum, for example by using savings, income or by selling your home. If the LAA believes that you can repay all the money straight away, it will ask you to do so. If you cannot pay the money owed straight away the LAA may allow you to make monthly payments although, as stated earlier, the LAA charges interest on the amount you owe under the Statutory Charge which is calculated daily.


There may be other financial matters to consider during your case, such as the risk of a cost order against you since the Court has the power to order you to contribute to your opponent’s legal costs should you lose your case.  However, we will advise you about this if and when it becomes necessary.


We appreciate that all the above can seem confusing at this time.  However, we are keen to make sure that you understand the effects of becoming a legal aid client.  If you want any of the above explaining further, please raise this with me next time we meet.

                                                                                            

  1. Storage of papers and documents

We may be entitled to keep certain of your papers and documents while there is still money owed to us for fees and expenses. In accordance with our Data Protection Policy, we will keep your file of papers in storage for not less than 6 years, except those papers that you ask to be returned to you.  After that, storage is on the clear understanding that we have the right to destroy your file after such period as we consider reasonable without further reference to you, 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 we agree 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 at our lowest charge out rate 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.


  1. Financial services

We are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).


  1. Termination

You may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time but we may still be entitled to keep certain of 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. We may only decide to stop acting for you if we have good reason, for example, if you do not pay an interim bill, fail to provide us with instructions or if a conflict of interest arises.  We will tell you the reason and give you notice in writing.


Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013, you have the right to cancel this contract within 14 days without giving any reason. This only applies where contracts are agreed away from our premises or where we are not both physically present. To exercise the right to cancel, you must inform us of your decision to cancel this contract by a clear statement (e.g. a letter sent by post, fax or e-mail). To meet the cancellation deadline, it is sufficient for you to send your communication concerning your exercise of the right to cancel before the cancellation period has expired. Please note that should you exercise your right to cancel, reapplying for legal aid for the same issue might be difficult if our retainer is terminated.


  1. 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 practice, statutory returns and legal/regulatory compliance. Our use of that information is subject to your instructions, the General Data Protection Regulation 2018 and our duty of confidentiality. Please note that our work for you may 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. Further details on how we handle your data may be found in our Privacy Notice which is either enclosed or may be viewed on our website at www.stewartbegum.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.


  1. 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.  The firm’s diversity data is available upon request.


  1. Communications

We shall communicate with you in the most effective way, as agreed between us. You should be aware that the use of e-mail is not secure for confidential matters. We take every precaution to ensure that e-mail is virus free but we cannot guarantee this. If you require correspondence to be addressed to a particular person or marked private and confidential then you must tell us.


  1. Identity, disclosure and confidentiality 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 get evidence of your identity as soon as possible. If you cannot provide us with the specific identification requested, please contact us as soon as possible to discuss other ways to verify your identity.


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. 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 and the Solicitors Regulation Authority) 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. All outsourcing activity is performed in accordance with Data Protection Policy the relevant details of which are explained in our Privacy Notice.


  1. Limit on our liability for professional negligence

Our liability to you for a breach of your instructions shall be limited to £2M, unless we expressly state a higher amount in the letter accompanying these terms of business. We will not be liable for any consequential, special, indirect or exemplary damages, costs or losses, or any damages, costs or losses attributable to lost profits or opportunities. We can only limit our liability to the extent the law allows. In particular, we cannot limit our liability for death or personal injury caused by our negligence.


  1. Complaints Procedure

At Stewart Begum Solicitors we aim to provide the best possible service to our clients and, in order to do this, we need to know from you if you feel dissatisfied.  Should you have any occasion to feel unhappy about our service, or about the bill, please let me know straight away and I will discuss this with you.  Should you wish to make a complaint, Mark Stewart is the person who deals with these matters and he will be prepared to meet with you to discuss your complaint. We have a procedure in place which details how we handle complaints which is available upon request.  We have eight weeks to consider your complaint. If we have not resolved it within this time, or if you are not happy with our handling of your complaint, you may complain to the Legal Ombudsman (PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ, telephone 0300 555 0333, website www.legalombudsman.org.uk). The Legal Ombudsman will expect you to have given your lawyer a chance to resolve your complaint before it will get involved. Normally, you will need to bring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within six months of receiving a final written response from us and within six years from the date of the act or omission about which you are complaining, or three years from the date you should reasonably have known there were grounds for complaint.


You also have a right to complain about or challenge your bill by applying for an assessment of the bill under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974. The Legal Ombudsman may not consider a complaint about a bill, if you have applied to the court for assessment of that bill.


  1. Provision of Service Regulations 2009

In accordance with the Provision of Service Regulations 2009 details of our Professional Indemnity Insurance can be obtained by contacting our offices. Our VAT number is 279542756. We are regulated and authorised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) under number 568564. The SRA Code of Conduct sets out the regulatory framework imposed on service providers such as ours. The current edition of the SRA Code is available on the SRA website at www.sra.org.uk.

 

PRIVATE FUNDING

  1. Introduction

These Terms and Conditions of Business along with the accompanying engagement letter govern the lawyer-client relationship which will exist between us.  By continuing to instruct this firm we shall be entitled to assume you have agreed to the terms and conditions set out here.  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. Nobody is authorised to alter these terms other than in writing.


  1. Service Standards

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


The firm sets the following standards:

  • We will regularly update you with progress on your matter

  • We will communicate with you in plain language

  • We will explain to you the legal work required as your matter progresses

  • We will update you on the cost of your matter, as appropriate

  • We will 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

  • We will update you on the likely timescales for each stage of this matter and any important changes in those estimates

  • We will continue to review whether there are alternative methods by which your matter can be funded


In return, we request that our clients assume the following responsibilities:

  • To provide clear, truthful instructions to us at all times

  • To respond to communications from us promptly and to attend arranged appointments

  • To notify contact details, change of address, telephone numbers etc. promptly

  • To discharge payments requested from you promptly


  1. Hours of business

The normal hours of opening at our offices are between 9.30am and 5.30pm on weekdays. Messages can be left via voicemail outside those hours and appointments can be arranged at other times when this is essential.


  1. People responsible for your work

The person responsible for dealing with your work and the person responsible for the overall supervision of the matter will be set out in the engagement letter. We will try to avoid changing the people who handle your work but if this cannot be avoided, we will tell you promptly of any change and why it may be necessary.


  1. Charges and expenses

The fee structure applied to our work is dependent on the nature of the matter and will be calculated on either an hourly rate basis or a fixed fee arrangement.


If we have agreed a fixed fee for work on your case, the arrangements will be set out in the Engagement Letter and/or Costs 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 charges will be calculated mainly by reference to the time actually spent by the solicitors and other staff in respect of any work which they do on your behalf. 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. Routine letters, e-mails and texts received are charged at one-twentieth of the hourly rate. Other letters, e-mails and calls are charged on a time spent basis. The current hourly rates applicable to your case will be set out in an Engagement Letter and/or Costs Letter. We will add VAT to these at the rate that applies when the work is done.


These hourly rates have to be reviewed periodically to reflect increases in overhead costs and inflation. Normally the rates are reviewed with effect from 1st April 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 court fees, experts' fees, Counsel’s 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. We refer to such payments generally as 'disbursements'.


  1. Payment arrangements

It is normal practice to ask clients to pay interim bills and 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 as set out in the Engagement Letter and/or Costs Letter. If not stated, payment is due to us within 28 days of our sending you a bill. If payment is not made within the time we have requested, we reserve the right to cease to act on your behalf, suspend work on that matter and any other matter and retain all documents, working papers and other documents in our possession relating to any matter until all outstanding bills are paid in full including interest and any costs incurred in pursuing the recovery. Interest on outstanding bills may be charged after a period of 28 days from the date of the bill at the rate of 8% per annum.


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.


We do not accept payments in cash. If you try to avoid this policy by depositing cash directly with our bank, we may decide to charge you for any additional checks we decide are necessary to prove the source of the funds. Payment of our bills may be made by cheque, credit card or debit card issued by a UK High Street bank, BACS or CHAPS. Monies due to you from us will be paid by cheque or bank transfer, but not in cash, and will not be made payable to a third party.


  1. Other parties' charges and expenses

In some cases and transactions a client may be entitled to payment of costs by some other person. It is important that you understand that in such circumstances, the other person may not be required 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. 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.

                                                                                               

  1. Storage of papers and documents

We will be entitled to keep certain of your papers and documents while there is still money owed to us for fees and expenses. In accordance with our Data Protection Policy, we will keep your file of papers in storage for not less than 6 years, except those papers that you ask to be returned to you.  After that, storage is on the clear understanding that we have the right to destroy your file after such period as we consider reasonable without further reference to you, 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 we agree 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 at our lowest charge out rate 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.


  1. Financial services

We are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). However, we are included on the register maintained by the FCA so that we can carry on insurance mediation activity, which is broadly the advising on, selling and administration of insurance contracts. Insurance mediation activities and investment services, including arrangements for complaints or redress if something goes wrong, are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The register can be accessed via the FCA website at www.fca.gov.uk.


  1. Termination

You may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time but we may still be entitled to keep certain of 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. We may only decide to stop acting for you if we have good reason, for example, if you do not pay an interim bill, fail to provide us with instructions or if a conflict of interest arises.  We will tell you the reason and give you notice in writing.


If, for any reason, this matter does not proceed to completion, we will be entitled to charge you for any work done and expenses incurred. If your case is funded under an hourly rates arrangement then these costs will be calculated based on the time spent plus expenses incurred up to the date of termination. On fixed fee arrangements, we will break the transaction down into stages and apportion the estimated fee for each stage. You will also be responsible for reimbursing any expenses incurred by us that were not included within the fixed price agreed.


Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013, you have the right to cancel this contract within 14 days without giving any reason. This only applies where contracts are agreed away from our premises or where we are not both physically present. To exercise the right to cancel, you must inform us of your decision to cancel this contract by a clear statement (e.g. a letter sent by post, fax or e-mail). To meet the cancellation deadline, it is sufficient for you to send your communication concerning your exercise of the right to cancel before the cancellation period has expired. If you cancel this contract, we will reimburse to you any payments received from you.


  1. Tax advice

Any work that we do for you may involve tax implications or necessitate the consideration of tax planning strategies. We are not qualified to advise you on the tax implications of a transaction that you instruct us to carry out, or the likelihood of them arising. If you have any concerns in this respect, then you are advised to refer to a suitably-qualified adviser.



  1. 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 practice, statutory returns and legal/regulatory compliance. Our use of that information is subject to your instructions, the General Data Protection Regulation 2018 and our duty of confidentiality. Please note that our work for you may 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. Further details on how we handle your data may be found in our Privacy Notice which is either enclosed or may be viewed on our website at www.stewartbegum.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.


  1. 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.  The firm’s diversity data is available upon request.


  1. Communications

We shall communicate with you in the most effective way, as agreed between us. You should be aware that the use of e-mail is not secure for confidential matters. We take every precaution to ensure that e-mail is virus free but we cannot guarantee this. If you require correspondence to be addressed to a particular person or marked private and confidential then you must tell us.


  1. Identity, disclosure and confidentiality 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 get evidence of your identity as soon as possible. If you cannot provide us with the specific identification requested, please contact us as soon as possible to discuss other ways to verify your identity.


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 and the Solicitors Regulation Authority) 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. All outsourcing activity is performed in accordance with Data Protection Policy the relevant details of which are explained in our Privacy Notice.


  1. Limit on our liability for professional negligence

Our liability to you for a breach of your instructions shall be limited to £2M, unless we expressly state a higher amount in the letter accompanying these terms of business. We will not be liable for any consequential, special, indirect or exemplary damages, costs or losses, or any damages, costs or losses attributable to lost profits or opportunities. We can only limit our liability to the extent the law allows. In particular, we cannot limit our liability for death or personal injury caused by our negligence.


  1. Complaints Procedure

At Stewart Begum Solicitors we aim to provide the best possible service to our clients and, in order to do this, we need to know from you if you feel dissatisfied.  Should you have any occasion to feel unhappy about our service, or about the bill, please let me know straight away and I will discuss this with you.  Should you wish to make a complaint, Mark Stewart is the person who deals with these matters and he will be prepared to meet with you to discuss your complaint. We have a procedure in place which details how we handle complaints which is available upon request.  We have eight weeks to consider your complaint. If we have not resolved it within this time, or if you are not happy with our handling of your complaint, you may complain to the Legal Ombudsman (PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ, telephone 0300 555 0333, website www.legalombudsman.org.uk). The Legal Ombudsman will expect you to have given your lawyer a chance to resolve your complaint before it will get involved. Normally, you will need to bring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within six months of receiving a final written response from us and within six years from the date of the act or omission about which you are complaining, or three years from the date you should reasonably have known there were grounds for complaint.  You also have a right to complain about or challenge your bill by applying for an assessment of the bill under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974. The Legal Ombudsman may not consider a complaint about a bill, if you have applied to the court for assessment of that bill.


  1. Provision of Service Regulations 2009

In accordance with the Provision of Service Regulations 2009 details of our Professional Indemnity Insurance can be obtained by contacting our offices. Our VAT number is 279542756. We are regulated and authorised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) under number 568564. The SRA Code of Conduct sets out the regulatory framework imposed on service providers such as ours. The current edition of the SRA Code is available on the SRA website at www.sra.org.uk.

 

020 7036 0414

St Clare House, 30-33 Minories, London, EC3N 1DD

©2020 by Stewart Begum Solicitors. 

Company No. 07989798. VAT No. 279542756.
Registered in England and Wales: St Clare House, 30-33 Minories, London, EC3N 1DD.

Stewart Begum Solicitors is a trading name of Stewart Begum Solicitors Ltd and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority ('SRA'). Our SRA number is 568564.