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Terms of Engagement

1. Our commitment to you

1.1. To communicate in plain and clear language. If, having read these Terms of engagement, you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact us for further clarification.

2. Our hours of business

 2.1. Our switchboard is open between 9.00am and 5.30pm Monday to Friday.

2.2. Telephone appointments can be arranged at other times if desired.

2.3. Messages can be left on fee earners’ direct dials voice mail facilities outside those hours

3. People responsible for your work

The fee earner responsible for dealing with your work on a day to day basis will be named in our client care letter. Before transferring responsibility for your case we will tell you promptly of the proposed change and why it may be necessary.

4. Charges and expenses

4.1. Some of our fixed charges are displayed on our website. Our charges will be calculated mainly by reference to the time spent by our 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.

4.2. We charge in whole units of one-tenth of the hour being six minutes a unit. There would be no partial unit recording.  For example, seven minutes actually spent is recorded as two units. We will add VAT to these at the rate that applies when the work is done, at the prevailing rate.

4.3. The fee earners hourly rates are detailed in our client care letter. These hourly rates are reviewed periodically to reflect increases in overhead costs and inflation and we will notify you of any change.

4.4. In addition to the time spent, we reserve the right to apply an additional charge in 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. In property transactions, in the administration of estates and in matters involving a substantial financial value or benefit to a client, a charge reflecting, for example, the price of the property, the size of the estate, or the value of the financial benefit may be considered. It is not always possible to indicate how these aspects may arise but on present information we would expect them to be sufficiently taken into account in the rates which we have quoted. Where an increase in the rates or a charge reflecting any value element is to be added we will explain and when possible discuss it in advance with you.

4.5. We have to pay out various other expenses on behalf of clients ranging from Land or Probate Registry fees, court fees, experts’ fees and so on. These charges are called disbursements. 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.

4.6. If, for any reason, the matter does not proceed to completion or concludes we will be entitled to charge you for work done and expenses incurred.

4.7  We reserve the right to charge an abortive fee for any meeting you cancel less than 24 hours in advance.

5. Payment arrangements

5.1. Property Transactions. We will normally send you our bill following the exchange of contracts and payment is required on a purchase prior to completion; and at completion on a sale in the event the net proceeds will be sufficient to cover these costs. If sufficient funds are available on completion, and we have sent you a bill, we will deduct our charges and expenses from the funds.

5.2. Administration of Estates. We will normally submit monthly interim bill or at regular stages during the administration, starting with the obtaining of a Grant. The final account will be prepared when the Estate Accounts are ready for approval.  We may charge, in addition to our hourly rate, a further percentage in accordance with the Law Society guidelines as outlined in the client care letter.

5.3. Other cases or Transactions. 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.

5.4. If we hold money on client account that has been earmarked for fees and we properly require payment of those fees by sending you a bill of costs or other written notification of the costs incurred we are required to transfer that money to discharge those fees no later than 14 days after we send the bill of costs

5.5. Payment is due to us within 14 days of our sending you a bill. Interest will be charged on a daily basis at 4% above Lloyds TSB Base Lending Rate from time to time from 28 days after delivery by us of the bill.

5.6. It is standard procedure at Berlad Graham LLP to request money on account of fees and expenses from all of our clients. Should we have to instruct Counsel (barrister) in connection with your case, Counsel’s estimated fees must be paid to us at least 14 days prior to the intended submission of the papers to Counsel. In signing this retainer letter you accept that Berlad Graham LLP will not be obliged to account to you for any interest earned on monies to your credit in client account and to that extent Part C of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 1998 (save for Rule 27) shall not apply to this retainer.

5.7. You should be aware that you have rights under Sections 70 and 72 of the Solicitors Act 1974 to apply to the Court to have our invoices assessed by an officer of the Court in a process known as assessment. Such application (should you wish to make it) should be made by you within one month (and not more than 12 months) of delivery of the invoice. Further information about this can be made available to you on request.

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.

5.8. If we are conducting litigation for you, we have additional rights in any property recovered or preserved for you whether it is in our possession or not and in respect of all costs incurred, whether billed or unbilled. We also have a right to ask the court to make a charging order in our favour for any assessed costs or any other costs due to us.

5.9. We do not accept payments to us in cash in excess of £500.00.  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.

5.10. In whatever capacity you instruct us, you will be personally liable to pay our fees unless already discharged.

6. Other means of funding

It is important at this stage that we give consideration to alternative means of funding your case and/or minimising your potential exposure for your opponent’s costs. In particular we would like you to consider the following:-

(i)  whether your liability for your own costs may be covered by a policy of insurance in our favour;

(ii) whether your potential liability for your opponent’s costs may be covered by an existing policy of insurance or, if not, whether you should consider taking our “after the event” insurance to cover such potential liability;

(iii) whether your liability for your own costs and/or those of your opponent may be paid by another party, eg your employer or trade union.

(iv) Please be aware we are not able to offer legal aid but it is for you to investigate it further as you may be eligible to receive the benefit.

If any of the above may be relevant to you, please call us as soon as possible in order that we can take matters further.

7. Cost/Benefit and risk

We have discussed and will continue to discuss the potential benefit to you in pursuing your case when set against the inevitable expense and potential risk to you. You have confirmed that you wish to proceed with this matter and you have, after careful consideration, formed the view that the potential benefit to you outweighs the risk of losing the case and/or being liable for your own costs as well as those of your opponent.

8. Legal privilege

Please note that any documents (which do not relate to any ongoing or contemplated litigation) sent to us will only be privileged from disclosure to a third party if:-

(i)  they are sent to us by you or those individuals on your behalf who are entitled to instruct us; and

(ii) they relate to the giving or receiving of legal advice in connection with your rights and obligations.

This is a complex area of law which we would be happy to discuss with you in more detail, should you require.

9. Other parties charges and expenses

9.1. 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.

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

9.3. 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.

9.4. 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.

10. Interest payments

 10.1. Any money received on your behalf will be held in our Client account. Subject to certain minimum amounts and periods of time set out in the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules ,2011 interest will be calculated and paid to you (after deduction of any administration charges) at the rate from time to time payable on Lloyds Designated Client Accounts. The period for which interest will be paid will normally run from the date(s) on which cleared funds are received by us until the date(s) of issue of any cheque(s) from our Client Account.

10.2. Where a client obtains borrowing from a lender in a property transaction, we will ask the lender to arrange that the loan cheque is received by us a minimum of four working days prior to the completion date. If the money can be telegraphed, we will request that we receive it the day before completion. This will enable us to ensure that the necessary funds are available in time for completion. Such clients need to be aware that the lender may charge interest from the date of issue of their loan cheque or the telegraphing of the payment.

11. Storage of papers and documents

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

11.2. If we retrieve papers or documents from storage in relation to continuing or new instructions to act in connection with your affairs we will make a retrieval charge of £30 plus VAT and a further charge of £30 for returning the file to storage. We may also make a charge based on time spent at the junior executive hourly 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.

11.3 If we store a Will for you there will be a single charge of £50 plus VAT.

12, Financial services and insurance contracts

12.1. If, while we are acting for you, you need advice on investments, we may have to refer you to someone who is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, as we are not. However, as we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, we may be able to provide certain limited investment services where these are closely linked to the legal work we are doing for you.

12.2. We are not authorised by the 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.

13. Limit of liability

You agree and confirm that our liability to you for any loss by you as a result of our acting for you in relation to this or any other matter, shall not exceed £5m (Five Million Pounds).

14. Tax advice

Any work that we do for you may involve tax implications or necessitate the consideration of tax planning strategies. We may not be 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, please raise them with us immediately. If we can undertake the research necessary to resolve the issue, we will do so and advise you accordingly. If we cannot, we may be able to identify a source of assistance to you.

15. Termination

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

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

15.3. Under the Consumer Contracts Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, for some non-business instructions, You have the right to cancel this contract within 14 days without giving any reason. The cancellation period will expire after 14 days from the day of the conclusion of the contract.

To exercise the right to cancel, you must inform us of your decision to cancel this contract by a clear statement (eg a letter sent by post, fax or e-mail). You can use the Cancellation Form on our website, although it is not obligatory.

Our contact details, to inform us of your decision to cancel:

Berlad Graham LLP, Boundary House, Cricket Field Road, Uxbridge UB8 1QG.

Tel: 01895 457474 | Fax: 01895 590222 | Email: info@berladgrahamllp.com [You can also electronically fill in and submit the Cancellation Form or any other clear statement on our website www.berladgrahamllp.com. If you use this option, we will communicate to you an acknowledgement of receipt of such a cancellation on a durable medium (eg by e-mail) without delay].

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.

Effects of cancellation

If you cancel this contract, we will reimburse to you all payments received from you unless you asked us to start work during the cancellation period (see below ‘Asking us to start work during the cancellation period’).

We will make the reimbursement:

  • without undue delay and not later than 14 days after the day on which we are informed about your decision to cancel this contract
  • using the same means of payment as you used for the initial transaction, unless you have expressly agreed otherwise; in any event, you will not incur any fees as a result of the reimbursement

Asking us to start work during the cancellation period

We will not start work during the cancellation period unless you expressly request us to.

If you do ask us to start work during the cancellation period, you will lose the right to cancel and will have to pay in full once we start to supply the digital content.

If you would like us to start work during the cancellation period, please either confirm this by email or sign and return the “Request to start work during the cancellation period” form found on our website.

As we are acting for a company please ensure the Directors sign the Personal Guarantee document set with our Terms of Engagement.

16. Limited companies and limited liability partnership

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

17. Identity disclosure and confidentiality requirements under the prevailing proceeds of crime act and money laundering regulations

17.1. 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.

17.2. 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.

17.3. Our firm may be subject to audit or quality checks by external firms or organisations. We may also outsource work. This might be for example typing, photocopying, costing a file or 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.

17.4 The firm is on most of the lenders panels.  When we act in a property transaction for the mortgagee, we may be required by the lender to provide documents.

17.5. In order to comply with court and tribunal rules, all documentation relevant to any issues in litigation, however potentially damaging to your case, have to be preserved and may be required to be made available to other side. This aspect of proceedings is known as “disclosure”. Subject to this, we will not release confidential information about your case except as provided by these terms of business and where, for example, your opponent is ordered to pay your costs, we have to meet obligations to reveal details of the case to them and to the Court.

18. Communication between you and us

18.1. We will aim to communicate with you by such method as you may request. We may need to virus check discs or email. Unless you withdraw consent, we will communicate with others when appropriate by email or fax but we cannot be responsible for the security of correspondence and documents sent by email or fax.

18.3. The GDPR requires us to advise you that your particulars are held on our database. We may, from time to time, use these details to send you information which we think might be of interest to you.  Please refer to our Privacy Notice for more information.

18.4. Where we act for two or more clients jointly it is on the clear understanding that we are authorised to act on instructions from either, both or any of them.

19. Terms and conditions of business

Unless otherwise agreed and subject to the application of then current hourly rates, these Terms and Conditions of Business shall apply to any future instructions given by you to this firm. Your continuing instructions in this matter will amount to an acceptance of these Terms and Conditions of Business.

20. Complaints procedure

20.1. It is our intention to ensure that your case is conducted to your absolute satisfaction. If, at any time, there is any aspect of this firm’s service with which you are displeased, we should be grateful if you would raise the matter with our Complaints Partner Stewart Graham. We will do whatever we can to remedy the situation.

20.2. Further information can be found in our Client Care Letter and our Complaints procedure on our website.