The family law practice limited – terms of business

INTRODUCTION
The terms of business and any engagement letter we give you at the start of the matter outline the terms on which The Family Law Practice Limited accept instructions and charge for our services. If there is any conflict between these terms and the engagement letter, the engagement letter will take precedence. Any reference in these terms to the “firm” or “us” means The Family Law Practice Limited.
FEES AND EXPENSES
At the outset of a matter we will agree the basis on which we will charge you and the engagement letter will set out arrangements concerning our fees and expenses.
Our fees are calculated mainly by the time spent on the matter. We keep a detailed record of this time. Hourly rates are revised every April, and may be revised at other times. We shall tell you of any changes to our hourly rates that may affect you.
We shall also pass on any third party expenses reasonably incurred in dealing with your matter such as photocopying, travel and expert reports as well as any counsel fees.

BILLING AND PAYMENT
We will add VAT to bills at the rate applicable unless zero rating or an exemption applies. Unless otherwise agreed in writing, you must pay all bills and invoices on delivery in sterling.

We reserve the right to charge interest for late payment at the higher of 2% over the current Lloyds Bank Plc base rate, the rate then currently payable on judgment debts, or the rate payable under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998.
Please note that we do not accept payment by debit or credit card.

ENFORCEMENT
We reserve the right to enforce any late payments or outstanding invoices, together with accrued interest and costs by way of a High Court or County Court Summons where a repayment schedule has not been agreed.

PAYMENTS ON ACCOUNT OF FEES AND EXPENSES
We may require payments in advance for our fees and expenses. We will deposit any monies on account in our Client Account and set them, with interest earned, against your next or future invoice.

If we are holding any of your monies at the end of a matter we will send them to you. This will generally be in the form of a cheque. If you do not present the cheque for clearing within six months of the date we sent it to you, we will cancel it for security reasons. We will advise you of this. If another six months pass and we do not receive instructions from you on what to do with the monies, we will give them to a registered charity of our choice if the amount is £500 or less. If it is more than this, we will take instructions from the Solicitors Regulatory Authority on what to do with the monies.

INTEREST RATE POLICY
This outlines our policy with regard to interest and banking arrangements in relation to money held on behalf of clients.

The over-riding objective of this policy is to achieve what The Family Law Practice Limited believes is a fair outcome for both the client and the Firm.

When The Family Law Practice Limited receives money from or on behalf of a client, it will be paid into a general client account with Lloyds Bank Plc (Lloyds Bank) who is the Firm’s primary banker.

The rate of interest paid to clients on money held in the general client account is in line with Lloyds Bank’s published rates on Client Deposit Manager Accounts. For the current rates please check Lloyds Bank’s website.

Interest on general client money is normally calculated and applied on a quarterly basis on the dates set out below. Where client requirements demand the calculation and application will be made on agreed dates (e.g. closure of the matter).
• 30th June
• 30th September
• 31st December
• 31st March

Interest on money held in general client account will not be applied to specific matters if less than £20. For the avoidance of doubt, this relates to the whole of the period for which client monies are held and not just the sum in excess of £20. Any amounts paid in lieu of interest from The Family Law Practice Limited are paid gross of any tax liability unless stated otherwise, and will therefore need to be included on your tax return as taxable income.

Interest is paid by Lloyds Bank to The Family Law Practice Limited on the aggregate of all client money held in the general client account and, subject to any interest paid to clients as above, is for the benefit of The Family Law Practice Limited.

Designated deposit facilities can be made at the client’s request. Client money may be moved from general client account to designated deposit accounts by The Family Law Practice Limited (subject to a £250,000 minimum) or on client request in order to achieve a better rate of interest. These accounts are likely to have notice periods.

The rates of interest on designated deposit accounts will be a rate negotiated by The Family Law Practice Limited with the nominated bank.

All the interest on designated deposit accounts is for the benefit of the client and can be paid either monthly or quarterly or on closure. Interest paid on these accounts may be paid net or gross of basic rate at source according to your tax status.
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oint accounts held between The Family Law Practice Limited and another law firm will be designated deposit accounts under the meaning of this policy and subject to the same conditions as set out above.

OPT OUT PROCESS
If for any reason you wish to ‘opt out’ of any interest being payable on a matter or range of matters please ensure this is made clear and in writing to us when accepting our terms and conditions.

CLIENT ACCOUNT
We hold monies on your behalf as trustee. We deposit these monies with such banks as we may from time to time decide in accordance with the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules. It follows that we have no immediate control over these monies while they are held on deposit.

The Family Law Practice Limited will ensure that funds are placed with a clearing bank which is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (‘FCA’) to accept deposits, and are held at a branch or head office in England and Wales unless instructed to hold the monies elsewhere.

All client money, whether general client funds or designated deposited funds, will be held on instant access terms unless otherwise instructed.

If the bank in which The Family Law Practice Limited holds funds should fail we reserve the right to disclose to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme the names and other details of clients whose money is held there in order for those clients to claim compensation up to the applicable limit, currently £75,000.

In the unlikely event of the failure of a bank which holds client monies we will not be liable to you for any monies lost. You may in these circumstances be entitled to compensation under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

We shall also not be liable to you or any third party for any loss or damage suffered as a result of any act, omission, fraud, delay, negligence, insolvency or default of any bank, financial institution, clearing or payments system nor that of the directors, officers, employees, agents or representatives of any of the foregoing.

You should check with the Financial Conduct Authority to find out whether or not you would be entitled to compensation. If you want to know the identity of the bank where your funds are held then we will provide you with details following receipt of your request. If when you receive a response you want us to change the bank where your funds are held you are again entitled to make a written request to us to do this. We will endeavour to move your funds in accordance with your wishes. However, depending on the circumstances, we cannot guarantee that your funds will be moved as and when requested.

This policy will be reviewed from time to time to ensure the over-riding objectives are met.

ALTERNATIVE METHODS OF FUNDING
You should consider whether you have an alternative way of paying our costs where you are or might be involved in a dispute. Another body (such as your employer or trade union) could be responsible for your costs. It is also possible that you hold a legal expenses insurance policy that covers our costs (sometimes household contents, car or other insurance policies cover legal expenses).

This is important because if you do have such an alternative, it may affect the recovery of costs from your opponent. You should tell the lawyer supervising the matter if you think you may have such an alternative. If another body does pay your costs then, with your consent, we may have to tell that body about your dispute.

THIRD PARTIES
If we have to engage other professionals on your behalf (such as counsel, overseas lawyers, accountants, expert witnesses or costs draftsmen), whether in the UK or abroad, we will do so as your agent. We cannot be responsible for any act or omission of such a professional unless otherwise agreed in writing.

COMMISSIONS
We will credit your account with any commission we receive from a third party relating to a matter we are handling for you.

PAPERS HELD BY US
When a matter has been completed and all fees paid, we will return to you, at your request, any documents you have provided in connection with that matter and any other papers to which you are entitled. We cannot promise to retain files for a specific period of time, but will generally keep them for at least six years, and reserve the right to dispose of them after that time.

It might be necessary for us to pass information and papers relating to your matter to our insurers as part of our insurance arrangements. You accept that by appointing us to act for you we are able to do this.

We will comply if for any reason (whether during or after a case) we are compelled to disclose documents or to give information orally or in writing about a matter or your affairs, under a court order, notice or demand served by a body or person with the authority to make us do so. You must pay us the costs of such compliance at our then hourly rates. If any documents or information are subject to legal professional privilege (and thus confidential), we will let you know and tell you that you have the opportunity to waive privilege. If you decide not to waive privilege and this is challenged, you must pay us the costs we incur in preserving privilege for you.

Unless you tell us otherwise, if a third party has prepared documents for you on our instructions, and you own the copyright in or have a licence to use these documents, we may store the documents on our database in any format for future reference by our lawyers.

LIABILITY OF THE FAMILY LAW PRACTICE LIMITED
The instructions you have given us create a contract for our provision of services to you. We have a duty to work for you with reasonable care and skill. Our advice and services are for your benefit only and may not be used or relied on by anyone else.

The Family Law Practice Limited is a limited company. There is no contract between you and any director, employee or consultant of the firm. Any advice given to you, or any other work done for you, by one of our directors, employees or consultants is given or done by that person on our behalf and not in his or her individual capacity. No such person assumes any personal responsibility to you for the advice or work.

You agree that if, as a matter of law, any of our directors, employees or consultants would otherwise owe you a duty of care that duty is excluded from our contract with you. You agree that you will not bring any claim against any of our directors, employees or consultants for any matter arising in any way out of providing the services to you.

Accordingly, any claim you wish to make can only be made against the firm and not against a director, employee or consultant of the firm.

You also agree that in the services we will provide to you, including in particular those described in any engagement letter we send you at the start of a matter, our total liability at law to you for losses will not exceed any amount stated in the engagement letter. Also excluded is any consequential or indirect loss, whether or not it might have been foreseeable at the start of the matter.

If we are acting for more than one person, the limit of liability will have to be allocated among you. If the engagement letter does not expressly set out each person’s share, that allocation will be a matter entirely for you. If for whatever reason you do not agree on an allocation, then you agree not to dispute the limit of liability on the grounds that no such allocation was agreed.

Our liability to you will also be limited to that proportion of the loss or damage (including interest and costs) that you have suffered and that a court has ordered against us after taking account of how far any other person responsible or liable to you for the loss or damage has contributed to it.

In assessing anyone else’s contribution, we will ignore any limit imposed on their liability by any agreement made before the loss or damage occurred. The limitations and exclusions on liability in this section will not apply to any liability for death or personal injury caused by our negligence or for any other liability that cannot lawfully be excluded or limited.

CONFLICTS
Under legal and professional rules we may have to stop acting for you if there is a conflict between your interests and those of another client, or between our interests and your interests.

Subject to compliance with the professional rules that regulate our conduct as lawyers, we cannot be prevented or restricted by reason of our relationship with you from advising other clients, including clients whose interests might now or in the future be contrary to your own.

ENDING OF INSTRUCTIONS
Once instructed, we will normally continue to act for you in the matter until its conclusion. If circumstances arise where it is appropriate for you or us to end the instruction, you will be responsible for our fees and expenses up to the date your instruction ends. You will also be responsible for any fees and expenses arising from our ceasing to act for you or the transfer of the work to another adviser of your choice. We may keep all your papers and documents while there is still money owed to us for fees and expenses.

CONFIDENTIALITY
We keep information passed to us confidential and will not disclose it to third parties except as authorised by you or required by law. In certain circumstances the law requires us to disclose information relating to you (for example, payments of interest earned on a clients’ account may have to be disclosed under the EU Savings Directive). If on your authority we are working with other professional advisers, we will assume that we may disclose any relevant aspect of your affairs to them. Sometimes we employ other companies to undertake routine administrative work on our files, such as photocopying. We will always seek a confidentiality agreement with any providers of such service. If you do not want us to do this with your file, please tell us as soon as possible.

It might be necessary for us to pass information and papers relating to your matter to our insurers as part of our insurance arrangements. You accept that by appointing us to act for you we are able to do this.

Where you provide us with fax or computer network addresses for sending material to, we will assume, unless you tell us otherwise, that your arrangements are sufficiently secure and confidential to protect your interests.

The Internet is not secure and there are risks if you send sensitive information in this manner or you ask us to do so. Data we send by email is not routinely encrypted, so please tell us if you do not want us to use email as a form of communication with you or if you require data to be encrypted.

We will use our best endeavours to protect the integrity of our computer systems by screening for viruses on email sent or received. We expect you to do the same for your computer systems.

PRIVACY AND DATA PROTECTION
We promise to respect the data we hold on you. We will keep your details on our database for administration and accounting purposes, so that we can make credit searches and send you relevant information on our services and on events that may interest you. Your details will be processed and kept securely in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. We will not disclose the data to third parties except for the purposes mentioned above. If you have any questions or concerns about our use of your data, please contact the Managing Director.

TELEPHONE CALLS
You should be aware that we record all incoming and outgoing telephone calls which shall be retained for an unspecified period. In the event that there is a dispute as to either the instructions provided by you and/or the advice given by The Family Law Practice over the telephone then we shall reserve the right to retrieve and rely upon any recordings that we may hold. Further guidance if required can be found at www.ofcom.co.uk

MONEY LAUNDERING
The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and the Regulations made under the Act, which aim to prevent money laundering, require us to obtain proof of identity from clients for whom we act in connection with relevant financial business. Accordingly we may ask you to give us the necessary details. In certain circumstances, we must by law report to the National Crime Agency any evidence or suspicion of money laundering. The law prohibits us from notifying you that a report has been made.

FINANCIAL SERVICES
We are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority. If, while we are acting for you, you need advice on investments, we may have to refer you to someone who is authorised to provide the necessary advice.

However, we may provide certain limited investment advice services where these are closely linked to the legal work we are doing for you. This is because we are members of the Law Society of England and Wales, which is a designated professional body for the purpose of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.

The Solicitors Regulations Authority is the independent regulatory arm of the Law Society. The Legal Ombudsman deals with complaints against lawyers. If you are unhappy with any investment advice you receive from us, you should raise your concerns with either of those bodies.

We provide these services only if they are on an incidental part of the professional services that we have been engaged to provide.

RIGHTS OF THIRD PARTIES
For the purpose of the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999, we agree that no term of this agreement with you is enforceable by a third party, except that the partners, consultants and employees of the firm may enforce the limitations and exclusions in the section above headed “Liability of The Family Law Practice Limited”.

APPLICABLE LAW
Our relationship with you will be governed by English law and will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts. However, we may bring legal proceedings in any other jurisdiction, including the jurisdiction where you are domiciled or based, to recover fees or other sums payable to us.

The Family Law Practice is the trading name of The Family Law Practice Limited which is a limited company registered in England and Wales (8065205) is authorised and regulated by The Solicitors Regulation Authority.

January 2016