Our terms and conditions
The following terms of engagement apply to all work carried out by Beck Fitzgerald except as otherwise agreed. The expression “we”, “us”, and “our” refer to [name of firm] and “you” and “your” refer to our client.
These terms and conditions will apply to any services which we provide to you and will usually be supplemented by a letter dealing with the specific services to be provided and the fees payable.
These terms and conditions may be revised from time to time on our website and we will notify you if and when material changes are made. Any revised terms and conditions will apply from the date we notify you of any changes. You are of course free to terminate the arrangement between us if you do not accept the revised terms and conditions.
- Our Services
Scope of our Services
The scope of the services we have agreed to provide for you in any matter will be agreed between us and confirmed in our Client Care Letter. You agree that you do not require us to provide you advice or further services in relation to any aspect outside of the scope of the services so agreed.
Level of service
We will regularly update you by telephone or in writing with progress on your matter in particular, following key events or stages in your matter. We will always endeavour to communicate with you in plain language.
We will update you on the cost of your matter at least every six months and otherwise at agreed events or milestones. Whenever there is a material change in circumstances, we will update you on whether the likely outcomes still justify the likely costs and risks associated with your matter. We will continue to review whether there are alternative methods by which your matter can be funded.
We will update you on the likely timescales for each stage of this matter and any important changes in those estimates.
Where we are jointly instructed by you and another client to act in a matter, we will assume that either of you are authorised to give us instructions, unless either of you advise us otherwise. In addition, as matters progress, we may need to act on instructions of other people from whom we consider it is reasonable to take instructions in order to progress the matter within the timescales set. Unless informed of any change, we will assume that this remains the case until our work is completed.
Provision of Information
To assist us in carrying out the work as efficiently as possible, you will need to ensure that all information provided is to the best of your knowledge complete, accurate and up to date. You should also notify us of any changes or variations to that information which may arise after the date it is passed to us and of any new circumstances that might be relevant to the work we are undertaking.
- Responsibility for Work
The name of the person who will carry out most of the work in this matter will be confirmed in our Client Care Letter. They may from time to time, be assisted by other members of our team i.e. trainees, paralegals etc. However, you will be notified of this either in the Client Care Letter or in writing when applicable.
We try hard to avoid changing the people who are handling your work but if this cannot be avoided, we will notify you promptly of the name and status of the person who will be dealing with your case.
We are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Our SRA number is 630043.
We operate in accordance with a code of conduct and other regulations contained with the SRA’s Handbook. For further information or to see a copy of the Handbook, please visit www.sra.org.uk.
We practice through a company called Beck Fitzgerald Ltd is registered in England and Wales with registration number 10117983. A list of our directors and their professional qualifications is available upon request.
- Contacting us
Our office is located at Fox Court, 14 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8HN. The normal hours of opening are between 09.00 and 17.30 on weekdays. Appointments can be arranged outside those hours when essential to the interests of a client
- Professional indemnity
In the interests of our clients, we maintain compulsory professional indemnity insurance to a total level of three million pounds. A full hard copy of all of our insurances are available to view at our offices. Please ask for details.
- Our Charges
Unless and until either an alternative fee arrangement has been agreed and confirmed in writing by us, the basis for calculation of our fees is primarily by reference to the time spent by the fee earner(s) dealing with the matter (including any time which we spend travelling) and will be charged at an hourly rate.
Where relevant, the hourly rates applicable to your matter will be confirmed to you in our Client Care Letter. We may from time to time review our charging rates and will notify you immediately in writing of any changes which are applicable to your matter.
Our current rates from time to time may not be appropriate in cases of exceptional complexity or urgency or where specialist knowledge is required. Where it becomes apparent that such circumstances exist we will notify you of this.
All fees are quoted exclusive of VAT, which will be added where appropriate. Currently, the VAT rate is 20%.
Matter not concluded
Unless otherwise agreed in writing, our fees are payable whether or not a matter is successfully concluded. If any matter does not proceed to completion for any reason during the period in which we are instructed, then we will be entitled to charge for work done on an hourly basis plus expenses as set out above but, at its absolute discretion, we may waive part or all of such entitlement to fees.
Estimate of Costs
We will provide you at the outset of a matter with the best possible information on our costs and will update this information as the matter progresses. As you will appreciate however, a matter can often end up taking quite a different shape from that envisaged at the time when it starts and the legal advisers are instructed. Accordingly, it can be difficult to come up with a clear estimate. However, as matters progress, we should be able to provide you with more detailed estimates of our likely costs and will keep this under review with you.
Whilst it is often not possible to estimate charges in advance, it is open to you to notify us of any limit which you wish to impose on our charges after which further reference will be made to you. We will advise you when it appears that any costs estimates or limits are close to being exceeded. Notwithstanding any estimates or costs limits however, the final bill will be a product of the amount of time our fee earners spend on the matter and our agreed fee rates; any estimates provided are neither intended to be a cap nor a target billing figure.
Therefore, if significant further work is required in addition to that currently envisaged or if the timetable is extended significantly, our fees will be greater than our indicative estimates. Should it become apparent at any time during the course of the matter that significant further work will be required, we shall of course let you know.
Third party responsibility
In certain circumstances, there may be an expectation that a third party (including an insurer) will pay your costs. In the event that the third party does not pay the sums due, you will be required to pay the outstanding costs.
We may incur certain expenses your behalf, (for example, such items as court fees, counsel’s fees etc.). You will have to pay those expenses or reimburse us for them in addition to our fees. VAT is payable on certain disbursements.
- Billing arrangements
Timing of bills
We will normally send you a final bill for the settlement of our services at the end of the matter. However, if the matter is ongoing, we may render interim bills at agreed intervals.
Payments on account
We may ask you to pay sums of money from time to time on account of the anticipated fees. We will offset any such payments against your final bill.
Total fees may be greater than any advance payments.
Settlement of bills
Accounts are to be paid by you when due, whether or not the amounts concerned may ultimately have to be paid by another party. Bills are to be settled in full within 30 days of receipt. We will charge interest on unpaid bills from 30 days of delivery of the bill on a daily basis at 3%.
In relation to non-contentious costs, we are entitled to charge interest on unpaid bills at the rate payable on judgment debts from one month after delivery of the bill in accordance with Article 5 of the Solicitors’ (Non-Contentious Business) Remuneration Order 2009. If any payment on account is not made or a bill is not settled in accordance with these terms, we reserve the right to decline to act further for you.
Concerns over your bill
If you are not satisfied with the amount of our fees please contact us. Objections about the amount of our fee will be handled by way of our complaints procedure.
If you remain unhappy about the level of our fees you may be able to make a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman (as more particularly set out above) or may be entitled to have the bill assessed by the Court in accordance with Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974. Your rights are set out more fully in Sections 70, 71 and 72 of the Solicitors Act 1974.
Lien over papers and documents
Following the conclusion of your matter, we are entitled to retain your file of papers and documents while there is money owing to us for fees.
We operate a client account facility which allows for money to be held or transferred in relation to a matter we are working on. However, the facility is operated at our discretion and any unauthorised receipts will be held pending further investigation or returned to the sender. Therefore, we ask that you give us advance warning of any receipts.
It is our policy to only accept cash up to £250. If you circumvent this policy by depositing cash direct with our bank we reserve the right to charge for any additional checks we deem necessary regarding the source of the funds. Where we have to pay money to you, it will be paid by cheque or bank transfer. It will not be paid in cash or to a third party.
If we hold money on your behalf, in accordance with the SRA Accounts Rules 2011, it is our policy that we will pay you a sum of money in lieu of interest on a fair and reasonable basis. Client monies will normally be held by us in a general client account with our primary banker.
A sum in lieu of interest will be payable on amounts held in our general client account on the following basis:
- Interest will be paid at the conclusion of your matter;
- The period for which interest will be paid normally runs from the date the funds are received by us cleared in our account until, where paid electronically, the date when the funds are sent or, where paid by cheque, the date(s) on the cheque(s) issued to you;
- The rate of interest paid to clients will be in line with our bank’s published interest rates on Client Deposit Accounts over the period when interest is due;
- All interest that is paid to you will be paid as a gross amount;
- We will not account to you for any interest in the following situations:
- On money held for the payment of a professional disbursement if the person to whom the money is owed has requested a delay in settlement;
- On money on an advance to us to fund a payment on your behalf in excess of funds already held for you;
- Where the total amount of interest calculated over the course of the matter is £20 or less;
- Otherwise, where there is an agreement to contract out of the provisions of this policy.
If it is apparent that money held on your behalf will need to be retained for some time then such money may need to be placed in a designated deposit account in which case all of the interest accruing while the funds are so invested will be paid to you when the account is closed or on intermittent basis as agreed with you.
It is extremely unlikely that we could be held liable to you if any money held in our client account is lost due to any failure in the banking system including bank collapse. However, you may be entitled to make a claim against the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in the event of failure of the bank. The amount of compensation which the FSCS can pay out is limited to £75,000 (subject to some restrictions). We may be able to make a claim to FSCS on your behalf. If we do so, we will, subject to our obtaining your consent, give certain client information to FSCS to help them identify you and any amounts to which you are entitled.
Sometimes the work we are likely to carry out for you can involve investments. We are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (previously the Financial Services Authority) and so may refer a client to someone who is authorised to provide any necessary investment advice. However, we can provide certain limited services in relation to investments provided they are closely linked with the legal services we are providing to a client, as we are members of the Law Society of England and Wales.
If we recommend a referral to a particular firm, agency or business to provide you with investment advice, we shall do so in good faith but we shall not be liable to you for any advice you may be given by them. Furthermore, if that firm, agency or business is not another firm of solicitors you will not be afforded the regulatory protection of the SRA and shall not be entitled to the benefit of the SRA Compensation Fund.
The Law Society is a designated professional body for the purposes of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 but responsibility for regulation and complaints handling has been separated from the Law Society’s representative functions. The SRA is the independent regulatory body of the Law Society and the Legal Ombudsman is the independent complaints handling body of the Law Society.
We are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (formerly the Financial Services Authority). However, our firm is included on the Exempt Professional Firms Register maintained by the Financial Conduct Authority so that we can carry on insurance mediation activity, which is broadly the advising on, selling and administration of insurance contracts. This is part of our business, including arrangements for complaints or redress if something goes wrong is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The register can be accessed via the Financial Conduct Authority website at www.register.fca.org.uk.
We do not generally sell or advise on insurance policies except those that are required in relation to our conveyancing and litigation practices. In conveyancing work, clients may encounter a problem that can be overcome by the taking out of a suitable insurance policy such as to protect against a defect in the title to a property. Similarly, in litigation, ‘after the event’ insurance may be obtained by us on behalf of a client to protect against the costs the client may incur when making a claim. Should we identify a problem that cannot readily be overcome without taking out such a policy, we will inform clients at the appropriate time.
If we are requested to recommend an insurer, we will advise the client about the range of legal indemnity insurers we have checked before recommending a particular policy and, if it is not on a fair market analysis, we will explain the basis upon which the recommendation has been made and will check the suitability of any such policy. If we are requested to assist in the arranging of any insurance on behalf of a client, we will inform the client of all necessary information by means of a written ‘demand and needs statement’.
If we recommend a referral to a particular insurer, we shall do so in good faith but we shall not be liable to you for any advice or assistance you may be given by them. Furthermore, you will not be afforded the regulatory protection of the SRA and shall not be entitled to the benefit of the SRA Compensation Fund in relation to those insurance services.
*NB You must register with the Financial Conduct Authority’s Exempt Professional Firm’s register to engage in insurance mediation work.
The Law Society of England and Wales is a designated professional body for the purposes of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. The Solicitors Regulation Authority is the independent regulatory arm of the Law Society. The Legal Ombudsman is the independent complaints-handling arm of the Law Society. If you are unhappy with any investment advice you receive from us, you should raise your concerns with either of those bodies.
- Limitation of Liability
Reliance by third parties
Advice rendered by us is provided for the purpose of the instructions to which it relates and for your benefit. It may not be used or relied on for any other purpose or by any person other than you without our prior agreement.
Liability in respect of other parties
We will use all reasonable endeavours to ensure that all information provided by us is accurate but we cannot account for the accuracy of information provided by or obtained from third parties. We shall not be liable for any decision made or action taken by you or others based upon reliance on or use of information or advice provided by or obtained from third parties.
Where we are asked to recommend the services of another advisor or service provider, we will do so in good faith, but without liability and without warranting the ability or standing of that person or firm. We will not be responsible for the quality of the services provided by that person or firm.
Limitation of our liability
Our liability to you for a breach of your instructions shall be limited to £2,000,000 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.
Please ask if you would like us to explain any of the terms above.
We owe you a duty of confidentiality in respect of information relating to you which we obtain during the course of our retainer. All such information will be regarded as, and kept confidential at all times unless you instruct us to disclose information or except in the circumstances set out below.
Our duty of confidentiality to you is subject to any disclosures we are required to make in good faith to the police, governmental, regulatory or supervisory authorities in relation to any statutory or regulatory obligations. In particular, we are required, without your knowledge or consent, to report any awareness or suspicion of money laundering in relation to the proceeds of any crime. We can also be ordered by the Government Agencies to disclose information and answer questions about your private affairs, again without your knowledge and consent.
Sometimes we ask other companies or people to do typing, photocopying and other work on our files to ensure this is done promptly. We will always seek a confidentiality agreement with these outsourced providers. If you do not want your file to be outsourced, please tell us as soon as possible.
Occasionally, our files may need to be examined by external auditors (for quality purposes) and/or our external advisers (who assist the firm in maintaining quality and risk). In particular, our files may need to be assessed for quality purposes by the SRA, by a Lexcel assessor and your file may be one of a sample which is to be assessed. These external firms or organisations are required to maintain confidentiality in relation to your files and any examination will be strictly controlled. Your acceptance of these terms and conditions is deemed to include consent to such disclosure. Please let us know if you have any concerns about this or do not want your files to be examined.
Our duty of confidentiality does not apply to a disclosure we make to our insurers pursuant to the terms of our professional indemnity insurance policy. In the event of a claim, complaint or the notification of a circumstance which may give rise to a loss or claim, we are obliged to make a notification to our insurers and this may necessarily result in your file being disclosed to our brokers or insurers. By entering into this retainer agreement with us you are expressly consenting to such disclosure.
An actual or potential conflict between your interests and the interests of another client of the firm may arise during the course of a matter. If this situation arises during our dealings with you, we will discuss the position with you and determine the appropriate course of action.
- Equality & Diversity
We are committed to promoting equality and diversity in all of our dealings with clients, third parties and employees. Please contact us if you would like a copy of our equality and diversity policy.
- Data Protection
We are registered under the Data Protection Act 1998 and will deal with data held in accordance with our obligations under the Act. 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
- legal and regulatory compliance
Our use of that information is subject to your instructions, the Data Protection Act 1998 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.
We may from time to time send you information which we think might be of interest to you. If you do not wish to receive that information please notify us in writing.
- Money Laundering
Solicitors who deal with money and property on behalf of their client can be used by criminals wanting to launder money.
Under the provisions of our statutory obligations (in particular with regard to our obligations under the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 and other relevant legislation including the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and the Terrorism Act 2000), we are under a strict duty to report any circumstances where we know or suspect that a client or matter is involved in money laundering or terrorist financing, to the National Crime Agency. Under these circumstances, we may be precluded from informing you of the disclosure or seeking your consent. If we make a disclosure, we may also have to stop working on your matter for a period of time and may not be able to tell you why.
In view of the above, the law requires solicitors to get satisfactory evidence of the identity of their clients and sometimes people related to them. We may also be required to carry out background checks on our clients and to make detailed enquiries as to the source of funds being used in relation to transactions on which we are instructed to advise.
Depending on the type of transaction and/or whether it falls into a regulated sector, we may ask you to provide us with proof of your identity and/or to make searches of appropriate databases. [The fee for these searches is £[x] and will appear on your bill under expenses].
We are required to retain records of the identification obtained. We may delay, decline or cease to act for you if we have requested to see proof of your identity, but there has been an unreasonable delay in providing it.
If as a result of meeting our statutory obligations, or executing our internal procedures put in place to meet those obligations in good faith, we cause you loss, damage or delay, our liability to you will not exceed the minimum level of Professional Indemnity insurance cover as specified by the SRA Indemnity Insurance Rules.
If your matter has been referred to us by a third party and/or we have a financial arrangement with that third party then we shall disclose all relevant details to you in our Client Care Letter including the name of the referrer and the amount of any payment we make to that third party for referring you to us. Similarly, if we receive a financial benefit as a result of acting for you, we will tell you of the amount in our Client Care Letter.
If the third party is paying us to provide services to you, we will inform you in our Client Care Letter of the amount the third party is paying us to provide services to you and, where applicable, the amount you are obliged to pay the third party.
Despite any financial relationship with a third party, we will provide you with independent advice and you are entitled to and we hope that you will feel happy to raise questions with us about any aspect of your matter. Any information you provide to us or any advice that we give you during your matter will not be shared with the third party unless you expressly agree.
However, please note that if we are acting both for you and the third party in this matter, we may have to stop acting for both of you if there is a conflict of interest.
- Email Communications
If you have the necessary facilities we will use email for communication with you unless you tell us not to.
There are some specific points of which you should be aware:
- Communications over the Internet are not completely secure. You will have to guide us as to what should or should not be sent over the Internet.
- Viruses or other harmful devices may be spread over the Internet. We take reasonable precautions to prevent these problems by use of a firewall and virus checking software. If we are to communicate by E-mail, it is on the basis that you will do likewise.
Termination by you
You may withdraw your instructions at any time by written notice to us.
Should your matter not be carried through to completion then a charge will be made in respect of the work that has already been completed based upon the fee structure that has been agreed. VAT or similar taxes will be payable on that amount and you will also be billed for any disbursements incurred.
In fixed fee cases the full fee will remain payable upon termination by you and if already paid no refund will be made. Any monies taken on account of un-incurred disbursements will however be refunded.
Under certain limited circumstances, you may have a legal right under The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 to cancel your retainer with us within 14 days of entering into it, by informing us of the decision to cancel. We will let you know if this applies to you in our client care letter which will also include further details on the right to cancel pursuant to these Regulations and the effect of cancellation.
We will be entitled to keep all your papers and documents whilst there is money owing to us for our fees and expenses.
Termination by us
In some circumstances, we may consider that we ought to cease acting for you. We will only decline to act further for you where we have reasonable grounds to do so (for example: failure by you to settle invoices in full on the due date or to make payments in advance when so requested; failure by you to give clear and proper instructions on how we are to proceed; if it is clear that you have lost confidence in how we are carrying out your instructions; if by continuing to act we would be in breach of the law or rules of professional conduct). If we do cease to act for you then we will confirm in writing the reasons why and give you reasonable notice.
- Storage of files
At the end of the matter, we will be entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is still money owed to us for fees and expenses.
We will keep our file of your papers for six years, except those papers that you ask to be returned to you. We keep files on the understanding that we can destroy them six years after the date of the final bill. We will not destroy documents you ask us to deposit in safe custody.
If we retrieve papers or documents from storage in relation to continuing or renewing instructions to act for you, we will not normally charge for such retrieval. However, we may make a charge based on time spent producing stored papers or documents to you or another or making copies of any documents at your request. We may also charge for reading correspondence or other work necessary to comply with the instructions given by you, or on your behalf. Our charges would be based on our hourly rate applicable at the given time and we would always discuss this with you beforehand.
- Third Party Rights
The Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999 does not apply to the terms of our retainer with you or any subsequent amendment to it unless we expressly confirm in writing this it does apply.
In the event that any of these terms and conditions is held to be invalid, the remainder of the terms and conditions will remain in full force and effect.
- Governing law
These terms and conditions shall be governed by, and construed in accordance with, the law of England & Wales.
The Courts of England & Wales shall have exclusive jurisdiction in relation to any claim, dispute or difference concerning this agreement and any matter arising from it.
- Future instructions
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 us. Although your continuing instructions in this matter will amount to an acceptance of these terms and conditions of business, it will be helpful if you will please sign and return one copy of them for us to retain on our file.