1. Our responsibilities to you
2. Your responsibilities to us
3. Office hours
4. Storage of papers and documents
5. Termination of our retainer to act for you
6.Equality and diversity
7. Data protection
8. Limitation of our liability to you if things go wrong
9. Payment of interest
10. Financial services and investment and/or insurance advice
11. Our financial arrangements with you
12. Criminal Finances Act 2017
When you instruct Gray Hooper Holt solicitors, you will receive a hard copy of these terms and conditions. With this letter you will receive a letter concerning client care, (the text of which is found later on this page), and a further letter concerning our costs, (which will be strictly in accordance with the fee statements on this website.
These documents together record and comprise the terms of our agreement otherwise known as the contract to act for you and the manner in which we will provide our services and the cost of providing them. If you have any concerns about these documents or any queries relating thereto please discuss them as soon as possible with the fee earner acting for you or with the firm’s Senior and Managing Member, Mr Robert Gray. In addition to any terms we have agreed with you, which will be dealt with in our initial letter, we have certain statutory and professional obligations to provide information about our services. These comprise our terms of business and are set out below.
1. Our responsibilities to you
a. We will seek detailed instructions from you and advise you on the applicable law and procedure. On receipt of your instructions we will take all necessary steps to achieve your objectives in accordance with the law. We shall at all times act as swiftly as possible and if there are going to be any delays during the process we shall notify you. We shall advise you of any changes in the law and procedure which would have any effect on your matter.
b. We will at all times act in your best interest and advise you accordingly. In so doing we must act in accordance with the law and any relevant procedural provisions.
c. Regardless of how you have come to us (either in response to an advertisement or through our web site or due to a recommendation) we retain our independence to advise you and will not be subject to any restrictions except those imposed on us as solicitors and by the general law. This is regardless of who has the ultimate responsibility to pay the bill for the provision to you of our services. We shall keep under review whether there are any alternative methods by which your matter can be funded wholly or in part.
d. We will keep you updated. Unless we have agreed a different level of service we will advise you either in writing or on the telephone when we receive communications requiring your comments or instructions and will act on your lawful instructions speedily and efficiently. As a separate matter we will keep you updated with regard to costs.
e. We will keep in mind continually and re-assess any risks involved with your matter. We will notify you if the risk changes either for the better or for the worse and we will let you know how this may impact upon the cost effectiveness of continuing with the matter. We will let you know if your stated objective or objectives can no longer be achieved wholly or in part and whether you need to alter or re-consider those objectives.
f. In contentious cases (i.e., matters which might require the commencement of proceedings before a Court or Tribunal) if negotiations fail to produce the desired result we will advise you whether it would then be appropriate to start those proceedings or to attempt to settle by some method of Alternative Dispute Resolution.
g. We will use our best endeavours to adopt plain and straightforward language when communicating with you. When it is necessary to use legal or specialist terminology we shall provide a detailed explanation.
h. We shall keep your matter confidential. We will not give any information about you or your matter to anyone else except where it is necessary to progress your matter by e.g. communicating with the party on the other side of a matter or transaction or with that person’s solicitor or other legal advisor.
There are however certain exceptions to the rule that all communications between a solicitor and a client are confidential. As a result there are situations in which we may have to disclose information to other organisations as follows:
i. In order to comply with the Anti-Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism provisions of the AML Regulations 2017, the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (as amended), the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017, the Terrorism Act 2000 (as amended) and the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007 (as amended) and any other similar legislation and regulations.
ii. We are legally required to bring to the attention of the appropriate authorities, generally the National Crime Agency (NCA) any suspicions which we may have that you are engaged in money laundering, dealing with the proceeds of crime or are in any way involved in the financing of terrorist activities. If it is necessary for us to make a report we are not allowed to tell you that we have done so and unless and until we receive permission from the NCA to proceed with your matter we will not be able to take any further action on your behalf.
If we fail to act in accordance with our obligations under these provisions we may be guilty of a criminal offence.
iii. If ordered to do so by the Court. Such occasions are rare. If such an occasion arises it will be explained to you in detail before we take any action. You may be advised to seek separate legal representation at that time. iv. The Solicitors Regulation Authority has the right to review and inspect files as do HM Revenue and Customs. Our auditors also review a sample of files annually in compliance with their and our obligations to provide proper accounts in accordance with the Solicitors Accounts Rules and the Solicitors Code of Conduct. All of these organisations are subject to the rules relating to confidentiality. If you require any further information please ask us. v. If we are acting for you in connection with a road traffic accident we will comply with the MASS Code of Conduct. This firm is a member of the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) as recognition of our commitment to the interest of injured road users. MASS has its own distinctive Code of Conduct, a copy of which is available on request. The code is set out in full on the MASS website at www.mass.org/CodeofConduct.html.
2. Your Responsibilities to us.
a. When requested to do so you will provide evidence of your identity to enable us to comply with our obligations and duties under the Money Laundering Regulations, Proceeds of Crime Act and the Solicitors Code of Conduct. Generally we will require proof of identity before we are prepared to take any action on your behalf or to provide any advice. The fee earner dealing with you matter will explain what evidence of identify is required.
b. To give us clear and truthful instructions when reasonably requested to do so and to supply any document or documents when properly requested to do so. If we require any documents or information or instructions within a specified time (to comply with time limits imposed by the law or the procedure relating to your matter or arising from the nature of your transaction) we shall let you know immediately. We shall advise you of the consequences of failing to meet any deadline.
c. You also have an obligation to put us in funds when requested to do so particularly if funds are required to complete a financial transaction. The fee earner dealing with your matter will advise you fully in this respect.
d. To notify us of any change in circumstances which may have any effect whatsoever upon your matter. If you have any doubt about the relevance of any change or of any information which comes into your possession then please pass it to us.
You should as a matter of course notify us of any change of address, telephone number (including mobile telephone number) and any change of email address. It would also be helpful if you would let us know in advance if you are likely to be away (e.g. on holiday) and not easily contactable for any length of time.
e. Generally to co-operate with us and to take such steps as are necessary to help us to progress your matter.
f. To be responsible for our costs in accordance with the agreement reached with you and detailed in the costs letter and any Conditional Fee Agreement or other agreement reached with us.
3. Office hours
The office is open from 9.00 am until 5.00 pm Monday to Friday. The office does not open on Bank and Public Holidays or at the weekend.
Members of staff may be available outside normal office hours by prior arrangement particularly if it is difficult for you to visit or telephone during these hours.
It is not this firm’s policy to disclose employees’ home or mobile telephone numbers.
There is no answer phone in operation. Voicemail is in operation during office hours if you need to leave a message with a fee earner who is not immediately available to speak to you.
4. Storage of papers and documents
After completing the work you instruct us to do we are entitled to keep all your papers and documents whilst there is money owing in respect of our charges and disbursements.
We will keep our full file of papers (except for any of your papers which you ask to be returned to you) for no more than six years in contentious matters and for twelve years in non-contentious and property matters. On occasion it may be necessary to keep files for longer than that, for instance when we are acting on behalf of a minor or patient and this will be explained to you if and when appropriate. We will retain your file on the understanding that we have your authority to destroy it either six years or twelve years after the date of the final bill depending on the nature of your matter.
If having completed your matter we are requested to retrieve papers or documents from storage we may make a charge for this service. We will not normally charge when the reason for retrieving those papers is to enable us to act for you in another matter to which those papers may be relevant.
If you wish us to store original documents such as Wills and Deeds please let us know and we shall enter into a separate agreement concerning these. A charge may be made for this service.
5. Termination of our retainer to act for you
In some circumstances you may consider that we ought to stop acting for you. This may occur where you feel that you are unable to give us clear or proper instructions on how to proceed or if you have lost confidence in us. You may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time but we will be entitled to keep all your papers and documents whilst there is money owing to this firm in respect of charges and disbursements and VAT. Our right to retain your papers is called a “lien”. If you decide to instruct other solicitors to deal with your matter then we will generally pass all your papers to them provided they give us an undertaking (enforceable against them personally) to preserve that lien for our costs, disbursements and VAT.
We may decide to stop acting for you but only with good reason. This may occur if for instance if you fail or refuse to give us instructions when properly requested to do so or ask us to take any action which is unlawful or unethical or which we properly regard as unreasonable. If we decide to stop acting for you; we shall tell you why and give you reasonable notice of our intention to do so. We will also explain fully the effect of us ceasing to act for you upon your liability to pay our costs. We will also explain any liability which anyone else has to pay our costs including any other party or any legal expenses insurer. We shall also explain any obligation you may have to pay another party’s costs.
If we are acting for you under the terms of a Conditional Fee Agreement then the right to terminate that contract on either side is fully explained in the Agreement as are the costs consequences.
6. Equality and diversity
Everyone working for Gray Hooper Holt LLP is a signatory to and bound by our anti-discrimination policy which promotes and ensures that we adhere to the principles of equality and diversity in our dealings with clients, suppliers, third parties and employees. A copy is available on request.
7. Data Protection
We are obliged to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and have produced a Privacy Notice which accompanies these Terms and Conditions.
8. Limitation of our Liability to you if things go wrong
Our liability to you for a breach of your instructions shall be limited to £3 million unless we expressly state a higher amount in a letter accompanying these terms of business or during the course of the transaction. It may in certain matters be necessary to purchase “top up” cover to take the protection above £3 million and if so you will be advised of that and be asked to pay the whole or a part of the additional premium. The sum of £3 million per claim is the minimum sum for which we are obliged to insure as an LLP providing legal services.
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 negligence.
We are currently insured with China Re who may be contacted through our brokers Howden London, 16 Eastcheap, London, EC3M 1BD. The Policy covers the provision of services in private practice as a solicitor including the employees of a solicitor. It covers claims brought anywhere in the world. If we change to another insurer before your matter concludes this will not affect our liability or your cover in any way.
Please ask if you would like us to explain any of the terms above.
9. Payment of interest
This firm’s accounting procedures are regulated by and comply with the provisions of the Solicitors Regulation Authority Accounts Rules 2011 (as amended). The Rules provide that we must account to you as a client for any interest earned on monies held in a client account on your behalf when it is “fair and reasonable to do so in all the circumstances”. We must also have a policy on the payment of interest.
This firm’s policy is set out below:
Any money received from you or on your behalf will be paid into our client account (except where a cheque received is made payable to you or someone else other than us). Where all or part of that money is paid to us to meet our fees or any disbursements that have become due for payment, we will deduct those fees and disbursements from the sum paid and no interest will be earned on that sum. Interest may be received on the balance and if it is, we shall account to you for that interest at the rate set by Barclays Bank plc for current accounts. This is subject to that interest being £20 or more. If it is less than £20, then your acceptance of our terms of business means that you agree that we are not liable to pay that interest to you. This part of the policy is based on the cost and administrative inconvenience to the firm of having to calculate and pay out small amounts. If you do not agree with this policy and are not prepared to allow us to keep any interest earned up to the sum of £20, please contact our Senior Member Mr. Robert Gray before accepting our terms of business.
Unless there are good reasons not to do so, for instance because we may have to hold a large sum of money on your behalf for a length of time, money which is received and which has to be paid into a client account on your behalf will be paid into an account which operates on the basis that the whole or any part of the monies will be easily and quickly accessible. As you will appreciate, such accounts could not be expected to pay as much interest as if you were able to invest the money yourself. Where we are asked to hold a large sum of money for any length of time then, subject to your agreement, that sum may be paid into another type of client account where higher interest is earned but in those circumstances such monies may not be easily and quickly accessible. It is difficult to define what may be a “large sum of money for any length of time”.
Generally we will not hold a large sum of money for you and any sum which we do hold, large or small, will be in anticipation of meeting fees and disbursements or a particular liability (for instance, in a conveyancing transaction the funds or balance of funds needed to complete a purchase).
Generally those funds will only be sought from you when the date on which liability has to be met has or is in the process of being established. If we are acting for you as a trustee or in connection with a trust or the administration of an estate or as a stakeholder, then it may be necessary to hold sums of money for a length of time and such monies will be paid into the appropriate interest-bearing account and any interest accounted for and paid to you, subject to the £20 limit referred to above.
The precise nature of the account and the interest which might be earned will be discussed with you prior to the money being placed in the appropriate account.
10. Financial Services and Investment and/or Insurance advice
We are not authorised by the Financial Services Authority (FSA). 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 those 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 purposes of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.
Whilst we are not, as we have said, authorised by the FSA we are included in the register maintained by the FSA so that we may carry on insurance mediation activity. This is broadly advising on selling and administration of insurance contracts. This part of our business including arrangements for complaints or redress if something goes wrong is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
The register can be accessed via the FSA website at www.fsa.gov.uk/register. The Law Society of England 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 Complaints Service is the independent complaints handling arm of the Law Society.
If you are unhappy with any insurance advice you receive from us, you should raise your concerns with any of these bodies.
11. Our financial arrangements with you
Our firm’s policy is only to accept cash from clients up to a limit of £500 or £500 plus VAT where a bill has been delivered and that sum is tendered in full or partial payment. This policy reflects our reaction to the risk of being the victims of or facilitators of money laundering. 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.
Where payment is required from you, you will be advised how to make that payment and the date by which payment is due.
We are prepared to accept certain payments by credit or debit card and if you wish to make a payment in this manner please speak to the fee earner acting for you.
Where we have to pay money to you it will be paid by cheque or bank transfer. We will not make payments in cash or to a third party.
If from the outset or at any stage during the transaction we are also acting for any person or organisation lending money to you (such as but not limited to a bank or building society) we will have a duty fully to reveal to your lender all relevant facts concerning the loan and any security provided therefore. This includes making them aware of any differences between the information you have given your lender and information we receive during the transaction. It also includes bringing to their attention any cash back payments or discount schemes that any seller may be giving to you.
12. CRIMINAL FINANCES ACT 2017
The firm is committed to promoting compliance with the requirements of the Criminal Finances Act 2017 within its practices as well as in those areas in which it has influence. The firm does not tolerate tax evasion, or the facilitation thereof in any circumstances, whether committed by or facilitated by a client, personnel or associated persons/companies.