Thank you for asking us to carry out work on your behalf. We will make every effort to provide you with a high quality service, excellent client care and advice at a reasonable cost. Your instructions are important to us and we set out the terms on which we will provide our professional service so that everything is clear. If you are unclear about anything at all then please do not hesitate to discuss with us. Where you have already instructed us to act on your behalf, for example, after giving you initial advice, it is on the understanding that these terms have applied from the start. We will write to you separately with our terms of engagement which will set out information relating to the nature and extent of the work you have asked us to carry out and an estimate of the likely cost and timeframe involved for that work. This document and the separate letter/email will form the terms of the agreement between us.
Responsibility for work
Sue Leadbeater will be responsible for dealing with all work on your behalf. Sue is an experienced senior solicitor and Family Law specialist. If there is a need at any time for anyone else to do any work you will be notified in advance and the person responsible and the nature of the work they will do, as well as the cost, will be clearly identified in our communication with you and agreed with you beforehand. Any instructions given to such third party will be on the basis that you will be responsible directly to them for payment of their fees.
We wish to be as flexible as possible where you need to speak with us or see us. We will generally make arrangements to do that where possible between 9.00am and 5.00pm but by prior agreement other times can be arranged. We will arrange any meetings with you either in your own home if convenient or at a suitable alternative venue mutually agreed by us both. You will not be charged for our travel to meetings with you unless notified and agreed in advance. You will however be charged for travel to meetings that involve third parties or court hearings.
Communication between you and us
Our aim is to communicate with you on a regular basis to keep you fully advised as to the progress of your case. We will relay that advice including information on costs, procedure, any explanation of documents and changes in law in plain language by the preferred method you have indicated in our Client Information Document from the outset. We will advise you on the pros and cons of taking certain actions and the risks involved in doing so. Communication with you and with others in relation to your case will always be respectful and handled in a non confrontational way. In return, we ask that you treat us with the same respect and provide clear instructions and documentation requested in a timely manner.
Sue Leadbeater is a member of Resolution and adheres to their Code of Practice. The Code promotes wherever possible, the resolution of family disputes in a non confrontational, conciliatory, practical and cost effective way. Please get in touch if you would like any more information about this.
Charges and Expenses
In most cases we will have offered you an initial telephone appointment or meeting of up to half an hour for general information which we will not charge you for. Alternatively, you may want advice specific to your circumstances and we will have offered you a meeting for up to an hour followed up with a detailed letter setting out any advice given for a fixed fee of £190 including VAT. Any other advice whether over the telephone or in writing and meetings, including our initial terms of engagement and advice letter/email, we will ask you to pay for. All work undertaken on your behalf will be charged at a rate of £190 per hour including VAT. Routine telephone calls made or received and routine letters and emails written will be charged for at one tenth of the hourly rate (one six minute unit). Non routine calls and letters/emails will be charged according to the length of time taken. Those rates will be reviewed annually and any changes will be notified to you in writing in advance.
When you instruct us we will ask you to let us have a payment on account for our charges. This will cover our initial work and enable us to meet some of the payments to others, called disbursements, where they need to be made. Any payment of this kind, which we request from you, should be paid promptly and will be credited against your account. It will be held and utilised towards your final invoice. It is also normal practice to ask clients to pay sums of money from time to time on account of charges and expenses that are expected in the following weeks or months. We find that this helps clients budget for costs as well as keeping them informed of the legal expenses that are being incurred. Any money received on your behalf will be held in our client account.
If such request is not met with prompt payment, delay in the progress of your case may result. In the unlikely event of any bill or request for payment not being met, we reserve the right to stop acting for you further until the situation has been remedied.
Payment is due within 14 days of us sending you a bill. We reserve the right to charge interest on a daily basis from time to time from the date of the bill. In respect of ongoing work, should a bill remain unpaid after 14 days, we reserve the right to suspend work until such time as the bill is settled and any required payment on account of future costs is made.
As you are the person who has instructed us to do the work and agreed to pay us for it you will remain liable for bills sent to you whatever the outcome of the case and even if someone else has agreed or been ordered to pay them and they fail to do so. Where we are carrying out work for two or more persons, such persons shall be jointly and severally liable for payment.
We do not offer advice under the Public Funding Scheme (Legal Aid). We will however assess whether you might be eligible and will signpost you to seek advice elsewhere if appropriate.
Costs and timescale estimates given at the outset will be reviewed regularly and at least every 3 months. You will be informed in advance if the estimated costs are likely to be exceeded and the reason why.
Payments can be made to us either by direct transfer into our bank account quoting your reference or by cheque with your reference on the reverse. Payments made in cash of more than £500 will not be accepted. If we need to pay any money to you it will be paid by bank transfer or cheque and not in cash. We may need to carry out additional security checks when verifying the details of any bank account into which any payment to you is to be made.
No interest will be paid on any funds held by us on your behalf. It is not commercially viable to do so as interest rates are so low.
Money Laundering and Obtaining ID
We are legally obliged to obtain satisfactory evidence from you of your identity. This is because solicitors are often targeted by criminals attempting to launder money. We will need to obtain from you at the outset of your case evidence of who you are and where you live. Until then we will not be able to receive any money into our client account. We are professionally and legally obliged to keep your affairs confidential and subject to legal professional privilege. However, solicitors may be required by law to make a disclosure to the National Crime Agency where they know or suspect that a transaction may involve money laundering or terrorist financing. If we make a disclosure we may not be able to tell you and may have to stop working on your matter for a period of time and may not be able to tell you why.
We ask that you provide one document each from Lists 1 and 2.
- Current signed passport,
- Valid UK driving licence,
- EEA member state identity card.
- UK/EU/EEA Drivers Licence (if not used as ID from List 1),
- Bank or Building Society or credit statement,
- Utility bill,
- Mobile telephone bill (excluding pay as you go),
- Council tax demand,
- Mortgage statement,
- HMRC tax notification,
- Home or Motor Insurance certificate,
Any List 2 document must have your name and current address on it (this may be in joint names with someone else) and must be dated within the last three months. Statements must show an account number and recent activity.
Investment and Tax Advice
We are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. We do not provide advice on tax. We are not qualified to give you advice on investments or advise you on the tax implications of a transaction that you instruct us on and you will be referred to a third party for such advice.
SL Family Law Solutions Ltd trading as SL Family Law is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, The Cube, 199 Wharfside Street, Birmingham B1 1RN. This means that we are governed by a code of conduct and other professional rules and you can access these on their website www.sra.org.uk or by ringing 0370 606 2555.
Data protection and confidentiality
We are obliged to keep information that you provide to us confidential. We also have a duty under data protection law. In order that we can act on your behalf we will need to obtain some personal data from you including your name, address, date of birth, email, telephone number and National Insurance number as well as other information depending on the circumstances.
The information that you provide to us is used primarily for providing legal services to you and for related purposes including updating client information as well as legal and regulatory compliance and to assist with collating information for management purposes. Use of that information is subject to your consent, data protection law and our duty of confidentiality.
Sometimes we may need to send personal information about you to other people for example, the court, barristers, estate agents, medical practitioners, financial advisers or actuaries. If so, we will ensure that a confidentiality agreement is in place with them. We will ask you to sign to agree to us sending your personal data to third parties for the purpose of carrying out your instructions. Your consent may be withdrawn at any time.
Certain information that is obtained is treated as special category data as it is considered to be more sensitive and includes data relating to health, sex life and sexual orientation, genetic data, religious or philosophical beliefs, racial or ethnic origin or political opinions. As it is sensitive we do need your specific agreement to obtain and hold such data and we will ask you to sign to give your consent to do this. Your consent may be withdrawn at any time.
If you choose not to provide personal data or agree to us utilising special category data or providing it to third parties, which you are not obliged to do, or withdraw your consent at any time to do so, we may not be able to carry out your instructions or provide you with the advice that you require.
We cannot absolutely guarantee the security of information which is communicated by email or mobile phone. In communicating with us in this way we shall assume that you agree for us to use these methods of communication. We will not encrypt attachments sent with emails unless specifically agreed with you beforehand.
We have professional indemnity insurance to cover claims made against the firm. The limit on that is £3 million. The policy covers the provision of services as a solicitor in private practice in England/Wales. SL Family Solutions Ltd is a limited company and the directors are not personally liable for any acts or omissions by the firm.
In the event that you are unhappy with any aspect of the service that you receive, please contact Sue Leadbeater who will make every effort to resolve matters with you. If you are not satisfied with how any complaint is handled then you can ask the Legal Ombudsman to get involved. Generally, you must do this within six months of receiving a final written response from us regarding your complaint or one year of any act or omission about which you are complaining or you becoming aware of it. The Legal Ombudsman’s contact details are:
PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ
0300 555 0333
Any dispute arising from these terms will be determined by the law of England and Wales only.
Termination of instructions
You may cancel an agreement for us to act for you within 14 days of receiving this Welcome document. This is because we may not have met you as we have spoken initially on the phone or we have seen you at home in a face to face meeting and the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 will apply. If you do wish to cancel then you will need to do so in writing. However, if you instruct us to start work on your file before the end of the 14 day period, we reserve the right to charge for work which we carry out and disbursements incurred before you cancel.
You may otherwise 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 on your behalf you must tell us this clearly in writing. If we decide to stop acting for you, for example, if you do not pay an interim bill or comply with a request for a payment on account, we will tell you the reason and give you notice in writing. If we decline to act for you further for professional reasons we will give you notice in writing and in this event we reserve the right to charge for any work done or advice given up to that point in time.
Storage of Papers and Documents
Once our work for you is completed, we will retain an electronic copy of your file for a minimum of six years. We will return any original documents to you and recommend that you keep them in a safe and secure place and that you retain other documents, papers and correspondence for the same period of time. If we consider that you should retain your papers for more than six years we will advise you of the suggested time period at the end of the matter.
Unless otherwise agreed in writing these terms shall apply to any future instructions given by you to this firm. In the absence of any signed acceptance of these terms your continuing instructions will amount to an acceptance of them. We hope that you will use our services again should the need arise and that you will be kind enough to recommend us to others. We may occasionally ask you to let us know what you think of our services. Any feedback you provide will enable us to continue to improve the services we offer.