These terms set out the standard terms and conditions under which we, Sunley Solicitors Limited, provide services to our clients. Details of the services to be provided in a particular matter and how we will charge for those services, are set out in the letter of engagement which accompanies these terms.
We aim to offer our clients expert legal advice with a personal service at a reasonable cost.
Our Commitment To You
- Represent your interests and keep your business confidential;
- Explain to you the legal work which may be required and the prospects of a successful outcome. If in our view those prospects no longer justify the likely costs involved, we will let you know;
- Make sure that you understand the likely degree of financial risk which you will be taking on and advise you if at any time there are any alternative methods by which the matter can be funded;
- Keep you regularly informed of progress (at least every six weeks) or, if there is none, when you are next likely to hear from us;
- Try to avoid using technical language when writing to you,;
- Advise you if the law in relation to your matter changes;
- Deal with your queries promptly.
In return, we expect you:
- To provide us with clear, timely and accurate instructions.
- To provide all documents and payments required to complete the transaction in a timely manner.
- Will safeguard and deliver to us all documents or materials which are relevant to any dispute we are dealing with on your behalf.
Communication Between Us
Our aim is to offer all our clients an efficient and effective service at all times. Our clients are of first importance to us and we hope that you will be pleased with the work that we do for you.
We will aim to communicate with you by such methods as you may request and as often as is required to ensure that you are fully aware of the progress of the matter we are dealing with. We may need to virus check discs or emails. Unless you withdraw consent, we will communicate with others when appropriate by email but we cannot be responsible for the security of correspondence and documents sent by email.
Our Hours of Business
The normal hours of opening at our offices are 9.30am to 5.30pm on weekdays. Messages can be left on the answerphone outside those hours and appointments can be arranged at other times where this is appropriate.
Equality and Diversity
Sunley Solicitors is committed to promoting equality and diversity in all of its dealings with clients and third parties.
Privacy and Data Protection
We will keep your details on our database for administration, accounting and provision of legal services purposes. Your details will be processed and kept securely in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. 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.
Costs and Expenses
The letter of engagement sets out how our fees will be calculated and what expenses you are likely to incur. Where those fees are calculated by reference to an hourly rate, we reserve the right to amend that rate from time to time; usually annually. Hourly rates will be charged in six minutes units. Any changes will not take effect until we have notified them to you in writing. You will remain primarily liable to pay our fees and any expenses we incur on your behalf even though some other party may have agreed, or been ordered by a Court, to pay all or some of them.
When acting on behalf of a limited company, we may at any time require a director, or a controlling shareholder to guarantee that our fees will be paid. If no such guarantee is given, we will be entitled to stop acting and to require immediate payment of fees and expenses already incurred.
If any bill is overdue for settlement, we will also be entitled to cease acting for you. We will not exercise that right without first giving you at least 7 days written warning.
We are under no obligation to pay any expenses on your behalf, even if failure to do so will prejudice your interests, unless you have provided us with cleared funds to make that payment. In relation to the clearance of cheques, including bankers’ drafts please refer to the bills and payments paragraph below.
Bills and Payment
All our bills are payable within 28 days after they are sent to you. If you fail to settle a bill within that period, we are entitled to charge interest overdue at the rate of 1.5% per month compounded (21.5% per annum). Payment of our bills may be made electronically directly to our bank account. We do not accept payment in cash where the amount to be paid exceeds £500. Where payment is made by a bankers’ draft, building society cheque or cheque drawn by any other financial institution, 8 working days must elapse before we can treat the amount as cleared funds which can be paid on to a third party.
The common law entitles us to retain any money, papers or other property belonging to you which properly comes into our possession pending payment of our fees and expenses, whether or not the property is acquired in connection with the matter for which the fees and expenses were incurred. This is known as a “general lien”. We are not entitled to sell the 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.
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 fees and expenses incurred, whether billed or unbilled.
We also have the right to ask the Court to make a charging order in respect of any property over which we have a lien for any assessed fees and expenses payable to us.
We reserve the right to suspend our services to you and retain documents and papers belonging to you in circumstances where without reasonable justification, any interim account is overdue for payment or you have failed to comply with a request for money on account of fees or expenses.
Any money received on your behalf will be held in our Client Account. We will credit you with interest earned on the amount held at the rate from time to time paid on that account.
The period for which interest will be paid on money held in our Client Account will run from the date on which cleared funds are received by us until the date on which we issue any cheque or instruct our bank to transfer funds.
Please note we do not accept any liability to secure a particular, or the best rate of interest on any money we hold on behalf of clients.
Proof of identity: in order to comply with the law on money laundering we are required to obtain evidence of your identity, as soon as practicable. Such evidence must be both as to who you are and your address. The evidence of your identity we require must be sufficient to establish your identity not just to us but to any reasonable person who does not otherwise know you. This applies equally to private clients and business clients, including both individuals and corporate bodies. It also applies to existing clients unless we already hold up to date evidence of their identity.
We will use an online identity verification service at our discretion to satisfy ourselves as to your identity.
The Regulations require us to retain such evidence for at least 5 years.
We are professionally and legally obliged to keep your affairs confidential. However solicitors may be required by statute to make a disclosure to the Serious Organised Crime Agency where they know or suspect that a transaction may involve terrorism or a financial crime. A financial crime means not just fraud but dealing with the proceeds of any criminal activity, wherever committed including theft, terrorism, drug trafficking and failure to pay any tax or duty. Failure by us to comply is itself a criminal offence.
If we make a disclosure in relation to your matter, we may not be able to tell you that a disclosure has been made. We may have to stop working on your matter for a period of time and may not be able to tell you why.
Our duties under the money laundering legislation take precedence over all our professional and contractual obligations to you. Accordingly, by instructing us you accept that we will not be liable for any loss you may suffer because we have made a report to the Serious and Organised Crime Agency and, have ceased work while we await authority to proceed.
Storage of Papers and Documents
After your instructions terminate, we shall be entitled to retain all papers you or others have passed to us and all documents we have created on your behalf, while there is money owing to us for our fees and expenses.
Once all our fees and expenses have been paid and unless you request that they be released, we will keep your file of papers in storage for not less than 6 years. After that period, we have the right to destroy the file. We also reserve the right to make a charge for storage, if we ask you to collect the file and you fail to do so.
Consent to Disclosure of Confidential Information
By instructing us you authorise us to disclose to the other parties to the transaction or matter we are dealing with and advisers, certain information which we have about you and which we would otherwise treat as confidential to you.
Where the matter involves Court or Tribunal proceedings, all documentation relevant to the issues arising, however damaging to your case, should be preserved and may be made available to the other parties. This aspect of proceedings is known as “disclosure”. We may also reveal confidential information about your case if it is necessary to meet our obligations to any third party, such as an insurer, who is or may become liable to pay towards the costs of proceedings.
We may use external bodies to assist with some of the work on your matter. By external bodies we mean individuals or organisations such as barristers, experts, other solicitors acting as our agents and companies which provide bulk typing. We recognise that the use of such external bodies involves a risk of breach of our obligations of confidentiality to you and will ensure that all such external bodies commit to treating the information they receive from us as confidential. You must tell us if you object to the use of any such external body in respect of yur matter.
We will disclose information, which we would otherwise treat as confidential to you, to our insurers and our insurance brokers in the event that a claim is or may be made against us arising out of the matter we are dealing with on your behalf, and to our accountants for audit purposes and to assessors from the regulatory bodies who have jurisdiction over us.
Information which is confidential to you may also be accessible by a number of third parties that we employ to provide general services to us in connection with our business. Such third parties include those we employ to support our computer systems and a third party we employ to store our closed files pending destruction. We take steps to ensure that such third parties do not access information about you unless necessary and that when it is necessary access is subject to an obligation to treat such information as confidential.
By instructing us you also authorise us to make all such disclosures.
Termination of Instructions
You may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time. You may for example decide that you cannot give us clear instructions on how you wish to proceed or you may simply no longer require our services. In those circumstances our lien over money, papers, or other property will apply pending payment of any outstanding fees or expenses.
We are entitled to stop acting for you only on reasonable grounds and on giving you reasonable notice in writing. A non exhaustive list of examples of such grounds would be: where continuing to act would involve us in any criminal activity, for example money laundering, or assisting such activity by others; where we cannot continue to act on your instructions without being in breach of the rules or principles of conduct which govern solicitors or our separate duties to the Court; where despite reasonable efforts we cannot obtain clear instructions from you or you have refused to provide us with instructions without good reason; where there has been a serious or total breakdown in confidence between you and us.
In addition we reserve the right to suspend our services to you and retain documents and papers belonging to you in circumstances where: a) without reasonable justification, any interim account of fees or expenses and or b) we are investigating the circumstances surrounding and addressing issues raised in any formal complaint which you have notified us of where you have not yourself served formal notice of termination of our retainer with you.
If a decision is made to suspend our services we will write to you explaining the reason(s) why.
Acceptance of These Terms
By instructing us to proceed in accordance with the accompanying letter of engagement, you will be deemed to have accepted these terms of business.
Our legal status is that of a limited company registered in England and Wales with company number 09560884.
Carmel Sunley is the Director of Sunley Solicitors Limited.
Any dispute or legal issue arising from these terms or in respect of our letter of engagement will be determined in accordance with the law of England and considered exclusively by the English courts.
These terms will also apply in respect of any future matter on which you may instruct us, whether or not a copy of them accompanies the letter of engagement sent in respect of that matter, unless we notify you that the new terms of business will apply.