Terms and Conditions of Business
Version 3: August 2020
TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS
1. Louisa Ghevaert Associates Ltd, trading as Louisa Ghevaert Associates, is a limited liability company registered in England and Wales under Company Number 11787088. Its registered office is Towngate House, 2-8 Parkstone Road, Poole, BH15 2PW. A list of members is open to inspection at the registered address.
2. References in these Terms and Conditions of Business and in our Letter of Engagement to “we”, “our’, “us” are references to Louisa Ghevaert Associates Ltd.
3. References in these Terms and Conditions of Business to “you” means our client/s as identified in our Letter of Engagement, which accompany this document at the outset of any matter.
B Our Services
4. Louisa Ghevaert Associates Ltd will provide its clients with specialist legal services upon the terms set out below. Louisa Ghevaert Associates Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) under number 656538. We must comply with the SRA’s Standards and Regulations in force from time to time, including the Code of Conduct for Solicitors, the Code of Conduct Firms and the SRA Accounts Rules. The Standards and Regulations can be accessed via the SRA’s website at www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/handbook/. The SRA is the independent regulatory arm of the Law Society of England and Wales, our professional body.
5. The contract between you and us for the provision of any legal services shall comprise (1) the Letter of Engagement sent by us to you in relation to your matter and any written updates or variations; and (2) these Terms and Conditions of Business (together “the Contract”). In the event of a conflict between the Letter of Engagement and these Terms and Conditions of Business, the Letter of Engagement shall prevail.
6. If we have commenced the provision of services (for example by gathering information, project planning or giving initial advice) prior to you receiving a scope of work or these terms of business, then notwithstanding that the Contract is made after the provision of such services, the Contract shall be deemed to apply retrospectively from the commencement of such services.
C Our Business Hours
7. Our normal business hours are between 9.00 am and 5.30 pm Monday to Friday. Appointments may be arranged at other times by agreement. Telephone messages can be left outside of our normal business hours.
D Our Commitment to You
8. In respect of your legal matter, we will:
8.1 Represent your interests with reasonable skill and care. However, the nature of many types of legal work is such that it is not possible to
guarantee a particular outcome.
8.2 Explain the legal work, issues and outcomes to you.
8.3 Provide you with a written estimate of costs at the outset.
8.4 Provide you with regular written reviews and updates about your costs and progress.
8.5 Only provide you with legal advice and assistance under English Law.
8.6 Use plain English wherever possible when speaking or corresponding with you.
8.7 Advise on likely timescales for each stage of your matter and any changes to these.
8.8 Advise you about whether the likely outcomes continue to justify the likely costs and risks associated with your matter.
8.9 Promptly deal with your questions or queries.
8.10 Not provide you with financial or tax advice.
E Your Commitment to Us
9. You will:
9.1 Provide us with clear, accurate and prompt instructions, detailing your objectives and you will deal with all queries in a prompt manner.
9.2 Provide all relevant documentation and information to complete our work in a timely manner.
9.3 Avoid drip-feeding or providing us with piecemeal instructions and information as this increases legal work and associated costs.
9.4 Not ask us to work in an improper or unreasonable way.
9.5 Not deliberately mislead us or withhold information from us.
9.6 Co-operate and deal with us fairly.
9.7 Attend meetings and court hearings as necessary.
9.8 Notify us immediately if you become aware of any conflict of interest or any other reason which you believe may restrict or prevent us in acting for you or any third party.
9.9 If you are a company, we shall be entitled to assume that these terms are accepted by all directors and authorised officers of the company.
F Responsibility for your matter
10. Our Letter of Engagement enclosing this document will inform you of the identity of the person or persons dealing with your matter, along with their status and any supervisory arrangements. We will try to avoid changing the person/s dealing with your matter. If this cannot be avoided, we will promptly inform you of any changes.
G Charges and expenses
11. Unless otherwise specified in our Letter of Engagement, our charges will be calculated by reference to the time spent by us in undertaking work on your behalf. This will include: discussions and meetings with you and others, reviewing, considering and working on documents, correspondence, preparation of any detailed costs calculations, attendance at court and time spent travelling away from the office.
12. Our time is charged in units of 6 minutes. Details of our current hourly charges for your matter are stated in our Letter of Engagement. Our hourly rates are reviewed annually with effect from 1 April each year. If our hourly rates change during the course of your matter, we will inform you of any changes before they take effect.
13. We may also take into account a number of factors including any need to carry out work outside our normal office hours, the complexity of the issues, the speed at which action has to be taken, and any particularly specialist expertise which the case may require. Where a charge reflecting any value element is to be added we will explain this to you.
14. We reserve the right to charge you any additional costs incurred in file opening and undertaking anti-money laundering searches, enquiries or online identity checks.
15. We may need to meet various expenses (known as “disbursements”) on behalf of clients including court fees and experts’ fees. We have no obligation to make such payments unless you have provided us with the funds for that purpose. VAT is payable on certain expenses.
16. Any estimate as to the total of our fees is given only as a guide on the basis of the information known to us at the time. It must not be regarded as fixed and binding and it is subject to periodic reviews and updates, unless otherwise agreed.
17. The following charges incurred in your matter will apply at cost:
17.1 Postage costs on letters and documents weighing more than 100g or thicker than 5mm and parcels/packages requiring guaranteed delivery times.
17.2 Courier charges.
17.3 Travel costs.
17.4 Conference facilities.
17.5 Banking charges.
18. Photocopying is charged at 10p plus VAT per sheet.
19. VAT will be added where applicable. Our VAT registration number is 316250140.
H Payment Arrangements
20. Clients are required to pay requested sums of money in advance of us carrying out work and incurring any expenses on your behalf. We may invite you to set up a banker’s standing order to fund our work on your behalf and any expenses. We reserve the right not to undertake work or to cease acting for you in the event our requested payments and invoices are not met in full on demand.
21. Our interim invoices will be issued monthly or more frequently as required. Unless otherwise agreed in writing, all interim bills will be final accounts for our fees for the work undertaken during the periods to which they relate (known as interim statute bills). These are not final accounts in relation to disbursements that we have incurred on your behalf.
22. Our invoices are payable on delivery by bank transfer, cash (subject to the maximum £500 limit), cheque (payable to Louisa Ghevaert Associates Limited), debit or credit card. Interest will be charged at 8% per annum (compounded daily) above the base rate from time to time of HSBC if any invoice remains unpaid for more than 28 days from its date.
23. If you instruct us jointly with someone else, you will be responsible for the full amount of our charges.
24. We reserve the right to retain all data, papers and documents in our possession in your matter (by way of a lien) until all outstanding invoices and disbursements have been paid in full.
25. In the event our invoices are unpaid, action will be taken against you for recovery of our costs. You will be liable for payment of the original amount outstanding and any additional costs on an indemnity basis in pursuing you for repayment. These costs will include all expenses and sums paid to agents or independent contractors in enforcing our rights under our Terms of Business.
26. You are entitled to make a complaint to us about your invoice if you are dissatisfied with it (see complaints section below). You may object to the invoice by making a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman and/or by applying to the court for an assessment of the bill under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974. The Legal Ombudsman may not consider a complaint about the invoice if you have applied to the court for an assessment of the bill.
27. In some instances, a client may be entitled to payment of costs by another person or organisation. Please note that in such instances, the other person or organisation may not be required to pay all the charges and expenses you have incurred with us. You have to pay our charges and expenses in the first place and any monies recovered will be a contribution towards them.
28. If you are successful and a court orders another party to pay some or all of your charges and expenses, interest can be claimed on them from the other party from the date of the court order. We will account to you for such interest to the extent that you have paid our charges or expenses on account, but we are entitled to the rest of that interest.
29. You will at all times also be responsible for paying our charges and any expenses of seeking to recover any costs that the court orders the other party to pay to you.
30. A client who is unsuccessful in a court case may be ordered to pay the other party’s legal charges and expenses. Those legal charges and expenses would be payable in addition to our charges and expenses.
31. If you have legal fees insurance that may cover your legal costs for your matter, please confirm this to us as soon as possible. You should be aware that insurers rarely pay invoices before completion of the case, and you will remain liable to pay our invoices when delivered to the conclusion of the case, even if your insurers have not paid you.
I Interest Payments and Client Deposits
32. In the event that we hold money on your account on a particular matter, as a necessary but incidental consequence of your instructions, we will invest it in our general client funds and remit to you an amount in lieu of interest which is both fair and reasonable.
33. Interest will be calculated daily by reference to the amount and the length of time we hold money on your behalf and in relation to instant access rates offered by our company bankers HSBC. Such rates are reviewed annually or more often if necessary.
34. No interest is paid if an amount calculated is less than £20.
35. Where you deposit money with us in our client account, we will ensure that the money is held with an authorised clearing bank or building society in accordance with the SRA Accounts Rules.
36. We cannot guarantee the safety of deposited funds. In the event that any bank or building society with whom we have placed deposits is unable to repay or delays repayment of any monies, you agree that you will not bring any claim or proceedings of any nature (whether in contract, tort or otherwise) against us in respect of or in connection with the deposit of monies with us or the choice of bank or building society holding these monies.
37. Monies deposited with us in our client account may not be subject to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
38. We will not open individual client accounts to protect your money unless requested. Any limit of compensation will apply to an individual client’s total amount deposited with a particular bank or building society either by us or you. Banks and building societies may operate under several names or brands and a single compensation limit may apply to that bank and its brands.
39. We do not charge for payments made by credit card.
J Distance Selling and Cancellation of Contracts
40. Under The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, where you are an individual not acting for your trade, business, craft or profession and where this is deemed to be a distance contract, you may have the right to withdraw without charge within 14 days of when you entered into the retainer with us. If you so cancel within the 14 day period, we will promptly return to you all payments received from you, unless you gave us your consent to start work within that period, in which case you will have to pay for the work done up to the date of cancellation.
41. Under The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, where you are an individual not acting for your trade, business, craft or profession and where we visit your home, your place of work or elsewhere away from our premises for the purpose of you signing a retainer with us, we will be obliged to give you a written notice of your right to cancel your contract with us. If so, you will be entitled to cancel the contract within 14 days of receiving details of our Letter of Engagement and Terms and Conditions of Business, by serving upon us a cancellation notice. If you so cancel, we will promptly reimburse to you all payments received from you, except for sums due as a result of you requesting us to start work.
K Choice of Counsel, Experts and Lawyers
42. We will only assist you where we can in the selection of counsel, experts and lawyers in the UK or overseas on the basis that we will not be liable for any act or omission of such counsel, experts and lawyers.
43. You will be responsible for all costs of such counsel, experts and lawyers in the UK or overseas.
L Conflicts of Interests
44. At the outset of any matter, we will undertake checks for any conflicts of interests before entering into a retainer with you. Due to the wide-ranging nature of our legal services, we cannot guarantee we will identify all situations where there may be a conflict with your interests. Please therefore notify us promptly of any potential conflict affecting our retainer of which you are, or become aware.
45. Subject to the exceptions mentioned in these Terms and Conditions of Business, we will keep all information that we acquire about you and/or your affairs in the course of our work confidential.
46. External entities or organisations may from time to time conduct audit or quality checks on our practice. In addition, our work for you may require us to give information to third parties such as expert witnesses, barristers and other professional advisers. These external entities, organisations and third parties are required to maintain confidentiality in relation to your matter and affairs.
47. We reserve the right to disclose information and files concerning you and your matter, to any person or authority having the legal right to inspect solicitors’ files or having the function of monitoring our practice management standards. We also reserve the right to disclose information and files concerning you and your matter to our professional indemnity insurers, brokers and professional advisers in the event that we identify a circumstance that may give rise to a claim against us.
N Proceeds of Crime and Money Laundering
48. In order to comply with the law on money laundering and terrorist financing, we need to verify and obtain confirmation of our clients’ identities at the outset of your matter and in certain circumstances other persons such as directors or beneficial owners and to keep this information updated. You agree that we may make checks using online electronic verification systems or other databases as we may decide. It may also be necessary for us to ask you for documentation to prove your identity if, for example, the results of the request for online confirmation is inconclusive.
49. As solicitors, we are under a professional and legal obligation to keep the affairs of clients confidential. However, this is subject to a statutory exception: recent legislation on money laundering and terrorist financing has placed solicitors under a legal duty in certain circumstances to disclose information to the National Crime Agency. Where a solicitor knows or suspects that a transaction on behalf of a client involves money laundering, the solicitor may be required to make a money laundering disclosure.
50. If, while we are acting for you, it becomes necessary to make a money laundering disclosure, we may not be able to inform you that a disclosure has been made or of the reasons for it. If we make a report to the National Crime Agency or analogous authority, we may be prohibited from continuing with your work while the authorities undertake their own investigations. We may also be ordered to stop your work altogether. In those circumstances, we will not be able to accept responsibility for any resulting loss or inconvenience. A report may result in an investigation by the Police, the Inland Revenue or other authorities. If you are concerned about how this may affect you, please speak to us.
51. You agree to reimburse us for any costs we reasonably incur in complying with any legal disclosure requirement referred to above.
52. We will not be liable for loss or damage arising out of any delays or failures caused by our compliance with any statutory or regulatory requirements.
53. Our policy is to only accept cash up to a limit of £500 into a client account in any 28-day period. If clients 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 these funds.
54. At the outset of any matter we will ask you to explain to us the source of any funds you will be using, for example a UK bank or building society account in your name. If the source is an unusual one, such as an account in another country or in the name of someone else, please advise us of this as soon as possible and explain why.
55. Where we are to pay money out to you, we will do so by cheque in your favour, or into an account in your name.
O Data Protection
56. The storage and use of personal details that we hold about you or other individuals related to your matter is governed by the General Data Protection Regulation ((EU) 2016/679)) (GDPR) (for so long as the GDPR is effective in the UK) and any new UK data protection legislation. By instructing us to provide services to you, we, our suppliers, advisers and subcontractors, will use these details solely to provide you with our services, to comply with our reporting and client verification obligations and to monitor, develop and improve our services. Where you provide us with personal details about other individuals related to your matter, you confirm that you have obtained the appropriate consents or there is another lawful basis for you to share such personal data with us for the reasons set out above.
57. Where requested by you, we will provide you with publications or newsletters or details of events that we believe may be of interest to you. If you do not wish to receive this information and wish to opt out please confirm this in writing to us by email Louisa@louisaghevaertassociates.co.uk.
58. Under data protection legislation, you are entitled to access the personal data we hold about you.
59. We may carry out credit reference checks about you using online or other data bases and keep records of those searches. These agencies may also keep a record of these searches.
61. We are committed to a policy of continuous improvement in the quality and efficiency of the legal services we provide to our clients. To assist us in achieving this we may, from time to time, be subject to inspection by independent assessors in connection with recognised quality assurance schemes, such as Lexcel who may wish to inspect a sample number of files.
62. Unless you advise us in writing to the contrary, we will assume that you agree to our permitting such an inspection in relation to files we may open for you. Any such inspection will be on the understanding that the information and the file remain strictly confidential and will not be released by the assessor or auditor to any other person.
63. For training and monitoring purposes, we may record telephone and video conference conversations and meetings.
P Email and Fax
64. We will correspond with you or others by email during the course of your matter. This may include providing details of your email address to others where we think this will be of assistance to your matter, or when forwarding emails. We cannot be responsible for the security or consequences of correspondence and documents sent by email.
65. We do not accept service of documents or correspondence by fax.
66. You may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time but we will be entitled to keep all your data 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 and expenses on your behalf, you must tell us clearly in writing.
67. We may stop acting for you, but only with good reason. For example: if you do not pay an interim invoice, or comply with our request for a payment on account, or if we are unable to obtain instructions from you, or if a conflict of interest arises, or for other substantial reason. If we decide it is necessary to stop acting for you, we will tell you the reason and give you notice in writing.
68. If a Court case is involved, you or we may need to file with the Court a “Notice of Acting in Person”. In the absence of this, it may be necessary for us to apply to the Court to come off the record and you will be liable for the costs of that application.
R Files, Storage of Data and Key Dates
69. We may create files in hard copy, electronically or another form.
70. On completion of our work and payment of our fees in full, we will return to you any original documents you have provided to us for that work.
71. We will retain files for a minimum period of six years (other than for matters where the client is a child under 18 when they will be retained until the child reaches the age of 24), but after that we may destroy them without any further reference to you.
72. At the end of your matter, we will explain the outcome and any further actions required and endeavour to remind you of any relevant future key dates. Our retainer with you in relation to your matter will then end. It is your responsibility to take any further actions required and record and act upon key dates and we will not keep a record or remind you of these.
73. In the event we retrieve your files or documents from storage to act in connection with your affairs, we will not normally charge for such retrieval. However, we may make a charge based on time spent and/or charges incurred for producing stored files or documents to you or another at your request. We may also charge for reading and reviewing correspondence and documents or for the work required to comply with your instructions.
74. We want to give our clients the best possible service. However, if at any point you become unhappy or concerned about the service we have provided then you should inform us immediately, so that we can do our best to resolve the problem. Please contact Louisa Ghevaert, Director at Louisa Ghevaert Associates, by email Louisa@louisaghevaertassociates.co.uk or telephone +44 (0)20 7965 8399 and we will do our best to resolve any issues at this stage. We have a procedure in place, which explains how we handle complaints which is available on our website or on request to us. Making a complaint will not affect how we handle your case.
75. The Solicitors Regulation Authority can help you if you are concerned about our behaviour. This could be for things like dishonesty, taking or losing your money or treating you unfairly because of your age, a disability or other characteristic. You can raise your concerns with the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
76. The Legal Ombudsman can help you if we are unable to resolve your complaint ourselves. They will look at your complaint independently and it will not affect how we handle your case.
77. Before accepting a complaint for investigation, the Legal Ombudsman will check that you have tried to resolve your complaint with us first. If you have, then you must take your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman:
- Within six months of receiving a final response to your complaint, and
- No more than six years from the date of act/omission; or
- No more than three years from when you should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint.
78. If you would like more information about the Legal Ombudsman, please contact them. Visit: www.legalombudsman.org.uk. Call: 0300 555 0333 between 9am to 5pm. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Legal Ombudsman postal address is PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ. The Solicitors Code of Conduct can be accessed at www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/code-of-conduct.page.
T Equality and Diversity
79. We are committed to promoting equality and diversity in all of our dealings with clients, third parties and employees. Please contact us in writing if you would like a copy of our equality and diversity policy.
U Insurance Cover and Limitation on Liability
80. In this section, references to: a “Claim” includes claims, actions and proceedings of any nature, whether in contract, tort (including negligence) and/or otherwise; and
“Loss” includes damages, costs, interest and loss (whether direct, indirect or consequential) incurred by or otherwise affecting you or any third party and whether arising under contract, in tort or otherwise.
81. We maintain Professional Indemnity Insurance and we limit our liability for Claims against Louisa Ghevaert Associates Ltd to £3 million. You agree that our total liability for any Loss or Claim is limited to a maximum of £3 million in relation to your matter or connected matters, or any lesser level specified in our Letter of Engagement or confirmed in writing to you by us. If we specify a lower level, our liability will not exceed that amount.
82. Our Professional Indemnity Insurers are Travelers Professional Risks Ltd, c/o The St Botolph Building, 138 Houndsditch, London, EC3A 7AG. Territorial coverage is worldwide (up to £3million).
83. Your relationship is solely with Louisa Ghevaert Associates Ltd. Legal responsibility and liability for all legal services carried out by any of our Directors or employees, and any act or omission in the course of your matter, is solely undertaken by Louisa Ghevaert Associates Ltd. No individual director, officer, employee, agent or representative of Louisa Ghevaert Associates Ltd accepts any personal obligations or legal liability for any Loss or Claim towards you or any client in respect of such services and you agree not to bring a Claim against any individual in respect of such services.
84. The limitations and exclusions referred to in this section do not apply to our liability for fraud, death or personal injury caused by our negligence, or for any other liability which cannot lawfully be excluded.
85. These limits are considered by us and by you to be reasonable taking into account the level of our fees and the nature of the work to be carried out and the cost and availability of professional indemnity insurance and its long term sustainability.
86. The legal advice we provide is confidential and for your exclusive use. We do not accept responsibility to any third party who is not our client for the advice or legal services we provide to you.
87. We rely on you for the accuracy of the information and documentation that you provide to us. We shall not be liable for errors or losses which arise as a result of false, misleading, fraudulent, incomplete information or documentation by you or a third party or which result from any act, delay or omission by you or by any third party.
88. The advice we provide and the documents we prepare are for use only in connection with the specific matter on which we are instructed, unless otherwise specified and agreed by us in writing.
89. We will not be liable to any client for any delay or failure in providing legal services, where that delay or failure is caused by circumstances beyond our reasonable control.
90. Any liability for any Claim or Loss we may have to you in relation to our provision of legal services (subject to statutory exceptions) shall be limited to what is fair and reasonable, taking into account the responsibility for such Loss between you (including your directors, officers, partners, employees or agents), us and any other person or entity who is jointly and/or severally liable for some or all of the Claim or Loss.
V Terms and Conditions of Business
91. Unless otherwise agreed, and subject to the application of the current hourly rates, these Terms and Conditions of Business shall apply to any future instructions given by you to Louisa Ghevaert Associates Limited.
92. Your continuing instructions in this matter will amount to an acceptance of these Terms and Conditions of Business.
W Law and Jurisdiction
93. If any provision of these Terms and Conditions of Business is found by a court or other competent authority to be void or unenforceable, then that provision shall be deemed to be deleted from this document and the remaining provisions of this document shall continue to apply.
94. The terms of our engagement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the Law of England and Wales. Any dispute shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts.
Date: Version 3 August 2020