Terms and Conditions of Business
These Terms apply to the services which Brookes & Co. supplies to its clients. In these terms references to “Brookes & Co.”, “we”, “us” or “our” are references to Brookes & Co. and any successor or assignee. Brookes & Co. is a trading name for Marianne Brookes. Brookes & Co. is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority with registration number 76545.
When you instruct us in relation to a new matter or case, we will normally send you a letter confirming your instructions (“the Engagement Letter”). The terms of an Engagement Latter (if any) and these Terms will together form the contract between us in relation to that matter or case. If you are arranging for any other person to pay our fees and expenses on a matter you must ensure that they are aware of our Terms of Business and the arrangement agreed in your Engagement Letter
- We offer our clients quality legal advice with a personal service at a fair cost. As a start, we hope it is helpful to you to set out in this statement the basis on which we will provide our professional services.
Our commitment to you
- This is set out in our Client Charter.
Hours of business
- Our normal office hours are between 9.00am and 5.30pm on weekdays. In the Engagement Letter you will have been given contact details of the fee-earner responsible for your matter if the need arises to contact him/her outside normal office hours. Messages can be left on the answerphone outside those hours and appointments can be arranged at other times when this is essential.
Charges and expenses
- Our charges will be calculated mainly by reference to the time actually spent by the solicitors and other staff in respect of any work which they do on your behalf. This will include meetings with you and perhaps others, reading and working on papers, correspondence, including e-mails, preparation of any detailed costs calculations, and time spent traveling away from the office when this is necessary.
- Any routine letter, fax or email we write will be charged as a 6 minute unit of time. We charge for the time spent on making and taking telephone calls and in writing longer, non-routine, letters in 6 minute units.
- The current hourly rates are set out in our Engagement Letter. If our services to you are within the s cope of VAT we will add VAT to these at the rate that applies when the work is done. At present, VAT is 20.0%. Our VAT Registration Number is: GB 627 1040 73.
- Our hourly rates are reviewed periodically to reflect increases in overhead costs and inflation. Normally the rates are reviewed with effect from 1 January each year. If a review is carried out before this matter has been concluded, we will inform you of any variation in the rate before it takes effect.
- In addition to the time spent, we may 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, any particularly specialist expertise which the case may demand. It is not always possible to indicate how these aspects may arise but on present information we would expect them to be sufficiently taken into account in the rates which we have quoted. Where a charge reflecting any value element is to be added we will explain this to you.
- Solicitors have to pay out various other expenses on behalf of clients which include court fees, experts’ fees, counsel’s fees and so on. 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. We refer to such payments generally as ‘disbursements’.
- If, for any reason, this matter does not proceed to completion, we will be entitled to charge you for work done and expenses incurred.
- You are entitled to set a limit on costs which cannot be exceeded without your authority. If you do choose to set such a limit we would ask you to confirm it in writing by email, fax or letter to us.
- To enable you to budget we will normally send to you interim invoices from time to time during the course of the matter and before the conclusion of the matter. We will then send out a final bill on the completion of work. Unless it is expressly stated to the contrary any interim bill will be the only and final bill for the charges and expenses incurred for the period for which the bill relates. If any such requests for payment are not met with prompt payment, delay in the progress of a case may result.
- Payment is due to us within 28 days of our sending you a bill. Interest will be charged on a daily basis at 4% over National Westminster Bank base rate from time to time from the date of the bill in cases where payment is not made within 28 days of delivery by us of the bill.
- If a bill remains unpaid after 28 days we have a right to suspend work on the matter to which the bill relates. We also have the right to cease to act on any other matter for you and may apply, where necessary, to be taken off the record as solicitor acting in the matter. We would, however, inform you before taking such a step.
- You have a right to challenge or complain about our bills. You have a right to apply for assessment of the bills under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974.
Estimates of Costs
- In many cases we should be able to give you an indication of the likely cost of a matter at the outset. An estimate should not be regarded as a firm quotation unless we specifically say it is. If a case proves substantially more complex or time consuming than expected we reserve the right to increase an estimate previously given and we will notify you promptly of the revised figure.
Appointment of Counsel and Expert Witnesses
- It may be necessary to appoint Counsel who will represent you during the hearing and one or more Expert Witnesses who will provide expert evidence on your behalf at the hearing. You will be responsible for paying their fees.
- If it is necessary to appoint Counsel and Expert Witnesses we will contact you in good time with details of suitable candidates, together with estimates of their fees (where it is possible to make such an estimate), so that we can agree on a suitable appointment.
- We may ask you to provide security in relation to the charges of Counsel and Expert Witnesses.
Other parties’ charges and expenses
- In some cases and transactions a client may be entitled to payment of costs by some other person. It is important that you understand that in such circumstances, the other person may not be required to pay all the charges and expenses which you incur with us. You have to pay our charges and expenses in the first place and any amounts which can be recovered will be a contribution towards them. If the other party is in receipt of legal aid no costs are likely to be recovered.
- 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.
- You will also be responsible for paying our charges and expenses of seeking to recover any costs that the court orders the other party to pay to you. This may include the appointment of a Costs Consultant who will assess the bill of costs on your behalf. The charging rate of a Costs Consultant will be set out in the Client Care Letter which will be sent to you with these Terms and Conditions.
- A client who is unsuccessful in a court case may be ordered to pay the other party’s legal charges and expenses. That money would be payable in addition to our charges and expenses and may also include the time spent by a Costs Consultant in defending the claim for costs on your behalf. Arrangements can be made to take out insurance to cover liability for such legal expenses. Please discuss this with us if you are interested in this possibility.
Payment of interest
- Any money received on your behalf will be held in our Client Account. Subject to certain minimum amounts and periods of time set out in the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules, interest will be calculated and paid to you at the rate from time to time payable on National Westminster Bank Designated Client Accounts. The period for which interest will be paid will normally run from the date(s) on which funds are received by us until the date(s) of issue of any cheque(s) from our Client Account. If we hold money on client account for you, we will only account to you for interest in such money where it amounts to £100 or less at our discretion or if you request us to do so.
Storage of papers and documents
- After completing the work, we are entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is money owing to us for our charges and expenses. In addition, we will keep your file of papers for you in storage for no more than 6 years. After that, storage is on the clear understanding that we have the right to destroy it after such period as we consider reasonable or to make a charge for storage if we ask you to collect your papers and you fail to do so. We will not of course destroy any documents such as Wills, Deeds, and other securities, which you ask us to hold in safe custody. No charge will be made to you for such storage unless prior notice in writing is given to you of a charge to be made from a future date which may be specified in that notice.
- If we retrieve papers or documents from storage in relation to continuing or new instructions 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 for producing stored papers or documents to you or another at your request. We may also charge for reading, correspondence or other work necessary to comply with your instructions.
Limitation of Liability
- Our total aggregate liability (including liability for interest) whether in contract, tort (including negligence), under statute or otherwise arising from or in connection with the services we agree to provide to you pursuant to the Engagement Letter (including any addition or variation to that documents) shall be limited to the amount specified in the Engagement Letter and if no amount is specified there, to the sum of £2 million (two million pounds sterling). This limitation is subject to the following:
- It does not affect our liability for fraud or reckless disregard of professional obligations which cannot be excluded;
- You acknowledge that we have drawn this limitation clause specifically to your attention and explained the clause to you so that you have appreciated the limitation of liability and you acknowledge that you have been advised to seek (if you wish) separate and independent legal advice concerning the limitation generally. Notwithstanding the above you have decided to retain us to act for your subject to such limitations and exclusions.
- Where our dealings with you pursuant to the Engagement Letter may involve us dealing with third parties on your behalf who are not our clients or for whom we are not acting in connection with the relevant matter or any aspect of it, we exclude any liabilities to such third parties and you agree to this.
- The limitations and terms of these Terms of Business generally apply not only to you personally but also to those on whose behalf we may accept instructions including any partners that you may have or companies, businesses or other organisations for which you may work.
- You may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time but we will be entitled to keep (i.e. exercise a lien on) 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 and expenses 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 the request for a payment on account, we will tell you the reason and give you notice in writing.
- When accepting instructions to act on behalf of a limited company, we may require a Director and/or controlling shareholder to sign a form of personal guarantee in respect of the charges and expenses of this firm. If such a request is refused, we will be entitled to stop acting and to require immediate payment of our charges on an hourly basis and expenses as set out earlier.
- Any work that we do for you may involve tax implications or necessitate the consideration of tax planning strategies. We may not be qualified to advise you on the tax implications of a transaction that you instruct us to carry out, or the likelihood of them arising. If you have any concerns in this respect, please raise them with us immediately. If we can undertake the research necessary to resolve the issue, we will do so and advise you accordingly. If we cannot, we may be able to identify a source of assistance for you.
- Sometimes matters upon which we are instructed involve investments. We are not authorised by the Financial Services Authority and so may refer you to someone who is authorised to provide any necessary 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 you, as we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Identity and disclosure requirements and confidentiality
- We are required to operate anti-money laundering procedures in accordance with the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 (and any subsequent regulations that replace or amend them). Before accepting instructions, we will have to satisfy our obligations under these Regulations as to obtaining evidence of our clients’ identity (and, if you are acting as agent, the identity of your principal), which may involve requiring you to provide certain documents to us. We are obliged, in certain circumstances, to disclose to the appropriate authorities information concerning transactions (and the parties involved) which could be said to give rise to a suspicion of money laundering.
- We are entitled to refuse to act for you if you fail to supply appropriate proof of identity for yourself or for any principal whom you may represent.
- Solicitors are not allowed to disclose information about a client’s affairs without the client’s authority.
- We will not be liable for any loss, damage or delay arising out of the firm’s compliance with any statutory or regulatory requirement.
Confidentiality in respect of file audit and outsourcing of photocopying
- It may be necessary for us from time-to-time to allow an independent professional assessor to review a sample of our correspondence files to ensure that we are following the case management practices as laid down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. This is carried out in strictest confidence. Should you not wish us to make your files available to the assessor please let the person responsible for your work know.
- It may also be necessary for us to outsource high volume photocopying to a photocopying bureau. Again, this is carried out in the strictest confidence, but should you not wish us to send your documents to the photocopying bureau please let the person responsible for your work know.
- Brookes & Co. is committed to high quality legal advice and client care. If you are unhappy about any aspect of the service you have received or about our bills, please contact Marianne Brookes, whose contact details will be found in our Engagement Letter. We have a procedure in place which details how we handle complaints and this procedure is available upon request. We have eight weeks to consider your complaint. If we have not resolved it within this time you may complain to the Legal Ombudsman.
- If you are not satisfied with our handling of your complaint you can ask the Legal Ombudsman at Legal Ombudsman, PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ, United Kingdom to consider the complaint. Normally you will need to bring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within six months of receiving a final written response from us about your complaint or within six years of the act or omission about which you are complaining occurring (or if outside of this period, within three years of when you should reasonably have been aware of it).
- Some clients may not have the right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman, for example, most businesses (unless they are defined as micro enterprises), charities or clubs with an annual income of more than £1 million or trustees of trusts with asset values of more than £1 million. However, these clients still have a right to complain to Brookes & Co. and have a right to detailed assessment of our bills (see section 5 above).
We use the information you provide primarily for the provision of legal services to you and for related purposes including:
- addressing correspondence and related documents to other parties and opponents in any litigation, as well as other agencies such as the courts or Government agencies where relevant to the work we are doing for you
- maintaining the financial and other personal information we are required to keep records of clients under the professional rules we are subject to and by law including our obligations to HMRC.
Our use of that information is subject to your instructions, the EU General Data Protection Regulation 2018 and our professional 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.
The legal bases which are relevant to the work we undertake for you are mostly in order that we can satisfactorily perform the contract we have with you and also so that we can protect our interests and those of our professional indemnity insurers in the event of a future claim. We are required by law to retain certain data including identity and address details in order that we can comply with the Government’s anti-money laundering controls. We would need your consent to send you future marketing information.
You have a number of rights as a data subject including the rights to:
- be informed of the data we hold on you
- have any incorrect or out of date data rectified
- cease to receive certain forms of communication or to restrict processing,
- take your data elsewhere (“portability”)
- object to our use of data.
Unlike certain other business concerns we do not as a law firm involve ourselves in automated decision making and profiling.
The person responsible for is for data protection compliance is Dr A. J. Brookes. You have a right of access under data protection legislation to the personal data that we hold about you and if you would like to make a request to know about this please let Dr Brookes know, preferably in writing stating “data subject access request”.
If you are unhappy about the way we are managing your data you have a right to object to the Information Commissioner at Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF (tel: 0303 123 1113). Please also see your rights to complain to the Legal Ombudsman.
Law and jurisdiction
- Any dispute arising in relation to our services shall be governed by English law and shall be determined by the Commercial Court in London.
Acceptance of these terms
- Your continuing instructions will amount to acceptance of these Terms and Conditions of Business and any other written terms supplied to you with these terms.
- Unless we both agree otherwise and subject to our then hourly rates, these Terms and Conditions of Business will apply to any future instructions that you are kind enough to give us.