1.1 In these Terms of Business, “we”, “our” or “us” means BLB Solicitors Limited. BLB Solicitors is the trading name of BLB Solicitors Limited.
1.2 Your continuing instructions to us will amount to your acceptance of these Terms of Business and the basis upon which we are accepting your instructions as set out in the Letter of Engagement.
1.3 If there is any conflict between these Terms of Business and the Letter of Engagement, the Letter of Engagement will take precedence.
2. Scope of instructions
2.1 The scope of our instructions will be as set out in a letter we will send to you (referred to as the “Letter of Engagement”).
2.2 Unless we expressly agree in the Letter of Engagement, we will not be responsible for providing any tax advice, nor shall we be under any duty to advise you on the commercial and/or financial implications of any matter or transaction or to investigate the financial status of any other party to a transaction.
2.3 The advice we give is personal to you. If any advice we have given is passed to any third party, we shall not be liable to that third party under these Terms of Business.
3. Responsibility for your work
3.1 The Letter of Engagement will confirm the people who will carry out your work and their status.
3.2 We try to avoid changing the people who deal with your work but if this cannot be avoided, we will notify you promptly who will be handling your matter and why the change was necessary.
4. Your instructions to us
4.1 It is important that we have a clear understanding of the legal services needed by our clients. We need full details of each particular matter so that we can properly and fully advise you and take the appropriate action.
4.2 You can assist us by giving clear instructions, letting us have all relevant documentation, informing us of any time limits of which you are aware and dealing promptly with any important questions which arise.
4.3 It is your responsibility to inform us of any changes in circumstances which may affect your instructions to us and the advice we give.
5. Charges and expenses
5.1 Our charges are calculated mainly by reference to the time we spend in dealing with a matter. Time spent will include meeting with you and others, time spent travelling, considering, preparing and working on documentation, correspondence and making and receiving telephone calls. The hourly rates depend on the seniority and specialised knowledge of the person or persons dealing with your matter. Details of the rates will be set out in the Letter of Engagement and are subject to periodic review.
5.2 In some matters, our charges may also take into account other factors, including the importance or complexity of the matter, the values involved and the difficulty or urgency of the work. For some matters, we may agree to fix our charges at the start. In these circumstances, we will not change our fee unless the matter becomes unduly protracted or your instructions to us change.
5.3 If we are not able to fix our charges, we will endeavour to provide a realistic estimate or give a forecast within a possible range of costs. Any estimate, quotation or other indication of fees is not intended to be fixed unless otherwise agreed in writing.
5.4 Where we have agreed a cap on our charges, this will be confirmed in the Letter of Engagement.
5.5 Where we have agreed to set a limit on our charges, this will be confirmed in the Letter of Engagement. Where we have agreed a limit, you will be responsible for our charges up to that agreed limit. We will advise you if we think our charges will exceed the agreed limit and we will not incur any further charges above the agreed limit without obtaining your prior approval.
5.6 In addition to our charges, we may incur expenses that we have to pay on your behalf. These may include Counsels’ fees, experts’ fees, court fees, Land Registry fees, local authority and Companies House search fees and other search fees. You agree to repay us for any such expenses we pay on your behalf and we may ask you to place us in funds before we incur certain expenses.
5.7 Where we are required to transfer money to you or a third party, we will charge an additional fee to cover our costs in setting up and arranging this payment.
5.8 Where we are instructed by two or more clients, their liability to pay our costs and expenses will be joint and several unless agreed otherwise in writing.
6. Value Added Tax
Except for charges and expenses which are zero rated or exempt, we will add VAT to our charges and expenses at the rate which applies when the work is carried out.
7. Terms of payment
7.1 It is our standard practice to require clients to pay sums on account in advance to cover the cost of future charges and expenses. The initial payment and subsequent payments required will be set out in the Letter of Engagement. Our fees and expenses are payable in full on or before completion of each matter, unless stated otherwise in the Letter of Engagement.
7.2 We will send you regular interim invoices for our charges and expenses and if we are holding funds on account, we may offset those funds against an interim invoice in accordance with the Solicitors Account Rules. In that circumstance, we may require you to provide us with further payments on account.
7.3 For property transactions, we will prepare a bill for our charges and expenses after exchange of contracts and/or immediately before completion. Payment of our invoices will be due on completion and if we hold sufficient funds on completion, we will deduct our charges and expenses from those funds, unless otherwise advised in the Letter of Engagement.
7.4 If you do not pay an invoice (in whole or in part) within 28 days of the date of the invoice, we may charge you interest on the amount outstanding from the date of invoice until payment. Interest will be payable at the rate of 8% per annum from the date of the invoice until payment and will be charged on a daily basis.
7.5 If you fail to pay our invoice, we may at our discretion commence legal proceedings against you for payment. In these circumstances, you will be responsible for the payment of all further charges and expenses incurred in those proceedings, even if the claim is for less than £10,000.
7.6 We are able to accept payment of our fees and nominal disbursements by credit or debit card. A handling fee will be payable for payments made by credit card.
8. Data protection
8.1 Whilst we are acting for you, we will collect from you certain personal information which will be held on our database. This information will be kept in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998.
8.2 We may from time to time use your information to send you details of other legal services we offer or legal information which we consider may be of interest to you. Please let us know if you do not wish to receive such communication.
8.3 For certain matters such as personal injury, we may obtain copies of your medical records and medical reports. Where it is necessary to deal with your case, you agree that we may pass those records and reports to other relevant professionals or parties.
9. Storage of papers and documents
9.1 After completing your matter, we are entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is money owing to us for our charges and expenses.
9.2 We will keep our file of papers (other than those papers that you ask to be returned to you) for no more than seven years after the conclusion of your matter, or for such other period as is required by law. We reserve the right to destroy files at the end of that period but we will endeavour to contact you first if those files contain documents which belong to you. We will not destroy documents you ask us to deposit in safe custody.
9.3 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, if you request us to produce stored papers or documents, we will make a charge of £50 plus VAT, based on the time spent producing those papers or documents and the additional costs we incur. We may also charge for reading or copying correspondence or documents or carrying out other work necessary to comply with the instructions given by you or on your behalf. We will inform you in advance of our costs and expenses in carrying out this work.
9.4 If we agree to store any deeds or documents for you, we will not be responsible for checking their accuracy or for advising on any changes which may affect the terms of those documents or their validity or for any time limits that may be referred to in those documents unless we expressly agree in writing.
10.1 You may 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.
10.2 We may decide to stop acting for you only with good reason, for example, if you do not pay our charges or expenses, you fail to comply with our request for a payment on account, you fail to provide us with clear instructions or if to act for you would create a conflict of interest.
10.3 If you or we decide to terminate your instructions to us, we will still be entitled to receive payment of our charges and expenses for services performed up to the date of termination.
11. Limitation of liability
11.1 We accept no liability for any loss, damage or expense of any nature whatsoever which is caused by the reliance upon our advice by any third party.
11.2 Unless otherwise agreed in writing, our liability in any matter will be limited to £3m for any claim or series of claims arising from the same circumstances. We accept no liability for consequential or indirect loss.
11.3 We will not be liable to repay money lost through the failure of a bank or other financial institution.
12. Email policy
12.1 We will use email from time to time when communicating with you unless you have specifically requested us not to do so.
12.2 You accept that email communications are potentially insecure and may be accessed by someone not involved in the transaction. Although we will keep your files confidential, the use of email gives rise to a risk of this confidentiality being compromised.
12.3 Our computer systems and all our external email messages are checked for viruses. However, we accept no liability for any loss or damage that you may incur as a result of any viruses and you should check all your incoming email messages for viruses.
13. Making a complaint
13.1 When we send you the Letter of Engagement, we will also write to you with information about our complaints procedure. A full copy of our complaints procedure is available on request.
13.2 You are entitled to complain about our bill. You also have the right to object to our bill by making a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman (www.legalombudsman.org.uk), and/or by applying to the court for an assessment of the bill under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974.
13.3 If all or part or our bill remains unpaid, we may be entitled to charge interest notwithstanding that our bill has been challenged.
14. Money laundering regulations
14.1 We are required by law to operate strict procedures to guard against the risk of money laundering. We may ask you to provide proof of your identity and details of your personal finances and we may refuse to accept your instructions to us until we have this information.
14.2 We may ask you to tell us the source of any monies you send to us. You agree that where we are requested to do so, we may provide this information to your insurance company, building society, bank or other relevant authority.
14.3 Where there is a suspicion that you are engaged in money laundering, we may have to make a report to the Serious Organised Crime Agency without prior reference to you. We may not be permitted to tell you that we have made a report and there may be a period during which we are not permitted to continue to act for you. In these circumstances, we accept no liability whatsoever for any loss or damage you may directly or indirectly suffer as a result.
14.4 It is our policy not to accept cash payments unless we expressly agree. Where cash is paid directly into our client account at any bank, we reserve the right to return this to you and request that you use an alternative method to send us the money.
15. Financial Services and Insurance Mediation
15.1 Sometimes, conveyancing, family, probate or company work involves investments. We are not authorised by the Financial Services Authority and so we 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 you, as we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
15.2 If you have a problem with the service we have provided for you then please let us know. We will try to resolve any problem quickly and operate an internal complaints handling system to help us to resolve the problem between ourselves. If for any reason we are unable to resolve the problem between us, then we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and complaints and redress mechanisms are provided through the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Legal Complaints Service.
15.3 We are not authorised by the Financial Services Authority. However, we are included on the register maintained by the Financial Services Authority so that we can carry on insurance mediation activity, which is broadly the 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 Financial Services Authority website at www.fsa.gov.uk/register.
15.4 The Law Society is a designated professional body for the purposes of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 but responsibility for regulation and complaints handling has been separated from the Law Society’s representative functions. The Solicitors Regulation Authority is the independent regulatory body of the Law Society and the Legal Complaints Service is the independent complaints handling body of the Law Society.
These Terms of Business are governed by the laws of England and will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts.