Terms of Business

Terms of Business

plainlaw llp


These Terms and our Engagement Letter

These terms apply to all work we do on your behalf until we contact you with any revised terms of business. Unless otherwise agreed in writing, these terms apply to any future instructions you give us. Your continuing instructions will amount to your acceptance of these terms and conditions of business.

Each time you instruct us on a new matter we will send you an engagement letter, confirming your instructions, setting out the scope of the work we will carry out for you and giving you details about the people who will be principally involved in working for you, and our then current fee rates or any agreed rates or fees. These terms should be read together with our engagement letter, which form the contract between us.

Our responsibilities do not include tax advice of any kind, nor do they include monitoring or reminding you of warranty periods or other notice periods or time limits. Unless we expressly agree in writing otherwise, we shall not advise, or be under any duty to advise you on any commercial implications of any matter or transaction with which you are involved.

If you wish us to start work immediately, we may do so before you receive our engagement letter and you will be responsible for paying us for doing that work even though it has been done before you have received our engagement letter.


Consumer Contracts (Information Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013

Right to cancel our engagement

Please note that you may cancel your agreement to engage us to act for you within 14 days without giving any reason.

The cancellation period will expire after 14 days from the day of conclusion of our agreement with you. That cancellation period will begin on the date of our engagement letter to you.

If you wish to cancel our engagement you must give us notice in writing, either by post or electronically. The notice of cancellation will be deemed as having been served on us as soon as it has been posted, or sent electronically.

This cancellation period is a requirement under the Consumer Contract Regulations 2013 (the Consumer Regulations).

The impact of the Consumer Regulations is that, other than with your specific written consent, we are unable to do any work for you until this cancellation period has expired.

If you would like us to begin work before the cancellation period expires please confirm this with a brief email and by signing and returning a copy of our engagement letter with your email. Otherwise if your conduct during those 14 days indicates a willingness for us to begin work on the Transaction then we will treat that conduct as an effective consent to begin work during the cancellation period under the Consumer Regulations.

Please note that if you agree in writing or by your conduct that we should undertake work on your behalf before the end of the cancellation period, then even if you subsequently cancel your agreement with us, you will still be required to pay for services supplied before the cancellation date and to pay for any disbursements incurred . In those circumstances, we reserve the right to ask you to pay us an amount which is in proportion to what has been performed until you have communicated to us your wish to cancel the engagement.


Cybercrime notice

Please be aware of the increase in cybercrime and fraud. If you receive an email purporting to be from someone at Plainlaw LLP which seeks to direct a payment to bank details which differ from those which we have already given to you (in an email from us or on one of our invoices) it is unlikely to be genuine. Please do not reply to the email nor act on any information contained in it but contact us immediately.

In any event we recommend you always ring your usual Plainlaw contact by a known telephone number to verify that any bank details received by you from us are correct.


Privacy notice

A copy of our privacy notice can be found on our website : https://www.plainlaw.co.uk/privacy-policy


Personnel

For each matter we will tell you the name of the person responsible for its overall supervision. Your work will be dealt with by a solicitor (whether a partner, consultant or a solicitor employed in the practice) legal executive, trainee solicitor or legal assistant.

We will try to avoid any unforeseen changes in personnel. If a change is unavoidable or has to be made, we will keep you informed about who is handling your matter.

From time to time it may be necessary to call in people with specialist knowledge to help do your work. It is the firm of plainlaw llp as a whole, rather than any individual lawyer, employee, consultant or partner of the firm, which has responsibility for providing legal services to you.


Confidentiality

We will keep all information about your affairs confidential. If, on your authority, we are working in conjunction with other professionals, we may disclose any relevant aspect of your affairs to them. For the purposes of GDPR compliance the legal basis we use to do this is our contractual obligation to provide and manage the legal service to achieve your objective.

We may also disclose such information to third parties if:

· There is a legitimate interest to share information in appropriate situations with our suppliers and other selected third parties with which we have put in place appropriate measures to ensure your personal data is protected; or

· it is within the scope of our instructions to do so; or

· we are required to do so by law, by our insurers or by our professional rules

We will not charge you for a subject access request pursuant to the Data Protection Act 2018


Third Party Advisers

If we need to engage other professionals with specialist knowledge to help do your work (such as counsel, overseas lawyers, surveyors, accountants, expert witnesses or costs draftsmen) whether in the UK or abroad this will require us to share the personal information you have previously supplied to us.

We will do so on the basis of our contractual obligations to you to complete the legal service(s) you require. We cannot be responsible for any act or omission of such a professional unless we have otherwise agreed in writing


Property transactions – environmental risk

If we are acting for you in a property transaction, we ask you to advise us of the level of investigation you require to ascertain whether there are environmental risks associated with the property (such as contamination or flood risk). The person dealing with your matter will be pleased to advise you further about the issues involved


Fees and expenses

Unless we agree a fixed fee or a mark up with you in relation to any matter, we base our fees on the amount of time we spend dealing with your work. This includes meeting with you and the other parties involved in any matter, and your and their representatives, preparing and working on documents, carrying out research, considering documents and papers, corresponding with you, the solicitor acting for other parties and your other advisors, making and receiving telephone calls, drafting instructions to barristers and travelling.

We may revise our rates of charge at any time but any revision will not be applicable to the work we do for you until we have told you about the revision. If you have any query about any revision please contact us immediately.

Our hourly rates cover most of our overheads (including routine secretarial services and voice telephone within the UK), save as mentioned in our engagement letter. In addition to fees for legal work, we also charge fees for certain support services including postage, photocopying, scanning, fax and international telephone services. Unless we agree with you otherwise, these fees are charged at our standard rates from time to time, details of which are available on request.

We often need money on account to allow us to pay expenses we incur as we go along. Should this be necessary we will record this in our engagement letter. Depending on the circumstances we may also need to request additional funds on account as the matter progresses. The expenses incurred will depend upon the type of work we are carrying out for you. They may include barristers’ fees, experts’ fees, Court fees, Land Registry fees, Local Authority and Companies House search fees. We will try to obtain your prior approval before incurring liability for substantial expenses but this may not always be possible. We reserve the right to ask you to put us in funds before we incur any reimbursable expense or series of expenses exceeding £250 in total.

Our fees and expenses (often called disbursements) are subject to the addition of VAT where applicable.

By all means feel free to ask us for an estimate and/or the amount of our fees and the expenses incurred to date at the end of each month. Please note that estimates are not binding; they are the best guess we can make at any time based on our experience and the circumstances then known to us. We may revise any estimate in the light of new circumstances. An estimate, quotation or other indication of fees is not intended to be fixed unless otherwise agreed in writing. Please bear in mind that in many cases the amount of our fees will depend on the way that the other parties to any transaction (and their advisers) conduct their business.

Unless we have agreed to invoice you only on completion or at the end of the work, we may invoice you monthly for our fees and disbursements to date or at key stages of a transaction. These will be bills on account, not final bills. We will send you a final bill after completion of the work. If sufficient funds are available and we have sent you a bill, we will usually deduct our charges and expenses and any disbursements and VAT payable from the funds. In other cases, payment is due to us upon your receipt of the bill, or on such other date as we may have agreed.

If you would like, you may set an upper limit on our unbilled fees for which you may be liable without further authority. We would then not exceed such an agreed limit without first obtaining your consent.

If you do not pay our bill within 14 days of the due date for payment, we may charge you interest on a daily basis on any outstanding amount at the rate of 8% per annum above the base rate of HSBC Bank plc in force in England from time to time. You should contact us immediately if you have any query about any invoice.

You will be responsible for paying our fees and disbursements even though the matter may not proceed to completion.

In the unlikely event that a dispute relating to our fees and expenses cannot be resolved via our complaints procedure, you may have the right to apply to the Court for an assessment of our costs under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974.


Client Money & Plainlaw LLP Interest Policy

Client money required to facilitate your transaction will be held on a general client account. Our current banking arrangements are with Barclays, should this arrangement change during the course of your transaction we will notify you. Should the financial institution where your money is held fail, we will not be responsible for their failure or any monies lost as a consequence of their failure, however, you may be entitled to compensation under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). The current compensation limit provided by the FSCS is £85,000. Compensation may also be available to you for temporary high balances of up to £1m for up to six months.

The following policy sets out how plainlaw llp applies interest rates on money which is held in accordance with the Solicitors Accounts Rules 2011 in our client bank account during the course of your transaction.

1.0 Where we are required by a Rent Deposit Deed, Lease or any other contractual document to retain funds in an interest bearing account, we will account to you, or, if the terms of the deed or document require it, the tenant, or other contractual beneficiary, for interest earned at a rate calculated in accordance with 4.0 below. Such interest will be accrued on a quarterly basis.

2.0 At the conclusion of your transaction we will account to you for interest on money held during the course of the transaction at a rate calculated in accordance with 4.0 below. However, interest will not be paid if the total amount of interest which accrues during the course of the transaction amounts to less than £25.

3.0 We will contact you to obtain bank details to which interest due to you can be returned and a telephone number which we can use to contact you for the purposes of verbally verifying your bank details. Interest must be returned to an account in the name of the instructing client entity or other contractual beneficiary. If we do not obtain both your bank details and make contact with you to verbally verify such details within two months of our initially trying to make contact with you to obtain this information, the money will be paid to a registered charity in accordance with the Solicitors Accounts Rules 2011.

4.0 Interest will be accounted to you at a rate which is based on an average of the current client deposit account interest rates published by Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, Natwest, Lloyds, Santander and HSBC.


Papers and Deeds

We may keep any of your papers and deeds while you owe us any money.

We will keep your files for no more than 6 years. We keep the files on the understanding that we have your authority to destroy your papers six years after the date of the final bill we send you for the relevant matter. Provided you do not owe us any money we will of course let you have any original deeds unless they have been deposited with a third party for security or have been sent to someone else on your instructions.

We do not normally charge for retrieving your papers when they are relevant to any new instructions from you, but we may charge you for time spent reading papers and dealing with correspondence, and for any other work we have to do to comply with your instructions.

We will not charge you for a subject access request pursuant to the Data Protection Act 2018.


Conflicts of Interest

We may be instructed by people lending money to you. In those circumstances we will have a professional duty to disclose certain information to them. If you do not wish us to do so, we may have to stop acting for you.

In other circumstances we may be duty bound to refuse your instructions or to stop acting for you if there is a conflict of interest.

Even then you will be obliged to pay us for work done and expenses incurred to date.


Money laundering

All firms of solicitors are required to comply with the provisions of the Money Laundering Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 (the Money Laundering Regulations). We have to verify the identity of all clients. We also have to undertake “customer due diligence measures” within Parts 3 to 5 of the Money Laundering Regulations. These are legal requirements. Please therefore bear with us if we ask you to produce means of identification or if we raise enquiries to ensure compliance with the Money Laundering Regulations and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

By accepting our Terms of Business you will be acknowledging that your personal data or, as the case may be, the personal data of any directors, shareholders and other representatives of any company whose identity we need to verify will be processed only for the purpose of preventing money laundering or terrorist financing in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the Money Laundering Regulations

In certain circumstances, we may be legally required to disclose otherwise confidential information about your affairs to The National Crime Agency.
Plainlaw is fully committed to fulfilling its obligations under the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017, the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, the Terrorism Act 2000 and other relevant legislation, for the purposes of combatting money laundering and terrorist financing. The firm carries out client verification checks at the stage of client take on and on an ongoing basis, as well as seeking to establish, where appropriate, the source of wealth and source of funds used in transactions in which we are involved. Procedures and policies are in place to ensure compliance with the relevant legislation. Plainlaw’s staff and partners are trained in how to comply with the legislation and we may refuse to act if we have concerns.


Financial Services Act (FSA) requirements

We are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority. However, we are included on the register maintained by the Financial Conduct Authority so that we can carry on insurance distribution 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 Conduct Authority Web site at: www.fca.org.uk

If during our work for you need advice on investments, we may have to refer you to someone who is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, as we are not. However, as we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, we may be able to provide certain limited investment services where these are
closely linked to the legal work we are doing for you. We cannot provide you with advice on pensions or taxation and you should obtain such advice from your financial advisors and accountants.


Copyright

Copyright in all documents we produce is owned by us. You may copy a document we produce for you, but you must not modify, reuse or adapt any documents we produce for you without our written agreement


Electronic mail (e-mail)

Despite the inherent insecurity of email, many of our clients expect to communicate with us in this way. Please note that we currently conduct most of our communications with our clients and other parties by email and using TLS basic encryption. If you do not wish e-mail to be used as a method of communication in matters upon which you have instructed us, please let us know.

Computer viruses can be transmitted through emails; we use software to reduce these risks and you undertake to do the same.

We cannot guarantee that any e-mail will remain confidential nor when, or whether, the message will arrive nor whether the email or any of its attachments may become corrupted.

We do not accept liability for any loss occasioned by use of e-mail.


Variation

Only a partner may vary these terms of business or the terms of any engagement letter. Agreement on fees or any other matter which under these terms of business may be subject to agreement must be given by a partner


plainlaw llp’s status

plainlaw llp is a limited liability partnership established in England and Wales and registered with No OC304983. It is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (“SRA”), registered with the SRA under number 568812 and is subject to the SRA Standards and Regulations, which can be accessed at https://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/standards-regulations/. A reference in these terms of business or in any engagement letter to a “partner” refers to a member of plainlaw llp or an employee or consultant with equivalent standing and qualifications. A list of members and other partners together with their professional qualifications is available for inspection at the registered office, Acers, Doggetts Wood Lane, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire HP8 4TH.


Limitation of liability

Our liability to you in respect of negligence, breach of contract, breach of duty, fault or otherwise whatsoever arising out of or in connection with this engagement shall be limited to £3 million (or, if higher, any minimum level fixed by the SRA) to cover claims of any sort whatsoever (including interest and costs) arising out of or in connection with our engagement. This limit applies to this and to each and every engagement and to any subsequent work which we may undertake for you unless it is expressly overridden by any later written terms of engagement. For the avoidance of doubt, individual lawyers, employees, consultants and partners of the firm will have no personal liability to you in respect of negligence, breach of contract, breach of duty, fault or otherwise whatsoever arising out of or in connection with this engagement.

We shall not be responsible for any failure to advise or comment on any matter which falls outside the scope of our instructions. We cannot accept any responsibility for any event, loss or situation unless it is one against which it is the express purpose of those instructions to provide protection.


Professional Indemnity Insurance

In accordance with the disclosure requirements of the Provision of Services Regulations 2009 we confirm that we have professional indemnity insurance cover of up to £5 million. The name and address of our insurers and our policy number can be provided on request.


Queries

We are quietly confident that we will provide a high standard of service, but if you have any query or concern, please do not hesitate to contact any of our partners. It is important that you raise matters with us as quickly as possible; we do not want you to be unhappy with us or for there to be any misunderstanding. A copy of our complaints policy will be supplied with our letter of engagement. You also have the right to refer your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman, whose contact details you will find at http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/ or call 0300 555 0333 between 9am and 5pm on Monday to Friday ; or email enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk ; or write to Legal Ombudsman PO Box 6806 Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ.

You must make your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman:

Within 6 months of the end of our complaints procedure, a copy of which can be found at on our website and a copy of which you should have received with our engagement letter; and

No more than six years from the date of the act/omission about which you wish to complain; or

No more than three years from when you should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint.


Termination

We will have the right to suspend work in any and all matters in which you have instructed us, and to terminate any and all of our contracts with you, if, for whatever reason, you or anyone connected with you does not make a payment on account within a reasonable time of being requested to do so.

We will also have the right to suspend work in any and all matters in which you have instructed us, and to terminate any and all of our contracts with you, if, for whatever reason, you or anyone connected with you does not pay any of our bills within 14 days of the due date for payment. For the avoidance of doubt, the outstanding amounts (including interest) will remain payable to us regardless of whether or not we have suspended work or terminated the contract in accordance with these terms.

“Connected” in these terms of business means a person, business or company controlled by you, controlling you or under common control with you.


Non-Waiver

Any failure or delay by us in enforcing any of our rights set out in these terms does not constitute a waiver of these rights unless it is made in writing and any written waiver of a particular breach or default by you or anyone connected with you shall not automatically constitute a waiver of any subsequent breach or default.


Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999

No person other than the parties to the engagement letter, and their respective successors and assignees, shall have any right to enforce any of the terms of business or the engagement letter (pursuant to the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999 or otherwise), except to the extent that the terms of business or the engagement letter expressly provide for the Act to apply.


Severability

If any of the terms of business or the provisions in the engagement letter are declared void, illegal or otherwise unenforceable, the remainder shall survive unaffected.


Governing Law and Jurisdiction

The terms of business, the engagement letter and the engagement are to be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and any disputes arising in connection with the engagement are to be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Courts in that jurisdiction.


Acceptance

The fact that you do not withdraw your instructions after receipt of these terms or any engagement letter, means that you accept these terms and that engagement letter, but so that you and we can be sure about the terms on which we are acting for you, please sign the enclosed copy of any engagement letter and return it to us as soon as you can.

These terms are important, so please keep them in a safe place so that you can refer to them in future.


Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative Dispute resolution options can be found at: http://ec.europa.eu/odr


Anti-bribery statement

Plainlaw LLP conducts its business with integrity, transparency and fairness. We are committed to the prevention of bribery and corruption as we recognise the importance of maintaining our reputation and the confidence of our clients and business partners. We do not accept bribery and corruption in our business and we will not work with others who do not share our commitment to preventing bribery and corruption.


Our complaints policy

We are committed to providing a high-quality legal service to all our clients. When something goes wrong we need you to tell us about it. This will help us to ensure that our service meets the highest standard.


Our complaints procedure

If you have a complaint, whether it relates to our work, the way we have treated you or a third party, or our charges, contact us with the details. We have 8 weeks from notification of your complaint to review it and write to you with our proposal for resolving it. If we have not resolved it within this time you may complain to the Legal Ombudsman.


What will happen next?

· We will send you a letter acknowledging your complaint and asking you to confirm or explain the details of the matters you have set out. We will also let you know the name of the person who will be dealing with your complaint.

· We will record your complaint in our central register and open a separate file for your complaint.

· We will then start to investigate your complaint. This will normally involve the following steps.

o We will pass your complaint to Philip Horn, our Client Care partner, (or if your complaint relates to a matter which he is dealing with, then to his partner Stephen Stratton).

o He will ask the member of staff who acted for you to reply to your complaint as soon as is reasonably practicable.

o He will then examine their reply and the information in your complaint file and, if necessary, he may also speak to them.

· Philip Horn or, if not him, Stephen Stratton will then invite you to a meeting and discuss and hopefully resolve your complaint.

· As soon as reasonably practicable following the meeting Philip Horn, or Stephen Stratton, will write to you to confirm what took place and any solutions he has agreed with you.

· If you do not want a meeting or it is not possible, Philip Horn, or Stephen Stratton, will send you a detailed reply to your complaint. This will include his suggestions for resolving the matter.

· At this stage, if you are still not satisfied you should contact us again. We will then arrange to review our decision. This will happen in one of the following ways.

o Another partner of the firm will review Philip Horn’s, or Stephen Stratton’s, decision; or

o We will ask our local Law Society or another local firm of solicitors to review your complaint. We will let you know how long this process will take; or

o We will invite you to agree to independent mediation. We will let you know how long this process will take.

· We will let you know the result of the review, in writing, at the end of the review process. At this time we will write to you confirming our final position on your complaint and explaining our reasons.

· If you are not happy with the outcome of our complaints handling process you have the right to refer your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman, whose contact details you will find at http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/; or call 0300 555 0333 between 9am and 5pm on Monday to Friday; or email enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk ; or write to Legal Ombudsman PO Box 6806 Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ

· In those circumstances you must make your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within 6 months of receiving from us the written outcome of our complaints handling process 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.


· Alternative complaints bodies (such as Ombudsman Services (https://www.ombudsman-services.org/), ProMediate (https://www.promediate.co.uk/) and Small Claims Mediation (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/small-claims-mediation-servic...)) exist which are competent to deal with complaints about legal services should both you and our firm wish to use such a scheme.


Alternative Dispute resolution options can be found at: http://ec.europa.eu/odr


Criminal Finances Act 2017

As a firm, we value our reputation for ethical behaviour and for financial probity and reliability. We recognise that over and above the commission of any crime, any involvement in the facilitation of tax evasion will also reflect adversely on our image and reputation.

We do not tolerate tax evasion, or the facilitation thereof in any circumstances, whether committed by or facilitated by a client, our personnel or our associated persons/companies.

We are committed to fighting tax evasion and have rigorous policies and procedures in place to detect and prevent the facilitation of tax evasion offences.

We provide regular training on the requirements of the Criminal Finances Act 2017 to all personnel.

We require all personnel to demonstrate the highest standards of honesty at all times and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken wherever tax evasion or the facilitation thereof by any personnel has been proven.

We undertake due diligence on all our associated persons/companies to mitigate the risk of facilitation of tax evasion offences.