Our general terms of business
The following terms of business engagement apply to all dealings with the firm.
We aim to provide a high quality service in every aspect of our dealing with your case and our terms of business govern the services to be provided to you by the firm and its employees and consultants.
At the start of your matter you will receive an engagement letter. This engagement letter will set out the terms on which we accept instructions and charge of our services. In the event of conflict between the letter of engagement and these general terms, the letter of engagement will take precedence.
Our agreement will apply to any future instructions you give to the firm and your new or continuing instructions will amount to your acceptance of these terms. If we merge with another firm or transfer our business to another entity (“successor”), our agreement with you will not end by reason of the merger or transfer. To ensure continuity of service, you agree that immediately on such merger or transfer the successor will be automatically retained by you in relation to all matters upon which we were retained and all accrued rights and liabilities of the firm and its employees will automatically transfer to the successor in substitution for the firm. If the successor is a company or a Limited Liability Partnership, your agreement will be with that company or LLP and any member, Partner, employee or consultant will at all times act as agent of that company or LLP and will have no personal liability to you. Nothing in our agreement will entitle any third party to rely on or enforce any term of this agreement, whether under the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999 or otherwise.
Right to withdraw your instructions
You have the right to withdraw, without charge, any new matter on which you instruct us, within seven working days of the date you first instructed us. However, this right will cease if we start work with your consent within that time.
Our fees and expenses
At the outset of a matter we will agree the basis on which we will charge you, and the engagement letter will set out our agreement concerning our fees and expenses. Generally our fees are calculated by the time spent on the case, therefore unless a separate fee arrangement had been reached, agreed hourly rate shall apply. Our practice management system records and keeps detail of our work to date. You have the right to ask for your up to date incurred fees at any time subject to 72 hours written notice.
A fixed fee arrangement is an agreement between you and us on the total amount of fees chargeable, not including expenses. The fee is fixed. When you received our engagement letter please consider the content carefully. Our engagement letter will set out the exact remit of our work. If unsure, you must inform us or seek clarification. You have the right to terminate this fixed fee arrangement in writing at any time on the condition that the work has not commenced.
Unless otherwise agreed in writing, you must pay all bills in sterling within 14 days from the taxable date of the invoice. We reserve the right to charge interest for late payment at the higher of 2 per cent over the Natwest Bank PLC’s base rate, the rate then currently payable on judgement debts, or the rate payable under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998.
VAT will be added to your bills at the rate applicable unless zero rating or an exemption applies. Our VAT number is 177 1537 89
It is our firm’s practice to request payment of fees upfront. This is now a common practice among solicitors. We adopt this policy simply on business decision; it does not reflect you as a client.
If we entered a fixed fee arrangement, the money received from you became firm’s money.
If we agreed on hourly rate, it is the firm’s practice to require payments in advance for our fees and expenses. We will discuss this with you at our first meeting. We will put this money in a Clients’ Account and set them, with interest earned, against future bills. This is called payment on account. Our client account is held with the Natwest Bank PLC. Our firm’s client account(s) is held separately from the firm’s general business account. Money on account will be held in our client account on your behalf until our final bill is delivered or, if agreed by us, an interim bill is delivered or a disbursement paid. At that stage, the amount of the bill or disbursement (plus any interest which may be due to us) will be transferred from our client account to our business account. If the amount due exceeds the amount by which your client account is in credit, we will invoice you separately. Until we submit a final bill or previously agreed interim bill, the firm is prohibited by law to use the money held on your behalf. This same rules shall apply to money we received on your behalf from a third party for your benefit and/ or compensation and/ or damages recovered on your behalf. This money will be kept separately from the firm’s general business account.
In the event of any failure of Natwest Bank PLC, they will be liable to you for any money we hold on your behalf and that we accept no liability for any loss you incur. It is the firm’s practice to request money on account of our fees and disbursements when we undertake work.
If we are holding any of your monies at the end of a matter we will send them to you. This will generally be in the form of a cheque. If you do not present the cheque for clearing within six months of the date we sent it to you, we will cancel it for security reasons. We will advise you of this. If another six months pass and we do not receive instructions from you on what to do with the monies, we will give them to a registered charity of our choice if the amount is £50 or less. If it is more than this, we will take instructions from the Solicitors Regulatory Authority on what to do with the monies.
Disbursements and expenses incurred by the firm on your behalf will be invoiced to you as they are incurred with VAT added where applicable. Disbursements include Court fees, barristers’ and experts’ fees, law costs draughtsmen’s fees, charges made by search agencies, telegraphic transfer or other bank fees, travel, photocopying, postage, couriers and internal telephone charges may include an additional services and handling element. We will not incur any substantial expenses without your prior authority. The firm shall endeavour to minimise the expenses or disbursements wherever possible, in any event, subject to your authorisation to incur such expenses.
We may require payments in advance for our fees and expenses. We will put them in a Clients’ Account and set them, with interest earned, against future bills.
If we are holding any of your monies at the end of a matter we will send them to you. This will generally be in the form of a cheque. If you do not present the cheque for clearing within six months of the date we sent it to you, we will cancel it for security reasons. We will advise you of this. If another six months pass and we do not receive instructions from you on what to do with the monies, we will give them to a registered charity of our choice if the amount if £50 or less. If it is more than this, we will take instructions from the Solicitors Regulatory Authority on what to do with the monies.
You should consider whether you have an alternative way of paying our costs where you are or might be involved in a dispute.
Another body (such as your employer or trade union) could be responsible for your costs. It is also possible that you hold a legal expenses insurance policy that covers our costs (sometimes household contents, car or other insurance policies cover legal expenses). During our initial meeting we will explore this with you.
Methods of communication
It is our practice to use email to send documents and correspondence to clients, and in our communication with other relevant parties to your matter. We are unable to guarantee the security and confidentiality of material sent over the internet and accept no responsibility for any error, loss or claim which arises as a result of any failure of security or confidentiality. Please tell us if you do not want us to communicate with you via the internet. Our IT system is protected with anti-virus software, but again cannot guarantee that transmissions will be free from infection and we recommend that you also use your own anti-virus software. We operate a firewall and automatic spam filter. These may block a small number of genuine emails so that they do not reach their intended recipient at the firm. In such circumstances we will not be liable for any loss, damage, costs, interest and expense you may incur directly or indirectly as a result. You may prefer to communicate more securely with us either generally or in particular circumstances. Should you wish, we may be able to put in place your higher security systems and working practices to facilitate more secure communication.
Storage of documents
When a matter has been completed and all fees paid, we will return to you, at your request, any documents you have provided in connection with that matter and any other papers to which you are entitled. We cannot promise to retain files for a specific period of time, but will generally keep them for at least six years, and reserve the right to dispose of them after that time.
It might be necessary for us to pass information and papers relating to your matter to our insurers as part of our insurance arrangements. You accept that by appointing us to act for you we are able to do this.
We will comply if for any reason (whether during or after a case) we are compelled to disclose documents or to give information orally or in writing about a matter or your affairs, under a court order, notice or demand served by a body or person with the authority to make us do so. If any documents or information are subject to legal professional privilege (and thus confidential), we will let you know and tell you that you have the opportunity to waive privilege. If you decide not to waive privilege and this is challenged, you must pay us the costs we incur in preserving privilege for you.
The relationship between you and the firm is based on contract for service. We have a duty to work for you with reasonable care and skill. Our advice and services are for your benefit only and may not be used or relied on by any other party but you.
Alpha (UK) limited is a limited company by shares. . The limited company with its individual legal identity It is more usual for senior professionals to be referred to as “partners”. Our members have decided to retain the traditional title of “partner”. There is, however, no partnership between the members or between the members and the firm. A reference in these terms of business or in the course of your dealings with the firm to a person being a “partner” is a reference to that person as a member of the firm.
There is no contract between you and any member, employee or consultant of the firm. Any advice given to you, or any other work done for you, by one of our partners, employees or consultants is given or done by that person on our behalf and not in his or her individual capacity. No such person assumes any personal responsibility to you for the advice or work.
You agree that if, as a matter of law, any of our partners, employees or consultants would otherwise owe you a duty of care that duty is excluded from our contract with you. You agree that you will not bring any claim against any of our members, employees or consultants for any matter arising in any way out of providing the services to you.
Accordingly, any claim you wish to make can only be made against the firm and not against a partner, employee or consultant of the firm.
You also agree that in the services we will provide to you, including in particular those described in any engagement letter we send you at the start of a matter, our total liability at law to you for losses will not exceed any amount stated in the engagement letter. Also excluded is any consequential or indirect loss, whether or not it might have been foreseeable at the start of the matter.
If we are acting for more than one person, the limit of liability will have to be allocated among you. If the engagement letter does not expressly set out each person’s share, that allocation will be a matter entirely for you. If for whatever reason you do not agree on an allocation, then you agree not to dispute the limit of liability on the grounds that no such allocation was agreed.
Our liability to you will also be limited to that proportion of the loss or damage (including interest and costs) that you have suffered and that a court has ordered against us after taking account of how far any other person responsible or liable to you for the loss or damage has contributed to it. In assessing anyone else’s contribution, we will ignore any limit imposed on their liability by any agreement made before the loss or damage occurred.
The limitations and exclusions on liability in this section will not apply to any liability for death or personal injury caused by our negligence or for any other liability that cannot lawfully be excluded or limited.