Terms and Conditions of Business
The Source of Our Authorisation
We are members of the Law Society of Scotland, like all Scottish Solicitors, and subject to its professional rules.
Instructions may be given either in writing, or verbally. We may ask you to confirm verbal instructions in writing. Any amendments to your instructions need to be notified to us immediately they arise, since we can only act on the information and instructions you provide. Please do not assume we know all about your personal circumstances. We always prefer to have too much, rather than too little, information. Also, we are happy to write to you to confirm what instructions you have given to us. At our first meeting with you, we will inform you of the Solicitor who will be responsible for conducting your day to day business, and of the Partner responsible for supervision, if appropriate.
We need to know the authority of the person who instructs us, unless we are instructed by one individual to act for him or for her. For example, if we are instructed by a Limited Company, or a firm, we need to know the name and status of the person responsible for the day to day conduct of the matter and, also, the principal responsible for overall supervision, if different.
Conflict of Interest
If, in the course of acting for you, we find that your interests conflict with those of another client, one party will be referred to other solicitors, because we may not act for both parties, when their interests conflict.
We are able to act for both parties in a conveyancing transaction, providing that both are established clients, but in the event of any conflict arising during the course of the transaction, we will require to refer either or both to other solicitors.
Information we receive in the course of our business is kept confidential and will not be disclosed to third parties, except where you may authorise this or, where we are required to disclose it by law.
We are able to act for both parties in a conveyancing transaction providing that both are established clients, but in the event of any conflict arising during the course of the transaction, we will require to refer either or both parties to other solicitors.
If you are unhappy about the quality of service provided, or the amount of our fees, then you should, in the first instance, take the matter up with your solicitor with whom you have been dealing. Alternatively, if you prefer, or if you are still not satisfied, then we invite you to raise the matter with our Senior Partner. He will ensure that any subsequent complaint is investigated and that you receive a response in 10 working days. If you are still dissatisfied, you are always entitled to take the matter up with The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, The Stamp Office, 10-14 Waterloo Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3EG. The SLCC operates strict limits for accepting complaints, which require complaints to be made within one year of the service ending or the conduct occurring. However, the SLCC will disregard any time it considers that the complainer was excusably unaware of their concerns.
Holding Client Money
If we hold money on your behalf, it will ordinarily, where it is practicable to do so, and once we have cleared funds, be placed in a deposit Account with our Bank, where it will earn interest for your benefit. This condition shall not apply to balances below £500. The funds will be held by the Royal Bank of Scotland plc.
Basis for Calculating Charges
Our charges are based on the time we spend dealing with your business. This is based on a unit charge of six minutes and will include making and receiving telephone calls, meetings and correspondence with you and others, preparing and considering documents, research and advice and (where relevant) instructing Counsel and attending Court, travelling and waiting time. In correspondence, each page of 125 words or part thereof is one unit.
In addition to the time spent, we may also take into account other factors such as complexity, specialist knowledge and expertise, urgency and value of the matter but, on current information, we expect these factors to be covered by the hourly rates in the information sheet. If an increased charge is proposed, the implications will be discussed with you before the relevant work is undertaken wherever possible.
The dominant factor of the fee charging is the “time expended” on the work that we do on your behalf. Occasionally, a percentage of the amount or value of the money or property involved may be added in order to compensate for the risk or the indemnity element in carrying out the work. This will typically amount to 0.5% of the amount or value. We will also charge commission on collection of revenue and investment of capital in Executry and Trust work, and generally for cash intromissions.
Current Charges and VAT
The current rate of charge for the person primarily responsible for your work is set out in the information sheet. A large percentage covers overheads such as property costs, staff salaries and an appropriate information technology system necessary for the proper running of our business.
In case others assist in progressing your matter, their hourly rates will also be set out in the information sheet or intimated to you at the time of such assistance.
Other Payments and Outlays
We will inform you about other payments you have to make for such items as Court fees, Counsel’s fees, Stamp Duty Land Tax, fees for the Registers of Scotland, Search fees, and fees for reports (if applicable).
We also reserve the right to make a separate charge for incidental expenses such as postage, telephone calls and others.
In conveyancing transactions, we require payment of the Stamp Duty Land Tax and recording/registration dues prior to settlement of the transaction in house purchase cases. In the sale of property, in addition to any Estate Agency and other sale costs, the conveyancing costs and outlays will be debited from the sale proceeds before any balance is paid to you.
In all other cases, we may require payment in advance of outlays or other payments to be incurred before such expenditure is undertaken, or if any such expenses are paid by us, on your behalf, we will require to be reimbursed by you within seven days of you receiving a request for payment of the appropriate sum. These provisions do not apply to Legal Aid cases.
Review of Charges/Incidental Expenses
Our rates of charges and incidental expenses are reviewed periodically and you will be notified in writing of any changes.
Generally, legal work involves third parties and is unpredictable and no-one can know at the outset which matters will be straightforward and those which will become complex. It is, therefore, generally impossible to foresee the total amount of time which will be involved or the total of other payments which will need to be incurred in order to conclude your business.
Any estimate is not intended to be fixed and you will be notified of any additional work or other payments. We will also provide further estimates as the matter progresses.
You may set a limit in advance on the charges which may be incurred and if a limit is set, this will be confirmed to you in writing. You will be notified if that limit is reached.
Money in Advance
It is normal practice to require money in advance towards future charges and other payments.
We will inform you in writing if further money in advance is needed or as the matter progresses but you should understand that the total charges and payments may be greater than the money in advance.
Money in advance is held separate from the Firm’s money in our Client Account and, apart from small amounts and amounts held for short periods, attracts interest in accordance with the Law Society of Scotland Guidelines. Interest is normally paid to the account net of basic rate tax.
The money held in advance may be utilised to settle interim accounts that will be raised from time to time.
We want you to know the cost implications of your business and our policy is to charge you
as set out in the information sheet
unless special circumstances justify a different period.
Our Accounts will contain an outline of the work done: if any greater detail is required then this will be separately charged for.
We will include all payments made on your behalf in our interim or final account to you and we reserve the right as previously provided for, to recover these payments from you as and when they are made, or if substantial, to require advance payment before the expense is incurred.
Payment is due within thirty days of our account being rendered and we reserve the right to charge interest if you do not pay within this time. Interest will be charged on a daily basis and charged at the rate of 4% above the base rate applied from to time by The Royal Bank of Scotland plc.
In the event of any delay in payment we reserve the right to charge an administration fee of £84 inclusive of VAT if it is necessary to issue a reminder for payment of the account.
If you have any query about the account, please contact us immediately. You should raise any initial query with the solicitor who is dealing with your business, and if satisfactory explanation is not received, then the matter may be referred to the Client Relations Partner.
In the event of any account remaining unpaid, we reserve the right not to act any further.
If any special agreement is reached on costs, we will confirm it to you in writing but in the absence of any written agreement our normal terms herein will apply.
Responsibility for Costs
Please understand that you will be responsible for paying our charges and other payments (together called costs), and these will be due from you in full regardless of a third party agreeing to pay them. In the case of personal representatives and trustees, they generally have the right to recover from the Estate or Trust.
If your matter involves litigation you are responsible for our costs despite any Order for costs made against an opponent and even if you have Legal Costs Insurance. The cost of investigation whether you have a claim or defence are not generally recoverable from an opponent. If you win the case, the Court is unlikely to order your opponent to pay the full amount of our costs and make separate Orders which reflect the outcome of different issues. If the case is lost, you will be ordered to pay the opponent’s costs as well as your own.
If a settlement is achieved, costs are usually a matter for negotiation as part of the settlement.
There is no guarantee that your opponent will have the money to pay your costs even if he is ordered to do so and you will not generally recover any costs from a community funded (Legal Aided) opponent.
Under the rules which apply to claims in Court, any costs you are ordered to pay or any fees due to the Court must be paid within a specified time limit or else your case may be struck out. These payments can arise at any time and not just at the end of a case.
In large cases, a detailed assessment of costs is undertaken by the Court. This involves you paying further amounts such as fees of a Law Accountant to prepare a detailed bill in a special form required by the Court; attending Court; and negotiating with your opponent. We will explain this procedure to you in more detail when it becomes clear that it will apply.
Different rules may apply in certain areas of litigation and we will advise you about these separately. We will discuss with you whether it is appropriate to consider alternative sources of funding such as whether Legal Aid is available and whether you qualify for it.
You may wish to discuss with your insurance broker or us whether our costs and the liability for the costs of your opponent may be covered by any of your existing insurance or by After the Event Insurance. Also, whether someone such as an employer or trade union may contribute to those costs.
In Scotland, where you are successful in litigation, and an award of expenses is made against your opponent, the account ordinarily requires to be either agreed or assessed by the Auditor of Court. It may be that, at the end of the day, the opponent’s liability for expenses will be less than our costs. Even if full success is enjoyed, there is no guarantee that full recovery will be made. You must understand that you are responsible for our costs before any recovery is made from the opponent.
There is a separate Table of Fees for work in the Sheriff and High Courts and we shall notify you if and when our fees will be based on that Table.
How Long Will It Take?
The nature of legal work makes it difficult to estimate precisely, in many cases, how long something will take to complete. When we discuss your requirements at the outset, we will ordinarily discuss timescale. Often, however, the speed at which we complete a piece of work is directly affected by the co-operation we receive from other people, outwith our control. In a matter which involves a dispute, it may be in the other side’s interests to “drag out” the matter for as long as possible. It is in our interests, as much as yours, to complete a piece of work as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, it is your business and if you have not heard anything recently from the person dealing with your work, then please ring us and ask about it.
Indemnity/Liability for Loss
We may be legally liable to you in the event that you suffer loss, because of our negligence. In the event that your loss may be shown to be due to our negligence, we are indemnified by Insurance cover.
Independent Fee Assessment
The Auditor of Court is always available to provide an independent assessment of a fair fee for a piece of legal work carried out. On occasion, in order to ensure that a file has been correctly charged, we may voluntarily send the file to the Auditor. Should you, at any time, be dissatisfied with the amount of a fee charged by us, then you are entitled to ask us to have the Auditor charge the fee independently. In that case, both sides are bound by the fee as fixed by the Auditor. If the Auditor reduces the amount of our original fee, we will only charge that reduced amount and we will pay the Auditor’s costs. If he confirms that our fee is correct or undercharged, then you will be responsible for the Auditor’s costs and we shall be entitled to review our fee and to charge the fee as assessed by the Auditor.
We are entitled, as a matter of law, to exercise a right of retention, known as lien, over any title deeds and papers we hold on your behalf, until any fees or outlays due to us by you have been paid. We also reserve the right to deduct our fees and outlays from any funds recovered on your behalf.
Storage of Papers/Files
After your work has been completed and the file closed, the file of papers (but not Deeds or Wills which are stored separately) will be routinely destroyed after ten years from the file closure, unless otherwise agreed.
If you ask us to retrieve papers from storage, we reserve the right to charge for any work necessary to comply with your instructions such as reading a file and answering a query. We also reserve the right to charge the expenses of sending the file to you or to a third party.
We do not offer storage facilities for personal items.
Files and all archive materials (including Deeds and Wills) are vulnerable in the event of fire or other accident at our Offices and at our storage facility and we therefore do not accept liability for any such loss.
We are a long established country legal firm and try to maintain a high quality of general legal practice, conducted in a friendly manner. In order to provide such a service, a whole network of people and facilities are required to back up the individual solicitors. There are the offices themselves, typing, cashroom and clerical staff, computers, facsimile machine, photocopiers and electronics, books and periodicals to keep abreast of legal changes, professional indemnity insurance and other overheads. A legal service has to be paid for, but we hope that you will find that our fee represents good value for money.
Proper Law and Jurisdiction
This agreement is governed by Scots Law and subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Scottish Courts.