Shears Law is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under number 598069, whose rules can be consulted here.
We aim to offer our clients quality legal advice with a personal service at a fair cost. We hope it is helpful to you to set out in these terms of business (“Terms of Business”) the basis on which we will provide our professional services to you. This is an important document, and we recommend that you retain it for future reference.
Shears Law is committed to promoting equality and diversity in all of its dealings with clients, third parties and employees. Please ask if you would like to see a copy of our equality and diversity policy.
When you instruct us to advise on a new piece of legal work we will normally send you an engagement letter or separate record of instructions (individually and collectively an “Engagement Letter”) confirming our understanding of the work you have requested us to carry out on your behalf, and the basis we propose to act for you.
Unless otherwise agreed, our client is the person or entity identified in the Engagement Letter, even though, in some circumstances, the payment of our fees may be the responsibility of a third party. For the purposes of these Terms of Business:
• “you” refers to the person that is our client, not the individual to whom the Engagement Letter is addressed; and,
• a person includes a natural person, corporate or unincorporated body (whether or not having a separate legal personality).
Our advice is provided to you in connection with your matter only and may not, without our prior written consent, be disclosed to any other party or used for any other purpose.
Whilst we will apply our professional skill, experience and judgment to achieve your objectives, you agree that we cannot guarantee the outcome of your matter.
As the work we do on your matter progresses we will:
• Communicate with you in plain language;
• Advise you on the likely timescale of the matter, where it is possible to do so, and keep you informed of any changes to it;
• Do our best to reply quickly to correspondence;
• Keep you informed of progress and the work that we are doing on your behalf, including any changes to the law that might have a bearing on your matter;
• Inform you of any delays and explain the reasons;
• Explain the effect of any important documents;
• Advise you of any circumstances and risks of which we are aware or consider to be reasonably foreseeable that could affect the outcome of your matter;
• Update you on the costs position and tell you if our original costs estimate needs to be reviewed;
• Continue to review whether there are alternative methods by which your matter can be funded.
You can help us by:
• Giving us clear and accurate instructions;
• Safeguarding any documents that will be important in this matter;
• Letting us know if you are unsure about any aspect of your matter;
• Informing us about any important time limits that you are under, or if you are going to be away for any length of time;
• Responding promptly to any questions that arise.
Where we are instructed by more than one person to represent their legal interests we will only be able to do so on the basis that we can be fully open about the instructions to all clients. We will be unable to act where one client to a matter requests us to keep certain information from another client who is involved in the same matter. Where we act for two or more clients jointly it is on the clear understanding that we are authorised to act on instructions from either, both or any of them.
If you are a corporate or unincorporated body, we shall be entitled to assume that these Terms of Business have been drawn to the attention of and approved by your authorised representatives.
We will aim to communicate with you by your preferred method of communication. Unless you withdraw consent, we will communicate with you and with others when appropriate by post, fax or non-encrypted email, but we cannot be responsible for the security of any correspondence and documents sent by post, fax or email.
Please remember that unencrypted email is not secure, and that some confidential and sensitive material is best sent by other means to avoid the risk of interception.
You may end your instructions to us in writing at any time for any reason, but we can retain all your papers and documents while there is still money owed to us for fees and expenses.
We may decide to stop acting for you only with good reason, which includes, for example, where:
• you do not pay an interim bill;
• you fail to give us proper instructions;
• there is a conflict of interests;
• continuing to act would be unlawful or unethical;
• it is clear to us that you have lost confidence in how we are carrying out your matter; or
• you have breached any other provision of these Terms of Business.
If we decide to stop acting for you, we must give you reasonable notice.
If you or we decide that we should stop acting for you, you will pay our charges up until that point. These are calculated on an hourly basis plus expenses or by proportion of the fixed fee if that is the basis on which we are acting for you.
We maintain professional indemnity insurance in accordance with the rules of the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Details of the insurers and the territorial coverage of the policy are available for inspection at our office.
Our fees (including fixed pricing) are calculated mainly by reference to the amount of time that is spent dealing with your instructions.
Where we are charging on an hourly rate basis, our fees will be based on the hourly rate detailed in the Engagement Letter. We will record our time spent working on your matter in ‘units’ of six minutes (and the time recorded is rounded up to the nearest whole unit) for all work undertaken on your behalf and this is then charged at the appropriate percentage of the relevant hourly rate.
Time spent on dealing with your matter will include, but is not limited to:
• Attending meetings with you and others;
• Negotiating with others on your behalf in meetings, by letter, e-mail, fax and telephone;
• Considering, preparing and working on papers, deeds or other documents;
• Preparing for court or tribunal hearings, including travelling and waiting time;
• Reporting back to you as necessary;
• Instructing third parties on your behalf;
• Legal and factual research;
• Correspondence and communications (sent and received including by letter, e-mail and fax);
• Making and receiving telephone calls;
• Preparing cost estimates and calculations.
Routine postal, telephone and copying costs are included within our general fees. We may charge for large amounts of copying or for courier fees.
We will do our best to give you an estimate (based on the information available to us at the time) of what the charges for the work are likely to amount to including fees and disbursements. If this is not possible we will advise you of the basis upon which we will charge up to the point at which we are able to give you an estimate of the fees involved. In these circumstances you may wish to suggest a costs ceiling which we will not exceed without your further instructions. Please note that an estimate should not be regarded as a fixed fee or quotation, and is liable to change as a result of factors beyond our control.
We will review the rates from time to time: any changes in our charging rates will be notified to you in advance of their taking effect.
In addition, we will charge you for any third party expenses we incur on your behalf. These are known as disbursements, and include items such as travel expenses, counsels’ fees, experts’ fees, court fees, process server and agents’ charges.
We will obtain your approval before incurring substantial disbursements, but we may exercise our discretion and incur reasonable expenses without your specific instructions. If you prefer; however, we are willing to obtain your specific instructions in relation to each disbursement, although this may cause delay.
We are registered for VAT under registration number 316 4540 20. Our fees, any disbursements and expenses are, where applicable, subject to VAT which shall be added to our invoices at the prevailing rate.
If work is completed within a short period of time, it will normally be invoiced in full on completion. Otherwise, to enable you to budget, we will submit interim invoices to you on a monthly basis or at the end of a distinct section of the instructions, whichever is the sooner. Unless it is expressly stated to the contrary, any interim bill will be the only and final bill for all work done during the relevant period. We may also render additional bills to cover disbursements, which we have incurred in dealing with your instructions.
Once the matter is concluded we will render a final invoice for all outstanding fees and disbursements, excluding any charges already included in interim invoices.
All invoices are payable on delivery and we request payment is made in full within 14 days without any set-off, deduction or withholding. If an invoice is not paid within 14 days, we may charge interest on the balance outstanding at the rate applicable to judgment debts until payment is received. We reserve the right to suspend further work on your matter and performance of our services until we receive payment.
In the event of our retainer being for more than one person, the liability for our costs will be joint and several.
Our policy is not to accept cash. If you try to avoid this policy by depositing cash directly with our bank, we may decide to charge you for any additional checks we decide are necessary to prove the source of the funds.
If you are successful in your matter, you may obtain an order from the court entitling you to the payment of your costs by another person. However, in practice this usually results in only part of the costs being recovered for you, because of the way in which the court measures these costs. It is important you understand that the other person may not be required to pay, or may not be capable of paying, all the fees and expenses which you incur with us. You have to pay our fees and expenses in the first place and any amounts that can be recovered will be a contribution towards them. If the other party is in receipt of legal aid it is unlikely that any costs will be recovered.
If a court orders another party to pay some or all of your fees and expenses, interest can be claimed on them from the other party from the date of the court order. You will also be responsible for paying our fees and expenses of seeking to recover any costs that the court orders the other party to pay to you.
If you are unsuccessful in your matter or in any interim application, it is likely that the court will order you to pay your opponent’s costs. In addition, you will still have to pay our fees and expenses. Your opponent’s costs can be assessed by the court to see if they are reasonable, so you would have the opportunity to review the costs and ask the court to reduce them.
After completing the work, we will be entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is still money owed to us for fees and expenses.
We will keep our file of your papers for up to six years, except those papers that you ask to be returned to you. We keep files on the understanding that we can destroy them six years after the date of the final bill. We will not destroy documents you ask us to deposit in safe custody.
If we take documents out of storage in relation to continuing or new instructions to act for you, we will not normally charge for such retrieval. However we may charge you for:
• time spent producing stored papers that are requested; and
• reading, correspondence or other work necessary to comply with your instructions in relation to the retrieved papers.
The law requires solicitors to obtain satisfactory evidence of the identity of their clients and sometimes people related to them. This is because solicitors who deal with money and property on behalf of their client can be used by criminals wanting to launder money. To comply with the law, we may need to obtain evidence of your identity as soon as possible. Our practice depends on your status, and any documents that we require you to provide will be detailed in our Engagement Letter. Alternatively, we may conduct an electronic database search. The fee for these searches is £50 and will appear on your bill under expenses. This figure includes an allowance for our administration in conducting such searches.
We are professionally and legally obliged to keep your affairs confidential. However, solicitors may be required by statute to make a disclosure to the National Crime Agency where they know or suspect that a transaction may involve money laundering or terrorist financing. If we make a disclosure in relation to your matter, we may not be able to tell you that a disclosure has been made. We may have to stop working on your matter for a period of time and may not be able to tell you why.
If you are a client instructing us, other than in the course of business, the provisions of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 might apply to the work we undertake for you, in which case certain cancellation or 'cooling-off' rights will arise in certain circumstances. You will be advised when this is the case.
We may outsource work such as typing and photocopying on our files to other companies or people to assist with your matter. We will always obtain a confidentiality agreement with these outsourced providers. If you do not want your matter to be outsourced, please tell us as soon as possible.
We use the information you provide primarily for the provision of legal services to you and for related purposes including:
• to administer and manage our services and business, including billing, accounting and client management.
• updating and enhancing client records
• analysis to help us manage our practice
• legal and regulatory compliance.
Our use of that information is subject to your instructions, the Data Protection Act 2018 and our 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.
You have a right of access under data protection legislation to the personal data that we hold about you.
We may from time to time send you information which we think might be of interest to you. If you do not wish to receive that information please notify us in writing.
We are committed to high quality legal advice and client care. If you are unhappy with any aspect of the service provided by this firm, including the amount of any bill, please bring your concerns to the attention of Richard Shears. A copy of our complaints handling procedure is available, on request, from him.
In the event that you are not satisfied with the firm's response, the Legal Ombudsman may be able to consider your complaint. There are, however, restrictions to this service for organisations, as set out on their website (see below). Normally, you will usually need to bring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within six months of receiving a final written response from us about your complaint. In addition, you should note that the Legal Ombudsman will not be able to accept your complaint if:
• more than six years have elapsed from the date of the alleged act or omission giving rise to your complaint;
• more than three years have elapsed since the time that you should have known about your entitlement to make a complaint (if later than above); or
• the date of the alleged act or omission giving rise to the complaint was before the 6th October 2010.
The Legal Ombudsman’s contact details are:
• Telephone: 0300 555 0333
• Minicom: 0300 555 1777
• E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Website: www.legalombudsman.org.uk
• Address: Legal Ombudsman, PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ
You may also be able to object to our bill by applying to the Court for an assessment under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974. If you exercise this right you would be prevented from making a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman. In addition, if you apply to the Court for an assessment and if all or part of the bill remains unpaid at the end of that assessment, we are entitled to charge interest. There are strict time limits that apply to this process and you may wish to seek independent legal advice.
Our total liability to you in respect of any claim, demand, loss or liability arising from or in connection with our services, whether in contract, tort (including negligence), breach of statutory duty, or otherwise, shall in no circumstances exceed £2,000,000 (two million pounds).
Please note that under no circumstances whatever shall we be liable to you, whether in contract, tort (including negligence), breach of statutory duty, or otherwise, for any loss of profit or opportunity, or any indirect or consequential loss.
We can only limit our liability to the extent the law allows. The exclusions and limitations in this section shall have no application to any liability for: death or personal injury caused by our negligence, fraud or fraudulent misrepresentation or any other liability which cannot be excluded or limited by law.
We will use reasonable care in selecting any other professional adviser or service provider that we engage on your behalf (including any counsel, accountant or expert witness); however, we will not be liable for any act or omission of any such adviser or service provider.
We advise exclusively on the laws of England and Wales. We will not provide advice on the taxation implications of your instructions.
The agreement is between you and us, and no other party shall have any rights of enforcement under the Contract (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999 or otherwise.
If any provision of these Terms of Business (or part of any provision) is or becomes illegal, invalid or unenforceable, the legality, validity and enforceability of any other provision of these Terms of Business shall not be affected.
No failure or delay by a party to exercise any right or remedy provided under this agreement or by law shall constitute a waiver of that or any other right or remedy, nor shall it prevent or restrict the further exercise of that or any other right or remedy. No single or partial exercise of such right or remedy shall prevent or restrict the further exercise of that or any other right or remedy.
These Terms of Business together with the terms of any Engagement Letter will constitute the entire agreement between us in relation to that matter. Any amendment to these Terms of Business will only be binding if expressly agreed in writing and signed by us.
These Terms of Business supersede any earlier versions we may have agreed with you. Unless expressly agreed otherwise, these Terms and Conditions shall apply to the exclusion of any other terms, and shall govern all services that we provide to you.
The agreement between us, and any dispute arising out of or in connection with it or our services (including non-contractual disputes), shall be governed by, and construed in accordance with English law, and submitted to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
These Terms of Business shall be deemed to have been accepted by you upon our subsequent receipt from you or your agent of any instructions, verbal or written, in any matter. Please sign, date and return one copy of this form to us immediately. Then we can be confident that you understand the basis on which we will act for you.