Terms & Conditions

1. Introduction
These Terms and Conditions of Business and the accompanying engagement letter set out our service standards and the terms of business on which we agree to act for you. If you have any questions about any of the information contained herein, please contact the person dealing with your case.

By continuing to instruct this firm we shall be entitled to assume you have agreed to the terms and conditions set out here. For the purpose of these terms, “we” “our” “us” or “the firm” refers to Butler & Co Solicitors. Unless otherwise agreed, and subject to the application of then current hourly rates, these terms and conditions of business shall apply to any future instructions given by you to the firm.

Your contract is with Butler & Co Solicitors. There is no contract between you and any employee or consultant of the firm. Any advice given to you (or other work done for you) by any employee or consultant of the firm is given (or done) by that person on behalf of the firm and not in his or her individual capacity and no such person assumes any personal responsibility to you for the advice or other work.

1. About Butler & Co Solicitors

We are a legal practice authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The SRA Standards and Regulations set out the regulatory framework imposed on service providers such as ours. Further information is available on the SRA website at www.sra.org.uk.

For the protection of our clients, the firm has professional indemnity insurance in place. A copy of the policy can be viewed by contacting our offices.

2. Service Standards
We aim to offer our clients quality legal advice with a personal service at a fair cost. As a start, we hope it is helpful to you to set out in this statement the basis on which we will provide our professional services.

The firm sets the following standards:
• We will regularly update you with progress on your matter
• We will communicate with you in plain language
• We will explain to you the legal work required as your matter progresses
• We will update you on the cost of your matter, as appropriate
• We will update you on whether the likely outcomes still justify the likely costs and risks associated with your matter whenever there is a material change in circumstances
• We will update you on the likely timescales for each stage of this matter and any important changes in those estimates
• We will continue to review whether there are alternative methods by which your matter can be funded

In return, we request that our clients assume the following responsibilities:
• To provide clear, truthful instructions to us at all times
• To respond to communications from us promptly and to attend arranged appointments
• To notify contact details, change of address, telephone numbers etc. promptly
• To discharge payments requested from you promptly

3. Hours of business
The normal hours of opening at our offices are between 9.00am and 5.00pm on weekdays. Messages can be left via voicemail outside those hours and appointments can be arranged at other times when this is essential.

4. People responsible for your work
The person responsible for dealing with your work and the person responsible for the overall supervision of the matter will be set out in the engagement letter. We will try to avoid changing the people who handle your work but if this cannot be avoided, we will tell you promptly of any change and why it may be necessary.

Due to the nature of our work the Solicitors and Legal Advisors are often out of the office during the day either in Court at Police Stations or visiting Prisons. The firm works as a team and you may well meet other members of staff from time to time either in the office or at Court hearings.

5. Legal Aid
If your matter is financed via legal aid, the terms and conditions may differ according to the type of matter and legal aid cover which applies. The different conditions are set out below. You agree that you will keep us and the Legal Aid Agency informed of any change in your financial circumstances once in receipt of legal aid.

Police Station
We are contracted with the Legal Aid Agency to provide criminal defence services and, as such, the costs of assisting you with your case at the police station are paid from the Legal Aid Fund. This covers any advice we have provided to date at the police station and up to the point at which you might have to appear at Court if you are charged.

Magistrates Court
If we are assisting you to submit an application to the LAA for a ‘Representation Order’, in order for you to receive this, the LAA has to be satisfied that it is in the interests of justice that you are represented by a solicitor. The application is also means-tested. You will be advised as to what documentation and/or information we require. It is important that you provide this information and assist in the preparation of this application. It is also important that you keep us and the LAA aware of any changes in your circumstances. Failure to do this or failure to provide us with further instructions can result in your representation order, once granted, being withdrawn. If this were to happen it would leave you without legal aid for your case.

We should also advise you at this stage of the possibility that, should you lose your case, you might have an order made requiring you to pay towards the Prosecution’s costs.

Crown Court
You will automatically qualify for legally-aided representation once you have completed an application form, provided that your disposable household income does not exceed £37,500. After you have been means-tested, you may have to pay towards the cost of your defence. This could be from your income while the case is ongoing and/or from your capital, if you are convicted.

You will be asked to provide evidence of your income and assets. If you do not, your payments could be increased which would result in you paying more towards your defence costs. If you do not tell the truth on your legal aid application about your income, assets and expenditure you could be prosecuted. You will not have to pay towards the costs of your case if you are under 18 when you make your application or if you receive any of the following benefits: Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Guaranteed State Pension Credit or Income-related Employment and Support Allowance.

You may have to pay towards the costs if your monthly disposable income is above a certain level. If this is the case, you will receive a Contribution Order and you will have to make payments as required under the order. The first payment will be due within 28 days of your case being committed, sent or transferred for trial to the Crown Court. You must tell the LAA about any changes to your financial circumstances during your case because a change may affect the amount you have to pay towards your defence costs. If you don’t think you can afford to pay, or you think that a mistake has been made, you can ask for a review of the amount you have been told you to pay.

If your disposable household income exceeds £37,500 then you will not be eligible for legal aid in the Crown Court. You can continue to instruct the firm on privately paying basis.

Please note that if you do pay for your legal fees privately and are acquitted of the offence(s) that you faced then an application can be made for the return of some of your money, provided that you made an application for legal aid and were deemed to be financially ineligible; the application is called a Defendants Costs Order and any monies returned via such an Order are limited to Legal Aid rates. This means that unless agreed otherwise you are financially responsible for the difference between our private charging rates and the current Legal Aid rates. Should this situation arise, we will advise you accordingly.

If you are found not guilty, any payments you have made will be refunded with interest. If you paid late or not at all and action was taken against you, the costs of this action will be deducted from the refund. If you are found guilty, you may have to pay towards your defence costs from any capital assets you may have.

This would only apply if you have £30,000 or more of assets (for example: savings, equity in property, shares or Premium Bonds) and any payments you have already made have not covered your total defence costs.

You will be told at the end of your case if you have to make a payment from capital.

6. Storage of papers and documents
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 your file of papers in storage for not less than 6 years except those papers that you ask to be returned to you. After that, storage is on the clear understanding that we have the right to destroy your file after such period as we consider reasonable without further reference to you, or to make a charge for storage if we ask you to collect your papers and you fail to do so. We will not of course destroy any documents such as wills, deeds, and other securities, which we agree to hold in safe custody. No charge will be made to you for such storage unless prior notice in writing is given to you of a charge to be made from a future date which may be specified in that notice.

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, we may make a charge based on time spent at our lowest charge out rate for producing stored papers or documents to you or another at your request. We may also charge for reading, correspondence, or other work necessary to comply with your instructions.

7. Termination
You may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time but we will still be entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is money owing to us for our charges and expenses. If at any stage you do not wish us to continue doing work and/or incurring charges and expenses on your behalf, you must tell us this clearly in writing. We may only decide to stop acting for you if we have good reason, for example, if you do not pay an interim bill, fail to provide us with instructions or if a conflict of interest arises. We will tell you the reason and give you notice in writing.

8. Data protection/GDPR
We use the information you provide primarily for the provision of legal services to you and for related purposes including updating and enhancing client records, analysis to help us manage our practice, statutory returns and legal/regulatory compliance. Our use of that information is subject to your instructions, data protection law and our duty of confidentiality.

Please note that our work for you may require us to pass on such information to third parties such as expert witnesses and other professional advisers, including sometimes advisers appointed by another party to your matter. We may also give such information to others who perform services for us, such as typing or photocopying. Our practice may be audited or checked by our accountants or our regulator, or by other organisations.

You have a right of access under data protection law to the personal data that we hold about you. We seek to keep that personal data correct and up to date. You should let us know if you believe the information that we hold about you needs to be corrected or updated. The person at the firm with overall responsibility for data protection compliance is Amy Butler. The firm is registered with the Information Commissioner. Further information regarding data protection and privacy is available from the Information Commissioner’s Office www.ico.org.uk.

We may receive personal data from you for the purposes of our money laundering checks, such as a copy of your passport. These will be processed only for the purposes of preventing money laundering and terrorist financing, or as otherwise permitted by law or with your express consent. You consent to us retaining such data for longer than the five-year statutory period, unless you tell us otherwise.

If you send us personal data about anyone other than yourself you will ensure you have any appropriate consents and notices in place to enable you to transfer that personal data to us and so that we may use it for the purposes for which you provide it to us.

9. Equality and diversity
We are committed to promoting equality and diversity in all our dealings with clients, third parties and employees. Please contact us if you would like a copy of our Equality and Diversity Policy. The firm’s diversity data is available upon request.

10. Communications
We shall communicate with you in the most effective way, as agreed between us. You should be aware that the use of e-mail is not secure for confidential matters. We take every precaution to ensure that e-mail is virus free but we cannot guarantee this. If you require correspondence to be addressed to a particular person or marked private and confidential then you must tell us.

11. Identity, disclosure and confidentiality requirements
The law requires solicitors to get 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 need to get evidence of your identity as soon as possible. If you cannot provide us with the specific identification requested, please contact us as soon as possible to discuss other ways to verify your identity.

We are entitled to refuse to act for you if you fail to supply appropriate proof of identity for yourself or for any principal whom you may represent. We may arrange to carry out an electronic verification of your identity if we consider that a saving of time and cost will be achieved by doing so. The cost of any such search will be charged to you. If the amount is in excess of £10 including VAT, we will seek your prior agreement.

Solicitors are under a professional and legal obligation to keep the affairs of the client confidential. This obligation, however, is subject to a statutory exception: legislation on money laundering and terrorist financing has placed solicitors under a legal duty in certain circumstances to disclose information to the National Crime Agency. Where a solicitor knows or suspects that a transaction on behalf of a client involves money laundering, the solicitor may be required to make a disclosure. If, while we are acting for you, it becomes necessary to make such a disclosure, we may not be able to inform you that it has been made, or of the reasons for it, because the law prohibits ‘tipping-off’. Where the law permits us, we will tell you about any potential money laundering problem and explain what action we may need to take.

External firms or organisations may conduct audit or quality checks on our practice. These external firms or organisations are required to maintain confidentiality in relation to your files. We may need to disclose your information to third parties (such as barristers, accountants or government agencies) to enable us to handle your affairs. We may also need to permit third parties (such as our auditors and the Solicitors Regulation Authority) to have access to your information for administrative or regulatory purposes. We may also outsource work. This might be for example costings, research and preparation to assist with your matter. Information from your file may therefore be made available in such circumstances. We will always aim to obtain a confidentiality agreement with the third party. We will not otherwise disclose your information to any third party unless permitted or required to do so by law. If you do not want your file to be outsourced, please tell us as soon as possible.

12. Limit on our liability for professional negligence
Our liability to you for a breach of your instructions shall be limited to £2M, unless we expressly state a higher amount in the letter accompanying these terms of business. We will not be liable for any consequential, special, indirect or exemplary damages, costs or losses, or any damages, costs or losses attributable to lost profits or opportunities. We can only limit our liability to the extent the law allows. In particular, we cannot limit our liability for death or personal injury caused by our negligence.

13. Complaints Procedure
At Butler & Co Solicitors we aim to provide the best possible service to our clients and, in order to do this, we need to know from you if you feel dissatisfied. Should you have any occasion to feel unhappy about our service, or about the bill, please let me know straight away and I will discuss this with you. Should you wish to make a complaint, Amy Butler is the person who deals with these matters and he will be prepared to discuss your complaint with you. We have a procedure in place which details how we handle complaints which is available upon request. We have eight weeks to consider your complaint. If we have not resolved it within this time, or if you are not happy with our handling of your complaint, you may complain to the Legal Ombudsman (PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ, telephone 0300 555 0333, website www.legalombudsman.org.uk. The Legal Ombudsman will expect you to have given your lawyer a chance to resolve your complaint before it will get involved. Normally, you will need to bring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within six months of receiving a final written response from us and within six years from the date of the act or omission about which you are complaining, or three years from the date you should reasonably have known there were grounds for complaint.

You also have a right to complain about or challenge your bill by applying for an assessment of the bill under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974. The Legal Ombudsman may not consider a complaint about a bill, if you have applied to the court for assessment of that bill.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) can help you if you are concerned about a solicitor’s behaviour. This could be for things like dishonesty, taking or losing your money or treating you unfairly because of your age, a disability or other characteristic. You can find information about raising your concerns with the SRA at www.sra.org.uk/consumers/problems/report-solicitor/.