VIRGO SOLICITORS LIMITED

TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS

GENERAL

IF YOU WISH TO HAVE THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS IN LARGE PRINT OR BRAILLE OR YOU HAVE ANY QUERIES ON THEM, PLEASE TELEPHONE 0208 885 3999

The purpose of this document is to confirm the arrangements between us. Our Terms and Conditions represent a legally binding agreement between you and us.

Although your continuing instructions in this matter will amount to an acceptance of these Terms and Conditions, it may not be possible for us to start work on your behalf until you sign, date and return one copy of this document for our file.

Before you sign and return it to us, it is important to you that you read and indeed understand this document. This document is provided for you to keep and a copy will be retained on file.

 

BUSINESS HOURS 

  • The normal hours of opening our offices are between 09:30am and 05:30pm on weekdays. Messages can be left on the answer phone outside those hours and appointments can be arranged at other times when this is essential or necessary.

OUR AIM

  • We aim to offer our clients quality legal advice with a personal service at a fair cost. Our firm is also committed to the Practice Management Standards of the Law Society in providing a quality service. Our firm has been accredited with the Law Society’s Practice Management Standard, Lexcel. The scheme looks at all aspects of practice management and helps to ensure that practices deliver excellent client care and a consistently high quality service. It recognises a quality of service above and beyond the Solicitors Regulation Authority statutory conduct rules.

OUR COMMITMENT TO YOU

Our quality policy commits us to:

  • TREAT you fairly and with respect.
  • REPRESENT your interests and keep your business confidential.
  • EXPLAIN to you the legal work which may be required and the prospects of a successful outcome.
  • ADVISE you of any reasonably foreseeable circumstances and risks that could affect the outcome of your matter.
  • KEEP YOU regularly informed of progress or, if there is none, when you are next likely to hear from us.
  • TRY to avoid using technical language when writing to you and communicate with you in plain language – tell us when we fail in this aim!
  • ADVISE you of any reasonably foreseeable circumstances and risks that could affect the outcome of your matter.
  • DEAL with your queries promptly, for example, we will always try to return your telephone calls on the same day. We undertake to provide a helpful and courteous service at all times.

YOUR COMMITMENT TO US

(What we expect from our clients) to help the smooth progression of your matter and to avoid causing additional work for your solicitor (and hence additional time and cost) you agree:

  • To provide us with clear, timely and accurate instructions.
  • To pay our fees in strict accordance with what is agreed as per your instructions to us.
  • To keep us continually informed of any changes to your circumstances such as your address, status and telephone number and also any changes to the information you have provided us.
  • To respond promptly in writing/telephone to any request for instructions you may receive from your solicitor.
  • To attend all appointments as required, and as arranged or scheduled.
  • We have already undertaken to provide a courteous and professional service to you. We insist that we are treated with equal courtesy and respect. As such we WILL NOT tolerate any client swearing or shouting abusive language to any member of staff. Any incident where a member of our team of staff members is intimidated, or sworn at, or shouted at, will be thoroughly investigated. WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO TERMINATE YOUR INSTRUCTIONS WERE WE FEEL THAT WE ARE BEING INTIMIDATED OR THREATENED. If we did withdraw from a case in such circumstances, you would be provided a notice in writing explaining our reasons for doing so.
  • To provide proof of your identity and the source of your finance and any other proof required by the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 (“MLR”).
  • Not to contact your solicitor to request progress reports more frequently than is reasonable or necessary;
  • To notify us if you change your address or contact details; and
  • Generally, to co-operate with your solicitor and to recognise that failure to comply with these terms will cause additional cost;

COMMUNICATION BETWEEN US INCLUDING UPDATING YOU ON COSTS

  • We will update you regularly by telephone or in writing on the progress of your matter.
  • We will explain to you by telephone or in writing the legal work required as your matter progresses.
  • We will update you on the likely timescales for each stage of this matter and any important changes in those estimates. Whenever there is a material change in circumstances associated with your matter, we will update you on whether the likely outcomes still justify the likely costs and risks.
  • We will aim to communicate with you by such a method as you may request. We may need to virus check disks or e-mail. Unless you withdraw consent, we will communicate with you and others when appropriate by e-mail or fax but we cannot be responsible for the security of correspondence and documents sent by e-mail or fax.
  • We will update you on the cost of your matter at the intervals set out in our letter confirming your instructions. We will tell you, unless otherwise agreed, how much the costs are at regular intervals and in appropriate cases deliver interim bills at agreed intervals; We will explain to you (and confirm in writing) any changed circumstances which will, or which are likely to, affect the amount of costs, the degree of risk involved, or the cost – benefit to you of continuing with the matter. We will inform you in writing as soon as it appears that a costs estimate or agreed upper limit may/or will be exceeded.

 

DATA PROTECTION

The Data Protection Act 1998 requires us to advise you that your particulars are held on our database. We may, from time to time, use these details to send you information which we think might be of interest to you. If you do not wish to receive any such information please notify our office, preferably in writing.

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;

legal and regulatory compliance.

Our use of that information is subject to your instructions, the Data Protection Act 1998 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. Under data protection legislation you have a right of access to the personal data that we hold about you.

LIABILITY

Duty of Care

We will use reasonable skill and care in the provision of the Services. Where we make an assessment for you, either expressly or by implication, of the likely level of risk associated with different potential courses of action, you accept that such assessment is made relying only upon the information and documents then available to us and cannot, therefore, be definitive.

Accordingly, such an assessment should only be used as one element in the making of any practical or commercial decision. You accept that the magnitude or acceptability of a risk is a matter for you.

The aggregate liability of the Firm (or of any service company owned or controlled by or on behalf of any of the Partners) and of all Partners, consultants to and employees and agents of the Firm and any service company owned or controlled by or on behalf of any of the Firm or the Partners in any circumstances whatsoever, whether in contract, tort, under statute or otherwise, and howsoever caused (including but not limited to our negligence or non-performance), for loss or damage arising from or in connection with the services provided shall, in relation to each matter, be limited to the sum, unless otherwise agreed, of 2 million pounds (£2 000 000.00)

Third Parties

The services are provided to and for the benefit of you as our client and you alone. No other person may use or rely upon the Services nor derive any rights or benefits from them. The provisions of the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999 are to that extent excluded.

We alone will provide the services and you agree that you will nor bring any claim whether in contract, tort, under statute or otherwise against any Partner, or any consultant to, or employee or agent of the Firm or any service company owned or controlled by or on behalf of any of the Partners and those Partners, consultants, employees and agents shall be entitled to rely on the terms of this agreement insofar as they limit their liability.

Drafts

Where we provide draft or provisional advice or other materials, that advice or those materials are not to be relied upon as constituting our final view.

Current Law

The services are provided in accordance with professional practice requirements and the proper interpretation of the law, as each exists on the date on which the relevant Service is provided. If there is any change in such requirements or the law, or their interpretation, after the relevant matter has been concluded (or before that time but which could not reasonably be known by us at that time), we have no responsibility to notify you of, or of the consequences of, the change.

Communication

We shall communicate with you at the postal and email addresses and the telephone and fax numbers which you publish unless you ask us to use other addresses and numbers. You will notify us if you regard any communications from us as particularly confidential and the means by which you require us to make such communications and we shall have no liability to you arising out of your failure so to notify us.

Subject to any notification you may make to us under the previous paragraph, we shall not be required to encrypt, password-protect or digitally sign any email, or attachment, sent by us. We shall not be responsible for any loss or damage arising from the unauthorised interception, re-direction, copying or reading of e-mails, including any attachments. We shall not be responsible for the effect on any hardware or software (or any loss or damage arising from any such effect) of any e-mails or attachment which may be transmitted by us (save to the extent caused by our negligence or wilful default).

Deadlines

We will try to meet any deadline we agree with you for the performance of any Services but, unless we agree otherwise in writing in relation to any time, date or period for delivery or performance by us, time shall not be of the essence.

INSURANCE

In the interests of our clients, we maintain professional indemnity insurance which gives us cover for claims against our firm. Our insurers are Travelers Professional Risks Limited whose contact address is 61-63 London Road, Redhill RH1 1NA. Our policy number is UC SOL 3651797.

The insurance covers our practice carried on from our offices in England and Wales and will extend to acts or omissions wherever in the world they occur.

REGULATED SERVICES

This Firm is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which is the regulatory body of Solicitors. Our SRA Number is, SRA number 00403617.

This means that we are governed by a Code of Conduct and other professional rules, which you can access on the SRA’s website www.sra.org.uk or by calling 0870 606 2555. The SRA’s address for correspondence is The Cube, 199 Wharfside Street, Birmingham, B1 1RN

Nothing in these Terms and Conditions shall prevent you at any time from referring any matter to the body or bodies for the time being charged with the regulation of solicitors.

COMPLAINTS

We are committed to providing high quality legal advice and client care. If you are unhappy about any aspect of the service you receive or about the bill, please contact Mr. Abess Taqi on 0208 885 3999(or via email abess@virgosolicitors.co.uk) or by post to Virgo Solicitors, Suite 11, Imperial House, 64 Willoughby Lane, London, N17 0SP.

We have a written procedure that sets out how we handle complaints. It is available upon request.

We have eight weeks to consider your complaint. If we have not resolved it within this time you may complain to the Legal Ombudsman. If you are not satisfied with our handling of your complaint you can ask the Legal Ombudsman to consider the complaint. Normally, you will have to bring your compliant to the Legal Ombudsman within 6 months of receiving a final response from us about your compliant and 6 years from the date of the act or omission giving rise to the complaint or alternatively 3 years from the date you should reasonably have known there are grounds for a complaint (if the act/omission took place before 6th October 2010 or was more than 6 years ago)

The Legal Ombudsman’s contact details are:

PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ

Telephone: 0300 555 0333—from 8.30am to 5.30pm

Email: enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk

Website: www.legalombudsman.org.uk

The Legal Ombudsman deals with complaints by consumers and very small businesses. This means that some clients may not have the right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman, e.g. charities or clubs with an annual income of more than £1 million, trustees of trusts with asset value of more than £1 million and most businesses (unless they are defined as micro-enterprises).

Kindly note that you have the right to object to your bill by making a complaint to the appropriate body referred to above and/or by applying to the Court for an assessment of the bill under Part III of the Solicitors’ Act 1974 and, if all or part of our bill remains unpaid, we may be entitled to charge interest.

Exclusions

We shall not be obliged to comply with our section on Complaints above in relation to any dispute in which we seek:-

·       an order or award (whether interim or final) restraining you from doing any act or compelling you to do any act; or

·       a judgment or award for a liquidated sum to which here is no arguable defence (provided that the exception shall cease to apply and the Dispute may be referred to arbitration on the application of either party if the court decides that you should have permission to defend the claim); or

·       the enforcement of any agreement reached or any binding order, award, determination or decision made pursuant to our section on Complaints above,

nor shall anything in this paragraph inhibit us at any time from serving any form of demand or notice or from commencing or continuing with any bankruptcy, winding up or other insolvency proceedings.

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

Definition

“Conflict of Interest” means any situation where:-

§  we owe (or, if we accepted your instructions, would owe) separate duties to act in the best interests of two or more clients in relation to the same or a related matter and those duties conflict, or there is a significant risk that those duties may conflict; or

§  our duty to act in your best interests in relation to a matter conflicts, or there is a significant risk that it may conflict, with our own interests in relation to that or a related matter; or

§  we have confidential information in relation to a client or former client, and you wish to instruct us on a matter where:-

o   that information might reasonably be expected to be material; and

o   you have an interest adverse to our other client or former client, and for the purposes of this paragraph “you”  does not include any associated entities.

Similar Activities

We may act for parties engaged in activities similar to or competitive with yours.

Third Parties

Once we have agreed to act for you in relation to a matter, we will not act for a third party in relation to the same matter if there is a Conflict of Interest between that third party’s interests and your interests.

Instructions Creating a Conflict of Interest

We may decline to act for you where accepting your instructions would create a Conflict of Interest or cause us to break an existing agreement with a third party.

Consent

Where our professional rules allow, and subject to satisfying the requirements of those rules (for example by implementing an information barrier), we may act for you and another client where a Conflict of Interest would otherwise exist, provided that we have the consent of both parties. We do not require your consent to act against an Associated Entity.

Cessation of Services

If, whether through a change in circumstances or otherwise, we find that we have agreed to provide services to you in circumstances which give, or could give, rise to a conflict of interest we will discuss with you how to deal with the conflict and may, be obliged to stop providing services to you and/or to all other clients affected by the Conflict of Interest.

In concluding we advise that whilst taking your instructions no conflict of interest arose which would prevent us from acting for you.

INFORMATION & CONFIDENTIALITY

Information About You

We may use the information which you provide, or which we obtain through our dealings with you, for the provision of services and may give it on a confidential basis to our Partners, employees and agents. We may use it to administer your account with us, including tracing and collecting any debts.

We may also use it to ensure the safety and security of our premises (where we may also use CCTV); for fraud prevention purposes (including verification checks for our money laundering obligations); to assess client satisfaction (such as by asking you to participate in surveys); and to help improve our services generally.

We may also use it to contact you by letter, telephone, e-mail or otherwise about our services and about events such as seminars and conferences and to send you briefings and similar material. By signing and returning a copy of these Terms and Conditions you are agreeing that we may use your contact details and information in this way. If you do not wish to be contacted, confirm in writing to us when returning a signed copy of these Terms and Conditions.

Sometimes we ask other companies or people to do typing/photocopying/other administration duties on our files to ensure this is done promptly. We will always seek a confidentiality agreement with these outsourced providers. If you do not want your file to be outsourced, please tell us as soon as possible.

Our Duty of Confidentiality

We will treat any information which is confidential to you and which we obtain as a result of acting for you as strictly confidential, save:-

§  for the purpose of acting for you; or

§  for disclosures to our auditors or other advisers or for the purposes of our professional indemnity insurance; or

§  as otherwise required by law or other regulatory authority to which we are subject.

We may refer publicly to your name as a client of ours, provided we do not disclose any information which is confidential to you.

We shall be under no duty to disclose to you (or take into account in the course of providing the services) any information acquired by us in acting for any other client or any information in respect of which we owe a duty of confidentiality to a third party.

Your Duty of Confidentiality

§  Our advice and other communications with you are confidential and may not, without our consent, be disclosed by you to any third party (other than to your employees and agents who require access and who do not disclose it further) or otherwise made public except as required by law or other regulatory authority to which you are subject.

§  If, as a result of our acting for you, you acquire any information in respect of which we notify you that we owe a duty of confidentiality to a third party you will keep it confidential and not use it without our consent.

 

CRIMINAL FINANCES ACT 2017

  • The firm is committed to promoting compliance with the requirements of the Criminal Finances Act 2017 within its practices as well as in those areas in which it has influence.
  • The firm does not tolerate tax evasion, or the facilitation thereof in any circumstances, whether committed by or facilitated by a client, personnel or associated persons/companies.

CHECK BY CERTIFICATION BODY/QUALITY AUDITS

This firm is accredited with the Lexcel quality standard of the Law Society and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Furthermore, we operate a Legal Aid contract for Immigration work and as a consequence our legal aid services are regulated by the Legal Aid Agency. As a result of this we are or may become subject to periodic checks and routine file audits by outside assessors. This could mean that your file is selected for checking, in which case we would need your consent for inspection to occur. I advise that the regulatory bodies of Solicitors take the view that opening a client’s file to an assessor could be seen as a breach of client confidentiality, thus the need for consent. All inspections are, of course, conducted in confidence. If you prefer to withhold consent, work on your file will not be affected in any way save for legally aided files where consent can be overridden as it is necessary to satisfy the public interest that the tax payer’s money is being properly administered and justifiably utilised. For this reason, legal aid files must be made available for inspection if selected for a routine file audit by the Legal Aid Agency. Since very few of our clients do object to this I propose to assume that we do have your consent unless you notify us to the contrary. We will also assume that, unless you indicate otherwise, your consent on this occasion will extend to all future matters that we conduct on your behalf. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can explain this further or if you would like me to mark your file as not to be inspected. If you would prefer to withhold consent please feel free to tell me so and I can explain to you further about the circumstances wherein withholding consent can be overridden.

EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY

 

We are committed to promoting equality and diversity in all our dealings with clients, third parties and employees. Consistent with our internal policies and procedures, we will not discriminate in the way we provide our services on the grounds of race, colour, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender, age, disability or marital status.

Our firm is a signatory to the Law Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Charter. Please contact us if you would like a copy of our equality and diversity policy.

 

CUSTODY, RETENTION AND TRANSFER OF DOCUMENTS

 

We will, at your request, either during the provision or after completion of any services, release to you or to your order your documents and documents held for you, provided that we are not at the time exercising our right to retain documents pending payment of outstanding fees and expenses or are prevented by any court order, undertaking or other legal constraint from doing so. We may copy all of your documents and documents held for you before releasing them.

We may at any time scan, microfilm, or otherwise make electronic copies or images of any documents (other than documents held in safe custody), destroy the originals and thereafter hold the documents only in such copy or image form. Unless expressly agreed otherwise in writing we will keep all documents whether in original, copy or imaged form for a minimum of six (6) years, after which we may destroy them and any copies or images of them.

We may agree to store title deeds, wills and other especially valuable documents in safe custody for you if you require and, if we do, we will not, without your consent, destroy any such documents.

We do not accept responsibility for the loss or damage of any item which we hold on your behalf unless we expressly agree in writing to the contrary.

Following conclusion of a transaction or case on behalf of a client, we will retain the client’s file of papers and documents whilst there is still money owed to us for fees and expenses.

We will keep our file of your papers for up to six (6) years, except those that you ask to be returned to you or if you require us to keep your papers for a specific period. If you require us to keep you papers for a specified period you must give us notice in writing to that effect, and in the event of such notice being given we  reserve the right to require the client to take personal custody of the papers. We will provide a safe custody service to clients in respect of such requests and a single charge will be made to the client for such storage currently at the rate of £30.00 plus VAT unless agreed otherwise in writing.

We keep files on the understanding that we can destroy them six (6) years after the date of the final bill. We will not destroy documents you ask us to deposit in safe custody. If we take papers or documents out of storage in relation to continuing or new instructions to ask for you, we will not normally charge for such retrieval. However we may charge you both for time spent producing stored papers that are requested as well as reading correspondence or other work necessary to comply with your instructions in relation to the retrieved papers.

 

APPLICABLE LAW

Any dispute or legal issue arising from our Terms and Conditions will be determined by the law of England and Wales, and considered exclusively by the English and Welsh courts.

Each of these terms shall be severable and distinct from the others and if any term is held to be illegal, invalid or enforceable, in whole or in part, the remaining terms shall not be affected.

LEGAL AID

We currently undertake legal aid work for asylum and detained matters. We hold an Immigration Legal Aid contract. We do not undertake any other Legal Aid work.

FUTURE INSTRUCTIONS

Unless otherwise agreed, these Terms and Conditions will apply to all future instructions you give us on this or any other matter.