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Term of Business

The aim of this leaflet is to set out some important details about the basis on which we propose to provide the services of this practice to you and how you can help us to do the best job possible for you. This is an important document - especially if you might become unhappy with our services in any way - and we recommend that you keep it for future reference. Unless we agree otherwise, the terms that are set out in this leaflet form the basis of the contract between you and this practice under which we will be acting for you on this and any future work that we do for you.

In relation to our privately paying clients government and professional regulation requires us to ask you to provide us with original identification documents and your National Insurance Number. Most clients bring in their passports or photograph driving licence and 2 formal letters, which could for example be utility bills, a bank statement or a letter from the DWP (three months old maximum). We certify copies to retain on your file and return the originals to you.

Service Standards

We will:

  • communicate with you in plain English;
  • update you regularly by post, email* or telephone on the progress of your matter;
  • review your file regularly;
  • unless a fixed fee is agreed we will keep you informed of costs issues arising.

To progress your matter efficiently we will need you to provide us with timely, adequate and accurate instructions. It is important for clients to retain documents that might be relevant to the case, even if incriminating.

* If you give us your email address, we will assume we can use it to send email and other documents unless you ask us not to. Please remember that the internet is not completely secure and that some confidential and sensitive material is best sent by other means.

Responsibility for the Conduct of your Work

We operate as a specialist Crime/General Civil Litigation Practice and you will be provided with details of the person or people in the Team conducting your work. In particular the fee earner responsible for day to day conduct of your file will be identified to you. Team members help each other and cover for holiday and sickness absences. The Manager, Exdol A Mitchell, has overall responsibility for supervision of the Team's Criminal Litigation and Prison Law work. He also has general responsibility for the quality of the Firm's General Civil Litigation services.

The Firm's Criminal Litigation specialist services covers advice prior to charge or summons through to attendance at the Police Station to assist and advise during interview, onto representation by a Solicitor Advocate or Barrister at Magistrates or Crown Court. Advice in relation to Proceeds of Crime Act Proceedings, Prison Law issues such as External Adjudication Hearings, Sentencing Calculation, Appeals against Sentence and Conviction, Attendance during Interviews in relation to Department of Work and Pension Issues, Public Health Issues, Motoring Issues, Business Crime, Serious Fraud, Terrorism and more.

About Alpha Solicitors & Advocates

Alpha Solicitors & Advocates is based at the Second Floor, Branston Court, Branston Street, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, B18 6BA. Exdol A Mitchell is the Principal Solicitor and Manager.

Our email address is: admin@alphasols.co.uk.

Normal hours of business are 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Monday to Friday. The telephone number for urgent matters arising during office hours is 0121 551 9736 and outside normal business hours the emergency number is 0121 551 9736 (a 24 hours service) or 07767 888855.

Our VAT number is 142 279810.

Alpha Solicitors & Advocates is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (under reference number 590559) and is subject to the Solicitors Regulation Authority Code of Conduct, which can be found at www.rules.sra.org.uk/handbook.

Alpha Solicitors & Advocates has professional indemnity insurance provided by Endurance World Wide Insurance Ltd. Contact details will be provided to clients on request. The certificate is available for inspection at Branston Court.

We deal with both privately paid work and work funded by the Legal Aid Agency.

Methods of Payment

We will consider your options for payment of our fees and expenses including whether you have the benefit of prepaid insurance, trade union funding or other such benefits.

Our Fees and Expenses

We will do our best to give you an estimate (based on the information available to us at the time) of what charges for the work are likely to amount to including fees, VAT 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 is not the same thing as a fixed fee and is liable to change. In other cases we might be able to agree a fixed fee in which case you will be charged that amount for the Fixed Fee Work as defined in your retainer/engagement letter. Any work which is different from or supplemental to the Fixed Fee Work will be charged separately and, where possible, we will notify you in advance of what will be involved in this and any different terms that might apply to such work and the fees we would intend to charge. We will consider the cost-effectiveness of any action to be taken on your behalf and advise you about alternatives to litigation such as ADR and mediation, where relevant.

How we calculate our fees

Our fees (including fixed pricing) are calculated mainly by reference to the time that is spent in dealing with your instructions. As fixed prices are set at the outset then they are based on our experience of similar types of work. Fixed pricing gives you certainty as to the amount that you will pay for the work that you instruct us to do at the outset. Where we are charging on an hourly rate, different hourly rates may be charged for different types of work, and according to the seniority of the person who handles it for you. Time spent on dealing with your instructions will include:

  • Meetings with you and perhaps others;
  • Negotiating with others on your behalf in meetings, by letter, email, fax or by telephone;
  • Considering, preparing and working on papers, deeds, etc;
  • Reporting back to you as necessary or required;
  • Preparing for Court or Tribunal hearings, including travelling and waiting time;
  • Instructing third parties on your behalf;
  • Legal and factual research;
  • Correspondence and communications (sent and received including by letter, email, fax and text);
  • Preparing detailed costs calculations.

Where we are acting for you on an hourly rate charge basis any lawyer who spends time working on your matter will record their time. Time is recorded 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.

Sometimes, where the nature of the work warrants a different basis for charging, we may calculate our fixed price or estimate and subsequent fees taking into account additional factors other than time spent. Such factors may include the complexity of the issues, the speed at which action must be taken, the expertise or specialist knowledge which the case requires or, if appropriate, the value of the property or subject matter involved. In such cases, the basis of our charges will be made clear to you at the outset, or when it becomes apparent that such factors will influence the estimate or basis of the charge. Minor expenses, e.g. postage, telephone calls and reasonable photocopying done internally, are included in our fees.

Changes to our rates

Our hourly rates are reviewed annually in April and you will be informed, in advance, if any increased rates will be applied to your work. Otherwise, our hourly rates are fixed at the outset of a matter.

Payments to third parties (Disbursements)

Some types of work (e.g. settlement of claims) may require you to make payments to third parties, in addition to legal fees and VAT. Such payments to third parties will be made on your behalf as work progresses, and might include court fees, barristers' fees, etc. Payments will be made from your money held by us in the firm's client bank account. Please respond quickly to any request for payment in advance of expected disbursements, as any delay in providing cleared funds may delay your matter. We may not be able to take the next step if the money is not available to use as cleared funds.

Where disbursements are relatively small, we may exercise discretion and make payments without your specific instructions. If you prefer, however, we are willing to undertake not to make such payments without reference to you, although this may cause delay.

Your liability for the legal costs of others

It is important to be aware that this firm is employed by you and that you are personally responsible for the payment of our fees regardless of any order for costs made against opponents. In addition, if your case is unsuccessful, you will probably have to make a contribution to your opponent's costs as well as being required to pay all of your own. Please ask us if you would like further advice on your potential liability for your opponent's costs. If you are successful in your case it is important to note that the most that you can usually hope for is that the other party will be ordered to pay part of your costs and you will therefore have to pay the remainder. There are also circumstances in which you will still have to pay all of our fees even though you have been successful, such as where you opponent is in receipt of legal aid ('public funding') or your opponent is bankrupt.

Interim Invoices

To enable you to budget we will normally send out interim invoices from time to time before conclusion of your matter. We will then send out a final bill on the completion of the work. In the normal course of events any interim bill will be on account of the final costs in that matter and we will not therefore be limited as to the eventual amount of costs charged for the period stated on any such interim invoice. From time to time, however, we will also be entitled to raise what will be headed an "interim statute bill". This will be different to the interim invoices described above in that the charges stated will be final for the period in question and will not be capable of being subject to any addition or amendment on our part at any later stage. We will also therefore be entitled to commence recovery procedures in the event that any such bills remains unpaid. If you are unhappy with any interim statute bill you are entitled to request an assessment from the courts under part III of the Solicitors Act 1974. In these circumstances we are entitled to charge interest for any sums that are or remain unpaid. There are strict time limits for this process and you may wish to seek independent legal advice. We may also render additional bills to cover disbursements which we have incurred in dealing with your instructions.

Final invoices

Once the matter is concluded we render a final invoice for all outstanding fees, disbursements and VAT, excluding any charges already included in interim invoices. Sometimes, the final invoice will include an allowance for concluding work that will be necessary to close your file after the legal transaction is completed, but this will be explained to you. Any money due to you will be paid by cheque or bank transfer; it will not be paid in cash or to a third party.

Value Added Tax

This firm is registered for VAT under registration number 142 279810. We are therefore required to add VAT to our charges at the rate in force at the time (currently 20 per cent) to fixed prices, estimates and invoices. VAT may also be added to some disbursements.

Consumer Contracts

If you are a client instructing us other than in the course of business the provisions of the Consumer Contracts Regulations may apply to the work we undertake for you and you may be entitled to cancellation or 'cooling-off' rights in certain circumstances. You will be advised where this is the case.

Problems and Complaints

We are committed to delivering high quality legal advice and client care. If you are unhappy about any aspect of the service you have received or about the bill, we encourage clients to raise problems at an early stage with the person responsible for day to day conduct of their case, or their supervisor. If difficulties persist, please request details of our complaints procedure. Letters of complaint can be sent to Exdol A. Mitchell or to Janet Ebanks, Compliance and Business Development Support Solicitor at Branston Court. If you are not satisfied with our handling of your complaint you can ask the Legal Ombudsman to consider the complaint. (Please note that the services of the Legal Ombudsman will not be available for larger commercial or organisational clients). The Legal Ombudsman can be contacted at PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ, email enquiries to enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk. tel: 0300 555 0333 or view their website at www.legalombudsman.org.uk. Normally you will need to bring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within twelve months of receiving a final written response from us about your complaint and six years from the date of the act or omission giving rise to the complaint or three years from the date you should reasonably have known there are grounds for the complaint if the act/omission took place before 6th October 2010 or was more than 6 years ago.

In relation to complaints about our bill you may also apply to the Court for an assessment of the invoice under sections 70, 71 and 72 of the Solicitors Act 1974 etc. The Legal Ombudsman may not consider a complaint about the invoice if you have applied to the court for an assessment of it.

Alternative complaints bodies (such as Pro Mediate) exist which are competent to deal with complaints about legal services should both you and our Firm wish to use such a scheme. We do not agree to use Pro Mediate.

Equality and Diversity

Alpha Solicitors & Advocates is committed to meeting the needs of all its clients and promoting and maintaining equality and diversity in all aspects of its business.

Privacy

Your privacy and maintaining your confidentiality is important to you and to us. Primarily the information you provide is used for providing you with the quality legal service you require. Our full policy sets out more information, details of safeguards and the statutory framework within which we operate. Under the Data Protection Act you may request details of the personal information Alpha Solicitors & Advocates holds about you. Copies of these policies can be obtained by you on request.

Outsourcing

In some instances it may be necessary to outsource certain activities to external providers. We will obtain confidentiality agreements with those providers.

Identity Checks and Money Laundering

Our primary duty as your solicitors is to act in your best interests and to keep your instructions confidential. There are now however limited circumstances in which this duty is superseded by our Anti-money Laundering/Counter Terrorist Financing obligations. By signing your instructions/engagement letter or by virtue of deemed acceptance of the terms in it you agree that we may use personal information provided by you in order to conduct appropriate anti fraud checks. Personal information that you provide may be disclosed to a credit reference or fraud protection agency, which may keep a record of that information. In particular circumstances, we may be obliged to serve notice of suspicions on the Serious Organised Crime Agency. In such circumstances, we may not be permitted to give you specific warning.

In order to limit exposure to money laundering we will accept a cash limit of £1000.

Inspection of Your File by Auditors and Your Authority to Disclose otherwise Privileged and/or Confidential Information to the Firm's Professional Advisors or Auditors

  1. As part of our quality systems, auditors will need to occasionally inspect sample files to check quality procedures are being followed. Total confidentiality is assured. We ask clients to specifically notify us if they wish their work to be excluded from this procedure.
  2. By signing your Engagement or letter or continuing to instruct us on the strength of it you consent to disclosure of privileged and/or confidential information to the Firm's legal advisors, insurers, accountants and auditors to enable full notification of any professional indemnity circumstances.

Conflicts

An actual or potential conflict between your interests and the interests of another client of Alpha Solicitors & Advocates or your interests and the interests of the firm may arise during the course of us acting for you. If so, we will discuss the position with you and determine the appropriate course of action. Rules of professional conduct may require us to stop acting for you in relation to the matter in which the conflict has arisen.

Copyright

Materials that we generate for you are protected by copyright that belongs to Alpha Solicitors & Advocates. The fee you pay us entitles you to make use of those materials only for the purposes for which they were obtained.

Commission

Any commission from a third party will be held to your order or offset against bills and not kept by the Firm without your express consent.

Financial Services Compensation Scheme

Your funds are held in a Lloyds Bank account. The firm will not be liable for banking failure. The FSCS compensation fund limit of £s;75,000.00 includes your personal funds. So, for instance, if the Firm holds £50,000 of your money in its Lloyds Bank client account you have £50,000 of money in a personal Lloyds Bank account (or an account within the Lloyds Bank group) and the bank subsequently goes into receivership then £25,000 will not be covered under the FSCS.

Termination or Cancellation of Instructions

You may end your instructions to us in writing at any time but we can keep all your papers, documents and property while you still owe us money.

We may decide to stop acting for you only with good reason (eg if you do not pay an invoice, if there is conflict of interest, if there is a loss of mutual trust and confidence, or for legal aid clients if legal aid cover is withdrawn). We must give you reasonable notice that we will stop acting for you. We can keep all your papers, and documents and property while you still owe us money.

In the event that either you or we decide to end our involvement on your case you will be liable to pay any charges and expenses that are already outstanding, and for the work done up to that point which has not been billed. Our fees will be calculated on an hourly rate basis plus expenses, or by proportion of an agreed fixed fee if that is the basis on which we are acting for you.

If work which we have undertaken for you does not proceed to a conclusion, we will charge only for work done up to the point where the matter proves abortive and for any disbursements paid on your behalf. In the case of fixed fee work charges will not exceed the fixed fee or, if we have agreed fixed fees in relation to stages of work, the charges will not exceed the fixed fees up to the end of the stage that we are involved in at that time.

If we are acting for you on a Conditional Fee Agreement basis, the Agreement will set out in detail the basis upon which you or we may decide that we will no longer act for you and how that affects your liability to pay this firm's outstanding charges and expenses.

Payment of Invoices

All invoices must be settled within 14 days of the date of invoice. We reserve the right to charge interest on outstanding accounts (calculated daily from 14 days after the invoice date to the date of payment) at the rate payable on judgement debt (currently eight per cent) or contractual interest if different, or where a client is a business, the rate allowed under the Late Payment Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 and Late Payment of Commercial Debts Regulations 2002 and 2013. Where we are holding money due to you, e.g. where we have recovered monies from a third party on your behalf, fees and disbursements due to us and VAT (where applicable) will be deducted and the balance paid to you. In the event of payment not being made within these terms, we reserve the right to suspend work on your file where the account is unpaid and on any other matters being dealt with for you and, ultimately, to decline to represent you further. In those circumstances, final invoices will be rendered for work on all matters calculated to that date. In all cases, while there is money owing to us for payment of our charges or expenses we will be entitled to keep all papers and documents until all invoices are paid. If proceedings have been issued, we reserve the right to remove our name from the court record.

Cleared Funds

Where money is to be paid to a third party you should allow seven working days for any cheques deposited with us by you (or anyone on your behalf) to clear to enable us to make such payments.

Transmission of funds

In many cases it will be quicker and more convenient to transmit and receive funds electronically by telegraphic transfer and we will advise you when this is appropriate. When we transmit funds by telegraphic transfer on your behalf we make a charge for this service which will include the actual bank charge to us for the transfer.

Bank Interest

Our policy on the payment of interest in relation to money that we hold on your behalf is to account to you for all sums earned if the total exceeds £20. Below this sum we will retain any such sums earned without accounting to you for them. We believe that this policy is fair and reasonable, and we keep it under continual review in the light of changing interest rates in particular. When we are in receipt of large amounts of money we usually place such funds on specific deposit, in which case you will receive all the interest received. General payments of interest are made without deduction of tax but tax is deducted at source on specific deposits. Please note that the rates of interest that we might earn on your behalf are likely to be lower than you might otherwise obtain since we need to have instant access to all such funds.

Storage of Papers and Deeds

We will store valuable documents at your request. In normal circumstances no charge is made. For ordinary documents, after completion of your matter, we advise you about 3 possible storage solutions:

  1. we IT scan or store our relevant records in hard copy in case we need to refer back;
  2. we return the papers to you and keep nothing ourselves;
  3. if they are unlikely to be of any further use we shred the documents for your privacy.

Our scanned or stored records are retained for a minimum of 6 years. After this time we reserve the right to destroy all records (other than valuable documents) at our sole discretion. We reserve the right to charge an administration fee if you require us to retrieve documents from storage or to reconstitute documents which have been scanned.

Deletion of any Terms found to be illegal or unenforceable

If a court or authority of competent jurisdiction finds any part of these terms to be illegal or unenforceable then that part shall be deleted from these terms but without affecting any other provisions of these terms which shall continue to apply.

Third Party Exclusion

Nothing in these terms is intended to confer on any person any right to enforce any of the terms which that person would not have had but for the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999.

Governing Law & Jurisdiction

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

Contact Us

2nd Floor Branston Court
Branston Street
Jewellery Quarter
Birmingham
B18 6BA

Telephone: 0121 551 9736 (24 hours) or 07767 888855  
Fax: 0121 523 2391
Email: admin@
alphasols.co.uk