1.1 Client care is central to the regulatory regime under which we operate. Lamb Brooks is committed to providing a good standard of service to all clients and all staff share the responsibility of ensuring we achieve this.
2 Client Service Charter (the firm’s Quality Objectives)
2.1 The firm has adopted LawNet’s Client Service Charter (‘the Charter’) which should be referred to in each department’s initial documentation to clients. A copy can be viewed on our website, under the ‘About us’ heading (in the LawNet section), and upon request, a hard copy must be made available to clients.
3 Treating our clients fairly
3.1 We must treat our clients fairly and with respect.
3.2 In all cases, we will:
3.2.1 explain to the client, record on the file, and confirm in writing any limitations or conditions on what we can do for them, eg because of the way their matter is funded;
3.2.2 have proper regard to their mental capacity or other vulnerability (eg incapacity, duress or disability—see further section 5 below) when taking instructions and during the course of the matter; and
3.2.3 consider whether a conflict of interest is present or has arisen (see our Conflicts of Interest Policy).
4 Client needs
4.1 We tailor our client care arrangements according to the needs of each client to ensure that the information we provide is appropriate.
4.2 For every client you should consider:
4.2.1 whether they are used to dealing with law firms;
4.2.2 to what extent our standard client care letter is appropriate or whether further steps need to be taken to make sure they understand it;
4.2.3 whether they are in a position to make informed decisions; and
4.2.4 whether they are vulnerable.
5 Vulnerable clients
5.1 You should have proper regard to your client’s mental capacity or other vulnerability, such as disability, incapacity or duress:
5.1.1 when taking instructions, and
5.1.2 during the course of the matter
5.2 Further guidance and procedures in respect of dealing with vulnerable (or potentially vulnerable) clients are set out in our Vulnerable Clients Policy.
6 Conducting the matter
6.1 Enquiries from potential clients
6.1.1 Enquiries from potential clients will be dealt with as follows:
6.1.2 We will exercise the same level of care in relation to potential clients as we do for actual clients.
6.2 Protecting clients’ interests
6.2.1 We must provide our services to clients in a manner that protects their interests. This includes ensuring clients are in a position to make informed decisions about:
(a) the services they need;
(b) how their matter will be handled; and
(c) the options available to them.
6.3 Adequate resources and skills
6.3.1 Heads of Department will ensure that we have the resources, skills and procedures to carry out client’s instructions in a competent and timely manner that takes account of their best interests.
6.4 Fee-earner and supervisor information
6.4.1 Fee earners must give their name and status (ie solicitor, legal executive, etc) to clients and tell them the name and status of the person with overall supervision of their matter. The fee earner must also confirm whether they and the person with overall supervision of their matter have a title such as Consultant, Associate or Partner. For example, John Smith is a Consultant Solicitor dealing with your matter, under the supervision of Alan Smith, Partner and Solicitor.
6.4.2 Clients must be informed, in writing, if the person with conduct of their matter changes and/or their supervisor changes, or there is a change of person to whom any problem with service may be addressed. Each time a client is notified of a change in fee earner, they should be advised of that fee earner’s supervisor in any event, even if the supervisor was also the supervisor of the previous fee earner dealing with the matter.
6.5 Level of service
6.5.1 Fee earners should agree an appropriate level of service with clients, eg agreeing how you will update the client on progress (ie by letter, email or telephone) and
how often. You should explain your responsibilities and those of the client – this is confirmed in our Terms of Business.
6.5.2 Fee earners must ensure that a timely response is made to telephone calls and correspondence from the client and others.
6.6 Case strategy
6.6.1 Fee earners must ensure that the strategy for a matter is always apparent on the matter file (by, for example, keeping file checklists on the file up to date, tabbing any outstanding issues on the file or any key letters updating the position). In complex matters, a project plan should also be developed and a copy of this placed in a plastic wallet on the file.
6.6.2 The strategy for the matter must be regularly reviewed and any changes agreed with the client and recorded on the file.
6.7 File maintenance
6.7.1 Fee earners must ensure that the status of the matter and the action taken can be easily checked by other members of staff. This should be done by key information being recorded somewhere that is easily accessible on the file, by taking full attendance notes and keeping the file up to date.
6.7.2 Fee earners must maintain all key information on the file, including:
(a) letters, emails and other communications to and from the client;
(b) attendance notes or other records of information;
(c) a record of all explanations given to the client;
(d) a record of any steps taken to protect the client’s interests;
(e) all costs and funding information and updates; and
(f) all other documents relevant to the matter.
6.7.3 The matter file should be maintained in an orderly fashion and filing kept up to date.
7.1 The importance of costs information
7.1.1 Failure to provide adequate costs information is one of the most common causes of client complaints.
7.1.2 You should discuss costs and funding during your initial conversation / client meeting and then confirm your discussion in writing. Our client care letter and terms of business documents cover the key costs and funding information that we are required to give to clients. These are summarised below.
7.2 General costs information
7.2.1 You must provide the best information about the likely overall cost of the client’s matter at the outset and, where appropriate, as the matter progresses. This should include:
(a) our projected fees (including the basis and terms of your charges and whether VAT is included or to be added);
(b) expected disbursements (including whether disbursements attract VAT);
(c) whether rates might increase during the period we are to be instructed;
(d) whether we will charge if the matter does not proceed, eg where the sale of a property falls through;
(e) the circumstances where we may be entitled to exercise a lien for unpaid costs;
(f) whether the client has a potential liability for another party’s costs (and whether this may be covered by an existing policy or whether a specially purchased insurance may be obtained to cover any such liability);
(g) how often you will provide costs updates; and
(h) whether the client has set an upper limit on costs.
7.3 Payment terms
7.3.1 You should agree and record payment terms with your client, especially how and when costs are to be paid.
7.4 Cost-benefit risk analysis
7.4.1 Clients must be in a position to make informed decisions about:
7.4.2 To make such decisions, the client will need to know how much our services are likely to cost. You should discuss whether the potential outcomes of the client’s matter are likely to justify the expense or risk involved.
7.5 Limitations or conditions
7.5.1 You should explain whether any costs or funding issues give rise to any limitations or conditions on what you can do for the client, eg where the client has legal expenses insurance there may be a condition requiring you to report to the insurer before rejecting a settlement offer.
7.6 Methods of funding
7.6.1 You should discuss alternative methods of funding costs. This may include:
(a) private client funding;
(b) legal expenses insurance;
(c) conditional fee agreement;
(d) damages based agreement;
(e) legal aid;
(f) trade union or other membership organisation; or
(g) litigation funding agreement.
7.6.2 Where a matter is being funded by way of a Conditional Fee Agreement, the procedure contained in the Office Manual should be followed in terms of the information to be provided to the client.
7.7 Complaints about bills
7.7.1 You must inform clients about:
(a) their right to challenge or complain about your bill (this information is confirmed on the reverse of bills); and
(b) the circumstances in which they may be liable to pay interest on an unpaid bill (this information is confirmed in our terms of business and on the reverse of bills themselves).
8 Instructing and introducing clients to third parties
8.1 Instructing a third party (eg a barrister) is not the same as introducing your client to a third party, such as a financial adviser or other lawyer. The difference, in practical terms, is set out in the table below:
8.2 Where you instruct a third party, you should follow our Relations with Third Parties Policy.
8.3 Where you introduce a client to a third party, you should follow our Introductions to Third Parties Policy.
8.4 In both cases, you should consider the section Commissions and financial benefits below.
9 Commissions and financial benefits
9.1 We must properly account to clients for any commissions or other financial benefit we receive as a result of their instructions. Where we receive a financial benefit as a result of acting for a client, we will either pay it to the client or offset it against their fees.
9.2 The client care letter and terms of business should, together, generally contain the information that we are required to provide clients in this regard.
10 Referral arrangements and fee sharing
10.1 You should explain any fee sharing or referral arrangements that are relevant to the client’s instructions.
10.2 Our client care letter and terms of business should, together, contain the information that we are required to give to clients in this regard. For further information, see our Fee Sharing and Referrals Policy.
11 General retainers
11.1 Where you act for commercial clients on many matters under a general retainer you will need to be clear about agreeing terms and confirming on each matter that the matter is to be dealt with under the terms of the general retainer.
12 Client Satisfaction
12.1 The firm carries out research on a continuous basis with a view to establishing how clients and others see the services we provide. This is either by way of Client Satisfaction Questionnaires or via Google reviews being requested. When a file is closed, or a matter is predominately concluded, a request can be sent via email for feedback or a Google review.
Hard copy Client Satisfaction Questionnaires may also be sent by post, together with a stamped addressed envelope for their return.
12.2 Where clients are happy to leave a review for publication in the relevant section of the Client Satisfaction Questionnaire, as confirmed on the questionnaire itself, that review is automatically uploaded onto Review Solicitors’ website.
12.3 In addition, we engage in a Mystery Shopping programme whereby telephone calls, visits and website enquiries are made to the firm throughout the year.
12.4 The results of the client satisfaction feedback and reviews and mystery shopper reports are analysed from time to time. Changes to address any requirements that are felt to be necessary will then be made, such as training provided or policies and/or procedures amended.
13.1 Complaints, including complaints about bills and those relating to equality and diversity, are handled in accordance with our Complaints Handling Policy. All staff have obligations in ensuring complaints are handled properly. The Complaints Partner is Nigel Bourne.
13.2 Fee earners must:
13.2.1 tell clients in writing at the outset of their right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) and how to do so—our Terms of Business contain this information so you must ensure that all clients receive this before you begin work on their matter;
13.2.2 refer any complaints to their Head of Department (or the Complaints Partner, as applicable) promptly in accordance with our Complaints Handling Policy;
13.2.3 respond to any enquiries by the Head of Department (or Complaints Partner) in relation to a complaint fairly, openly and effectively; and
13.2.4 otherwise comply with our Complaints Handling Policy.
13.3 Full details of our complaints process are contained in our Complaints Handling policy.
14 Claims against the firm
14.1 We aim to offer an excellent service to our clients. Mistakes can occasionally happen despite our best efforts.
14.2 We maintain professional indemnity insurance (PII) to protect our clients if we make a mistake.
14.3 You must inform the Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP) and Compliance Office for Finance and Administration (COFA) if you discover any act or omission that could give rise to a negligence (or any other) claim against us. They will inform the insurer and consider whether it is necessary to advise the client to obtain independent legal advice.
14.4 You must also inform the COLP and COFA if a client indicates to you an intention of bringing a negligence (or any other) claim against us.
15 Limiting liability
15.1 You must not seek to limit liability to a level below £3 million per matter.
15.2 The limitation is contained in our Terms of Business.
16.1 We conduct work that is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and our Terms of Business contain information on regulation.
16.2 Our website includes/will include SRA digital badge. If clients click on this it provides them with confirmation that we are regulated by the SRA and confirms the protections that our regulation provides eg. we must have high standards, insurance at the right level, clients may be able to claim through the SRA’s compensation fund etc.
17 Accepting or refusing instructions and ceasing to act
17.1 We must comply with the law and with the SRA Code of Conduct when deciding whether to act or to terminate instructions. This means you:
18.1 We have a legal and regulatory duty to protect clients’ confidential information. The protection of confidential information is a fundamental feature of our relationship with clients. This duty continues after the end of the retainer and even after the death of the client.
18.2 All members of staff, including support staff, consultants and locums, owe a duty of confidentiality to clients. Everyone must keep the affairs of clients confidential (including bills) unless:
18.2.1 disclosure is required or permitted by law (eg under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002—see our Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing Policy), or
18.2.2 the client consents
18.3 If you are uncertain whether particular information is confidential you should speak to your Head of Department.
18.4 Further guidance and procedures in respect of Confidentiality are set out in our Confidentiality and Disclosure Policy. New starters are required to read our Confidentiality and Disclosure Policy on their first day as part of their induction, and training is provided to all staff at least every two years (in addition to data protection, information security and cybersecurity training which all also encompass aspects of confidentiality).
18.5 We will ensure we are satisfied that any external provider has taken all appropriate steps to protect clients’ confidential information.
19 Equality and diversity
19.1 The firm encourages equality of opportunity and respect for diversity in our relationships with clients and others.
19.2 You must not discriminate unlawfully or victimise or harass anyone, including clients, and you must provide services to clients in a way that respects diversity. You must also not discriminate unlawfully when accepting or refusing instructions (see Accepting or refusing instructions and ceasing to act above).
19.3 This means that you must not discriminate on the grounds of:
19.3.4 gender reassignment;
19.3.5 marriage and civil partnership;
19.3.6 pregnancy and maternity;
19.3.8 religion or belief; or
19.3.9 sexual orientation.
19.4 We will make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled clients are not placed at a substantial disadvantage and will not pass on the costs of adjustments to these clients (see our Vulnerable Clients Policy).
19.5 Please also refer to our Equality and Diversity Policy for further information. New starters are required to complete equality and diversity training within their first two months of employment, and existing staff members receive equality and diversity training at least every two years.
20 Compliance with this policy
20.1 The Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP) is responsible for this policy.
20.2 All staff must be aware of and adhere to it. All staff will receive training on the requirements of the policy and will be made aware of any amendments to this Policy.
20.3 You may be liable to disciplinary action if you fail to comply with the provisions of this policy.
21 Review of our client care arrangements
21.1 We will review our client care policy regularly—at least annually.
21.2 We will provide information and/or training on any changes we make.
22 Reporting breaches
22.1 If you notice a breach of this policy, you must inform the COLP. See our separate Compliance Failure (Breaches) Policy.
Lamb Brooks LLP
39 Winchester Street
f: 01256 330 933
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© Lamb Brooks is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority - SRA No 559661.
Lamb Brooks LLP (registered at Companies House OC363909) whose registered office address is: Victoria House, 39 Winchester Street, Basingstoke, Hampshire, RG21 7EQ
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