When you instruct a solicitor to act for you, you will be entering into a contract with the solicitor's firm. The firm will send you a letter (usually called a 'client care letter') in duplicate, setting out the terms of the contract (or 'Terms of Business', as they are usually known), or enclosing two copies of the Terms. You should read through this letter or Terms carefully.
If you are happy with the terms then you should sign one copy and return it to the solicitor. If there is anything in the terms that you are not happy about, or do not understand, then you should raise this with your solicitor before signing the letter/Terms. Depending upon the point that you have raised, the solicitor may be prepared to alter the terms, although this is unusual.
The Terms of Business will usually include the following:
1. The name of the person that will be dealing with your matter.
2. The name of the firm's complaints partner.
3. The basis upon which the firm will charge for their services. The most common basis is an hourly rate, with routine letters written and telephone calls charged at one tenth of that figure each and routine letters received charged at one twentieth. Note that VAT will be added to the charges.
4. An estimate of how much it will cost to complete the matter, or the amount of any costs limit you have set (see below). The estimate should include details of all expenses, such as court fees, and when they will fall due.
5. An explanation as to whether any costs may be recoverable from the other party.
6. If you are legally aided, the effect of the 'statutory charge', whereby you have to repay your legal aid charges out of any money or property that you recover or preserve.
7. Details of the firm's billing arrangements, including how often you will be sent a bill, and when bills are payable.
8. An explanation of what work the solicitor will do for you (i.e. your instructions to them), and what the next steps will be. Your solicitor will be able to charge you for anything they reasonably do to carry out your instructions.
9. An estimate of how long it will take to complete the matter.
10. The circumstances in which the firm will cease to act for you.
11. What arrangements the firm will make for the storage and recovery of your papers.