Client Care Letter
Relevant across multiple law types
The Client care letter
When you instruct a solicitor, it is likely at the outset that they will send you a large document called a client care letter. It will contain lots of information that the solicitor has to supply by law, some of which will be more immediately important than the rest
What do I need to look out for in the client care letter?
Who is dealing with your case?
It should tell you who is dealing with your case and their status – so Solicitor, legal executive or some other level.
It should tell you how to contact them.
This is an important thing to check. The client care letter usually forms the contract between you and the solicitor and determines what you will pay.
- Look for how the charges are calculated. Is it by reference to time and an hourly rate? Can you agree to put a limit on how much costs are incurred without further authority from you?
- Is it a fixed fee? Beware the difference between fixed fees and estimates. A fixed fee is an agreement to do a set amount of work for a specific fee and the solicitor is agreeing not to charge any more or less. An estimate is just the solicitor’s best guess and the final fee may be more (or less)
- Do the fees include disbursements? This is money the solicitor pays out on your behalf, so things like court fees or report fees. They can be quite substantial and you need to check how they are dealt with.
- Will the solicitor want money on account before they start work and as the matter goes on or will they just bill you at the end?
There will probably be something in the letter about how to complain as solicitors are obligated to tell you. Hopefully it will not be necessary but check what you need to do, particularly if you are unhappy about fees or service because those can sometimes be causes of disagreement.
Limit of indemnity
Solicitors are required to be insured so that if you sued them for getting something wrong their insurers would deal with it. Most solicitors have insurance for claims running into the millions but check if you have a particularly high value matter whether the solicitor is limiting their liability or has insurance limited to a particular sum, because that should be in the letter.
Interest on money
Sometimes solicitors need to keep substantial sums of clients’ money, in conveyancing transactions for example. The client care letter should tell you what the interest policy is and whether you will be paid any.
The rules relating to money laundering require solicitors to check their client’s identity and report any suspicious activities to the authorities. You may be asked for identity documents or what might sound like intrusive questions about where you have got your money from, because of this. The client care letter should tell you more about the solicitor’s money laundering policies.
In some legal transactions, you may be giving quite a lot of sensitive information to the solicitor. The client care letter should set out, or refer, to their data protection and privacy policies, so that you can see how you data will be used. Will it be used for future marketing for example?
The letter should tell you what will happen with documents at the end of the matter. Personal ones may be returned to you, for example, and the rest put in storage. It should tell you how long they are stored for and how to retrieve them.
The letter may contain lots about Insurance distribution, investment business or financial compensation scheme because solicitors are obliged to give you information about this. In the main you are unlikely to need to worry about it at the outset but you should keep the letter safety in case any of these matters becomes an issue and you need to refer back to it.
The letter should tell you what the solicitor is going to do and what service standards they are going to adhere to. For example, some solicitors say they will respond to correspondence in so many days etc. The letter may also specify what is required from you in terms of information or certain actions. The letter is often the basis of the contract between you and the solicitor so it is worth reading to check what each of you is agreeing to do.