Kidwells is committed to providing a quality service to all clients. The Practice’s services should be recognised as being expert, accurate and appropriate. The Practice strives to ensure that its advice is cost effective and communicated in a manner that is appropriate for each client. The Practice is also committed to providing a truly professional service: it seeks to act with integrity and strict confidentiality in all its dealings with clients. The Managing Director is responsible for monitoring client care, this includes client satisfaction forms and any complaints received. This is reviewed annually and is recorded in the Compliance Report which is kept in the Strategy Plans and Reports file.
All personnel should at all times consider the need to perform to the ‘five Cs’ of Competence, Confidentiality, Commitment, Courtesy and Communication.
The Practice will accept instructions only where it can meet its commitment to the provision of an expert and professional service to clients. Where instructions would be beyond the expertise or the capabilities of the Practice they will be declined. In any cases of doubt as to the ability of the Practice to act appropriately for the client, a Director should be consulted. The Practice has a policy of not making direct referrals, therefore there is no procedure for referring clients to third parties, however if something is beyond our scope, competence or area of work then we may suggest a local business but we do not recommend or refer.
All solicitors are bound by the professional duties of confidentiality in all dealings with clients. This means that nobody may reveal to any outsider the nature of instructions provided or advice given to any client, other than in the pursuit of the client’s instructions or in accordance with legal duties to do so, as under money laundering legislation. In most circumstances it will also be inappropriate to reveal that the Practice is in receipt of instructions from any named client. This is particularly the case in litigation, especially crime or divorce. If you are aware that friends or other people that you know are instructing the Practice it may be tempting to reveal this information to others; do not do so. If you are ever in doubt as to whether you should reveal whether the Practice acts for a given client, or give out his, her or its address, check with a partner. Breaches of confidentiality could cause considerable problems for the Practice and will be treated by the Practice as a serious disciplinary offence.
Clients seek legal advice for a variety of reasons, but many approach the Practice when they are vulnerable and in turmoil, whether in their personal lives or their business activities, and many require a great deal of sensitivity. All clients are entitled to expect a real commitment from the Practice in handling their instructions, and for the Practice to attach appropriate priority to their requirements. A professional service does not involve becoming emotional, however, and this should be borne in mind in wording correspondence. If it is necessary to make a threat it should be clear that the threat is one that the Practice’s client makes and not the Practice itself. For example:
“In the event that you do not respond, we are instructed to issue proceedings without notice” Not“In the event that you do not respond, we will issue proceedings without notice”
All clients are entitled to be dealt with in a respectful and courteous manner. This will have many implications, from not keeping clients waiting in the reception area without explanation, to showing them the way to and from meeting rooms, to returning telephone calls and e-mails as a priority and generally taking an interest in them and their problems. The Practice should show a genuine concern for its clients by doing its best to help them.
Clients can expect clear communication throughout their involvement with Kidwells. At the first meeting the issues relevant to their matter must be identified and explained to the clients. Clients must be kept abreast of developments which affect them. After the options have been identified and discussed, next steps must be agreed unless there is an agreement with the client otherwise. There are provisions on this in section 7 File and case management, particularly in relation to the confirmation of instructions received and advice on the costs position of matters as they develop. This will include informing clients about the likely overall costs and other possible sources of funding at the outset of the matter and updating regularly on the costs during the progress of the matter most of the complaints made against solicitors relate to poor communication. We have to ensure that such problems do not arise in our dealings with clients.
We recognise the importance of responding to clients in a timely manner and aim to do this as below:
Type of Communication
All telephone calls to be answered within 30 seconds
90% of the time
Client calls to be returned by fee earner to deal with specific query
Within 24 hours
Response time to voicemail or other telephone messages
Within 24 hours maximum
If fee earner not available, support staff to advise client when their call will be returned
Within 2 hours maximum
Fee earner to reply to client following above
Acknowledge receipt of client emails
Within 24 hours
Use ‘Out of Office Assistant’ if absent for more than 4 hours, and provide alternative contact
Maximum time to respond to correspondence from client
Acknowledged within 1 working day and dealt within 5 working days
Time taken to acknowledge complaint
5 working days
Time taken to produce substantive response
Within 6 weeks of all info being received
We realise that it is especially important to treat vulnerable clients, their families and representatives, with additional consideration, by being both sympathetic and sensitive to any issues they may have and ensuring that our firm and our staff treat vulnerable clients, their families and representatives with dignity, kindness and respect at all times.
Due to the nature of the advice that we may need to give, it is important that we can see our client alone initially. However, we appreciate that some clients may prefer to have a trusted friend or relative present, so we will try to accommodate this where we can. At some point throughout the process, we will need an opportunity to see our client alone, but we will do our utmost to make sure that the client feels at ease, and understands why this is necessary.
Where English is not the first language of our client, or has difficulty hearing or with sight, we suggest that an appropriate independent interpreter assists, or a person that our client trusts to assist the client understand what is being discussed.
A record is kept of persons present at the meeting and is confirmed in writing after the meeting has taken place. If the client declines to have anyone present, this is also documented and confirmed in writing.
Where legal terminology has to be used, we take care to ensure that our client understands what has been said and will not proceed until we are satisfied and that our client is comfortable
We will take steps to make ourselves aware of any potential capacity or physical, hearing or visual impairment. These matters are always taken into account when meeting and communicating with older or vulnerable clients
Correspondence and documentation can be produced in large print or an alternative format if necessary
In all cases, the pace and duration of each meeting is aligned to the needs of our client
Where appropriate, we will offer to visit our client’s home. However, if a client visits our office, we will let him know what disabled parking facilities and access are available and ensure that toilet facilities are readily accessible
We are sensitive to the possibility that older clients may be discomforted if they do not have current passports or driving licenses. Extra care is therefore taken not to cause our clients any embarrassment, while ensuring that money laundering requirements are met.
We ask that any person signing in the capacity as attorney for our client should also produce proof of I. D. for identity verification purposes
We ensure that all relevant facts are noted in our attendance note of any meeting.
The Provision of Reasonable Adjustments
Before a Fee Earner conducts an interview with a client they will enquire as to whether the client requires any reasonable adjustments in order for us to fully support them while dealing with their matter. These may include but are not limited to:
- provision of free large print or Braille correspondence and documents
- arrangements for access and parking suitable for less mobile clients
- visits to the client to take instructions
- contacts with organisations that can provide trained signers to interpret for clients who use sign language and do not wish to use relatives or close friend
The Practice is under a duty to keep all client dealings properly confidential. It can easily fall foul of this important duty by thoughtless conversations and quick meetings in the reception area. Please keep any discussions of client business in the reception area to a minimum and, wherever possible, take clients into a meeting room when they come in to sign a document or bring papers in. What should be a short and undetailed visit can easily change if the client asks questions and they should be entitled to do so out of the earshot of other clients or visitors.
Would all staff also please keep personal conversations in the reception area to a minimum. The impression gained by clients overhearing conversations in the reception area can be quite negative.
The duty of confidentiality applies to all information about the client’s affairs and commences the moment the client first approaches the practice to provide instructions or information. It is also important to note that this duty extends beyond the end of the client’s matter.
There are circumstances in which confidentiality can be overridden including, amongst others, the following situations:-
- Information used by the client to facilitate the commission of a crime or fraud.
- Express consent given by the client to disclose information (including express consent to disclose files for audit).
- Where it is considered necessary to reveal confidential information to prevent the client or a third party from committing a crime that is likely to result in serious bodily harm.
- In exceptional cases involving children, where information of a serious nature (e.g. sexual, mental or physical abuse) should be given to an appropriate authority.
- In proceedings under the Children Act 1989, where experts reports (for the purpose of proceedings) are not privileged.
- Where a court orders that material should be disclosed or where a warrant permits a Police Officer or other authority to seize confidential material.
- Where an act of terrorism could be prevented.
- Where there is a requirement to make a report to the National Crime Agency (“NCA”) in a case of suspected money laundering.
It is important to note that circumstances in which confidentiality can be overridden are rare and powerful justification will be required wherever such a breach is to be considered. In such cases it is the duty of the fee earner in charge of the file to consult the Managing Director. Only the Managing Director can authorize the overriding of confidentiality. If such authorization is given, a full written record will have to be made of when that decision is made and the reasons for that decision. A copy of that written decision will be kept on the appropriate file.
Method of Addressing Clients in Correspondence
When writing to private clients, in the majority of circumstances the fee-earner will have already met the client or will have made contact in some other way and will know the name of the client. Address the client using their title of Mr, Mrs or Miss, which is correct, friendly and professional and not so stilted as the formal ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Madam’.
Avoid over familiarity using first names unless the client is well-known to you, such as a personal friend or a well-established client.
Letters to and from other professionals, including other firms of solicitors, are to the practice and not the individual handing the matter. In most cases, therefore, ‘Dear Sirs’ is the appropriate method of address and references to this practice are ‘we’ not ‘I’.
Fee-earners should establish at an early stage in the instruction the client’s preferred method of communication and discuss the frequency with which routine contact will be maintained.
References for Clients
On occasion we are asked to provide references to third parties on clients. Given the duty of care in such situations it is the policy of the Practice that all such references require the Managing Directors consent. The letter of reference, if appropriate, should be based on the following precedent:
“You have asked us to provide a reference in respect of [name]. [Name] has been a client of this Practice for [number of] years and during that time the Practice has conducted [number of] matters on his/her behalf. He/she has always settled (promptly) accounts which have been rendered to him/her by us [or: if all bills have been paid by deduction there has never been any difficulty concerning payment of accounts by him in relation to those matters].
In accordance with the normal policy of the Practice, this reference is given without liability on behalf of the Practice or the writer and is personal to you [whenever practical add: and is not for the benefit of third parties]”
Introductions to third parties
There may be circumstances when we believe that it is beneficial to the client that they be referred to a third party for example another law firm where we do not have the expertise to advise on a particular matter or a financial services provider. We will only do this if we feel that it is in their best interest to do so and does not compromise our independence.
We do not receive remuneration for referrals as any arrangement where there is a financial incentive does not ensure our impartiality.