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Client care is central to the regulatory regime under which we operate. Stephen Rimmer LLP is committed to providing an excellent standard of service to all clients and all staff share the responsibility of ensuring we achieve this.

Treating our clients fairly

We must treat our clients fairly and with respect.

In all cases, we will:

    • 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;
    • have proper regard to their mental capacity or other vulnerability (eg incapacity, duress or disability—see further section below) when taking instructions and during the course of the matter;
    • consider whether a conflict of interest is present or has arisen (see our Conflicts of interest policy).

Client needs

We tailor our client care arrangements according to the needs of each client to ensure that the information we provide is appropriate. It might be appropriate to provide a limited service such as a free half hour diagnostic interview. This would still be considered an 'engagement' and will require, at the minimum, a copy of our Terms & Conditions setting out details of our Complaints procedure, to be sent or handed out to the client in the normal way.

For every client you should consider:

    • whether they are used to dealing with law firms
    • to what extent our standard client care letter is appropriate or whether further steps need to be taken to make sure they understand it
    • whether they are in a position to make informed decisions
    • whether they are vulnerable

Vulnerable clients

You should have proper regard to your client's mental capacity or other vulnerability, such as disability, incapacity or duress:

    • when taking instructions, and
    • during the course of the matter

There are three broad categories of vulnerable clients:

    • clients who have capacity to make decisions and provide instructions, but by reason of a range of mental and/or physical disabilities need extra support to access our services and give instructions
    • clients who lack mental capacity to make decisions and provide instructions, for whom a range of statutory and other safeguards must be followed
    • clients who are vulnerable to undue influence or duress and who may or may not have mental capacity to make decisions and provide instructions

The following factors could indicate a vulnerability:

 advanced age, children and  young people learning disabilities heavy reliance on family or friends for necessary care or support
physical disabilities or ill health sensory impairment long-term alcohol or drug abuse
cognitive impairment dementia exposure to financial abuse
loss of mental capacity to make relevant decisions  acquired brain injury difficulty in accessing and/or understanding complex information, eg because of psychological or emotional factors such as stress or bereavement
mental health problems communication difficulties  


Any one or more of these risk factors may mean the client is vulnerable and some clients may be affected by more than one factor.

It is not always be easy to identify vulnerability. Some signs may be obvious while others are hidden and your client may not tell you of any difficulties. You should not feel inhibited about asking for more information. You should tactfully try to identify the needs of your client to find out whether they:

    • understand and can act on the information and advice provided, or  whether they may need support to do this, eg from an advocacy service or interpreter
    • have any requirements:
      • for communicating with you
      • to access our services, eg to overcome mobility problems or hearing or sight difficulties
      • about how our services are provided, eg documents written in clear and simple language or information given orally

If you identify or suspect a client vulnerability, you should make full attendance notes of anything discussed with the client and bring the matter to the attention of your Head of Department. The table below gives examples of the sort of steps we will consider taking where we identify a client vulnerability:


Vulnerability factor Potential response
Client does not speak or  understand English Use an interpreter or translator.
Client has a physical disability Liaise with the Practice Manager, who will ensure  Appropriate steps are taken in order to  accommodate the client’s needs.

—needs longer to understand what you are explaining

—has a speech impairment, or  — is communicating through a third party

 Allow extra time for meetings.

Conduct conversations using the text relay system, where  the client  has a speech impairment.

Client has visual impairment Provide information in large print, or easy-read format.

Read the correspondence to the client.

Client has hearing impairment Communicate by letter.
Client’s ability to attend the office is impaired by mental health issues Consider visiting client at home, with appropriate   safeguards in place.
Client has cognitive   impairment, particularly affecting memory Communicate by letter

 Conducting the matter

Protecting clients’ interests

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:

    • the services they need
    • how their matter will be handled, and
    • the options available to them

Adequate resources and skills

    • Supervisors 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. Their signature on the file opening form confirms this.

Fee-earner and supervisor information

    • Fee earners must give their name and status (ie solicitor, licensed conveyancer, etc) to clients and tell them the name and status of the person with overall supervision of their matter.
    • Clients must be informed in writing if the person with conduct of their matter changes, or there is a change of person to who any problem with service may be addressed.

Level of service

    • 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 must be recorded on the matter file and confirmed to the client in writing.
    • Fee earners must ensure that a timely response is made to telephone calls and correspondence from the client and others

Case strategy

    • Fee earners must ensure that the strategy for a matter is always apparent on the matter file by updating the front page on the document/case management system at regular intervals. In complex matters, a project plan should also be developed.

File maintenance

    • Fee earners 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 keeping the document and case management system up to date and/or attaching a client matter information sheet to inside front cover of the file and keeping this up to date.
    • Fee earners must maintain all key information on the file, including:
      • letters, emails and other communications to and from the client
      • attendance notes or other records of information
      • a record of all explanations given to the client
      • a record of any steps taken to protect the client's interests
      • all costs and funding information and updates
      • all other documents relevant to the matter
      • The matter file should be maintained in an orderly fashion and filing kept up to date,


The importance of costs information

    • Failure to provide adequate costs information is one of the most common causes of client complaints.
    • You should discuss costs and funding at your initial 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.
    • General costs information
      • You must provide the best information about the likely overall cost of the client’s matter at the outset and when appropriate as the matter progresses. This should include:
        • our projected fees
        • expected disbursements (including whether disbursements attract VAT)
    • whether rates might increase during the period we are to be instructed
    • whether we will charge if the matter does not proceed, eg where the sale of a property falls through
    • whether the client has a potential liability for another party’s costs
    • how often you will provide costs updates
    • whether the client has set an upper limit on costs

Payment terms

    • You should agree and record payment terms with your client, specially how and when costs are to be paid.

Cost-benefit risk analysis

    • Clients must be in a position to make informed decisions about:
      • the services they need
      • how their matter will be handled, and
      • the options available to them
    • 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.

Limitations or conditions

    • 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.

Methods of funding

    • You should discuss alternative methods of funding costs. This may include:
      • private client funding
      • legal expenses insurance
      • conditional fee agreement
      • damages based agreement
      • legal aid
      • trade union or other membership organisation
      • litigation funding agreement
    • Complaints about bills
      • You must inform clients about:
        • their right to challenge or complain about your bill, and
        • the circumstances in which they may be liable to pay interest on an unpaid bill

Instructing and introducing clients to third parties

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:

Features of instructing a third party on a client’s matter  Features of introducing the client to a third party
Features of instructing a third party on a client’s matter  Features of introducing the client to a third party
We retain control of the matter on which we have instructed the third party  The third party advises the client independently of the firm
We have overall responsibility for that matter  We are not responsible for the advice given by the third party
The third party has a relationship with us rather than directly with the client  The third party has a direct relationship with the client
The third party invoices the firm The third party invoices the client directly
  • Where you instruct a third party, you should follow our Instructing third parties policy.
  • Where you introduce a client to a third party, you should follow our Introductions to third parties policy
  • In both cases, you should consider the section 8 below. 8  Commissions and financial benefits
  • 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.
  • Our client care letter and terms of business contain the information that we are required to give to clients. For further information, see our Commissions and financial benefits policy. 9 Referral arrangements and fee sharing
  • You should explain any fee sharing or referral arrangements that are relevant to the client's instructions.
  • Our client care letter and terms of business contain the information that we are required to give to clients. For further information, see our Referral and fee sharing policy. 10        General retainers

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.


Complaints, including complaints about bills and those relating to equality and diversity, are handled in accordance with our complaints policy. All staff have obligations in ensuring complaints are handled properly.

Fee earners must:

    • tell clients in writing at the outset of their right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) and how to do so—our client care letter / terms of business contains this information so you must ensure that all clients receive this before you begin work on their matter
    • refer any complaints to the complaints partner
    • respond to any enquiries by the complaints partner in relation to a complaint fairly, openly and effectively otherwise comply with our complaints policy

Full details of our complaints process are contained in our Complaints handling policy.

Claims against the firm

We aim to offer an excellent service to our clients. Mistakes can occasionally happen despite our best efforts.

We maintain professional indemnity insurance (PII) to protect our clients if we make a mistake.

You must inform your Head of Department if you discover any act or omission that could give rise to a negligence or other claim against us. They will inform the client and consider whether it is necessary to advise the client to obtain independent legal advice.

You must also inform your Head of Department  if a client indicates to you an intention of bringing a negligence or any other claim against us.

  • Limiting liability
    • You must not seek to limit liability to a level below £2 million
    • You must ensure that the limitation is in writing and brought to the client's attention, usually in the client care letter. Our Client care letter Precedent contains a reminder.
  • Regulation
    • We conduct work that is regulated by the SRA as well as work that is not subject to regulation. We must tell clients if and how the services to be provided are regulated by the SRA and how this affects protections available to them.
    • Our Client care letter contains information on regulation. Fee earners must ensure the information sent to a client reflects the regulatory position in their particular matter. If in doubt, you should ask your supervisor or the COLP for guidance.
  • Accepting or refusing instructions and ceasing to act
    • We must comply with the law and with the SRA Standards and Regulations when deciding whether to act or to terminate instructions. This means you:


Must Must not
Consider whether you should decline or cease to act because you cannot act in the client's best interest (eg where there is a conflict of interest)

Refuse to act where your client proposes to make a gift of significant value to you, your family or another member of staff or their family unless the client takes independent legal advice

Act for a client when instructions are given by someone else or by only one client in a joint matter unless you are satisfied that the person giving the instructions is authorised to do so (see section 4 above)

Cease to act without good reason and without reasonable notice

Act for a client when there are reasonable grounds for believing that the instructions are affected by duress or undue influence unless you are satisfied that they represent the client's wishes

Discriminate unlawfully when accepting  or refusing instructions


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 and set out in our Privacy Notice. This duty continues after the end of the retainer and even after the death of the client.

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:

    • disclosure is required or permitted by law (eg under the Proceeds of Crime Act  2002—see our Anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing policy); or
    • the client consents.

If you are uncertain whether particular information is confidential you should speak to your supervisor.

We will ensure we are satisfied that any external provider has taken all appropriate steps to protect clients’ confidential information.

Equality and diversity

Stephen Rimmer LLP encourages equality of opportunity and respect for diversity in our relationships with clients and others.

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 section 15 above).

This means that you must not discriminate on the grounds of:

    • age
    • disability
    • gender
    • gender reassignment
    • marriage and civil partnership
    • pregnancy and maternity
    • race
    • religion or belief
    • sexual orientation

We will make reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled clients are not placed at a substantial disadvantage and will not pass on the costs of adjustments to these clients (see section above)

Please refer to our Equality and diversity policy for further information.

  • Compliance with this policy
    • The COLP is responsible for this policy.
    • All staff must be aware of and adhere to it. All staff will receive training on the requirements of the policy.
    • Compliance will be monitored through our regular file audits and monthly review of complaints.
    • You may be liable to disciplinary action if you fail to comply with the provisions of this policy.
  • Review of our client care arrangements
    • We will review our client care policy regularly—at least annually.
    • We will provide information and/or training on any changes we make.
  • Reporting breaches
    • If you notice a breach of this policy, you must inform the COLP. See our separate Compliance failure policy.

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