Terms of business for external clients
This document details our terms of business for external clients, how we manage cases, complaints procedures, regulatory information.
Terms of business
Orbis Public Law is the partnership of Brighton and Hove City Council Legal Services, East Sussex County Council Legal Services and West Sussex County Council Legal Services. Through sharing best practice, joint training and streamlining processes, the partnership increases each Council’s resilience and capacity to support their clients and to provide an even more effective service. Some work may be carried out across the partnership and as such a fee earner employed by one of the other Councils may be allocated to another Council’s matter.
Work is always undertaken by a fee earner (member of the legal team who can charge for work) with suitable experience and with appropriate supervision to ensure the quality of service. Before accepting instructions in relation to a matter, checks are conducted to prevent conflicts of interest occurring. There is also an ongoing requirement to consider whether a conflict of interest has arisen at any time after taking on a matter. Should a conflict be identified, a discussion will take place with the client to determine how it can be dealt with.
Unless it is routine advice work, at the commencement of any new matter, the client will always be informed who will have day to day conduct of their matter, their position and contact details. The client will also be informed who will have overall responsibility for their matter, usually the Principal or Senior Solicitor for the appropriate team.
Each partner Council will ensure that their staff maintain client confidentiality, have regular training so that they are suitably informed on developments in the law, applicable Council policies and practices and all other relevant matters in order to provide the most accurate and up to date legal service possible.
If you wish to make an enquiry of OPL please feel free to make contact with the relevant lawyer directly (if known) or email us:
Legally qualified staff are available in each partner authority between 9am and 5pm on each working day.
Relationship between OPL partner Councils and Clients
The appropriate partner Council will review your legal needs with you, when you require, so as to assess with you your likely demand for services, in the light of your current and anticipated workload, forthcoming projects, legislative changes and so on.
We will represent your interests and commit to give you clear legal advice that you can understand.
We will ensure that you understand what you are undertaking (including the risk of success or loss) and the possible costs involved
We will make any reasonable adaptations to meet your needs.
What we expect from you
In order that Legal Services can provide you with the best level of service possible, please ensure:
- any requests for advice or new instructions are sent to your legal services contact
- new instructions are accompanied by all relevant information and documentation
- you give an indication of the overall priority of a matter
- any matters requiring urgent action for whatever reason will be brought to our attention as early as possible.
What you can expect from us
We will ensure:
- requests for advice or new instructions sent are allocated to a specific fee earner within 5 working days
- urgent matters are actioned as required and all other matters are dealt with in accordance with their priority, in consultation with you as necessary
- any telephone messages left for a member of the team will be returned on the same or next day if at all possible
- you are given an update on each active matter at least every 30 working days.
There may be additional costs for expenses that we incur on your behalf (disbursements). We will consult with you if and when we need to instruct counsel or experts or make payments such as court fees that require disbursement payments before they are incurred.
Work referred to a third party
In the event that we do not have the capacity to carry out the work needed by you we will discuss with you how this can be provided and funded. This may be carried out on our behalf by external solicitors that we have instructed in accordance with our call off contract.
Retention of files and information
Files will be set up to deal with your instructions the appropriate partner Council electronic case management system. Information you provide to us will be stored confidentially.
Both the hard copy original and an electronic copy of any completed legal documents will be sent to you at the conclusion of a matter, if relevant.
Files will be retained in accordance with the OPL Retention Schedule.
Any work undertaken for you by OPL partner Councils will be covered by the completing partner’s policy of professional indemnity insurance. The details of these are held by each partner Council and will be available on request.
Cancellation of engagement
You have 14 days from the date of the letter accompanying these terms to cancel this engagement without incurring any liability to Legal Services. If during these 14 days you require Legal Services to undertake any work on your behalf this request must be made in writing. By making such a request you are forfeiting your rights under The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 to cancel this engagement without liability during this period.
You may cease to instruct Legal Services at any time. All work carried out on your behalf until you cease to instruct Legal Services will be billed to you and must be paid for. In the event of bills remaining unpaid, Legal Services may exercise a right of lien over any documents or other property belonging to you which is in its possession. Upon full payment being received, these documents or other property will be released to you.
Complaint handling procedures
We will strive to achieve continuous service improvements. We operate a complaint handling procedure which ensures that you are informed of whom to approach in the event of any problem with the service provided.
A complaint is any expression of your dissatisfaction, however expressed. Nevertheless, the formal complaints procedure will only be activated when you express a significant cause of concern and put your complaint in writing.
Any complaint or query about individual cases should in the first instance be addressed to the fee earner responsible for the matter in question. If this is not considered to be appropriate the complainant should contact their supervisor. Every attempt will be made to resolve the matter to the complainant’s satisfaction on an informal basis.
All formal complaints will be addressed in accordance with the complaints’ procedure for the location where the work was completed. A copy of the complaints’ procedure, if not already provided, will be provided on request.
Remedies open to the client
Potential remedies will include:
- An apology and an assurance that steps have been taken so that such a complaint should not arise again.
- The transfer of the file to another fee earner if it appears that the relationship between the client and the fee earner has irretrievably broken down.
Whenever a complaint is substantiated consideration will be given to whether changes in procedures, or further guidance in training of staff or disciplinary action is required.
Legal Services employs a mixture of solicitors, barristers and legal executives as well as other non-legally qualified staff. All of our employed lawyers are regulated by their applicable professional body. This may be the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Bar Standards Board or CILEx Regulation, respectively. All work is carried out in compliance with Lexcel Standards.
The detailed rules in relation to the regulation of solicitors, barristers and legal executives are contained in their respective Handbooks and Codes of Conduct. These are available on their websites: