Service standards

Below you will find details of Garden Court North Chambers’ Standard Contractual Terms; Terms of Business and Basis of Fees; Quality Policy; Standards Charter; and Complaints Procedure.

 

Standard Contractual Terms

The barristers at Chambers accept instructions on the terms set out in the Bar Standard Board’s (New) Standard Contractual Terms for the Supply of Legal Services by Barristers to Authorised Persons 2012.

 

Terms of Business and Basis of Fees

Terms of business

All time spent on work is recorded on the Meridian System to ensure that the fees charged can be substantiated by specific work activities by the barrister. If requested, the Clerks will be able to explain further how the overall fee was calculated.

We will render a fee note for our work upon conclusion of the case or on request, should there be a pause in proceedings or at an appropriate stage in on-going litigation.

On privately funded cases, we expect our fees to be settled within 30 days of receipt of our fee note. You are asked to contact us should this not be acceptable to you.

In the absence of any express agreement to the contrary, the basis upon which we accept instructions is under the (New) Standard Contractual Terms for The Supply of Legal Services by Barristers to Authorised Persons. We adhere to the Bar Council’s Code of Practice in respect of issue of payment reminder, progressing payment of our fees and credit control in general.

Any solicitor who’s name appears on the ‘List of Defaulting Solicitors’ will be expected to pay fees by cleared funds in advance of work being undertaken. Instructions will not be accepted without cleared funds unless the barrister concerned instructs otherwise.

Court Hearings

Private fees

The basis for fees to be charged will be agreed in advance of the hearing. Fees for court work take into account the following factors:

  • Estimated time required for preparation;
  • Estimated time to be spent in Court;
  • Case complexity;
  • The amount/issues at stake;
  • Seniority of the barrister;
  • Whether an abnormal workload was placed on the barrister through late instruction/urgency of the work etc;
  • The degree to which specialist knowledge is required;
  • Travelling/expenses likely to be incurred; and
  • Means of client.

Publicly funded fees

Estimates of fees to be charged can be provided in writing upon receipt of papers.

Paperwork

Private fees

Fees for privately funded paperwork are agreed in advance of the work being undertaken. The following factors are taking into account when providing a fee quote:

  • Total time anticipated to be taken to complete the work;
  • Complexity of the matter;
  • The amount/issues at stake;
  • Seniority of the barrister;
  • The urgency of the work and the need to reschedule other matters;
  • The degree to which specialist knowledge is required; and
  • Means of client.

Publicly funded cases

Estimates of fees to be charged can be provided in writing upon receipt of papers.

Turnaround times

As set out in our Standards Charter turnaround times are as follows:

  • All instructions to Counsel should be sent via the Practice Management Team. In appropriate circumstances, solicitors can send instructions to Counsel for paperwork without previously contacting a member of the Practice Management Team, but when this happens the nominated barrister may not be able to accept the instructions;
  • If a solicitor requires the work to be completed earlier than 21 days from receipt then he/she should indicate this on the instructions or covering letter. If the instructions need to be completed within 5 working days of receipt then they should be marked “Urgent” and if they are to be done within 24 hours of receipt then it should be marked “Very Urgent”;
  • Instructions for work to be completed in less than 21 days should not be sent without the Practice Management Team’s previous agreement;
  • If a time limit is to be exceeded then the barrister should inform the solicitor, or ask a member of the Practice Management Team to contact the solicitor; and
  • An initial examination will be undertaken within 7 days, for acceptance of paperwork and to check for conflict of interest. Any problems will be notified to the client immediately and appropriate action agreed.

Sending documents to Chambers

Emailing documents to Chambers

Chambers is happy to receive briefs, court papers, trial bundles and other documents by email. We request that documents are emailed to us in the order in which you wish them to be read and in as few attachments as possible.

Attachments should preferably be PDF rather than Word documents and named using the client’s name and a number indicating the order in which the attachments should be read (eg, John Smith 1, John Smith 2 and so on).

Hard copy papers

Unless you mark the cover letter and instructions with ‘PLEASE RETURN PAPERS UPON COMPLETION’, any hard copy papers sent to Chambers will be retained until the conclusion of the case and will then be confidentially shredded rather than returned.

Please bear this in mind when sending original documents to Chambers.

Rafgs Graduated Fee Payment Protocol

The Revised Advocacy Graduated Fee Scheme (RAGF) is set out in The Criminal Defence Service (Funding) Order 2007 SI No 1174, which took effect on 30th April 2007 in respect of representation orders granted on or after 30th April 2007. The RAGFS applies to the remuneration of advocates in the Crown Court.

The Graduated Fee Payment Protocol can be downloaded here.

 

Quality Policy

Garden Court North Chambers aims to continue to provide a wide range of expertise as advocates and advisors in civil, criminal, immigration, housing and employment and discrimination law. Our key quality objectives are:

  • To deal with clients in a friendly, courteous and efficient manner;
  • To maintain high quality clerking skills with care and attention to detail;
  • To maintain an open and flexible approach to fee structures;
  • To deliver services through the most appropriate means to the client whilst maximizing the using of new technology for speed and efficiency;
  • To agree turnaround times for paperwork and adhere to agreed targets; and
  • To give professional clients prompt information regarding the progress of their case.

We are committed to a comprehensive and developing policy of assuring the quality of our service. This is ensured through the implementation and maintenance of clear policies and procedures which are defined in our Quality Manual and which are adhered to by all members and staff.

All barristers and employees contribute to maintaining and improving the quality of the service we provide. Our meeting structure encourages a policy of open communication and involvement to generate an innovative environment, resources and training requirements are regularly reviewed for individual employees and barristers and for Chambers as a whole to ensure that everyone is able to develop their skills and fulfil their role in the implementation of our quality system.

Overall responsibility for ensuring compliance with our quality system by our members lies with our Head of Chambers.

The Chambers Director has overall responsibility for ensuring that the policies, procedures and standards defined in the quality system are implemented and maintained.

In order to ensure compliance with the standards we have set ourselves, and in order to continue to improve the service we offer we shall do the following:

  • Implement a structured preventative action procedure;
  • Measure our compliance with our standards at regular intervals;
  • Hold regular team meetings to monitor the achievement of standards and policies and set objectives for continuing improvement; and
  • Regularly review our quality systems and survey our clients to ensure that our policies and service are always focused on client needs.

This policy has been issued to all barristers and staff and is available to clients on our website.

 

Standards Charter

Office Hours

Chambers office hours are 9.00am to 6.00pm Monday to Thursday, and 9.00am to 5.30pm on Fridays. In emergencies, a member of the Practice Management Team can be contacted on the number given on the answerphone.

Telephone Calls

Telephone calls are answered by the Practice Management Team. Messages can be left with a member of the Practice Management Team who will pass the message on to the relevant person. Calls will be returned as soon as possible.

Faxes

The fax machine operates around the clock. During office hours the receipt of faxes is checked regularly and barristers are notified of the receipt of an urgent fax by telephone or email if they are not in Chambers. If the barrister is in Chambers the fax will be given to them once recorded on the Meridian system. If the barrister is at home they will be contacted and informed of receipt of the fax.

DX and Post and E-mails

All mail and DX is opened, date stamped and distributed to barristers by 12 noon on the date received. Mail that is addressed to the “Clerk to” will be opened, read and dealt with by the Practice Management Team. Mail addressed to the barrister by name only and marked Private, will be put unopened into the barrister’s pigeonhole.

Briefs will be acknowledged by letter dispatched on the day of receipt.

Other correspondence will be dealt with in 5 working days.

E-mails – The options on the e-mail system have been set to automatically receive every 10 minutes. The Practice Assistant(s) check for unread mail, download or forward, print and distribute messages throughout the day. Each Practice Management Team member has their own e-mail address which is given out on request. The ‘McAfee’ Anti Virus Checker is used and automatically flashes a virus warning on the screen.

Accepting Instructions For a Hearing

When a solicitor or other adviser requires advice on which barrister would be most suitable for a particular case the Practice Management Team are available to assist. A Barrister will not be double booked without the agreement of the solicitors concerned. However, where a brief is not forwarded to chambers within 7 days of the telephone booking the barrister may be booked for another case unless the booking has been confirmed in writing by the solicitor.

An initial examination will be undertaken within 7 days, for acceptance of instructions and to check for any conflict of interest. Any problems will be notified to the client immediately and appropriate action agreed.

Paperwork

Solicitors can send instructions to counsel for paperwork without previously contacting a Practice Management Team member but when this happens the nominated barrister may not be able to accept the instructions.

If a solicitor requires the work to be completed earlier than 21 days from receipt then he/she should indicate this on the backsheet. If the brief needs to be completed within 5 working days of receipt then it should be marked “Urgent” and if it is to be done within 24 hours of receipt then it should be marked “Very Urgent”.

Instructions for work to be completed in less than 21 days should not be sent without a member of the Practice Management Team’s previous agreement.

If a time limit is to be exceeded then the barrister should inform the solicitor, or ask one of the Practice Management Team to contact the solicitor.

An initial examination will be undertaken within 7 days, for acceptance of paperwork and to check for conflict of interest. Any problems will be notified to the client immediately and appropriate action agreed.

Fees Policy – see Terms of Business & Basis of Fees Section.

Complaints

Any complaints about a barrister or member of staff should in the first instance be made to the Chambers Director. If he/she is unable to deal with the complaint to the satisfaction of the complainant then the matter should be referred to the Head of Chambers. A quarterly review is undertaken and reported to the Chambers Meeting.

Courtwork

A barrister instructed to attend court will be present at least 30 minutes prior to the hearing unless other arrangements have been made.

Conferences

Conferences usually take place in Chambers, but where there is good reason, they can be held at other locations by arrangement.  Access to Chambers is compliant with the Equality Act 2010.

Return of Completed Briefs

Completed briefs will be returned promptly accompanied by a fee note.

Quality of Service

Garden Court North Chambers is committed to maintaining and improving its Quality and Practice Management Standards.

Equal Opportunities

Garden Court North Chambers is committed to the implementation and promotion  of equal opportunities and to ensuring an absence of direct or indirect discrimination on grounds of race, colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, religious belief, political persuasion or age.

Data Protection

Garden Court North Chambers is registered under the Data Protection Act.

Fees Policy

See Terms of Business and Basis of Fees section.

 

Complaints Procedure

The aim of Chambers is to give clients a good service at all times. However if you have a complaint you are invited to let us know as soon as possible.

Complaints Made by Telephone

You may wish to make a complaint in writing and, if so, please follow the procedure under the heading Complaints Made in Writing below. However, if you would rather speak on the telephone about your complaint then please telephone the Chambers Director, Sarah Wright, on 0161 817 6377. The Chambers Director will make a note of the details of your complaint and how you would like your complaint to be resolved. The Chambers Director will discuss your concerns with you and aim to resolve them. If the matter is resolved the Chambers Director will record the outcome, check that you are satisfied with the outcome and record that you are satisfied. You may also wish to record the outcome of the telephone discussion in writing.

If your complaint is not resolved on the telephone you will be invited to write to us about it within the next 14 days so it can be investigated formally.

If your  complaint is about the Chambers Director then please put your complaint in writing and address it to the Head of Chambers Mark George QC at Garden Court North Chambers, 3rd Floor, Blackfriars House, Parsonage, Manchester, M3 2JA.

Complaints Made in Writing

Please give the following details:

  • Your name and address;
  • Which member(s) of Chambers you are complaining about;
  • The detail of your complaint; and
  • How you would like your complaint resolved.

Please address your letter to either the Chambers Director or Head of Chambers, Mark George QC. We will where possible, acknowledge receipt of your complaint within two days and every effort will be made to provide you with a substantive response to your complaint within 14 days, but where this is not possible an interim letter will be sent, explaining what is happening and advising you when you are likely to receive a final reply. The substantive reply will set out:

  • The nature and scope of the investigation;
  • The conclusion on each complaint and the basis for the conclusion; and
  • If found you are justified in your complaint, proposals for resolving the complaint.

Confidentiality

All conversations and documents relating to the complaint will be treated as confidential and will be disclosed only to the extent that is necessary. Disclosure will be to the Head of Chambers/Chambers Director and to anyone involved in the complaint and its investigation. Such people will include the barrister member or staff who you have complained about and the person who investigates the complaint. The Bar Standards Board is entitled to inspect the documents and seek information about the complaint when discharging its auditing and monitoring functions.

Our Policy

As part of our commitment to client care we make a written record of any complaint and retain all documents and correspondence generated by the complaint for a period of six years.

Alternative complaints bodies upon conclusion of the first tier process

We hope you will use our procedure. If you are unhappy with the outcome alternative complaints bodies (such as Small Claims Mediation www.small-claims-mediation.co.uk/) exist which are competent to deal with complaints about legal services, should both parties agree to use such a scheme.

You may also take up your complaint with the Legal Ombudsman service. Please note that before you can complain to the Legal Ombudsman service you must have first made a complaint to Chambers. You have six months from the date of our final letter in which to do so. You can contact the Legal Ombudsman by post, telephone or e-mail at Legal Ombudsman, PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ, Tel: 0300 555 0333, E-mail: enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk, Web: www.legalombudsman.org.uk.

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