Terms of Engagements
1. The purpose of this document
· Explains what you can expect from us and what you agree to when we work for you;
· Includes information we are required to tell you under the New Zealand Law Society's Rules of Conduct and Client Care for Lawyers; and
· Applies to any current work and to any future work we do for you
(unless we agree in writing to change these terms).
1.2 Occasionally we may change these terms. If we make changes, we will send you the updated terms.
2. Our letter of engagement for all new instructions
The letter will outline:
· What we will do for you in relation to that work; and
· The person / partner with overall responsibility for that work.
Other members of our staff may also be involved, under that person's / partner's supervision, where appropriate.
· If we do not advise you in writing, then the person with overall responsibility will be the person you have instructed to do that work.
3. Our duties to you
· Protect your privacy and confidentiality;
· Act competently, promptly and according to your instructions;
· Protect and promote your interests
· Give you clear information and advice;
· Keep you informed about progress;
· Treat you fairly and respectfully; and
· Charge you a fee that is fair and reasonable, subject to any overriding duties we have (eg to the courts and the justice system).
3.2 Our duties are owed to you, the client named in our letter of engagement. Nobody else (such as family members, shareholders, directors or related companies) can rely on our advice without our written consent.
4. Your privacy and confidentiality
· You agree or ask us to;
· We need to so we can carry out work for you; or
· The law requires us to, or the Rules of Conduct and Client Care for Lawyers permit us to.
4.2 We may hold your photo ID electronically or on hard copy.
5. How we avoid conflicts of interest
5.2 Before we accept work from you, we will do our best to find out if any conflict of interest exists.
5.3 If we find a conflict at any time, we will immediately let you know and tell you how we plan to deal with the conflict. That may mean we stop working for you, the other client or both.
6. Scope of our work
· Investment advice. You should get that advice from a qualified financial advisor;
· Advice about foreign laws. We can help you to obtain such advice from a lawyer in the other country.
6.2 Unless we agree to do so in writing, we will not:
· Remind you about dates (eg PPSR, lease or consent expiry dates); or
· Update advice after it is given.
· Provide tax advice.
7. Intellectual property
· We retain ownership of all opinions, file memoranda, documents and other intellectual property created by us;
· You must not provide our advice to others (such as using our opinions in any public document or statement).
8.2 We have virus protection software and security protocols in place, however we cannot guarantee that electronic communications will always be free from viruses or other defects, are secure or will be received.
8.3 We may occasionally email you information we feel is relevant and useful to you.
9. Storing records
10. Our fees and expenses
10.1 We will always charge you fair and reasonable fees.
10.2 Unless we agree with you otherwise, our fees will be calculated based on the time we spend on work charged at our hourly rates, and adjusted where appropriate for other factors permitted by the Rules of Conduct and Client Care for Lawyers (such as the complexity, urgency, importance, specialised knowledge, responsibility and risk involved and the results achieved). We will provide you with the hourly rate of the fee author carrying out the work for you, on request.
10.3 We will give you an estimate of fees if you ask for one. Special fee arrangements may be available for certain work (eg capped fees). Any estimate or special fee arrangement for work will be outlined in our letter of engagement.
10.4 If you have any questions about our fees please ask.
10.5 Unless we state otherwise, our fees, estimates and hourly rates do not include GST or office expenses and disbursements, which are payable by you.
10.6 We charge you a fee to cover office expenses (such as photocopying, printing, phone calls, faxing, file storage, postage and couriers, forms and miscellaneous). These will be included separately in our account to you.
10.7 When we do work for you, we may have to cover some expenses or make other payments on your behalf (such as search fees, registration fees, travel costs, court charges and agents' fees). These will be included separately in our account to you. Some disbursements may include a reasonable mark-up. 10.8 There may be instances when we request payment of disbursements in advance.
10.9 Fees, hourly rates, office expenses and disbursements may change from time to time without notice.
10.10 In some cases, you may be eligible for legal aid. If you want to apply for legal aid, we will let you know whether we would be prepared to complete the work for you on a legally aided basis. If not, we will recommend another firm to you.
11. Money handling procedures
11.2 If we hold funds on your behalf we will deposit them in an interest-bearing deposit with a bank, where reasonable and practicable. We are not responsible for obtaining the best interest rate available or for any loss of interest you suffer as a result of delay in placing your funds in an interest-bearing deposit.
11.3 We generally charge a 6% administration fee on the gross interest earned on funds held in an interest-bearing deposit.
11.4 Withholding tax will be deducted on the interest earned and paid to IRD. If we have your IRD number you can elect to have withholding tax deducted at your applicable rate. If we do not have your IRD number we are required to deduct it at the default rate (which may be higher than your actual rate).
11.5 Where you transfer funds to our trust account in a foreign currency, we will convert those funds into New Zealand dollars at the prevailing exchange rate offered by our bank. We are not responsible for seeking or obtaining a better exchange rate.
12. Paying your account
12.2 Our accounts must be paid 14 days after they have been issued, unless otherwise provided in our Letter of Engagement to you. 12.3 If you have any questions about an account, please contact us straight away.
12.4 Sometimes we may require you to pay fees, office expenses and disbursements in advance. If we do, we will hold your payment in our trust account and only deduct our fees, office expenses and disbursements when we issue you an account.
12.5 If we hold funds in our trust account on your behalf (including any judgment, sale proceeds, settlement amount or other money), any fees, office expenses or disbursements we have issued you an account for may be deducted.
12.6 We may charge interest on unpaid accounts at the rate of 16% per annum calculated on a daily basis and charged monthly. We may take action to recover unpaid accounts and charge you the cost of that recovery.
12.7 At your request or with your approval, we may send our accounts to a third party to pay on your behalf. You are still responsible for payment by the due date if the third party does not pay us.
14. Limiting our liability to you
14.2 If you are more than one person (such as a couple or partnership), this maximum is the maximum combined amount that we will have to pay you together.
14.3 If you engage us to do work for the purposes of a business, you agree the Consumer Guarantees Act does not apply. Otherwise nothing in this clause limits any rights you may have under the Consumer Guarantees Act. 14.4 We shall not be liable for any loss or liability caused or contributed to by inaccurate or incomplete information supplied by you or third parties (including public records and expert witnesses) or because you did not receive or read a communication we sent you.
14.5 We will not be liable for any loss or damage suffered by you as a result of a failure to provide taxation advice unless we have undertaken in writing to provide such advice.
15. Ending our engagement
15.2 If we have good cause, we may decide to stop working for you, such as if you:
· Do not provide us with instructions promptly;
· Are unable to, or do not, pay our fees as agreed; or
· Against our advice, act in a way we believe is inconsistent with our fundamental obligations as lawyers or highly imprudent.
15.3 If we decide to stop working for you, we will give you reasonable notice and help you find another lawyer.
15.4 Before you take your records, you need to pay our fees for the work we have done for you. We may keep a copy of any records you take. 15.5 The enforceability of these terms is not affected by:
· The ending of our engagement; or
· Any changes to our partners or the incorporation of our firm.
16. New Zealand law applies
17. Professional Indemnity Insurance and Lawyers’ Fidelity Fund
17.2 The New Zealand Law Society operates a Lawyers’ Fidelity Fund to compensate clients who suffer theft of money or property entrusted to lawyers. The Fund covers losses of up to $100,000 per individual claimant. It does not cover loss where you have instructed us to invest money on your behalf (subject to limited exceptions set out in the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act).
18. How we handle complaints
18.2 We will deal with any complaints promptly and fairly.
18.3 Please contact us straight away if you have a question about an account or if you are unhappy with any other aspect of our work. You may contact:
· The partner responsible for your work; or
18.4 The New Zealand Law Society also has a complaints service.
Please telephone 0800 261 801 for information and advice about making a complaint.
19. Client care and service information
Whatever legal services your lawyer is providing, he or she must:
· Act competently, in a timely way, and in accordance with instructions received and arrangements made;
· Protect and promote your interests and act for you free from compromising influences or loyalties;
· Discuss with you your objectives and how they should best be achieved;
· Provide you with information about the work to be done, who will do it and the way the services will be provided;
· Charge you a fee that is fair and reasonable and let you know how and when you will be billed;
· Give you clear information and advice;
· Protect your privacy and ensure appropriate confidentiality;
· Treat you fairly, respectfully, and without discrimination;
· Keep you informed about the work being done and advise you when it is completed;
· Let you know how to make a complaint and deal with any complaint promptly and fairly.
The obligations lawyers owe to clients are described in the Rules of Conduct and Client Care for Lawyers. Those obligations are subject to overriding duties, including duties to the courts and to the justice system.
If you have any questions, please visit www.lawsociety.org.nz or call 0800 261 801.