Terms of Engagement
These terms of engagement are the basis upon which we have agreed to provide legal and related services to you.
These terms shall be read together with a letter of engagement which we send at the time of engagement. The letter of engagement will be particular to the work at hand, and will provide specific information pertaining to that work not contained in these terms of engagement. The letter of engagement may contain provisions overriding these terms.
The terms of engagement comply with the Lawyers and Conveyancers (Lawyers Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008 (‘the Rules’). You will find more information about these rules at the end of these terms of engagement.
Agreement based on Terms of Engagement
These terms apply whenever you instruct us to provide legal and other services. Although we may require you to sign a letter of engagement incorporating these terms, it is not necessary for you to sign in order to indicate your agreement to these terms.
You will be bound by these terms if, after you have received them, you advise us of your acceptance or if you instruct us to proceed to act for you.
If there are any aspects of the terms of engagement with which you do not agree, you should make this clear to us from the outset. Any variation must be in writing and must be agreed to by us before we start work.
You agree that:
- If we act for a couple we can accept instructions from either party;
- If we act for a company, we are entitled to accept instructions from any director or officer of the company or any employee or other person who you have authorised to work with us;
- If we act for a trust, we can accept instructions from any trustee; and
- If we act for a partnership, we can accept instructions from any partner or any employee of the partnership who you have authorised to work with us.
Information concerning you and your affairs that we acquire during our engagement is confidential to you. We will not disclose this information to anyone else except:
- to the extent necessary or desirable to enable us to carry out your instructions; or
- to the extent required by law or the Rules.
Confidential information is available to those members of the firm who are providing services for you whether as the primary providers or by way of support.
We will not disclose or use the confidential information that we have in relation to any other client.
Fees charged must not be more than is reasonable, having regard to our respective interest, and taking into account the following factors:
- The time and labour expended;
- The skill, specialised knowledge and responsibility required to perform the services properly;
- The importance of the matter to the client and the results achieved;
- The urgency and circumstances in which the matter is undertaken and any time limitations imposed, including those imposed by the client;
- The degree of risk assumed by the lawyer in undertaking the services, including the amount or value of any property involved;
- The complexity of the matter and the difficulty or novelty of the questions involved;
- The experience, reputation and ability of the lawyer;
- The possibility that the acceptance of the particular retainer will preclude engagement of the lawyer by other clients;
- Whether the fee is fixed or conditional (whether in litigation or otherwise);
- Any quote or estimate of fees given by the lawyer;
- Any fee agreement (including a conditional fee agreement) entered into between the lawyer and client;
- The reasonable costs of running a practice;
- The fee customarily charged in the market and locality for the similar legal services.
We may, in our letter of engagement, agree to a fixed fee, or to a fee based solely on time calculated at the hourly rate specified. Any agreement defining the fee to be charged is limited to the scope of work set out in the letter of engagement.
Work falling outside the scope is charged according to the reasonable fee factors unless otherwise agreed at the time.
We will notify you as soon as reasonably practicable if it becomes necessary to provide services outside the agreed scope. At that time, we will also explain to you the extent of work likely to be involved and, if requested, give you an estimate of the likely amount.
We will specify the hourly rate in the letter of engagement. If any of the fee factors influence the fee charged, we will also specify those. For the most part, matters of complexity or simplicity affecting fees will be reflected in the nominated hourly rate.
Retrievals and disbursements
Retrievals and disbursements are out of pocket expenses charged on to clients. They include tolls, photocopying, courier fees, territorial and regional authority fees, some postal expenses and a file establishment fee, referred to on the invoice as “forms and incidental”.
In addition, we charge all fees paid to agents, court filing fees, government agencies such as Land Information New Zealand, the Companies Office and the Register of Personal Property Securities. Sometimes we require a payment of these fees in advance.
Some charges (tolls and photocopying in particular) include a reasonable mark up.
Timing of invoices
In respect of ongoing work, we invoice on a monthly basis. In some cases, we may invoice at more regular intervals particularly if a significant amount of work is involved over a relatively short period.
Invoices on a time and attendance basis will outline the work undertaken on your behalf. If we have handled funds on your behalf during the period covered by the invoice, we will also include a statement showing how we have handled transactions for you.
We also send out an account rendered in the first week of each month. The account rendered is a statement detailing all invoices outstanding at the end of the previous month.
Payment of invoices
Unless there is a different arrangement in place, invoices are payable 14 days after the date of the invoice. You may pay invoices by cash, cheque (payable to Chris Steven Barrister and Solicitor, trust account) or bank transfer.
If you are paying by bank transfer, please ensure that the payment source is identified. It wouldalso be helpful to identify the matter code which you will find on the invoice.
If we are holding the funds on your behalf, you authorise us to deduct our costs from those funds.
We will not deduct costs from funds which have been provided for a specific purpose without your instruction. At the time of deduction, we will send you a statement and an invoice and will record that the costs have been deducted.
Costs on the sale of any property or business are deductible from the proceeds of sale and you authorise us to that effect.
Unless otherwise agreed in writing, costs in respect of any purchase must be paid at the time of settlement of the purchase.
Delay or difficulty in paying
Like any business, cash flow is important to us. If you anticipate difficulty paying an invoice on time please contact the office manager, Karen Martin.
We may agree for payment to be delayed or paid by an automatic payment authority over a period of time.
We reserve the right to charge interest on any invoice unpaid after the due date unless prior arrangements have been made. Interest is calculated at the rate of 1.5% per month.
Please also note that if there is a delay in payment, we reserve the right to suspend or cease any further work until the accounts are brought up to date.
We also reserve the right to retain custody of any papers or files until the accounts are paid.
We may also take action to recover the debt including interest and costs incurred in relation to the recovery process. If we engage a debt collection agency, you are responsible for the charges that we incur.
Trust account monies on deposit
As far as practicable, we will lodge funds held in our trust account on your behalf in an interest bearing deposit (IBD).
The bank will deduct withholding tax from any interest it pays. This is paid to the Inland Revenue Department. If you have provided your IRD number, we can elect, on your instruction, to have withholding tax deducted at the rate applicable to your level of income.
If you do not provide your IRD number, or do not elect a lower rate, withholding tax is deducted at a higher rate.
To take advantage of a lower deduction rate, we must have your IRD number before withdrawing any money from IBD or before the end of any quarter when the bank credits interest and accounts for resident withholding tax.
We charge commission at the rate of 7.5% on the gross interest collected on your behalf.
If we are acting in an estate or trust and are responsible for collecting revenue, we charge commission of 5% of the income or revenue collected on your behalf.
These charges will be shown on the statements sent to you and deducted from funds held.
GST, if any, is paid by you on all professional fees.
When we discuss fees, the amount stated is exclusive of GST. Our invoice will show the GST content over and above the fee.
Files and documents
We retain all files established on any matter and any documents that you leave with us for at least seven years after completion of the matter.
Files are kept on the premises or in a storage facility outside the premises. If you wish to discuss an old file or ask us to retrieve information from an old file, we may have to make a special trip and reserve the right to charge for retrieval of that information.
Although there are some circumstances when we will exercise our judgement to retain a file for a longer period, we reserve the right to destroy all files seven years after completion of the work. We engage a document destruction company for that purpose.
Deeds, Wills and other important documents, such as powers of attorney are stored in our deeds room permanently. They may be uplifted by you at any time.
You may terminate our services at any time.
We may terminate our retainer if you do not pay our fees when due.
We may also terminate our retainer in any of the circumstances set out in the Rules
We may correspond with you and others by electronic communication unless you instruct otherwise.
Electronic communication cannot be guaranteed to be secure. We will take all reasonable steps but cannot be responsible for any of the risks associated with electronic communication.
Conflict of Interest
We have procedures in place to identify and respond to conflicts of interest.
If a conflict arises, we will advise you and follow the requirements and procedures set out in the Rules of Conduct and Client Care for Lawyers.
Professional Indemnity Insurance
We hold professional indemnity insurance that meets or exceeds the minimum standards specified by the Law Society. We will provide you with particulars of the minimum standards upon request.
Lawyers’ Fidelity Fund
The Law Society maintains the Lawyers’ Fidelity Fund for the purpose of providing clients of lawyers with protection against pecuniary loss arising from theft by lawyers.
The maximum amount payable by the Fidelity Fund by way of compensation to an individual claimant is limited to $100,000.
Except in certain circumstances specified in the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006, the Fidelity Fund does not cover a client for any loss relating to money that a lawyer is instructed to invest on behalf of the client.
We maintain a procedure for handling any complaints by clients, designed to ensure that a complaint is dealt with promptly and fairly.
If you have a complaint about our services or charges, you may refer your complaint to the person in our firm who has overall responsibility for your work.
If you do not wish to refer your complaint to that person, or you are not satisfied with that person’s response to your complaint, you may refer your complaint to Karen Martin. She may be contacted as follows:
- By letter;
- By e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org ;
- By telephoning her at (03) 443-8286.
The Law Society operates the Lawyers Complaints Service and you are able to make a complaint to that
service. To do so, phone 0800 261 801 and you will be connected to the nearest Complaints Service Office, which can provide information and advice about making a complaint.
Client Care and Service
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
- 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 other overriding duties, including duties to the courts and judicial system.
If you have any questions, please visit www.lawsociety.org.nzor
call 0800 261 801.
Limitations on extent of our Obligations and Liability
If there are any limitations on the extent of our obligations to you or any limitation or exclusion of liability, these will be set out in our letter of engagement.
(Terms and Conditions updated 14 January 2011)