Terms of Engagement
Our Service and Commitment to you
- You have engaged our firm to act for you in connection with the matter described in the letter that accompanies this document [the Letter].
- Our firm is committed to serving you professionally and ethically. We make the following undertakings to you:
- We will hold strictly confidential all communications with you, and all information that we receive from you during the course of our dealings. We will not reveal your confidences without your agreement.
- We will pursue your work conscientiously. In turn we will need your full and timely co-operation to help represent you.
- We will work with you to develop an understanding of your expectations. We will work together to establish goals and deadlines that meet your needs.
- We will communicate with you and keep you informed about the status of your work. Your telephone calls will be returned promptly. We will send to you copies of significant correspondence and other documents.
- The supervising Director for your matter listed in the Letter, is the Person who will actually be undertaking the work. However, they will possibly utilize other solicitors and legal assistants in the office in the best exercise of their professional judgement.
- Our fees are based on the time taken to complete the work and any other relevant factors specified by the New Zealand Law Society. Our firm’s hourly rates for solicitors and other members of the professional staff are based on years of experience, specialisation, and level of professional attainment. Details of our current hourly rates are available on request.
The time spent by us on your behalf for which you will be charged will include:
- Personal and telephone attendances with you.
- Correspondence with you.
- Considering the law and facts of your matter.
- Reading and considering incoming letters, papers and documents.
- Preparing papers.
- Correspondence with solicitors and third parties.
- Instructing inquiry agents and experts.
- Attendances on your behalf.
- Time spent on travelling.
- Apart from time, other factors that may be taken into account in setting our fee include the urgency with which the matter is required to be completed, the degree of specialized knowledge required, the degree of risk assumed by us in undertaking the services including the value of any property involved, and the complexity of the matter; the fee customarily charged in the market and locality for similar services; the results achieved and our experience and reputation.
- Before commencing work on your behalf, we may require a retainer as set out in the Letter [if any]. The retainer will be deposited in our trust account and used on account of fees and disbursements. Any unused portion of the retainer will be returned to you upon completion or termination of our services. Please provide this retainer to our office at your earliest convenience. Further retainers may be necessary as the matter progresses and the earlier retainer has been used.
- You may be eligible for legal aid. We are a Legal Aid Provider for Family Legal Aid.
Our Estimate of Costs
- Our estimate of costs for this work [if an estimate is possible for this work] is available on request.
- Please note any estimate is given in good faith based upon the information we have received to date, and our previous experience in such matters. If we find an estimate is likely to be exceeded, we will advise you with due expedition, and explain why, so that we can obtain your further instructions at that time.
- Our accounts are due for payment 14 days after the date of the account unless prior arrangements are made with us in writing. If more than one client is named on this agreement, or if we do work for more than one client jointly, their liabilities to us are joint and several.
- We may issue an interim account when that is appropriate.
- You authorise us to deduct our fees, expenses or disbursements from any funds held in our trust account on your behalf where we have provided an invoice. A final account will be forwarded promptly on completion of the instructions.
- If any account remains outstanding after 30 days and no suitable arrangements are made with us in respect of payment of the outstanding debt then the account may at our discretion be forwarded to a Debt Collection Agency.
- Any such debt forwarded to a Debt collection Agency will incur disbursements and commission including but not limited to their collection fee that we incur in recovering outstanding amounts due to us.
- In addition, if any account is not paid within 30 days, interest may at our discretion be charged on the outstanding balance at the rate of 12% per annum from the date upon which payment was due.
- If your account remains outstanding after 60 days, no further work will be undertaken by any lawyer of the firm until appropriate arrangements are made to bring the account back into good standing.
- Disbursements include expenses such as court filing fees, Barristers fees, LIM fees, service fees, courier fees, searches and title registration fees. You are responsible for reimbursing our firm for disbursements. Disbursements may be included with our accounts or may be billed separately. Firm policy requires us to obtain from you funds in advance for significant disbursements.
- For property and financing transactions where payment of monies is due by you, we require cleared funds for the correct amount to be deposited with us no later than the day before settlement.
Funds Trust Account
- We maintain a trust account for all funds we hold on behalf of clients [except funds we receive for payment of accounts]. 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.
- We charge a 5% administration fee on the gross interest earned on funds held in an interest-bearing deposit unless we agree otherwise.
- 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].
- 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.
Termination of Legal Services
- At all times you have the right to terminate our services upon giving us reasonable written notice to that effect.
- We may terminate the retainer if there is good cause, such as you not providing us with instructions in a sufficiently timely manner or in your inability or failure to pay our fee on an agreed basis, or, except in litigation matters your adopting against our advice a course of action which we believe is highly imprudent. If we terminate the retainer, we will give you reasonable notice so that you can arrange alternative representation and we shall give you reasonable assistance to find another lawyer.
- If our retainer is terminated, you must pay us all fees due up to the date of termination and all expenses incurred up to that date.
Privacy of Information
- Over the course of your involvement with us, we may collect and hold personal information concerning you. Failure to provide us with information may preclude us from providing services to you or limit the quality of the services provided.
- Information concerning you will be used by us to provide legal services. You authorise us to obtain from any person, or release to any person, any information necessary for those purposes and you authorise any person to release information to us that we require for those purposes.
- You agree that we may provide any information we hold relating to your United States Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act [FATCA] status or Common Reporting Standard [CRS] status, or Automatic Exchange of Information [AEOI status] or other FATCA or CRS matters, to IRD and to our banks if they request information to be able to meet their FATCA obligations. Please ask us if you would like more information about FATCA, CRS or AEOI.
- In order for us to comply with our obligations you are required to provide us with information about a change in your address and tax status.
- Subject to the above we will treat all information we hold about you as private and confidential and will not disclose any information we hold on your behalf or about you unless we are required to do so by law or when requested by you or with your consent.
- Information concerning you will be held at our office. Under the Privacy Act 1993 you have the right of access to, and correction of, your personal information held by us.
Verifying your identity and source of funds and Credit checks
35 We are required by law to verify your identity and, in some circumstances, the source of funds for a transaction.
- We may carry out reasonable credit checks on you from time to time. You authorise us to collect information about you (including customer due diligence information and credit reports), to obtain, exchange, hold and use such information, and to make any other enquiries we think appropriate to:
- confirm information provided to us about you is true;
- undertake initial and on-going customer due diligence and monitoring in accordance with the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009 (AML/CFT Act);
- enforce debt and legal obligations (including recovery of money owed to us); and
- comply with other legal obligations we may have.
- You authorise any person (including credit reporters) to disclose information (including credit information) to us in response to such enquiries.
- You accept that we may use customer due diligence services (including electronic based services from a third party) to verify your identity and conduct other customer due diligence or monitoring required under the AML/CFT Act, and that we may use credit reporting services to credit check you, and that when we use such services:
- the other third party or credit reporter (each a Service Provider) will exchange information about you for that purpose and the Service Provider may hold information on its system and use it to provide their customer due diligence service or credit reporting service (as the case may be) to their other customers;
- we may use the Service Provider’s services in the future for any authorised purpose (including in relation to ongoing customer due diligence or the provision of credit). This may include using the Service Provider’s monitoring services to receive updates if information held about you changes; and
- if you default in your payment obligations to us, information about that default may be given to credit reporters and given by credit reporters to their other customers.
- If you have a preferred method of our firm communicating with you, please let us know.
- We do not accept any liability for loss arising from non- receipt of any communication, including computer email communications.
Limitation of Liability
- We do not accept liability for any loss arising from non-receipt of any communication including email communications. We will use electronic means of communication unless you instruct us in writing not to do so. Our liability is limited to the cover provided by our professional indemnity insurance and shall not for any one claim, in any circumstances exceed $4,000,000.00 [4 million dollars] including all costs.
Files and Documents
- When your instructions have been completed we shall keep your file for a period of not less than 10 years from the completion and then destroy it. You are welcome to uplift your file provided that all fees and expenses have been paid. Please give us reasonable notice before collecting your file should you wish to do so.
The Lawyers’ Fidelity Fund [the Fund]
- The Fund exists to provide compensation of up to $100,000.00 per claimant for clients who suffer a pecuniary loss in certain circumstances. These circumstances are the theft by a lawyer of money or other valuable property entrusted to that lawyer while they are providing legal services to the public or while they are acting as a solicitor-trustee.
- It should be noted though that the Fund will not pay compensation in respect of moneys instructed to be invested unless they are funds invested in a bank in New Zealand, or in some private loans such as family loans.
- If funds of yours have been paid to us with instructions to invest it on your behalf, you will not be able to claim compensation from the Fund.
- This is only a short summary of the major provisions in the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 relating to the Fund. If you would like further information, please ask us.
Professional Indemnity Insurance
- We hold current Professional Indemnity Insurance which exceeds the minimum standards specified by the New Zealand Law Society.
If you have a Complaint
- We will provide you with a competent, timely service following your instructions, but if you have any complaint at all about our service please raise it with the Director responsible for your matter, or, if you prefer, any other Director in our firm.
- If it cannot be resolved immediately to your satisfaction we shall appoint a Director that has not been involved in your matter to deal with it promptly and fairly.
- If you are not satisfied with the outcome, you have the right to take the matter up with the New Zealand Law Society which runs a complaints service.