Terms of business
Client Care and Service Information
(Please read this information carefully)
1. Your instructions and acceptance
1.1 We accept your instructions to act on your behalf in the matter detailed in our letter of engagement confirming your instructions.
1.2 If these terms are not acceptable and the services outlined in our letter of engagement are not in accordance with your requirements, please contact us immediately.
1.3 These terms apply to any current engagement and also to any future engagement.
1.4 Our relationship with you is governed by New Zealand Law and the New Zealand Courts have jurisdiction.
1.5 Unless you advise otherwise (if we do not hear from you to the contrary by return mail), then it is taken that you have accepted these terms and we will proceed with your instructions on that understanding. If you conclude that you do not want our firm to act on your behalf, you are required to inform us immediately.
2. Our general standards
2.1 Our relationship with you is important. Our goal is to provide you with “practical advice and effective solutions”.
2.2 When providing legal services to you, we will:
- Act competently, in a timely way, and in accordance with instructions received and arrangements made.
- Protect and promote your interest 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 invoiced.
- 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.
3.1 If you have a preferred method of our firm communicating with you, please let us know.
3.2 We do not accept any liability for loss arising from non-receipt of any communication, including email communications.
4. Allocation of your work
4.1 You may nominate the person from this office that you wish to be responsible for your instructions, although from time to time it may be necessary to utilise the skills of other members of our staff.
4.2 In order to provide you with the most efficient and cost effective service, some of the work may be performed by more than one member of our staff.
4.3 Where that is likely to happen, we will advise you. A profile of the team that will be responsible for carrying out your instructions is available upon request.
5. Our fees to you
5.1 The basis of the fees which we will charge will be set out in our letter of engagement to you.
5.2 An estimation of our costs will be provided to you in our letter confirming your instructions in appropriate cases. This will be based on our knowledge regarding the services and be our “best guess”, at the date of the letter, as to what the fee is likely to be.
5.3 If however the work does not proceed as either of us had expected or if the work proves more complicated than originally anticipated, then we will advise you of the new estimate to complete the work.
5.4 Generally property and similar transactional matters will be billed at the time of settlement or on completion of the work and the fee is paid by deduction on settlement day. For other matters
interim fees may be rendered on a regular basis and a final account forwarded promptly on completion of the instructions. This will help you by spreading your fee payments over time. It will also enable you to keep track of how much the work is costing.
Should funds be deposited with us during the period of your instructions (for example because of a Court settlement), the fee is paid by deduction from those funds.
5.5 We may ask you to pre-pay an amount to us as a retainer, or to provide security for our fees and expenses or to cover disbursements in advance. You authorise us in this case:
to debit against amounts pre-paid by you; and
to deduct from any funds held on your behalf in our trust account any fees, expenses or disbursements for which we have provided an invoice. Any unused portion will be returned to you upon completion or termination of our services.
5.6 In certain circumstances our letter of engagement may specify a fixed fee or a quotation. This will be recorded in writing and clearly labelled as a fixed fee or quotation, not an estimate. We will charge this for the agreed scope of our services. Work which falls outside that scope will be charged on an hourly rate basis. We will advise you as soon as reasonably practicable if it becomes necessary for us to provide services outside the agreed scope and give you an estimate of the likely amount of the further fees.
5.7 You remain personally responsible for payment to us of any third party fees or expenses that you may have requested us to incur or bill.
5.8 GST is payable by you on our fees and charges unless otherwise stated.
6. How does the firm charge?
6.1 Our fees will be based on the criteria laid down by the New Zealand Law Society. These take into account the time spent by professional staff in our firm on your behalf, skill, specialist knowledge, and the responsibility on us arising from the value of any property or claim. Other issues involved such as the importance and complexity of the matter, the nature of the work and any urgency required are also taken into account.
6.2 Where our fees are calculated mainly on hours worked completing your instructions, hourly rate details will be provided if required or requested. The differences in hourly rates reflect the experience and specialisation of our professional staff.
6.3 Further details regarding how our fees are charged are set out in our “Charging Policy” (a copy is available on request).
7. Disbursement costs
7.1 A set file administration charge will be made to cover the opening, subsequent administration, closure, and storage of your file. This fee also covers facsimile charges, postage and similar expenses. Some expenses will be charged separately (such as photocopying).
7.2 We will also pass on to you any disbursements incurred by us on your behalf including, but not limited to, any Court filing fees, registration fees, search fees, Council LIM charges, travel and experts’ fees, where applicable.
7.3 Our firm’s policy is to obtain funds from you in advance for significant disbursements.
7.4 Property transactions will also incur a disbursement charge in relation to our communication reporting software.
8. How to keep your costs down
8.1 There are many things you can do to help keep your costs down. You can:
- See us before signing anything.
- Make sure you give us all relevant information, papers and instructions.
- For litigation files, provide a detailed time line (dates of when things have happened) and copies of all relevant documents.
- Do not leave things to the last minute if you can avoid it (urgency will usually increase your costs).
- Respond promptly to requests for further information or payment of anticipated disbursements or to do something to help us (if we have to chase you up, it takes extra time, which you are paying for).
- Indicate a willingness to do things we would otherwise have to undertake personally at your cost; eg instructing valuers, liaising with Banks etc. Please check with us first though so we can co-ordinate our respective efforts to produce the best result.
8.2 We will also try to keep your costs down as mentioned above under “allocation of work” by delegating some aspects of the work on your file to appropriate staff with lower charge out rates unless you particularly request that only one person attends to all matters.
9. Credit Enquiries
9.1 You authorise us to conduct credit checks with, and obtain credit and other personal information from, credit agencies and to provide personal information to those agencies at any time.
10. Payment of our costs charged to you
10.1 Our accounts for fees fall due for payment within 14 days of issue.
10.2 You authorise us to deduct from any funds held on your behalf in our trust account any fees expenses or disbursements for which we have provided an invoice.
10.3 If you anticipate difficulty in payment of an account then you must contact us immediately on receipt of that account to discuss arrangements to pay the account.
10.4 We accept payment by cash, eftpos, cheque, direct credit, Visa, Mastercard and by prior arrangement, Bartercard.
10.5 We reserve the right to charge interest at 24% per annum, calculated at a daily rate, on all overdue fees, disbursements and charges remaining unpaid after the due date.
10.6 If there is no satisfactory explanation for non-payment of our account, our Accounts Department may refer the account to a debt recovery agent or commence recovery proceedings. You will be required to reimburse us for all costs in recovering payment of the account, including our time and attendances (on a solicitor/client basis), court costs and any other disbursements and any fees charged by a debt recovery agent. This clause is also for the benefit of and enforceable by our debt recovery agent under the Contracts (Privity) Act 1982.
10.7 For further details regarding payment terms please feel free to discuss these with any of our solicitors, legal executives or contact our credit controller for a copy of our Credit and Payments Terms.
11. Monies paid by you to us – Trust Account
11.1 We maintain a trust account for all funds, which we receive from our clients.
11.2 If we are holding significant funds on your behalf (except monies received for payment of our costs) we will normally lodge those funds on interest bearing deposit with our Bank. In that case, we will charge an administration fee by way of a commission on the interest derived.
11.3 For property, financing, and other transactions where payment of settlement monies is due by you, we require a bank cheque or cleared funds for the correct amount to be deposited with us no later than the morning of the settlement.
12. At any time you can tell us to stop working for you
12.1 At any time, and for any reason, you may withdraw your instructions, change solicitor or firm. We request you give us notice immediately should you wish to take this course of action.
12.2 If you do, you shall be liable at that point for the fees and expenses we have incurred up to that date plus any costs in completing any matter that we, as your solicitors, are required to complete (for example, as required by the Court Rules).
13. We may stop working for you
13.1 We reserve the right to suspend, terminate or cease acting for you if we find lawful cause, for instance, in the event that:
- You require the firm to act unlawfully or unethically;
- You fail to give the firm adequate instructions;
- You unreasonably refuse to act in accordance with our advice;
- You indicate that you have lost confidence in the firm;
- You fail to pay existing charges that are overdue or we believe that you will not meet the reasonable costs of the work being undertaken;
- You lose legal capacity;
- You fail to pay any requested or pre-payment within 14 days of such a request; or
- A conflict of interest arises.
13.2 If your account remains outstanding after 60 days, no further work will usually be undertaken by anyone in the firm until appropriate arrangements are made to bring your account back into good standing.
13.3 Should we decide to cease acting on your behalf, you will be given reasonable notice of our intention to do so.
14. Uplifting your file
14.1 Should you wish to uplift your file, you may do so providing all costs are paid. Please give us reasonable notice before collecting your file should you wish to do so.
15. Destruction of your file
15.1 If you do not request your file, we will retain it for a period consistent with NZ Law Society Guidelines (currently 7 years) after our engagement ends, or earlier if we have converted those files and documents to an electronic format. At that time we will destroy the file without further notice to you.
16. Conflict of interest
16.1 We have procedures in place to identify and respond to conflicts of interest.
16.2 If a conflict of interest arises, we will advise you of this and follow the requirements and procedures set out by the NZ Law Society.
17.1 We will hold in confidence all information concerning you and your affairs that we acquire during the course of acting for you. We will not disclose any of this information to any other person except:
(a) to the extent necessary or desirable to enable us to carry out your instructions; or
(b) to the extent required by law or by the Law Society’s Rules of Conduct and
Client Care for Lawyers.
17.2 Confidential information concerning you will, as far as practicable, be made available only to those within our firm who are providing legal services for you.
17.3 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.
17.4 The Financial Transactions Reporting Act 1996 requires us to collect from you and retain information required to verify your identity.
18.1 Our trust account is not audited but is subject to regular inspection by the NZ Law Society. Unless otherwise agreed, you consent to the disclosure of information necessary to enable such inspections or any audit to be completed.
19. Risk management – Our insurance cover
19.1 Our firm has an active in-house “risk management” process in place to ensure issues are brought to the attention of partners and the General Manager.
19.2 We hold professional indemnity insurance that at least meets or exceeds the minimum standards specified by the NZ Law Society. We will provide you with particulars of our cover upon request.
19.3 We are members of the NZ Law Society. The Society maintains a lawyers Fidelity Fund (“the Fund”).
19.4 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.
19.5 It should be noted though that the Fund will not pay compensation in respect of monies instructed to be invested unless they are funds invested in a bank in New Zealand, or in some private loans such as family loans.
19.6 We do not provide the services of financial planning or broker and provide no investment advice to clients. Should you pay us monies with instructions to invest, it will not be subject to compensation from the Fund.
19.7 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.
20. Concern by you regarding performance
20.1 We will provide you with a competent, timely service following your instructions. We maintain a procedure for handling any complaints by clients, which is designed to ensure that a complaint is dealt with promptly and fairly.
20.2 If you have any complaint or concern about the performance of our work or our fees let us know. You should first contact the person responsible for your file or who supervised the work completed for you.
20.3 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 our firm’s Manager or any partner of the firm.
20.4 If you are not satisfied with the outcome, you have the right to take the matter up with the NZ Law Society which operates a complaint service Ph: 0800-261-801.
We believe that good communication and understanding of each others’ requirements is the key to a successful professional relationship. Please ensure that you have read our Terms of Business carefully.
If you require clarification of any aspect of our Terms of Business, please discuss this with the person responsible for your work.