Since the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act came into force in 2008, like all law practices, we must have an agreement with you setting out the terms on which we will provide legal services.
Attached is a form (PDF) which we often use. The completed details will reflect the particular work you engage us for, so will differ from the attached form, in Schedule One.
In the form there is reference to a Schedule Two which is reproduced below. It includes the general terms and conditions under which we provide legal services, in accordance with the Client Care Rules of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act.
Schedule Three is included in most cases when you accept the basis for hourly rates substantially lower than those shown in the attached form.
Schedule Four is included when we agree a fixed fee with you.
Terms and Conditions
1. Clients Instructions
- The Firm will act in the Clients best interests to carry out the Clients instructions.
- The Firm reserves the right to cease to act where the Client cannot or will not provide such IRD numbers and account numbers and photograph and other identification required by the Firm to carry out the Clients instructions specified under the heading “Instructions”, or where the Firm is of the opinion that the Client has misled or deceived the Firm in any material way.
- The Firm will take reasonable steps to keep the Client informed of the steps taken to carry out the Clients instructions.
- By instructing the Firm the Client accepts liability to pay the accounts that the Firm will render for work done together with all disbursements incurred in respect of the Clients instructions.
2. What are the Firms Obligations to the Client?
The Rules of Conduct and Client Care for Lawyers of the New Zealand Law Society require that in all events, subject to the duties of the Firm and its members to the courts and to the justice system, the firm and each of its lawyers must:
- act competently, in a timely way, and in accordance with instructions received from the Client (orally, electronically or in writing) and any arrangements made between the Client and the Firm;
- protect and promote the Clients interests and act for the Client free from compromising influences or loyalties;
- discuss the Clients objectives and how they should best be achieved;
- provide the Client with information about the work to be done, who will do it and the way in which the Firms services will be provided;
- charge the Client a fee that is fair and reasonable, and let the Client know when the Client will be billed;
- give the Client clear information and advice;
- protect the Clients privacy and ensure appropriate confidentiality;
- treat the Client fairly, respectfully, and without discrimination;
- keep the Client informed about the work being done and advise when it is completed;
- let the Client know if the Instructions are of the sort where the Client may be eligible for legal aid, and if so whether the Firm is prepared to undertake the work in the Instructions if paid by legal aid
- let the Client know how to make a complaint, and deal with any complaint promptly and fairly.
The obligations the Firm owes to the Client are described in the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008 which came into force on 1 August 2008. For any queries consult the Firm or visit www.lawsociety.org.nz.
3. How does the Firm charge?
The Firms fees are charged in accordance with guidelines laid down by the Rules of Conduct and Client Care of the New Zealand Law Society. In fixing the fee the Firm takes account of considerations such as:
- the time and labour spent;
- the skill, specialised knowledge and responsibility required;
- the importance of the matter to the Client and the results achieved;
- the urgency and circumstances in which the work is undertaken and any time limits, including time limits imposed by the Client;
- the degree of risk assumed by the Firm 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 personnel carrying out the work;
- the possibility that acting for the Client might mean we are unable to discharge our obligations to other Clients;
- the reasonable costs of running the Firm;
- any other factor which we consider to be relevant in the circumstances;
- other methods of charging which suit certain types of work which we can discuss with the Client where they are appropriate.
4. Estimate of Costs
- Any estimate of costs will be the Firms “best guess” as to what the costs are likely to be. If the work does not proceed as the Firm had expected due to unexpected complications, or if the work proves more complicated or time consuming than originally anticipated, the Firm will charge for all additional work.
- If it appears that the estimate will be exceeded, the Firm will advise the Client of the reasons and obtain further instructions from the Client.
5. Credit Policy
The Client may be allocated a credit limit which will be:
- confidential between the Client and the Firm (and persons such as barristers and expert witnesses instructed by the Firm with the consent of the Client);
- the total amount that the Firm will allow to be owed or due to it by the Client at any time;
- able to be increased or decreased or withdrawn by the Firm at any time.
The Firm has the right to make reasonable and confidential credit enquiries from an appropriate information provider.
The Firm may stop doing work (and instruct others to stop doing work) for the Client if the Clients credit limit is exceeded or if payment is not received by the Firm when invoiced. The Firm will have no liability for any loss suffered by the Client when work is stopped for this reason.
6. When will the Client be billed?
- Generally property matters may be billed at the time of settlement or on completion of the work. The Firm may require the Client to make a payment or payments to it for those matters referred to in clause 7 prior to final billing of any matter.
- For other matters the Firm will bill the Client on a monthly basis.
7. What about out-of-pocket payments the Client has to make?
- Payments may have to be made to other people for work to be done, for example filing fees, search fees, agency fees and similar payments (called disbursements). The Firm is not required to pay these amounts for the Client unless the Firm receives payment from the Client first. The Firm has the right to ask for these specific amounts or for an approximate amount to cover these expenses to be paid in advance to ensure that the Firm is not out of pocket.
- If the Firm instructs any other person (including Counsel or another lawyer) the Firm has the right to require payment of that persons estimated fees into the Firms trust account beforehand. By instructing that person, the Firm undertakes an obligation to pay that persons fees and accordingly requires to be protected for them. The Firm may require the Client to enter a payment arrangement directly with that person.
8. When does the Client have to pay?
- The Firms accounts are all due on the date of issue of the Firms invoice. If the Firm is holding any money for the Client, the Firm is hereby authorised by the Client to deduct the amount due in the invoice from that money and give the Client a full statement showing how the Clients money has been applied.
- If there is more than one person comprising the Client, each person is jointly liable for payment in due time of all the Firms accounts and other charges such as those under clause 9.
9. What if the Client cannot pay on time?
- If the Client anticipates difficulty in the payment of any invoice, the Client must contact the Firm immediately and discuss arrangements for payment. The provisions of clause 5 may apply.
- Interest is payable on any invoice more than 7 days overdue. Interest shall be calculated at the rate of 5% above the Firms bank overdraft rate applying at the date of the invoice.
- If the Firm has to take steps to recover any unpaid account the Client hereby acknowledges that the costs of recovery (including debt collectors charges) are all payable by the Client.
- Where the name of a guarantor is completed on the front page of this agreement, then that person personally guarantees full payment of any amount due to the Firm from the Client in terms of this agreement.
- Where work has been done by the Firm but the Firm has not been paid by the Client, then the Firm has the right to retain the original documents and the correspondence on the Clients files until such time as all outstanding fees, disbursements and other expenses have been paid. This is known as a lien. This will be particularly important in circumstances where the Client decides for whatever reason to instruct another law firm. The Client must pay all outstanding fees, disbursements and other expenses (including any due under paragraph 12) before the Firm releases the Clients files to the Clients new lawyers.
12. Retention of Records
- Files and documents will be retained by the Firm for at least 6 years after completion or termination of the matter and may then be destroyed by the Firm.
- Subject to the lien in paragraph 11 if the Client uplifts any files or documents at any time the Firm may make copies of them at the cost of the Client and require the Client to pay the Firm any charge made for this and any outstanding invoices before they are uplifted.
- The Firm will hold all information concerning the business and affairs of the client in strict confidence, and will not divulge such information except where required or permitted to do so by law, or the client expressly or impliedly authorises the Firm to make such disclosure.
- The Firm is to be indemnified by the Client against any action, claim, proceeding, demand, loss, liability, cost, or expense which the Firm may suffer or incur arising out of, or connected with, acting for the Client, except to the extent that such a claim is caused or contributed directly by any negligence of the Firm.
- Unless otherwise agreed in writing, the Firms liability to the Client shall not exceed an amount equal to the total fees (excluding GST) paid by the Client to the Firm under this Agreement.