These Terms of Engagement are intended to ensure you understand the basis upon which we will act on your instructions. We will:
(i) Act competently in a timely way and in accordance with instructions received and arrangements made;
(ii) Protect and promote your interests and act for you free from compromising influences or loyalties;
(iii) Discuss with you your objectives and how they should best be achieved;
(iv) Provide you with information about the work to be done, who will do it, and the way the services will be provided;
(v) Charge you a fee that is fair and reasonable and let you know how and when you will be billed;
(vi) Give you clear information and advice;
(vii) Protect your privacy and ensure appropriate confidentiality;
(viii) Treat you fairly, respectfully and without discrimination;
(ix) Keep you informed about the work being done and advise you when it is completed.
Our obligations as lawyers to our clients are described in the Rules of Conduct in Client Care for Lawyers. Those obligations are subject to other overriding duties, including duties we owe to the Court and to the justice system.
If you have any questions, please visit www.lawyers.org.nz or call 0800 261 801.
1.1 These Terms apply to any current instruction you give us, as well as any future instruction, whether or not we send you another copy of them. These Terms and the engagement letter form the entire agreement between you and us. There is no need for you to sign these Terms in order to accept them. You accept them by continuing to instruct us to work for you.
1.2 We reserve the right to amend these Terms from time to time. Any such amendment will take effect from the date on which we notify you of the amendment, or post the amended Terms of Engagement on our website.
2. Your responsibilities
2.1 Your assistance on the following points will enable us to deliver our service in a timely manner:
(i) Give us clear instructions, if possible in writing;
(ii) Provide information or documentation promptly;
(iii) Provide information which is true, accurate and not misleading;
(iv) Tell us if you have any important time limits;
(v) Tell us if you change your address, telephone or facsimile number, or email address;
(vi) Ask if you are not sure about anything;
(vii) Pay our invoices when due.
3. Scope of Work and our Role
3.1 We will represent and advise you on all legal matters that properly fall within the scope of your instructions.
3.2 Our duties are owed to you. Unless otherwise agreed in writing or required by law, those duties will not extend to others. If any other parties wish to retain us, they should do so by separate agreement.
3.3 Similarly, our advice is given for your benefit and in your interests. If any other parties wish to rely on the advice we give you, they can only do so if both you and we agree in writing.
3.4 When your instructions on a matter are completed, our obligation to represent you will end. We will only advise you further on issues arising from the matter if you specifically engage us to do so.
4.1 In acting for you, we will collect and hold personal information about you.
4.2 We will not disclose any confidential personal information unless it is authorized by you, or required to undertake credit collection processes, by the law or the New Zealand Law Society’s Rules of Conduct in Client Care for Lawyers.
4.3 You authorize us to use your personal information to check your present and continued credit worthiness, and if necessary, to collect any outstanding debt from you and for direct marketing activities (‘the purposes set out above’). You consent to us disclosing the information, as well as any default in payment by you, to any credit or debt collection agency, and to any person/agency we appoint to collect any outstanding debt from you, if necessary, for the purposes set out above.
4.4 If information is provided to any credit or debt collection agency, they will hold that information on their systems and use it to provide their credit reporting service, including updating its credit reporting database and providing that information to other customers they have and you consent to that use and disclosure. We may request, and any person or organization (including any credit or debt collection agencies) may provide, information about you to us, both now and in the future, for the purposes set out above and you consent to us seeking that information in the course of our business and disclosure of that information to us.
4.5 If you are an individual, you have the right under the Privacy Act 1993 to see and correct any personal information we, or any agency, hold about you. You must notify us of any change in circumstances that may affect the accuracy of the information you provided to us.
5. Persons responsible for the work
5.1 Generally, we ask you to nominate the partner responsible for each matter. He or she will then involve others to assist as appropriate. If at any stage you have concerns about the staffing of a matter, please contact either the partner responsible or any other partner. We are always happy to discuss this.
5.2 Legal services are performed by members of our professional staff with the level of experience and specialisation which best enable us to provide a quality service at a fair price.
6. Calculation of Fees
6.1 The basis on which fees will be charged and when payment of fees is to be made is set out in our letter of engagement and these Terms.
6.2 Our fees are calculated in accordance with the principles established by the New Zealand Law Society. These include:
(i) The time and labour expended;
(ii) The skill, specialist knowledge, and responsibility required to perform the services properly;
(iii) The importance of the matter to you and the results achieved;
(iv) The urgency and circumstances in which the matter is undertaken and any time limitations imposed, including those imposed by you;
(v) The degree of risk assumed by us in undertaking the services, including the amount or value of any property involved;
(vi) The complexity of the matter and the difficulty or novelty of the questions involved;
(vii) Any quote or estimate of fees given;
(viii) The reasonable costs of running a practice; and
(ix) The fee customarily charged in the market and locality for similar services.
6.3 When we commence work, we do not know how significant each of the factors set out above will be. It is therefore difficult to give a fixed quote.
6.4 If we do give an estimate, this is our “best guess” as to what the fee is likely to be, based on the information and issues we are aware of at the time of the estimate. If however the work does not proceed as expected, or if the scope of your instructions change or unexpected complications arises, then we charge for all additional work done. Specific examples include:
(i) Where you decide to purchase a property in the name of a company or a trust;
(ii) Where relationship property issues need to be addressed;
(iii) Where a will or other additional legal document is prepared;
(iv) Where there are difficulties in satisfying the special conditions of your contract; or
(v) Where there is a delay in satisfaction of your special conditions or settlement of your transaction.
6.5 We will inform you as soon as practicable if it becomes apparent that our fee estimate is likely to be exceeded.
6.6 Sometimes instructions are not completed. If this occurs, we will charge you for the work undertaken and costs incurred up to the time of termination. Sometimes we may be required to incur additional time or expense following the completion of a matter. We will charge you for this in the normal way.
7. Disbursements and Services
7.1 We will invoice you for disbursements incurred by us to third parties on your behalf (for example LIM or other report fees, title registration fees, document service fees and court filing fees). We will also invoice you for the cost of our office services provided by us in acting for you (for example, courier, photocopying, binding, information retrieval, faxes and toll charges).
7.2 We may ask for payment of major items before those costs are incurred.
8.1 If the matter is litigious, then the following will also apply:
(i) It may be desirable to also engage the services of a barrister or other expert witness. If we do so, we may either collect their fee from you or ask you to enter into a separate agreement directly with that barrister or expert witness.
(ii) If you are successful in obtaining an order for costs payable by other parties in the litigation, it will most likely be for an amount less than the costs payable under this Agreement, and or any separate agreement with a barrister. If so, that will not affect your obligation to pay us the fee. You will also remain obligated to pay our fee in the ordinary manner specified in these terms, whether or not you have received any ordered payment from other parties in the litigation towards our costs.
(iii) It is also possible that the Court may make an order that you pay (part of) another party’s costs. If so, those costs will be in addition to those payable to us under this Agreement.
9. Companies and Trusts and Joint Clients
9.1 If we receive instructions from you in your capacity as a director or shareholder of a limited liability company, or as a settlor or trustee of a trust or estate, then such instructions are accepted on the basis that you and the company, trust or estate (as the case may be) are at all times jointly and severally liable for payment of our fees and disbursements.
9.2 In cases where instructions are received from more than one client, such clients will be jointly and severally liable for payment of our fees and disbursements. In such cases, unless otherwise agreed in writing, we may, but are not required to, accept and act on instructions from any one person from such a joint client.
10. Billing and Accounts
10.1 Invoices will usually be issued on a monthly basis for current legal work. We also issue an account on completion of each matter.
10.2 Our invoices will include any New Zealand GST applicable to our supply of services to you.
10.3 Payment in full is due within 14 days of the date of our invoice or, in the case of property matters, on settlement of your transaction, whichever date is earlier. You must not withhold payment or make any deductions of any nature whether by way of set off (legal, equitable or otherwise), counterclaim or otherwise from any amount you owe us. Where we do not receive payment by that date, we may charge you interest at the rate of 1.5% per month.
10.4 Where we have an arrangement with you that we will address an invoice to another person, you will need to pay that invoice if that other person does not pay us.
10.5 Deductions: You authorize us to deduct from any funds held on your behalf any fees, expenses or disbursements for which we have provided an invoice and for which services have been rendered. If an account is not paid promptly, we may:
(i) Deduct the amount due from funds held on your behalf (for example from the sale of your house); and/or
(ii) Cease to do any further work, on reasonable notice to you, and retain custody of your papers or files until all accounts are paid in full.
11.1 At the beginning of each month, we may send you a statement summarising the amounts that have been received into and paid out of our trust account on your behalf. This statement will show any amount which is payable by you to reimburse us for our fee and any disbursements we have paid on your behalf.
11.2 The firm’s policy is to initiate recovery proceedings in respect of overdue amounts unless alternative arrangements are approved in writing by us.
11.3 Should it be necessary to initiate any such recovery proceedings, we are entitled to recover from you all costs (including debt collection costs and actual legal costs and expenses on a solicitor and client basis) incurred by us in doing so or attempting to do so and/or incurred in enforcing these Terms.
12. Trust Account
12.1 We maintain a trust account for all funds which we receive from clients (except monies received for payment of our invoices). If we are holding significant funds on your behalf we will normally lodge those funds on interest bearing deposit with a bank. In that case we will charge an administration fee of 5% of the interest derived.
13.1 Where you give us any instruction and we rely on that instruction (for example, by giving an undertaking to a third party), you may not revoke that instruction. Otherwise, you may end our engagement at any time on any matter or matters. We will charge you for the work undertaken and costs incurred up to the time of termination.
13.2 We may, on reasonable notice, end our engagement at any time. If our engagement is terminated, these terms continue to apply in respect of your instructions.
13.3 If our engagement is terminated, we may retain custody of your papers or files until all accounts are paid in full. We will provide copies to you on request provided that you pay our reasonable photocopying charges if required.
13.4 If we provide your original file to you, we may retain copies of your file(s) and associated documents for our records.
13.5 We retain files in paper or electronic form for a minimum of six years from the time a matter is terminated or completed. At any time thereafter we may destroy that file without contacting you.
14. Professional Indemnity Insurance
14.1 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.
15. Lawyers Fidelity Fund
15.1 The New Zealand Law Society maintains the Lawyers Fidelity Fund for the purposes of providing clients 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.
16.1 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 you may refer it to the partner who has overall responsibility for your work.
16.2 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 practice manager, who will ensure that it is fully investigated. They may be contacted as follows:
(i) By letter at PO Box 1725, Christchurch;
(ii) By email at email@example.com;
(iii) By telephone at 03 348 8480.
16.3 The Law Society also maintains a complaints service and you are able to make a complaint to that service directly at (03) 366-9184.
17. Limitations on Extent of Our Obligations or Liability
17.1 Any limitations on the extent of our obligations to you, or any limitation or exclusion of liability, is set out in our letter of engagement.
17.2 If you are acquiring our services for business purposes, the guarantees under the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 do not apply.
18. Conflicts of interest
18.1 We may act for clients who may be associated with you in some way. Naturally we will continue to represent those clients or new clients where we consider that no conflict arises between your interests and the interests of those other clients arising out of the work we are engaged to perform for you.
18.2 We will however meet our legal and ethical requirements relating to conflicts of interest as laid down by the Law Society Code of Professional Conduct and the common law. We may need to terminate the engagement and refer you to another law firm where we believe that we do, or may have, a conflict of interest.
19. Law and Jurisdiction
19.1 Any dispute between us involving litigation is to be resolved before a New Zealand Court applying New Zealand law.
19.2 If a court determines that any term in these Terms of Engagement is illegal, void or unenforceable, we will remain entitled to enforce the remaining terms.
20. Limitation of Liability
20.1 We hold professional indemnity insurance of $7 million which meets the standards specified by the Law Society. To the maximum extent permitted by law, the total aggregate liability of Parry Field and its agents and employees (together) to you for all claims in relation to my services is limited to the actual extent of that insurance or to twice the fees paid by you for the services that were provided to you in the 12 months preceding the applicable claim, whichever is the lesser. This clause is intended to be for the benefit of and enforceable by our agents and employees. The limitation of liability in this paragraph shall apply however and whenever liability arises or might otherwise arise, whether in contract, equity or tort (including negligence), for breach of statutory duty or otherwise.