Terms of Engagement

Terms of Engagement
1. General
These standard Terms of Engagement (Terms) apply to any current engagement and to any future engagement, whether or not we send you another copy.  We are entitled to change these Terms from time to time.  Our relationship with you is governed by New Zealand law and the New Zealand courts have exclusive jurisdiction.

2. Services
The services we are to provide you (Services) are outlined in our Engagement Letter along with any further instructions that you provide to us in writing or that we record in writing.

3. Communications
We will obtain your contact details, including email address, postal address and telephone numbers.  You will advise us if your contact details change. We will report to you periodically on the progress of any engagement and inform you of any material and unexpected delays, significant changes or complications in the work being undertaken. You may request a progress report at any time.

4. Law Society's Client Care and Service Information
Whatever legal service we are providing, we must:
o   Act competently, in a timely way, and in accordance with the instructions received and arrangements made;
o   Protect and promote your interests and act for you free from compromising influences or loyalties;
o   Discuss with you your objectives and how they should best be achieved;
o   Provide you with information about the work to be done, who will do it, and the way the services will be provided;
o   Charge you a fee that is fair and reasonable and let you know how and when you will be billed; 
o   Give you clear information and advice;
o   Protect your privacy and ensure appropriate confidentiality;
o   Treat you fairly, respectfully and without discrimination;    
o   Keep you informed about the work being done and advise you when it is completed; and
o   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 to the justice system.  If you have any questions, please visit www.lawyers.org.nz or call 0800 261 801.

5. Financial
The basis upon which we will charge our fees is setout in our Engagement Letter. If our Engagement Letter specifies a fixed fee, we will charge this for the agreed scope of the 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 of the agreed scope and, if requested, give you an estimate of the likely amount of the further costs.

Hourly fees may be adjusted (upwards or downwards) to ensure the fee is fair and reasonable to take into account matters such as the complexity, urgency, value and importance of the Services. Full details of the relevant fee factors are set out in Rule 9 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008 (Rules).

In providing the Services we may incur disbursements and payments to third parties on your behalf.  You authorise us to incur these disbursements.  You also authorise us to make payments to third parties on your behalf which are reasonably required to undertake the Services.  

GST is payable by you on our fees and charges.

We will send interim invoices to you, usually monthly, and on completion of the matter, or termination of our engagement.  We may send you invoices more frequently when we incur a significant expense or undertake a significant amount of work over a shorter period of time. Invoices are payable within 14 days of the date of the invoice. You authorise us to deduct our fees and other expenses from funds held in the trust account on your behalf on provision of an invoice to you, unless those funds are held for a particular purpose. If your account is overdue, we may:
o   require interest to be paid on any amount which is more than 14 days overdue, calculated at the rate of 15% per annum for the period that the invoice is outstanding;
o   stop work on any matters in respect of which we are providing Services to you;
o   require an additional payment of fees in advance before recommencing work; and recover from you in full any costs we incur (including on a solicitor/client basis) in seeking to recover the amounts from you, including our own fees and the fees of any collection agency.

We may ask you to pre-pay amounts to us.  You authorise us to:
o   debit against amounts pre-paid by you; and·
o   deduct any fees, expenses or disbursements for which we have provided an invoice.

You may request an estimate of our fee for undertaking the Services at any time. If possible, we will provide you with an estimate (which may be a range between a minimum and a maximum amount or for a particular task or step).  An estimate is not a quote.  Any significant assumptions included in the estimate will be stated and you must tell us if those assumptions are wrong or change.  We will inform you if we are likely to exceed the estimate by any substantial amount.  Unless specified, an estimate excludes GST, disbursements and expenses.

Although you may expect to be reimbursed by a third party for our fees and expenses, and although our invoices may at your request or with your approval be directed to a third party, you remain responsible for payment to us in accordance with these Terms if the third party fails to pay us.

We operate a trust account.  All money received from you or on your behalf will be held to your credit in the trust account.  

Please be aware that there is a significant risk posed by cyber fraud, specifically affecting email accounts and bank account details.  For your protection and to comply with the New Zealand Law Society’s recommendations, before we disburse funds from our trust account (should this be required at any time) we must confirm the details of the account to which funds will be paid and ensure the request for payment has come from you.

Where our services involve the payment of funds to you or to a third party at your direction, you must provide us with a copy of your or the payee’s pre-printed bank deposit slip or a copy of your recent bank issued account statement showing the name of the account and the account number.  If this is scanned to us as a PDF document (rather than as a photograph), we will need to contact you to confirm the bank account number due to the risk of emails being intercepted and PDF documents amended.

A full record of the trust account is always kept.  A statement of trust account transactions detailing funds received and payments made on your behalf will be provided to you periodically and at any time upon your request.  Unless it is not reasonable or practicable to do so, when we hold significant funds for you for more than a short period of time, we will place them on interest bearing deposit with a bank registered under section 69 of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act 1989.   Interest earned from interest bearing deposits, less withholding tax, will be credited to you.

6. Compliance
Some of the laws with which we must comply may affect you.  These laws include:·      
o   the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009; and·      
o   tax reporting laws such as the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

We may be required by law to obtain information about you (including to verify your identity and the identity of persons who act on your behalf or who own and control you, e.g.  directors, shareholders, and other beneficial owners), to monitor transactions, and to disclose information about you to third parties, including the New Zealand Inland Revenue Department, the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs, and other authorities (both in New Zealand and offshore). Without limit, we may be required to disclose information about a transaction that you are involved in if required by law or if we think it is suspicious.

A Bank involved in a trust account transaction may need to obtain information about you to comply with its legal obligations.  You must supply that information to us if we ask for it, for on-supply to the bank to meet those obligations.  For clarity, you consent to the bank, in turn, disclosing that information to regulatory authorities both in New Zealand and off shore. By engaging us, you consent to, and waive any right to be advised of, the disclosures described in clause 6.

If you do not supply any information we ask for, we may be unable to provide you, or complete, the services. We have no liability to you:·      
o   if we cannot provide you, or complete, the services (including completing a transaction) because you have not supplied information that we have asked for; and/or
o   for any impact on you (including a delay, investigation or other event) resulting from our compliance with our legal obligations.

7. Professional Indemnity Insurance
We hold professional indemnity insurance which meets or exceeds the minimum standards specified by the New Zealand Law Society.  We will provide you with particulars of the minimum standards upon request. 

8. Lawyers' Fidelity Fund
The Law Society maintains the Lawyers’ Fidelity Fund for the purpose of providing clients of lawyers with protection against loss arising from theft by lawyers.  The maximum amount to an individual claimant is limited to $100,000.00.  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. 

9. Limitations on extent of our Obligations or Liability
Any limitations on the extent of our obligations to you or any limitation or exclusion of liability are set out in our Engagement Letter.

10. Files, Documents and Records
You authorise us (without further reference to you) to destroy all files and documents (other than the documents we hold in safe custody for you) seven years after our engagement ends, or earlier if we have converted those files and documents to an electronic format. We will provide copies of your records to you in accordance with our obligations under the Privacy Act 1993 on request.  We may charge for the cost of providing records to you. You are welcome to uplift your file in electronic format provided that all fees and expenses have been paid.  You must give us reasonable notice that you wish to do so. 

11. Confidentiality and Personal Information
We will hold in confidence all information concerning you or your affairs that we acquire while acting for you.  We will not disclose any of this information to any other person except:
o   to the extent necessary or desirable to enable us to carry out your instructions; or      
o   as expressly or impliedly agreed by you; or
o   as necessary to protect our interests in respect of any complaint or dispute; or    
o   to the extent required or permitted by law.

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.

In our dealings with you we will collect and hold personal information about you.  We will use that information to carry out the Services and to contact you about issues we believe may be of interest to you.  Provision of personal information is voluntary but if you do not provide full information this may impact on our ability to provide the Services.  Subject to clause 10, you authorise us to disclose, in the normal course of performing the Services, such personal information to third parties for the purpose of providing the Services and any other purposes set out in these Terms.

The information we collect and hold about you will be stored electronically.  If you are an individual, you have the right to access and correct this information.  If you require access, please contact us.

The Financial Transactions Reporting Act 1996 requires us to collect from you and to retain information required to verify your identity. We may ask you to show us documents verifying your identity (such as a passport or driver’s licence).  We may retain electronic copies of these documents. We may perform such other customer verification checks as to your identity and checks as to the source of any funds associated with any transaction to which the Services relate as we consider to be required by law.   

12. Conflicts of Interest
We are obliged to protect and promote your interests to the exclusion of the interests of third parties and our own as set out in the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008 (Rules). This may result in a situation arising where we have a conflict of interest. We have procedures in place to identify and respond to conflicts of interest or potential conflicts of interest.  If a conflict of interest arises, we will advise you of this and follow the requirements and procedures set out in the Rules.  This may mean we cannot act for you further in a particular matter and we may terminate our engagement.

13. Our Duty of Care
Our duty of care is to you and not to any other person.  We owe no liability to any other person, including for example any directors, shareholders, associated companies, employees or family members unless we expressly agree in writing.  We do not accept any responsibility or liability whatsoever to any third parties who may be affected by our performance of the Services or who may rely on any advice we give, except as expressly agreed by us in writing.  

Our advice is not to be referred to in connection with any prospectus, financial statement, or public document without our written consent.  Our advice is opinion only, based on the facts known to us and on our professional judgement, and is subject to any changes in the law after the date on which the advice is given.  We are not liable for errors in, or omissions from, any information provided by third parties.

Our advice relates only to each matter in respect of which you engage us.  Once that matter is at an end, we will not owe you any duty or liability in respect of any related or other matters unless you specifically engage us in respect of those related or other matters. Unless otherwise agreed, we may communicate with you and provide documents to you, and with others by electronic means.  We cannot guarantee that these communications will not be lost or affected for some reason beyond our reasonable control, and we will not be liable for any damage or loss caused because of this. 

14. Termination
You may terminate our retainer at any time. We may terminate our retainer in any of the circumstances set out in the Rules including the existence of a conflict of interest, non-payment of fees, and failure to provide instructions. If our retainer is terminated you must pay us all fees, disbursements and expenses incurred up to the date of termination. 

15. Feedback and Complaints
Client satisfaction is one of our primary objectives and feedback from clients is helpful to us.  If you would like to comment on any aspect of the service provided by us, including how we can improve our service, please contact us: contact@housemelegal.co.nz      

If you have any concerns or complaints about our services, please raise them as soon as possible with us.  We will inquire into your complaint and endeavour in good faith to resolve the matter with you in away that is fair to all concerned.

If you are not satisfied with the way we have dealt with your complaint, the New Zealand Law Society has a complaints service to which you may refer the issue.
Matters may be directed to:

Lawyers Complaints Service
Phone: 0800 261 801
PO Box 5041
Wellington 6140
New Zealand
Email: complaints@lawsociety.org.nz      

To lodge a concern: www.lawsociety.org.nz/for-the-community/lawyers-complaints-service/concerns-form

To make a formal complaint: www.lawsociety.org.nz/for-the-community/lawyers-complaints-service/how-to-make-a-complaint