Home > Terms of Engagment

This document sets out your rights whenever you receive legal services from a lawyer. It's in everyone's best interests that you read this, and that you keep a copy safely stored in your files.

However we understand if you're not too keen to get stuck in. There is undoubtedly a bit of small print, a little jargon and lot of details in this document.

Dry, mind-numbing language surrounds us nowadays. For example, Apple's terms and conditions are 56 pages.That's just for a phone. We think your legal representation is more important than playing Angry Birds. And we think it's important you understand the terms of our service.

That's because the more you know the more empowered you are.

It also means that everyone's on the same page, and we can concentrate on getting things done in the most efficient and effective way possible. So please, take a few minutes to go through these Terms and be sure to let us know if there's anything you don't understand.

After all, we're here to help. 

This document sets out your rights whenever you receive legal services from Dean & Associates.

Our firm is committed to serving you professionally and ethically. We will:

  • protect your privacy and confidentiality;
  • pursue your work conscientiously;
  • keep you consistently informed about the status of your work;
  • give you clear information and advice;
  • ensure your work is handled by the best available person.

Solicitors

A director or solicitor of the firm will have the primary responsibility for your matter. However in their professional judgement they may utilise the expertise of other D&A team members. We want to ensure your service is the best it can be – so we'll use the best people for the job.

Professional fees

Our professional fees are calculated on guidelines laid down by the New Zealand Law Society.

These fees are based on the time taken to complete the work and any other relevant factors specified by the Rules of Conduct and Client Care for Lawyers.

Relevant factors include, but are not limited to, time and labour expended, task urgency, the degree of specialised knowledge required, the degree of risk assumed by us in undertaking the services (including the value of any property involved), the complexity of the matter and the results achieved. Like any job, additional compensation may be required for when we have to drop everything, work late and take on extra risk.

Our estimate of costs

If practicable we will provide a cost estimate of the work. This estimate is not a quotation. Rather it is based on an assessment of the work likely to be required to carry out your instructions, and on the information available to us at the ti me of the estimate. If you were to arrive with a magical crystal ball we can arrange for a far more concise quotation.

Office expenses

We charge to cover office expenses such as photocopying, printing, postage, emails, phone calls, faxing (yes, it's still a thing) and file storage. This charge is calculated at 6% of the net fee.

Disbursements

Disbursements may include expenses such as LIM report fees, couriers, court filing fees, searches, registrations and travel costs. You are responsible for reimbursing our firm for these and policy requires us to obtain from you funds in advance for most disbursements.

Retainer fee

Before commencing work we may require a retainer fee or automatic payment plan.

Legal Aid

Sorry, we are not registered to provide legal aid services for family law matters.

Accounts

For all matters (excluding transactional ones) our accounts are due for payment within fourteen (14) days of the date on our invoice unless prior arrangements are made with us. For transactional matters with a scheduled settlement date fees are due on that date.

For all matters, you authorise us to deduct our fees and other expenses from funds held in our trust account on your behalf, provided an invoice has been sent to you.

Interim fees will usually be rendered monthly and a final account forwarded on completion of your instructions.

If any account remains outstanding after 30 days, and no suitable arrangements are made for outstanding debt payment, then the account will be forwarded to Baycorp Collection Services. Any such forwarded debt will incur an additional fee of 40.35% of the outstanding debt to cover Baycorp charges. Yes, this undoubtedly sucks for all concerned (except Baycorp). So please don't let it get to this – if there are issues get in touch to arrange a payment plan.

If your interim account remains outstanding after 45 days no further work will be undertaken until arrangements are made to bring the account back into good standing.

You'll pay all legal and debt collection costs that we may incur, including solicitor and own client costs, in enforcing or attempting to enforce our rights under these terms of engagement.

If a third party undertakes responsibility for any payment incurred on your behalf and such third party either (a) fails for any reason to pay within one month of the date stated in our invoice or request for payment, or (b) refuses to make such payment, you will immediately pay any outstanding amount.

How to keep your costs down

There are many things that will 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 timeline (dates of events) and copies of all relevant documents;
  • not leave things to the last minute if possible (urgency will usually increase your costs);
  • respond promptly to requests for further information (chasing you up takes extra time, which you pay for); and
  • do things we would otherwise have to undertake at your cost; e.g. instructing valuers, liaising with banks etc. Check with us first though so we can coordinate our efforts.

We will keep your costs down by delegating some aspects of the work to appropriate staff with lower charge-out rates (unless you specifically request one person attend to all matters).

Settlement monies

For property and financing transactions where payment of monies is due by you, we require cleared funds for the total amount (including our fees and disbursements) to be deposited with us no later than the morning of the settlement.

Trust Account

We maintain a Trust Account for all funds received from clients (except monies received for payment of our invoices).

If we hold funds on your behalf we will deposit them in an interestbearing deposit with a bank, where reasonable and practicable. We are not responsible for obtaining the best interest rate available. Nor are we responsible for any loss of interest you suffer from any delay in placing your funds in such a deposit.

We charge a 7.5% administration fee on the gross interest earned on funds held in an interest-bearing deposit unless agreed otherwise. Please feel free to have a chat with us.

Withholding tax will be deducted on the interest earned and paid to the 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).

If you transfer funds to our trust account in a foreign currency we will convert those funds into NZ dollars at the prevailing exchange rate offered by our bank. We are not responsible for seeking or obtaining a better exchange rate. If you want to try yourself we suggest changing the funds well in advance of when required.

Termination of legal services

You may terminate our services upon giving us written notice.

We may terminate the retainer if there is good cause, such as:

  • you are not providing us with instructions in a sufficiently timely manner;
  • there is inability or failure to pay our fee on an agreed basis; or
  • except in litigation matters, you adopt a course of action (against our advice) which we believe may be inconsistent with our fundamental obligations as lawyers.

If we terminate the retainer, we will give you reasonable notice so you can arrange alternative representation. We'll also give you appropriate assistance finding 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

We treat all information we hold about you and your personal or business affairs as private and confidential. That information will not be disclosed to any third party unless:

  • we are required to by law;
  • it is necessary to in order to provide our services to you; or
  • you have requested or consented to disclosure.

Notwithstanding point 27 above, we reserve the right to disclose your name, date of birth and address to a credit agency (which they will use for a credit reference or credit management processes).

Anti-Money Laundering

On 1 July 2018 the new Anti-Money Laundering (AML) legislation came into effect. This requires us to obtain personal information from you before commencing any work on your behalf. You are required to provide a proof of identification and verification of your physical address. In certain circumstances we also require evidence of your source of wealth or the source of funds used to settle a transaction. At its simplest this means we'll have to sight your passport and something like a bank statement or utility bill addressed to your residential address, and to hold a copy of these for audit purposes. For overseas clients, companies and trusts we need more information, and will let you know what we require at the time of request.

Limitation of liability

We do not accept any liability for any loss arising from non-receipt of communication, including e-mails. The internet and snail mail are problematic. So if you don't think you've got something, or we haven't received something, ask us.

The maximum aggregate amount of our liability if proved is $2 million unless otherwise negotiated and agreed. This limit applies to the extent permitted by law, for all claims, and however liability arises or might arise whether in contract, tort (including negligence), equity or otherwise. We will not be liable for more than the maximum amount for anything caused by or resulting from anything we do or do not do, or delay in doing, whether or not it is contemplated or authorised by any agreement with you. Long story short – we're confident we won't get it wrong but, if we do, we have insurance to cover it.

If you are more than one person (such as a couple or a partnership), this maximum liability is the maximum combined amount that will apply (if proved).

If you engage us to do work for the purposes of a business you agree the Consumer Guarantees Act does not apply.

We shall not be liable for any loss or liability caused or contributed to by inaccurate or incomplete information supplied by you or third parties (including public records and expert witnesses), or because you did not receive or read a communication we sent you.

Conflicts

Conflicts of interest may arise after initial instructions from you. The reality is we live in a small place where everyone knows everyone. However an initial consultation will generally alert us to issues before we progress further.

If a conflict arises we will certainly advise you of this and tell you how we plan to deal with the conflict. That may mean we stop working for you, the other client or both. We'll cross this bridge if we come to it.

Accounting and taxation and investment advice

We do not provide accounting, taxation or financial planning advice. If your matter requires such advice you should consult your accountant or other relevant professional.

Where we provide conveyancing, this service does not include advice in relation to the quality of any investment comprised in the property, the subject of the conveyance. Should you wish to take advice on this we recommend talking to a Registered Valuer, builder or property consultant. It always pays to hire a professional who knows what they're doing.

Storing records

You authorise us to destroy all files and documents relating to a job seven years after that job is completed. You also authorise us to destroy paper files or documents earlier if we have an electronic copy of them. We will not destroy any documents we have agreed to hold in safe custody for you (such as Wills).

Hamsters

Yes, this is a lot of reading to get through. So consider this a kind of rest break from legal language and a short opportunity to consider that somewhere in the world there are hamsters living in the wild. Yes, hamsters.

Companies, trusts and joint clients

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 (or any other non-personal entity), then such instructions are accepted on the basis you are at all times personally responsible as principal debtor for payment of our fees, and that you personally indemnify us for the payment of our fees rendered to these entities.

If instructions are received from more than one client jointly such clients will be jointly and individually liable for fee payment. In such cases, unless otherwise agreed in writing, we may, (although not required to) accept and act on instructions from any one person.

Rights of third parties

Our work is carried out for your sole benefit and with regard to your particular circumstances and interests only. This work must not be relied upon by any third party unless discussed with us in advance and agreed to in writing. If a third party relies on such work without our prior written consent we shall not be liable for any loss, cost or expense to you or the third party as a result.

Client care

The Law Society's client care and service information is set out below. Whatever legal services your lawyer is providing, he or she must:

  • act competently, in a timely way, and in accordance with instructions
  • received and arrangements made protect and promote your interests and act for you free from compromising influences or loyalties
  • discuss with you your objectives and how they should best be achieved
  • provide you information about the work to be done, who will do it, and how services will be provided
  • charge a fair and reasonable fee and let you know how and when it will be billed
  • 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 it 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. More information is at www.lawsociety.org.nz or on 0800 261 801.

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 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.

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 that from time to time exceeds the minimum standards specified by the New Zealand Law Society.

Complaints

The last thing we want are unhappy clients. That's why we maintain thorough procedures to ensure any client complaint is dealt with promptly and fairly. In the first instance you may refer any complaint to the person in our firm who has overall responsibility for your work. If you do not wish to refer your complaint to that person, or you're not satisfied with the response, you can refer your complaint to our General Manager. Another option is the Law Society. They operate the Lawyers Complaint Service. For further information and advice you can contact them by calling 0800 261 801.