INFORMATION FOR CLIENTS AND TERMS OF ENGAGEMENT (Version 2013/1)

1 Client Care and Service:

(a) 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; and
(x) let you know how to make a complaint and deal with any complaint promptly and fairly.

(b) More generally, 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, to the justice system and to comply with all legal obligations on us.

(c) If you have any questions about the obligations lawyers owe to clients, please visit www.lawsociety.org.nz or call 0800 261 801.

2 Professional indemnity insurance:

We hold current professional indemnity insurance that meets or exceeds the minimum standards specified by the New Zealand Law Society.

3 Lawyers Fidelity Fund:

The New Zealand Law Society maintains the Lawyers Fidelity Fund for the purposes of providing clients of lawyers 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 $100,000.00. 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.

4 Complaints:

(a) We maintain a procedure for handling any complaints by clients, designed to ensure that a complaint is dealt with promptly and fairly.

(b) If you have a complaint about our services or charges, you may refer your complaint to the person in our firm who has overall responsibility for your work.

(c) 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 any of the partners of the firm.

(d) They may be contacted as follows:

(i) By letter sent to PO Box 1144, Dunedin; 
(ii) By email in the format firstname.lastname@rossdowling.co.nz; 
(iii) By telephone on (03) 477 8046.

(e) The Law Society also maintains a complaints service and you are able to make a complaint to that service. You may contact that service as follows:

(i) By letter sent to Private Bag 1901, Dunedin 9054; 
(ii) By email to complaints@lawsociety.org.nz; 
(iii) By telephone on 0800 261 801.

A complaint form and other information may be obtained at www.lawsociety.org.nz.

5 Fees:

(a) The basis on which our fees will be calculated is:

(i) The time spent working for you will be accurately recorded in minimum units of six minutes. 
(ii) The time recorded will be multiplied by the hourly rates of those whose time has been recorded. A schedule containing our standard hourly rates will be provided to you at the commencement of each engagement.
(iii) The sum arrived at may be adjusted (downwards or upwards) to arrive at a fee that is fair and reasonable for the services provided.

(b) In providing services we may incur disbursements (payments to third parties on your behalf). These will be charged to you.

(c) We may charge you for office expenses (such as photocopying) at our standard rates. A schedule containing those standard rates will be provided to you at the commencement of each engagement.

(d) We may add a reasonable mark-up to disbursements and expenses.

(e) We may send interim invoices to you, monthly or at such other times as we consider appropriate. We will send a final invoice to you on completion of the matter, or termination of our engagement.

(f) Invoices are payable by the 20th of the month following the date of the invoice, unless alternative arrangements have been made with us. We may require interest to be paid on any amount which is more than 7 days overdue. Interest will be calculated at the rate of 4% above our main trading bank's 90-day bank bill buy rate as at the close of business on the date payment became due. You are liable to pay our fees, disbursements and expenses for any steps we take to collect overdue sums from you.

(g) We may ask you to pre-pay amounts to us, or to provide security for our fees, disbursements and expenses.

(h) Although you may expect a third party to pay (or reimburse you for) our fees, disbursements 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.

(i) Goods and services tax is payable by you on our fees, disbursements and expenses.

(j) If you are a body corporate (except a company that is listed on the main board of a public stock exchange or a local authority), then the person or persons who instruct us on your behalf shall be jointly and severally liable with you for all sums payable by you to us pursuant to our engagement by you.

(k) We may deduct from any funds held on your behalf in our trust account any fees, expenses, disbursements and GST for which we have provided an invoice, and you authorise and direct us to do so.

6 Persons responsible for your work:

You will be informed of the name and status of the person or persons who will have overall responsibility for the work we are to undertake for you at the commencement of each engagement.

7 Limitations on the extent of our obligations or liability:

(a) We shall not be obliged to:

(i) advise as to the accounting, tax (including GST) or investment implications of the matters on which we act for you, unless we accept a specific instruction to provide our opinion on such an issue. You should obtain such advice from your usual accounting, tax or investment advisor. If you do not have such an advisor, then we can refer you to somebody with appropriate qualifications; 
(ii) advise you regarding matters other than those upon which you specifically instruct us; 
(iii) confirm receipt by you of information we send to you by courier, post, fax, email or other means; nor
(iv) inform you more than once of an action required of you.

(b) Upon completion of a matter we will, where appropriate, identify any necessary future action required of you. We will not be obliged to alert you when the time for that action arrives. If action is required at a future date you must make your own arrangements to be alerted when that date arrives (for example, by making a diary entry).

8 Confidentiality

(a) We will hold in confidence all information concerning you or 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 to:

(i) the extent necessary or desirable to enable us to carry out your instructions; 
(ii) the extent required by law; or
(iii) fulfill our obligation to provide all relevant information to another client with respect to a matter, but only if you have consented to us acting for the other client on that matter.

(b) We will not disclose to you confidential information which we have in relation to any other client except to the extent that clause 8(a)(iii) applies with respect to the other client. You consent to such non-disclosure.

9 Termination

(a) You may terminate our retainer at any time.

(b) We may terminate our retainer in any of the circumstances set out in the Rules of Conduct and Client Care for Lawyers.

(c) If our retainer is terminated you must pay us all fees, expenses, disbursements and GST for work up to the date of termination.

10 Retention and copying of, and lien over, files and documents

(a) You authorise us (without further reference to you) to destroy all files and documents held for you seven years after our engagement with respect to the file or document ends, or earlier if we have converted those files and documents to an electronic format. This does not apply to any documents that we have agreed to hold in safe custody for you for a longer period.

(b) You authorise us to retain copies of any or all files and documents held for you in the event that you uplift any or all of those files and documents.

(c) You grant us a lien over all files and documents held for you to secure payment of our fees, expenses, disbursements and GST.

11 Conflicts of interest

We have procedures in place to identify and respond to 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 of Conduct and Client Care for Lawyers.

12 Duty of care

Our duty of care with respect to a matter on which you instruct us is to you and not to any other person and our advice to you is premised upon your unique circumstances. Before any other person may rely on our advice to you, we must expressly agree to this. You must not therefore provide our advice to any other person unless you first inform the recipient of the matters in this clause.

13 Trust account

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 may charge a commission of 5% on the gross interest earned on those funds.

14 General

(a) The terms and information in this document:

(i) apply to any current engagement and also to any future engagement, whether or not we send you another copy of this document; and
(ii) are provided to you on behalf of yourself and all bodies corporate, associations of persons (whether or not having a separate legal personality) and trusts on behalf of which you subsequently instruct us to act, and will bind all of those persons.

(b) We are entitled to change these terms from time to time on written notice to you.

(c) Our relationship with you is governed by New Zealand law, and New Zealand courts have non-exclusive jurisdiction.

(d) If there is more than one of you, then your liability to us is joint and several.

(e) If you instruct us solely in your capacity as trustee of a trust, and you are a professional trustee who is not a beneficiary of that trust, then your liability under these terms is limited to the assets of that trust, unless those assets have been diminished by reason of your fraud or dishonesty.

15 Acceptance

By confinuing to use our services after you receive this document you will be bound by the terms herein.

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