Terms of Engagement
These Terms of Engagement apply except where we otherwise agree with you in writing.
Stephens Lawyers are committed to providing legal services that combine technical accuracy, a timely response, partner accessibility and innovation, a focus on delivering value with cost effectiveness, and a clear goal of assisting our clients achieve their objectives.
The Scope of Our Work
You should have a clear understanding of the legal services we will provide. Any questions that you have will be dealt with promptly.
We will at all times act on your behalf as best we can. Any statements we make about the outcome of your legal matters are expressions of our best professional judgement, but are not guarantees of any result. Our opinions are necessarily limited by our knowledge of the facts and are based on the state of the law at the time they are expressed. Please appreciate that in giving our advice we may be relying upon information provided by you.
We will hold in strict confidence all information concerning your business and your instructions to us that we acquire through our work for you. The only exceptions are where you authorise us to disclose any information or where we must do so by law.
Naturally, the reverse applies and we are not able to disclose to you information that we obtain through acting for other clients.
Conflicts of Interest
We have policies in place to identify and respond to conflicts of interest. If a conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest arises, we will consult with you about the best way to resolve the matter.
We recognise that New Zealand has relatively small commercial and legal markets. As far as possible, clients should be able to retain their lawyers of choice. We may therefore act for other clients whose commercial or legal interests differ from yours. However, we will not act without your consent for any other client where that client’s instructions:
- are substantially related to any active matter on which we are working for you; or
- involve confidential information which we hold on your behalf that would disadvantage you if disclosed to the other client and there is a real risk that the personnel within our firm who would act for that other client would obtain that information
Our Duty of Care
Our duty of care is only to our client named in our confirmation of instruction. We do not owe any duty of care or liability to any other person. If any person wishes to rely on our advice, they can do so only if we expressly agree. If, during the course of our appointment, we provide services to entities related to or associated with you, then these services will be provided on the same terms as these standard terms.
Our fees will be charged on the basis that they will be fair and reasonable having regard to the circumstances of the matter and the nature of our work for you. While the time and resources involved will be important factors, we will also consider other criteria which include:
- Skill, specialised knowledge and responsibility required;
- The value or amount of any property or money involved;
- The importance of the matter to the client and the results achieved;
- The complexity of the matter and the difficulty or novelty of the issues involved;
- The number and importance of the documents perused and prepared; and
- The urgency and circumstances in which the business is transacted.
The hourly rates of our lawyers and other staff have an important bearing on the fees we charge. These rates are adjusted from time to time to reflect the current level of legal experience, changes in overhead costs and other factors.
We will provide on request an estimate of fees and costs likely to be incurred with a particular matter. Any estimate will be based on our best professional judgement, but always with a clear understanding that it is not a maximum or fixed-fee quotation. The ultimate cost may be more or less than the amount estimated.
Often the greatest contributor to lower fees is the level of communication between you and us, both before the work begins and during it. Please discuss with us the outcomes that you seek, the context in which you are working and the level of legal involvement that you require.
We will arrange for each part of your work to be dealt with by the person with the most appropriate level of skill and experience.
In addition to legal fees, we also incur disbursements on your behalf. These disbursements include expenses such as court filing fees, barristers fees and registration fees. Disbursements may be included with our account or may be billed separately. Firm policy requires us to obtain funds from you in advance for significant disbursements. Office recoveries are charged 2% of our net fee, plus GST to cover photocopying, faxing and phone charges, etc.
We will send interim invoices to you, usually monthly. Our invoices will include any New Zealand Goods and Services Tax (GST) applicable to our supply of services to you.
Our invoices are payable by the 20th of the month following the month of the invoice. Where we do not receive payment by that date, we may charge you interest. All invoiced amounts are payable in New Zealand dollars unless we agree otherwise.
Electronic Services and Communication
Where we provide any electronic service to you, or communicate with you by electronic means, we will take every reasonable precaution to ensure that those services and communications are accurate, confidential and secure. However, we cannot always be certain that those services and communications are error free. Also, because they will in most cases be Internet based, certain risks exist that are outside our control. Consequently, we will not be responsible for any of the risks associated with electronic communication.
Subject to any legal requirement, we will retain the file that we create for your work on any one matter for a minimum of 7 years after we finish working for you on that matter. We may hold that file electronically rather than physically. After that time we may destroy that file without contacting you.
We hold professional indemnity insurance cover through Vero Liability Insurance Limited. The cover extends to worldwide claims and risk (excluding claims originating in the USA or Canada) and has a claims limit sufficient to cover the transactions and matters in respect of which the firm provides legal services.
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. You do not need to give us any notice. We may, on reasonable notice, end our engagement at any time.
Provided that you have paid all of our invoices on all matters, we will (on request) provide to you all the documents that we have obtained or created through working for you on the matter or matters in question. Before we provide those documents to you, we may take a complete copy of them.
These terms of engagement apply to any current instruction and to any future instruction whether or not we send you another copy of them. There is no need for you to sign these terms of engagement in order to accept them; you will accept these terms of engagement by continuing to instruct us to work for you.
We can change these terms of engagement; in which case we will send amended terms of engagement to you.
Any dispute concerning these terms of engagement, or our work for you, is to be resolved in the New Zealand Courts under New Zealand Law.