OUR STANDARD TERMS AND CONDITIONS
These terms and conditions of engagement set out the terms which apply when you instruct us to act for you. These are our current terms but may be changed by agreement between us or superseded by replacement terms in the future.
There are also important provisions in our Client Information Memorandum, the terms of which also apply together with these terms & conditions of engagement.
What is ASCO’s commitment to you?
We will work with you to find the solution that best meets your needs in accordance with the highest professional standards (subject to any legal or ethical duties we have) and in a manner which is cost effective and seeks to add value to you.
Work is carried out across all of our team members, according to the requirements of each of our clients in relation to their work, the work type and other factors including urgency, complexity, specific knowledge, skills, expertise and other relevant factors. Input at different levels from more than one person is generally involved in most matters and changes can occur from time to time particularly in relation to different compartments of the work. We reserve the right at all times, and from time to time, to change the allocation from one team member to another at our discretion.
We maintain a trust account for all client funds which we receive. If we are holding significant funds on your behalf we will normally lodge those funds on interest bearing deposit with a bank (and in that case we may charge an administration fee of a percentage of the interest earned).
Duty of Care
Our duty of care is to you and not to any other person or organisation, and our advice is provided to you only. Before any other person or organisation may rely on our advice we must expressly agree to that, and also before any public use.
We hold information in confidence in accordance with professional requirements as well as in accordance with the requirements of the Privacy Act.
Conflicts of Interest
We have procedures in place to indentify 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 Lawyers and Conveyancers Act Conduct and Client Care Rules for lawyers.
We communicate, both with our clients and with third parties, primarily by way of post, email, facsimile, telephone, and by delivery and also by website. A copy of our standard terms and conditions is on our website and changes will be shown there. Important communications to us should always be made in writing, by facsimile, post or delivery. For contact by telephone, please use our main telephone number or DDI if available and leave a message, if necessary with reception or another staff member. Voice or text messages to mobile phones may not be regularly received or monitored and should not be relied on.
Why do you need to verify my identity?
The Financial Transactions Reporting Act 1993 requires us to verify the identity of any person who may use our trust account in certain circumstances.
We are also required to have proof of identity before carrying out property transactions on Landonline, which is the NZ Government land titles registry, and may also be required to verify identities under other laws.
Related Persons and Parties
These terms and conditions apply to our dealings with you and also with any related persons, companies and trusts with which you are involved or connected or on whose behalf you provide instructions. They will apply to those other persons or entities whether or not separate standard terms and conditions have been expressly issued to them. Persons giving instructions will always be responsible for payment of fees and costs whether or not it is for themselves directly or their companies or trusts or other entities, which will also be liable. Where funds are received or held for you and/or any one of your related parties, they may also be used to meet any payments due from any other related party or on your own account.
How do we calculate our fees?
It is important that you understand the basis on which we calculate our fees. The starting point is the time required to be spent on your matter. Each staff member who works on your file has a different charge out rate depending on their level of expertise or experience. Currently, our charge out rates range between $125 - $350 per hour plus GST (which may change over time) for normal matters, but can be outside that range on particular occasions. If you wish to know relevant charge out rates, at any time please ask.
The hourly rates for our different staff members are only a general basis for determining the appropriate fees for our services. In accordance with the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act guidelines other factors may be taken into account when legal fees are assessed. These include the complexity of the matter and its difficulty or novelty, special knowledge and skills involved, the urgency or circumstances in which the business is transacted, the value or the amount of the property or money involved, the importance of the matter to you, and the reasonable costs of running a law firm.
GST and disbursements (if any) are always payable in addition to our fees.
What about other charges?
In addition to our charges you will be billed for any disbursements which we incur on your behalf, for instance search fees, registration fees, toll and mobile phone charges and delivery charges.
If you have agreed that outside experts such as counsel (barristers) or other experts or specialists are instructed then you must pay to us the fees incurred in respect of them immediately when payment is required.
Where it is likely that large disbursements will be incurred, we will ask you for payment in advance on account for those disbursements.
We will obtain your prior authorisation before incurring any substantial disbursements on your behalf.
An office expenses fee may be payable with invoices. This is towards the administrative costs of a matter and other related office costs which are not recouped by way of specific disbursements. It is generally around $35 to $45 but may be less, or more (up to a maximum of $90 for larger invoices).
Accounts and Payment
Generally we will provide you with an invoice after the end of periods for ongoing matters where there has been significant work done, and also do so on completion of that matter. Payment is required within 14 days if funds are not held, and where there is a legal settlement involved, is to be made at settlement (in addition to interim payments for longer running matters). We reserve the right in all cases to deduct fees, GST and disbursements from monies held or received.
What happens if I don’t pay on time?
If amount remains outstanding after 21 days, then we reserve the right to charge interest at a rate of 12% per annum calculated daily on all amounts due. In addition we may withhold your files and documents until all accounts are fully paid, start proceedings to recover the amounts owed together with any collection costs involved, and cease to do current work or undertake any further work for you or for related parties. If you have any problems with payment please contact us as soon as possible and we will attempt to find a solution that works for both of us.
Although you may expect to be reimbursed by a third party for fees and expenses incurred, and although our invoices may at your request or with your approval be directed to a third party, nevertheless you remain responsible at all times for timely payment to us, whether or not the third party pays.
Do we ask for payment in advance?
In some circumstances we may ask for payment in advance on account of our fees and disbursements.
This payment will be retained in our trust account and will be used to pay fees and disbursements as soon as these are due.
What about estimates?
It is often very difficult to estimate the amount of fees which our legal services will cost in relation to a particular matter. This is because at the beginning of an instruction there are always a number of variables which are unknown. Circumstances may also occur once an instruction is received which means that more work is required than originally indicated. Matters may also depend on the actions of third parties who are outside our control. Where possible we are happy to give an estimate, however, this is a guide only and is not a fixed quotation. Often during a matter, clients request or require additional work to be done beyond what was included in the estimate. If additional work should be required then there will be additional charges for that. We are happy to work with you to help you to minimise costs on particular matters.
We may ask you to provide security for fees and expenses, including payments we may need to make on your behalf to third parties.
Retention of File and Documents
We normally retain files and documents for up to 7 years. You authorise us by these terms (and without further reference to you) to destroy all files and documents (other than current wills, trust deeds and other such documents, that we hold in safe custody for you) after 7 years.
Please let us know if you have any questions about these terms of engagement or about any matter where we may be of service to you.