Terms of engagement

INTRODUCTION

These terms of engagement set out certain standard terms and conditions on which Armstrong Murray provides legal and related services to you.  These Terms of Engagement apply subject to any additional or alternative terms which we may agree in writing with you.  We reserve the right to change these terms from time to time and will publish the changed terms on our website.  By instructing us to provide you with legal services you agree that you have accepted these Terms of Engagement and any amendments we make to them.

1.        OUR SERVICES

The legal services which we are to provide for you are outlined in our engagement letter.

2.        YOUR INSTRUCTIONS

You are required to provide us with a current residential address and suitable identification.  We can accept instructions and report to any of the following unless you advise us in writing.

  • If we act for a couple in a transaction, we can accept instructions from either party.
  • If we act for a company, we can accept instructions from any director or officer of that company or any employee or other person who you have authorised to work with us.
  • If we act for a trust, we can accept instructions from any trustee or officer of that trust.
  • If we act for a partnership, we can accept any instructions from any partner or officer of that partnership.

At all times, you are obliged to provide us with all or any relevant instructions, information, evidence and documents in a timely manner.  Any failure to do so may have a material effect on our conclusions and the provision of work, services or representation.

3.        FINANCIAL

Fees

Our fees are calculated in accordance with the factors set out at Part 7, Rule 41(2) of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Conveyancing Practitioners: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008.  They are principally based on an hourly rate calculated on the time spent working on your file.  Sometimes our charges will also be influenced by any degree of urgency and the difficulties and complexities of the case.  Our partners, solicitors, legal executives and law clerks have an hourly billing rate based on their experience and expertise.  You may request the hourly rate of any person working on your file. This hourly rate may change annually.

Estimates

If you would like us to give you an estimate of what we expect the fees will be for your matter, we will do so.  This will be a guide only and is not a fixed quote.  We will also, at your request, tell you the amount of fees incurred to date, or we can let you know when fees reach a certain level.

Disbursements

We may incur disbursements or have to make payments to third parties on your behalf.  These will be included in our invoice to you when the expense is incurred.  We may require advance payment for the disbursement or expense of which we will be incurring on your behalf.

Anti-Money Laundering

Armstrong Murray is required to comply with the terms of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009.  

In that respect, we are required to collect and retain client information for matters on which we are instructed.  That information includes but is not limited to: identity verification, tax numbers (New Zealand and/or foreign) and proofs of residential address.  In some cases, we are also required to verify source of client finds and/or source of client wealth.  That information is required to be obtained by us in respect of most of the types of activity we undertake and before we can provide any substantive advice or services. 

We currently comply with the obligations under the Act by either obtaining copies of necessary documents in person, or as certified copies, or by outsourcing the collection of that information to an accredited provider of these services.

In completing our Letter of Engagement, you are deemed to have agreed to us instructing an accredited provider to obtain this information from you and your related entities and to pass that information on to us, in order that we can comply with our Anti-Money Laundering obligations.  You also acknowledge that our provider (as at 1 July 2021 we use First AML) will charge a fee to us for obtaining that information, which fee we in turn will on-charge to you as a disbursement.

Office Service Charge Fee

In addition to disbursements, we may charge a fee of up to $65 to cover out of pocket costs which are not included in our fee and which are not recorded as disbursements. These include items such as photocopying, printing, postage and phone calls.

Accounts

Our invoices are payable within 14 days of receipt.  All accounts are pre-printed E & OE which means errors and omissions excepted.  Accounts rendered to you shall be paid in full before we undertake or provide any further work or services on your behalf.  If an account is overdue, we may charge interest at the rate of 2% per month or part thereof on any amount outstanding one month after the date of the account with interest calculated from the date payment becomes due until the date of payment.  

Costs for work related to residential property transactions will generally not be payable until settlement or the completion of that file.  

If the billed work we are doing for you is ongoing, we will issue interim accounts, usually on a monthly basis.

If you have any queries or concerns regarding any invoice that has been rendered, please raise the matter with either the partner in charge or our Practice Manager.

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, nevertheless you remain responsible for payment to us if the third party fails to pay us.

GST

GST will, if applicable, be charged and payable in addition to the amount of any fee.

Retainer

A retainer may sometimes be required which we will place in our trust account prior to work commencing and may be held on interest bearing deposit account (interest to the Client’s account) until the conclusion of the file.  Until then all monthly invoices are to be paid on due date until the completion of that file.  Then the retainer will be applied against the final account with any balance being refunded to the Client.

Monies Held or Received

For any property related or financing transactions, you must credit our trust account on the day of settlement with cleared funds of the amount required before 10am.

Where we hold any funds on your behalf in our trust account, whether received by us on your behalf or paid into our trust account by you (or a third party on your behalf), regardless of the intended purpose of those funds, you irrevocably authorise us to deduct all of our fees and disbursements and any other charges held or received on your behalf, prior to the funds being disbursed to you or any other person or entity nominated by you.  The raising of an invoice and statement to you is our authority for such a deduction and all such invoices/statements will be forwarded to you.

Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA)

To the extent that we hold funds in our trust account on your behalf whether on deposit or otherwise, you authorise us to disclose any information required to be disclosed to either this firm’s bank or the Inland Revenue Department pursuant to FATCA requirements.  You authorise us to collect FATCA information from you in relation to such funds on an ongoing basis and whenever monies are held in our trust account and disclose such information as and when required under FATCA.

4.        CONFIDENTIALITY

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:

      1. to the extent necessary or desirable to enable us to carry out your instructions; or 
      2. to the extent required by law or by the Law Society’s Rules of Conduct and Client Care for Lawyers.

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.

We will of course, not disclose to you confidential information which we have in relation to any other client.

5.        TERMINATION

You may terminate our services at any time.  We may terminate our services at any time on written notice.  We will then issue a final account to you and will hold your files, papers, and any money in trust until payment has been received in full for any outstanding accounts.  We reserve the right to withdraw from our representation of you with your consent.  We are bound by the New Zealand Law Society Rules of Conduct and Client Care for Lawyers.  Under these rules, we are required to stop work for you if you are: acting contrary to our advice, or ignoring our advice, if there is a conflict of interest, non payment of fees or costs, misrepresentation or non-disclosure of relevant facts. Further, we may terminate your retainer for good cause as set out in rule 4.2.1 after giving you reasonable notice specifying our grounds for termination.

6.        CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

We have procedures in place to deal with issues that arise if the interests of two or more clients conflict.  If a conflict of interest arises we will advise you of this and follow the requirements and procedures set out in the Law Society’s Rules of Conduct and Client Care for Lawyers.

7.        RETENTION OF FILES AND DOCUMENTS

You authorise us (without further reference to you) to destroy all files and documents for this matter (other than any documents that we hold in safe custody for you) 7 years after our engagement ends, or earlier if we have converted those files and documents to an electronic format.

8.        DUTY OF CARE

Our duty of care is of you and not to any other person.  Before any other person may rely on our advice, we must expressly agree to this.

9.        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 will charge an administration fee of up to 5% of the interest derived.

10.        ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS

Unless otherwise agreed with you, we will communicate with you and others at times by email.  As e-mails are not always secure, or may have defects (such as viruses), we do not accept responsibility and will not be liable for any damage or loss caused by an e-mail that is intercepted, or has a virus or other defect.

11.        LAW AND JURISDICTION

These terms of engagement and any other agreement we have with you are governed by New Zealand law and we and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the New Zealand Courts.

12.        FUTURE INSTRUCTIONS

Unless otherwise agreed in writing, these terms having been handed or sent to the Client, will apply to all instructions received from the Client including matters currently in train and future instructions whether or not these terms of engagement are signed.

13.        GENERAL

We are entitled to change these terms of engagement from time to time, in which case we will send you amended terms