Standard Terms of Engagement
Your matter will be handled by the Solicitor referred to in the letter confirming your instructions. Stewart & Associates want to ensure that we meet your needs and expectations and we will attempt to keep you informed of every significant development in your matter. In our experience, doing so helps ensure a healthy Solicitor/Client relationship.
Standard Engagement Terms
This document contains our standard terms of engagement which will apply to the carriage of your matter. If, at any time, you have any questions about these terms, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Costs and Expenses Incurred On Your Behalf
Our professional fees will be charged by one of the following methods as stated in the letter you have received accepting your instructions:
- a fixed cost; or
- hourly rates, as set out in these terms; or
- a partly fixed cost and partly determined by hourly rates.
Our professional costs will be charged out at the following hourly rates:
- Principal: $400.00
- Solicitors: $220.00 – $300.00
- Law Clerks: $120.00 – $200.00
- Secretarial Staff: $100.00
Note: We do not add additional charges for secretarial staff unless dedicated time is spent on your matter.
These fees will be subject to review on the 1st of July each year.
Please note that if a fixed fee is agreed for your matter and the scope of the work involved varies, any additional work carried out in accordance with your updated instructions will be charged at the current hourly rates, unless otherwise agreed between us in writing.
Disbursements are separate from professional fees and include additional expenses such as filing and Barrister’s fees, photocopying expenses, search and service fees, and travel expenses, amongst others. These costs will be required to be paid upfront and in addition to our professional fees, unless otherwise agreed between us in writing.
All fees, rates and charges set out in this agreement are exclusive of GST, which will be added to any bill sent to you.
In some cases you may expect to receive reimbursement of your fees from a third party, for example, when you are successful in Court. Unfortunately, Stewart & Associates have no entitlement to pursue those costs from third parties, so we must look to you to meet our costs and then you will be able to receive the reimbursed amount from the party responsible.
Please note that even if you are successfully awarded a costs order following litigation, it is unlikely that the costs recovered from that order will be sufficient to cover the total amount owed by you to our firm. A general guide is that a costs order will cover 60-70% of your total expenses and you will still be required to pay the balance.
In the event that a Court orders that you pay the other side’s costs, you will still be required to pay the amount owed by you to our firm for all professional fees and disbursements.
Interest on Unpaid Accounts
If, for any reason, you do not make payment under the terms of this agreement, then you may be liable for interest on the amount of your unpaid account from the date of that account. The interest rate applied will be the Reserve Bank’s cash rate plus 2%.
Duty of Care
Stewart and Associates has a duty of care to you as our client. Any third party that, including any entity related to you, that relies on our advice does so at their own risk, unless Stewart and Associates agrees to anything to the contrary in writing.
If, during the course of your engagement of our firm, you instruct us to provide advice to an entity that is related to or associated with you, that entity shall be deemed to have accepted the terms of this agreement and the advice will be provided on that basis.
Retrieval of Archived Files
After your file has been finished we are required, by law, to keep it for a period of 7 years. Due to the large number of files kept by us we are obliged to keep these archived files at an external storage facility.
From time to time we do receive requests for the contents of these archived files and this does involve significant administrative work. Accordingly, we have been forced to impose a $100.00 retrieval fee on any occasion that an archived file needs to be retrieved. We trust that you understand this and that this cost only goes part of the way towards covering the actual cost of these requests.
Conduct of Your Matter
Communication is an essential element of a successful Solicitor/Client relationship. During your matter we shall ensure that you are kept informed at all times to the following standards:
- At the beginning of the matter we shall confirm to you your instructions, together with what work we shall be doing on your behalf and what matters, if any, you are required to attend to.
- We shall then notify you as all major steps are completed, so that you are aware as to the current status of your matter. This also serves to ensure that we are acting in accordance with any updated instructions. If, at any time, you are uncertain as to exactly what is happening, or you feel that we are not complying strictly with your instructions, then we ask that you immediately contact your Solicitor.
- We shall also inform you immediately of any changes in your matter and of any delays that may be experienced and explain the reasons for these delays.
- You will be contacted not less than once every 2 weeks, unless you have otherwise directed.
- All phone calls will be returned at the earliest opportunity and we aim to return calls within 24 hours.
- If, at any time, you require a conference with your Stewart & Associates Solicitor, then this will be arranged at the earliest possible time.
- If, at any time, you require any information in relation to your matter, then this will be made available to you immediately on request.
- At the end of the matter we shall confirm with you that the matter has concluded, explain to you any further action that may need to be undertaken, as well as provide you with our memorandum of account and a statement of all moneys received from you to date. We will also return to you any papers or property to which you are entitled, if you have requested that we do so. Files are normally destroyed seven years after the date of the final bill to you.
- Sending documents electronically (e.g. via facsimile or email) is not secure and documents may be copied, recorded, read or otherwise interfered with. If you ask us to transmit any document electronically, you agree to release us from any claim you may have as a result of unauthorised use of the document.
How can you help us?
During the matter you can assist us significantly if you ensure that the following is adhered to:
- At all times give us clear instructions. Remember it is our job to give you advice but it is up to you to tell us what to do on your behalf. It is critical that we have as much information as possible about your matter so as to provide you with informed advice.
- Please ensure that you make us aware of any important time limits that need to be complied with.
- If, at any time, you do not understand something then please bring it to our attention so that we can explain it to you.
- If you would like us to prepare a progress report at any time please simply request one from your Solicitor.
- If you would like to see your Solicitor, then you will always be entitled to do so. On such occasions we ask that you arrange an appointment, as the Solicitor will not always be available if you just call into the office.
- Most importantly, if you have any doubts as to the likely costs and expenses incurred on your behalf during the matter, then please ask your Solicitor to explain these to you.
Bill of Costs
By law we are governed by the Legal Profession Act 2004. This Act provides that we cannot take action for the recovery of legal costs until thirty (30) days after a bill of costs has been given to you. We point out however that interest may be charged at the expiry of 30 days from the provision of a lump sum bill or a Bill of Costs on any unpaid amounts.
If you consider that the charges are unreasonable, then you also have a right to have the bill assessed by an Assessor as appointed by the Supreme Court.
Termination of this Agreement
You may terminate this agreement at any time by giving us 5 business days’ notice in writing.
Without limiting any other right at law, our firm may terminate this agreement should any of the following occur:
- If you refuse to accept our advice, or the advice of counsel, or refuse to act in accordance with that advice;
- If any of our fees remain unpaid after 30 days or more;
- If you fail to give use true, accurate and complete instructions in a reasonable time;
- If you engage another law practice in this matter without our consent;
- If we believe we have a conflict of interest;
- For any other valid and reasonable reason.
If you have any problems!
If, at any time, you are not completely happy with the service you are receiving, then we ask that you tell us of your concerns.
We guarantee that any concern you have will be addressed courteously and expeditiously and hopefully to your complete satisfaction.
We also point out to you that should we not be able to satisfy your complaint, then the Law Society Professional Standards Department can be contacted to take the matter further. We trust that you will never have to take any matter this far, however, we feel it is your right to know all of the alternatives available to you.