Terms of Engagement

Every New Zealand law firm provides "Terms of Engagement", which set out the basis on which we provide legal services. These terms form the basis of our agreement with each of our clients.



1. These are our terms of engagement for providing legal services to you ("Terms"). The Terms also include the Law Society client care and service information, and our client letter of engagement to you.

2. The Terms set out the basis on which we provide legal services to you and form the basis of our agreement with you in relation to each instruction. Any changes need to be agreed in writing.

Responsible Partner and Team

3. You will have a partner at Sinclair Dowsett Meggitt who is responsible for your work. The responsible partner is your primary contact.

4. Some or all of the work may be performed by other lawyers and legal assistants. In this way we can provide the appropriate expertise in an efficient, cost effective and timely manner.

You Can Help Us

5. To ensure we understand your instructions and requirements we ask that you:

  • Give us clear instructions, if possible, in writing, specifying your requirements and expectations and tell us if your requirements or expectations change.  
  • Respond to any important questions that arise.  
  • Advise us of any important time limits.  
  • Tell us who is authorised to give us instructions on your behalf.  

6. Please keep us updated with all your current contact details so that we can contact you as required.

7. It is important that the scope of our work is clear and agreed between us at the outset.  If this changes during the transaction this will affect any estimates or quotes that we have given.

8. You should promptly discuss with the responsible partner any questions you have about the scope of our work and notify us in writing if you wish to change the scope of our work.

Our Advice

9. Our advice is solely for your benefit and may not be relied upon by any one else unless we give our consent in writing.

10. The opinions we give about the outcome of any legal matters are expressions of our best professional judgement. They are not guarantees. Our opinions are limited by a number of factors including, the accuracy and completeness of the information provided by you, and our knowledge of the facts. Also, they are based on the state of the law at the time they are given.

11. Our advice will frequently be given in reliance on information provided by you or agencies such as public registry offices. We do not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in that information or in our advice given as a result of those errors or omissions.

12. Our advice to you is not to be disclosed, referred to or used for any purpose other than for which it is sought and may not be made public or published.

We do not provide Tax, Accounting, Investment or Valuation Advice

13. We do not provide accounting or taxation advice and recommend that you instruct accounting or taxation advisors and specialists to ascertain whether there are any accounting and/or tax implications of your proposed transaction.  

14. We also do not give any advice as to value of property or businesses nor do we determine whether the property or business meets your investment profile.

15. We are not Authorised Financial Advisers under The Financial Advisers Act 2008 and so we do not provide investment advice in respect of any financial products. Again you should always obtain appropriate advice from a suitably qualified financial adviser or accountant in relation to specific financial products.

Calculation of our Fees

16. The fee which we will charge or the manner in which we will calculate the fee are set out in the letter of engagement. Unless otherwise stated in the letter of engagement, in setting our fee we consider the criteria laid down by the New Zealand Law Society. These criteria include:

  • The time spent working on the matter  
  • The skill and specialised knowledge and responsibility required  
  • The urgency with which the work is done  
  • The value or amount of the property or money involved  
  • The results achieved  

17. Among these factors, the time worked on the matter and effort required carry the heaviest weighting.

18. The current hourly rates of our lawyers and legal assistants working on your matter will be set out in the Letter of Engagement and are also available on request. We adjust these rates from time to time to reflect levels of legal experience and changes in overheads.

19. We charge separately for disbursements such as courier deliveries, computerised research services, Court fees, photocopying and other fees charged by agencies. In addition, we charge a percentage of the fee to cover our usual disbursements such as our photocopying, toll calls, postage, etc. In relation to the Searching, Registration and Processing Fees for Land Information New Zealand (“LINZ”) charges and other Government run databases like the PPSR Register we do charge an additional fee of $15 per title search or registration charge to cover our administration costs in relation to completing these attendances.    

20. Where we place money on interest bearing deposit we charge a small commission of 10% of the net interest earned on the deposit to cover our costs of administering this.


21. If requested, and when we can, we will give you an estimate of our likely fee, and where relevant anticipated disbursements. Estimates are based on our professional judgement. They are not maximum or fixed fee quotations and the final fee may vary. It is not always possible to provide an estimate.  Unless specified an estimate excludes GST, disbursements and expenses.

Quotes and Other Fee Arrangements

22. We will provide you with a quote where the nature of the work can be defined at the outset. We are prepared to consider other flexible fee arrangements in appropriate circumstances, at our discretion.


23. We may send interim invoices (unless otherwise agreed in writing) which are generally delivered on a monthly basis.  We may send you invoices more frequently where we incur a significant expense or have to take a significant amount of work over a shorter period of time.  The invoices are payable within 14 days of the date of the invoice.

24. If the invoices are not paid, we reserve the right to suspend work on any matters in respect of which we are providing services to you and to retain your files until the overdue amount is paid.

25. Where you have agreed that we instruct external counsel, or another contractor such as an expert, then you will pay the amount either charged to us by that person, or pay that person direct where you are billed direct.  You agree to hold safe and indemnify us for all matters where we act as solicitor on the record, including but not restricted to payment of all barrister costs.

26. GST will be added to our fee (or any estimate or quote which we may give) in all cases except where the client is zero rated or exempt from GST.

27. Where we require a retainer in advance to cover fees, disbursements and charges, the money will be paid into our trust account. We will forward you an invoice and deduct the corresponding amounts when the payment is due. We will ask for further retainers as required.

28. In addition to the above, where your matter involves a transaction which concludes with a settlement such as the sale of property, a business, shares or other assets, or where we otherwise hold your funds, you irrevocably authorise us to deduct our fees, disbursements and charges from the funds which we hold.  

29. We may charge you interest at 2.5% per month on any fees and disbursements remaining unpaid after the date for payment.

30. If payment is not made, you will be responsible for all reasonable debt collection costs and/or legal costs (on a solicitor/client basis) that we incur in recovering outstanding amounts.   We note that our firm’s policy is to refer all debts of over 60 days to Veda Advantage and/or other similar Collection Agencies

31. Where the engagement letter is addressed to more than one person, each shall be jointly and severally liable for our fees and disbursements and other charges. By "jointly and severally liable", we mean that each person is responsible for ensuring that our bill is paid, and we can pursue all or any one of you for the whole amount that is due to us.  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 at a third party you remain responsible for payment to us in accordance with these terms if the third party fails to pay us.  Files for companies will be set up in the client’s name, invoices may be addressed to the Company for convenience on the basis that the client will remain personally liable for payment of the same.


32. If you have a preferred method of our firm communicating with you, please let us know in writing.  For the record we will correspond with you at the last known physical address provided.

33. We do not accept any liability for loss arising from non-receipt of any communication, including computer email communications.

34. When we correspond with you and others by electronic means these communications may be subject to interference or interception or contain viruses or other defects (“corruption”).  We do not accept any responsibility for and will not be liable for any damage or loss caused in connection with, or as a consequence of, the corruption of any communication.

Payment of Moneys  

35. For property and financing transactions where payment of moneys is due by you, we require clear funds for the correct amount to be deposited with us no later than the date before settlement.

36A. When you are paying funds to us, prior to making payment, you must always ring the supervising partner of our firm to verify our trust account details. Scammers have been impersonating law firms and sending emails to their clients which look like they have come from the law firm, but which contain the scammers bank account details. We do not accept any liability whatsoever for any loss that you may suffer if you fail to verify our trust account details with a supervising partner by phone prior to making payment.

36B. When we are paying funds to you or a third party, we will need verification of the account details at least 2 working days before Settlement.  This verification may include, for example, provision of a copy of the deposit slip, cheque or bank statement showing the account number, a signed authority from you including the bank account details or a signed letter from the relevant financial institution providing the bank account details.  Where verification is provided by email, we will need to contact you or the third party by text or phone to confirm these details prior to settlement.  

Confidential Information

37. After you have instructed us, you authorise us to collect and store information about you (including personal information, for example credit reports) and anything to do with the matter upon which you are instructing us. This will enable us to perform our work for you. You authorise us to use this information to the extent necessary to carry out your instructions or as required by law. We will follow the information privacy principles set out in the Privacy Act 1993.

Professional Indemnity Insurance and Fidelity Fund

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

39. The Lawyers’ Fidelity Fund provides cover up to specified maximums (currently $100,000) for clients who suffer financial loss by theft in certain circumstances. The Fund does not cover a client for any loss relating to money that a lawyer is instructed to invest on behalf of a client.  

Termination of Our Legal Services

40. You have the right to terminate our services at any time.  

41. The Rules of Conduct and Client Care for Lawyers require or allow us to stop work on your current files in a number of situations. These include:

  • If you act contrary to our advice or ignore our advice.  
  • If there is a conflict of interest, where we have not obtained a client waiver.  
  • Where there is misrepresentation or if you do not disclose relevant facts.  
  • Non payment of fees or costs.  
  • If you do not give us instructions in a timely manner.  

42. Should this type of situation arise we will try to discuss this with you in advance. We will give you written notice wherever practical, if we stop acting for you.

43. If our retainer is terminated you must pay all our fees and disbursements/charges incurred up to the date of termination.  This is a prerequisite of releasing your deeds, files and other information we are holding


44. If you have any concerns or complaints we suggest that you raise this with the partner responsible for your work in the first instance. If you do not wish to raise this with the partner or you are not satisfied with the response, please contact one of our other partners who will deal with this fairly and promptly. We are committed to resolving any issues as soon as possible.

45. If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the above inquiries you can also contact the NZ Law Society’s Lawyers’ Complaints Service, at 26 Waring Taylor Street, PO Box 5041, Wellington 6145, Tel (04) 472 7837 or (0800) 261 801, Fax (04) 473 7909.  

Retention of Files and Documents

46. 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 such as a will) 7 years after our engagement on the particular matter ends, or earlier if we have converted those files and documents to an electronic format.

Trust Account

47. 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 10% of the net interest derived.

Limitation of Liability

48. Our liability to you in respect of any breach of contract, tort (including negligence), breach of statutory duty or otherwise arising out of or in connection with our engagement or the services we provide is limited to a maximum of five times the fee charged on the matter.  

49. Where we instruct a third party on your behalf we are not responsible for any act or omission of the third party.

50. Where you are using our services for business purposes you acknowledge that none of the rights or remedies under the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 apply to this engagement or the services we provide.

51. We are not liable for any loss suffered by you caused by third parties hacking or otherwise interfering with our information technology systems.

AML/CFT Requirements

52. We are required to comply with certain obligations under the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009 (AML/CFT Legislation).  We will need to obtain, verify and store certain information about you, and any persons acting on your behalf, including your full name, your date of birth and address.

53. If we act for your company, and/or a trust we will also need information about the persons who control and benefit from your company and/or trust ie directors, shareholders, trustees and beneficiaries.  If we act for your trust we will need information on its source of wealth/funds and we may need this in other circumstances too.

54. If we request information from you that is required under the AML/CFT Legislation and you fail or unable to provide such information in the required time frame, or the information does not meet the requirements of the AML/CFT Legislation,  we are not liable to you for delays, costs, damages or losses (including consequential losses) that you may suffer or incur as a result of you not providing that information to us within the requisite time frame.  We are not liable to you if we are legally required to provide information to third parties under the AML/CFT Legislation.  If we receive any money or other assets on trust for you we are not required to pay or transfer that money or those assets out of our control until the requirements of the AML/CFT Legislation have been complied with.

55. If you do not provide the information that is required under the AML/CFT Legislation within the required time frame, it is likely that we will not be able to act, or continue to act, for you.


56. These Terms apply to any current engagement and also to any future engagement, whether or not we send you another copy of them.

57. We are entitled to change these Terms from time to time, in which case we will send you amended Terms. The amended Terms will apply from the time sent to you.

58. Our relationship with you is governed by New Zealand law and the New Zealand courts have non-exclusive jurisdiction.

Your Satisfaction and Feedback.

59. We wish to ensure that we meet your expectations wherever possible and we invite your feedback whether it is good or bad. Please contact the responsible partner with your feedback.

Our Client Care and Service Commitment to You  

60. We will:

  1. Protect and promote your interests and act for you free from compromising influences or loyalties, unless otherwise disclosed to you.  
  2. Discuss with you your objectives and how they should best be achieved.  
  3. Act competently, in a timely way, and in accordance with instructions received and arrangements made.  
  4. Provide you with information about the work to be done, who will do it and the way the services will be provided.  
  5. Protect your privacy and ensure appropriate confidentiality.  
  6. Treat you fairly, respectfully and without discrimination.  
  7. Give you clear information and advice.  
  8. Keep you informed about the work being done and advise you when it is completed.  
  9. Charge you a fee that is fair and reasonable and let you know how and when you will be billed.  
  10. Let you know how to make a complaint and deal with any complaint promptly and fairly.  

61. 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 and the justice system. If you have any questions, please contact us on (09) 620-8154 or contact the Law Society on 0800 261 801 or www.lawyers.org.nz.

Date: Effective from 1 September 2019