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Johnston Lawrence

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Terms of Business

Professional charges

1. Generally our fees are based on the time taken to complete the work and any other relevant factors specified by the New Zealand Law Society, including:–

  • The skill, specialised knowledge and responsibility required;
  • The importance of the matter to you and the results achieved;
  • The urgency and circumstances in which the work is transacted;
  • The degree of risk we assume in undertaking the services, including the value of any property involved;
  • The complexity of the matter and the difficulty or novelty of the questions involved;
  • Our experience, reputation, and ability;
  • The possibility that the acceptance of your retainer will preclude engagement of us by other clients;
  • Whether the fee is fixed or conditional;
  • Any quote or estimate of fees we have given;
  • Any fee agreement (including a conditional fee agreement) entered into between us and you;
  • The fee customarily charged in the market and locality for similar legal services;
  • The number and importance of any documents prepared or perused;
  • The time and labour expended;
  • The reasonable costs of running our practice.

2. We will charge for all work we do for you, including but not limited to –

  • All personal and telephone attendances on you and others
  • All correspondence with you and other persons
  • Considering the law and facts of your matter, including any research
  • Reading and considering papers and documents
  • Preparing documents
  • Attending at and appearing in court
  • Time spent on travelling
  • Instructing agents and experts.

3. We will also charge you for –

  • All office expenses and electronic services (including but not limited to faxes, emails, photocopying, telephone charges, electronic register searches and registrations, and other incidental expenses) we consider appropriate to carry out the work.  Outlay may be a mixture of materials and services for which we have borne an expense, and may include a general overhead allowance relating to the items;
  • All disbursements – that is, payments made to third persons on your behalf;
  • GST on our fees and charges.


4. If practicable, we will give you an estimate of the cost of the work.  The estimate is not a quotation.  Any estimate is based on our assessment of the work likely to be required to carry out your instructions, and on the information available to us at the time of the estimate.  We will charge for all additional work carried out if –

  • You ask us to carry out further work or otherwise change your instructions;
  • The amount of work or scope of the task changes as a result of matters unknown to us at the time of the estimate.
  • The time taken to carry out the work increases for reasons beyond our control.

5. We will endeavour to warn you in advance when it appears likely that the estimate will be significantly exceeded.  If the cost of the work exceeds the estimate, we will advise you of the reasons.

Legal aid

6. We are not registered to provide legal aid services, and are unable to accept instructions to act for you on legal aid.

7. We recommend that you contact a legal aid lawyer or your local legal aid office for advice if you believe you may be eligible for legal aid.


8. We will act in your best interests to carry out your instructions, subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct of the New Zealand Law Society.  We will take reasonable steps to keep you informed of progress.

9. By instructing us to act on your behalf or to advise you, you accept liability to pay all fees for work done together with charges for office services, disbursements and GST, whether or not you have signed this document.

10. We reserve the right to suspend or cease acting for you if –

  • You do not respond within a reasonable time to communications from us;
  • You do not provide us with instructions or information within a reasonable time of being asked to do so;
  • You do not pay any of our invoices or retainers when they are due for payment.
  • It is professionally or ethically inappropriate to continue to act for you.

We will bill you for work done to the date when we suspend or cease acting for you, for any work associated with file transfers, and (if applicable) for the cost of obtaining court approval to withdraw as your solicitors.

Credit limit

11. We may make credit enquiries about you.  Any cost associated with this will be treated as an office expense payable by you.  You agree to our making such enquiries.

12. We may allocate you a credit limit – the total amount that we allow to be owing by you to us at any time.  We may alter or withdraw your credit limit at any time.

13. We reserve the right to stop doing work for you (and instruct any other persons engaged by or to us to stop doing work) if and for so long as you exceed your credit limit or if you do not make payments as required by us or fail to pay our fees as they fall due.


14. We may bill you either on completion of the work or at intervals while we are carrying out the work.

15. Unless otherwise specified, every invoice is due for payment within 14 days of being sent to you.

16. If we are holding money for you or any entity associated with you, you irrevocably authorise us to deduct the amount of any outstanding bill from that money.  Generally, transactional work will require payment for unbilled work at time of settlement.

17. We may require you to pay one or more retainers, or make payments towards expected fees or disbursements. We will require you to pay disbursements exceeding $100 in advance, unless agreed otherwise.

18. We reserve the right to charge interest on any invoice that is more than seven days overdue at the rate of 14% per annum.  Interest will be compounded monthly until the full amount of the bill has been paid.

19. We may collect any unpaid invoice by legal processes, including use of collection agencies.  In that event, you will be responsible for all additional expenses we incur (including solicitor and client costs) in collecting payment and as a result of your failure to pay our invoice on the due date.


20. We may require a guarantee of payment of our costs, for example when the person giving instructions is not the person for whom we are carrying out work.

21. If the name of a guarantor appears on the final page of this document, that person –

  • Personally guarantees full payment of all bills issued by the firm to you;
  • Agrees to indemnify us for all costs and losses arising from non-payment of bills by you when due;

22. Where there is more than one guarantor, their liability is joint and several.

23. Unless expressly agreed otherwise, any director or shareholder signing these terms on behalf of a company is deemed to have given a guarantee and indemnity as above.

Privacy Information

24. Any information that we receive concerning you will be used to provide legal services, to obtain credit and other references, to undertake credit management, and to provide you with information that may be of interest to you. You authorise us to obtain from any person, and (subject to the requirements of any legal privilege) to release to any person any information necessary for those purposes.

25. 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.

26. We will not disclose to you confidential information which we have about any other client.

27. We will retain all files (other than any documents we hold in safe custody for you) for a minimum period of 7 years after our engagement ends.  Thereafter we may destroy them.

28. The Financial Transactions Reporting Act 1996 requires us to –

  • Collect from you and retain information needed to verify your identity;
  • Make a suspicious transaction report (as defined by the Act) to the Police where required by the Act, without notifying you of that disclosure.

29. The Inland Revenue Department may require us to provide details of all financial records concerning your affairs, and copies of documents and files (excepting only privileged advice).

Lien and charge

30. We may retain the originals and all copies of any documents, correspondence, files and papers relating to the work or belonging to you until all bills have been paid. We will comply with any entitlement under the Privacy Act 1993 for copies of personal information about you, subject to your paying (in advance if required by us) the reasonable costs of preparing and supplying such copies.

31. If payment of any money you owe us is overdue, we are entitled to a charge over any interest you may have in any real or personal property or thing in action which is or has been the subject matter of your instructions. This contract is a secured agreement incorporating the terms of ADLS 2011/4300 and 4301 forms.


32. We accept no liability for loss arising from non-receipt of any communication (including by e-mail).

33. You will tell us promptly of any changes in the communication points recorded below.  Any notice or document sent to you by us will be deemed duly served or delivered if sent to you by letter, fax or e-mail or left at any of these points, or any other communication point in New Zealand advised by you.  Service of any notice is deemed to have been effected two working days after posting; and in all other cases is deemed to have been effected on the day on which we send it.

Any queries?

If you have any questions, or you would like any further information, please contact the lawyer with whom you normally deal or our practice manager, Penny Kidd. They will be happy to help you.

What to expect:

Expectations of our relationship with you.

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“All matters were handled professionally and in a friendly and helpful manner.”