The New Zealand Law Society has released a simple short summary of the key information contained in terms of engagement. This can be given to clients along with the more detailed terms of engagement.
Terms of engagement play a critical role in establishing the expectation between lawyers and their clients. However, the Law Society says typical terms of engagement are dense and legalistic.
"Instead of informing the client, they can add to the confusion and inhibit the kind of free and frank discussion that is key to a healthy and productive working relationship," Law Society complaints analyst Lisette Solis says.
Ms Solis says the Lawyers Complaints Service has designed a simple short summary which can ensure clients receive the must-have information at the beginning of their relationship with a lawyer.
"Making wholesale changes to a lawyer's terms of engagement is not an option, as much of that important detail is essential to protect both parties. Some of it is also required by rules 3.4 and 3.5 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008," she says.
"The short summary we have prepared can inform the client and help to set the expectations of the lawyer-client relationship. It can also assist in creating that all-important strong first impression."
Ms Solis says by highlighting the key features of the lawyer-client relationship, the summary assists the client's understanding of what is required from them and what they can expect from their lawyer.
The Lawyers Complaints Service suggests that lawyers provide the summary as a covering document to their standard terms of engagement.
"It highlights the key features of the lawyer client relationship and is designed to encourage discussion and interaction," Ms Solis says.
"It is not meant to replace the client care information. It is designed to help both parties establish their expectations and encourage clients to raise issues directly with their lawyer."