Every lawyer who provides regulated services must, in the course of his or her practice, comply with the following fundamental obligations:
- to uphold the rule of law and to facilitate the administration of justice in New Zealand
- to be independent in providing regulated services to his or her clients
- to act in accordance with all fiduciary duties and duties of care owed by lawyers to their clients
- to protect, subject to his or her overriding duties as an officer of the High Court and to his or her duties under any enactment, the interest of his or her clients.
Client care requirements
An important area under these Rules are the requirements for client care. Whatever legal services you are providing as a lawyer, you must:
- act competently, in a timely way, and in accordance with any arrangements made
- protect and promote your clients interests and act for them free from compromising influences or loyalties
- discuss with your client their objectives and how they should best be achieved
- provide your client with information about the work to be done, who will do it and the way the services will be provided.
- charge your client a fee that is fair and reasonable and let them know when they will be billed
- give your client clear information and advice
- protect your client's privacy and ensure appropriate confidentiality
- treat your client fairly, respectfully and without discrimination
- keep your client informed about the work being done and advise you when it is completed
- let your client know how to make a complaint and deal with any complaint promptly and fairly.
Documentation to assist lawyers to comply with the Rules of Conduct and Client Care for Lawyers is provided in four documents:
- The Information for Clients form contains the information that the Rules of Conduct and Client Care for Lawyers state must be provided to clients at the outset of an engagement. This form should not be amended except to the extent indicated on the form.
- Standard Terms of Engagement. (Sample only.) These Terms of Engagement are intended as a service by the Law Society to lawyers and do not constitute legal advice. Each law practice will need to decide what terms and conditions are appropriate for the services it provides. The Law Society accepts no responsibility or liability for anything done in reliance on these Terms of Engagement.
- Letter of Engagement: Once a law practice has settled its Terms of Engagement form and completed the Information for Clients form, all variables relating to a particular retainer can then normally be set out in the Letter of engagement.
- A one-page summary that can be given to clients with your current Terms of Engagement. This is a suggested way of cutting through the legalese while ensuring the terms of engagement still cover the must-have information.
It is recommended that each law practice ensure that the above material is given to each new client at the commencement of a retainer. It is also necessary to give all existing clients, at the least, the Information for Clients form, together with the information as to fees and the persons responsible for the work.
Legal aid providers need to ensure the letter of engagement includes the information required by the Ministry of Justice. For more information see the Ministry of Justice's Guidelines for client care information.
Family lawyers providing the Family Legal Advice Service will need to adapt their standard letters of engagement.