General Terms and Conditions of Contract for Lawyers
– Consumers –
Our services are rendered on the basis of the General Terms and Conditions elaborated by the Austrian Bar Association.
1.1. The Terms and Conditions of Contract shall apply to all activities carried out and all representation provided in courts and public authorities and out of court under the contractual relationship between the Schenz & Haider Rechtsanwälte OG (hereinafter referred to as the “S & H”) and the Client (hereinafter referred to as the “Client-Lawyer Relationship”).
1.2. Unless otherwise agreed in writing, the General Terms and Conditions of Contract shall also apply to new Client-Lawyer Relationships.
2. Retainer agreement and power of attorney
2.1. S & H is entitled and obliged to represent the Client to the extent necessary or useful for fulfilling the contractual relationship. If the legal situation changes after termination of the Client-Lawyer Relationship, S & H shall be under no obligation to inform the Client about changes or consequences resulting therefrom.
2.2. Upon request, the Client shall sign a written power of attorney for S & H. The power of attorney may cover either specific, exactly defined or all potential legal transactions or legal acts.
3. Principles of representation
3.1. S & H shall provide the representation sought in accordance with the law and represent the Client’s rights and interests vis-à-vis everyone with diligence, loyalty and conscientiousness.
3.2. As a matter of principle, S & H is entitled to render his services at his own discretion and to take any and all steps, including but not limited to employing means of attack and defence in any way, unless this is in conflict with the Client’s instruction, his conscience or the law.
3.3. If the Client gives S & H an instruction compliance with which is incompatible with the principles of proper professional conduct of lawyers based on the law or other professional rules (e.g. the Austrian Guidelines on Practising as a Lawyer [RL-BA 2015] or the line of decisions of the Supreme Appellate and Disciplinary Commission for Lawyers and Trainee Lawyers [Oberste Berufungs- und Disziplinarkommission für Rechtsanwälte und Rechtsanwaltsanwärter/OBDK], now called the Appellate Panel and the Disciplinary Panels for Lawyers and Trainee Lawyers at the Austrian Supreme Court [der Berufungs- und die Disziplinarsenate für Rechtsanwälte und Rechtsanwaltsanwärter beim Obersten Gerichtshof]), S & H shall refuse to follow the instruction. If, from the S & H’s point of view, instructions are not expedient or even detrimental to the Client, S & H shall inform the latter of any potential negative consequences before acting on his behalf.
3.4. In the case of imminent danger S & H is entitled to take or refrain from taking actions that are not expressly covered by or are even contrary to the instruction given if this seems to be urgently required in the Client’s interest.
4. Client’s duty to provide information and to cooperate
4.1. After he has retained S & H, the Client shall immediately provide S & H with all information and the facts that may be relevant in connection with the latter’s work on behalf of the Client and make accessible all necessary documents and evidence S & H is entitled to assume that information, facts, documents, records and means of evidence are accurate, unless inaccuracy of the same is obvious.
S & H shall seek to obtain complete and accurate information on the facts and circumstances by asking the Client specific questions and/or by other suitable means. As regards accuracy of supplementary information the second sentence of Clause 4.1 shall apply.
4.2. As long as the Client-Lawyer Relationship validly exists the Client shall inform S & H about all changed or newly occurring circumstances that could be of relevance in connection with S & H’s work on behalf of the Client immediately after they have become known to him.
4.3. If S & H acts as draftsman of a contract, the Client shall provide S & H with all information required for self-calculation of land acquisition tax, the registration fee and real estate income tax. If S & H does the self-calculation on the basis of information provided by the Client, S & H shall in any case be released from any liability vis-à-vis the Client. The Client, on the other hand, shall indemnify and hold harmless S & H from and against pecuniary disadvantages in the case that information provided by the Client turns out to be wrong.
5. Obligation to maintain secrecy; Conflict of interests
5.1. S & H shall keep secret all matters confided to it and any other information which becomes known to it in its professional capacity, secrecy of which is in his Client’s interest.
5.2. S & H is entitled to ask all staff to handle matters within the scope of applicable laws and guidelines, provided that the staff has been informed about the obligation to maintain secrecy in a manner that can be evidenced.
5.3. S & H shall be released from its obligation to maintain secrecy only to the extent that this is necessary for pursuing S & H’s claims (including but not limited to S & H’s fee) or for defending itself against claims raised against it (including but not limited to claims for damages raised against S & H by the Client or third parties).
5.4. The Client is aware of the fact that due to statutory orders S & H may in some cases be obliged to provide information or to make reports to public authorities without having to obtain the Client’s approval; particular reference is made to the statutory provisions on the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing and to tax-law provisions (e.g. the Austrian Statute on Account Registers and Inspection of Accounts [Kontenregister- und Konteneinschaugesetz/KontRegG], the Austrian Act on Common Reporting Standards [Gemeinsamer Meldestandard-Gesetz/GMSG], etc.).
5.5. The Client may release S & H from his obligation to maintain secrecy at any time. No release from the obligation to maintain secrecy by his Client shall release S & H from the obligation to check whether his statement is in line with the Client’s interest. If S & H acts as a mediator, it shall exercise its right to maintain secrecy despite having been released from the obligation to maintain secrecy.
6. Lawyer’s reporting duty
S & H shall orally or in writing reasonably inform the Client of the taken actions in connection with representation of the Client.
7. Delegation of powers
S & H may have itself represented by a trainee lawyer employed by him or by any other lawyer or that lawyer’s qualified trainee lawyer [Unterbevollmächtigung]. If S & H is not available, it may delegate the job or specific actions to any other lawyer [Substitution].
8.1. Unless otherwise agreed, S & H is entitled to a reasonable fee.
8.2. Even if a lump-sum fee or billing by the hour has been agreed, S & H is at least entitled to the amount of reimbursement of the costs obtained from the opponent in excess of the agreed fee, provided that such amount can be recovered; otherwise S & H is entitled to the agreed lump-sum fee or hourly fee.
8.3. If S & H is included in the carbon copy of an e-mail from the client or the client´s sphere, S & H is not obliged to read the e-mail without being instructed explicitly. However, if S & H reads the e-mail, it is entitled to a fee according to an explicit agreement for comparable services or according to the “Rechtsanwaltstarifgesetz” (RATG – Lawyers’ Fees Act) or the “Allgemeine Honorar-Kriterien für Rechtsanwälte” (General Fee Criteria for Lawyers).
8.4. Value-added tax at the statutory rate, any necessary and reasonable expenses (e.g. travel expenses, costs of phone, fax or copies) and the out-of-pocket expenses paid by S & H on behalf of the Client (e.g. court fees) shall be added to the fee payable to/agreed with S & H.
8.5. The Client acknowledges that an estimate made by S & H of the expected amount of fees which has not been explicitly defined as binding shall be non-binding and not be considered a binding quotation (as defined in Section 5 (2) of the Austrian Consumer Protection Act [Konsumentenschutzgesetz/KSchG], as the amount of work to be rendered by S & H cannot be reliably assessed in advance due to its nature.
8.6. The Client shall not be charged the costs of billing and preparation of bills of fees. However, this shall not apply to the costs of a translation of statements of services into a language other than German that is requested by the Client. Unless otherwise agreed, the Client shall be charged for preparation of letters to the Client’s auditor at the Client’s request stating, for instance, the status of pending cases, a risk assessment for setting up provisions and/or the status of outstanding fees as at the closing of accounts date.
8.7. S & H shall be entitled to submit bills of fees or ask for advances on fees at any time and in any case once every quarter.
8.8. If the Client is late in paying the total or a portion of the fee, he shall pay late payment interest at the statutory rate of 4% p.a. If the Client is responsible for such late payment, he shall compensate S & H for any additional damage actually suffered. Any additional statutory claims (e.g. under Section 1333 of the Austrian Civil Code [Allgemeines Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch/ABGB]) shall remain unaffected.
8.9. Any and all costs of courts and public authorities and any expenses (e.g. for purchased third-party services) arising in connection with the Client-Lawyer Relationship may, at S & H’s discretion, be submitted to the Client for direct payment.
8.10. If S & H is retained by several Clients in one case, they shall be jointly and severally liable for all resulting claims of S & H to the extent that S & H’s services rendered under the Client-Lawyer Relationship cannot be divided and that they were not rendered clearly for one specific client only.
9. Lawyer’s liability
9.1. In the case of damage caused by slight negligence, S & H’s liability for incorrect advice or representation shall be limited to the sum insured that is available for the specific case but shall at least be the sum insured stated in Section 21a of the Austrian Lawyers’ Code [Rechtsanwaltsordnung/RAO] as amended. Currently, this is EUR 400,000 (in words: four hundred thousand euros); in the case of law firms organised in the form of a limited liability company this is EUR 2,400,000 (in words: two million four hundred thousand euros).
9.2. The maximum amount applicable according to Clause 9.1. shall cover all claims vis-à-vis S & H for incorrect advice and/or representation, including but not limited to claims for damages and price reduction. Such maximum amount shall not include claims of the Client for refund of fees paid to S & H. Deductibles, if any, shall not reduce liability. The maximum amount applicable according to Clause 9.1 shall apply to one insured event. If there are two or more competing harmed persons (Clients), the maximum amount for every single harmed person shall be reduced pro rata the amount of the claims.
9.3. If a law firm is retained, the liability limits of Clauses 9.1. and 9.2. shall also apply to all lawyers who work for the law firm (as its shareholders or partners, managing directors, employed lawyers or in any other capacity).
9.4. S & H shall be liable for third parties whom it instructed to render specific services under the Client-Lawyer Relationship with the Client’s knowledge and who are neither employees nor shareholders or partners (in particular external experts) only in the case of negligence in selection.
9.5. S & H shall be liable only vis-à-vis his Client and not vis-à-vis third parties. The Client shall expressly inform third parties who come into contact with S & H’s services because of the Client’s actions of this fact.
9.6. S & H shall be liable for knowledge of foreign law only in the case of a written agreement or if S & H offered to review foreign law. EU law shall never be deemed foreign law; however, the law of the Member States shall be deemed foreign law.
10. Client’s legal expenses insurance
10.1. If the Client has taken out legal expenses insurance, he shall immediately notify S & H thereof and present the required documents (if available). However, independent thereof S & H shall, without being requested to do so, obtain information about whether and to what extent legal expenses insurance has been taken out and ask that his services be covered by the insurance.
10.2. Where the Client informs S & H that he has taken out legal expenses insurance and S & H ensures that the services are covered by the insurance this shall not affect S & H entitlement to the fee vis-à-vis the Client and shall not be regarded as an agreement on the part of S & H to settle for the fee paid under the legal expenses insurance.
10.3. S & H is not obliged to directly claim the fees from the legal expenses insurer but may claim the total fees from the Client.
11. Termination of the Client-Lawyer Relationship
11.1. The Client-Lawyer Relationship may be terminated by S & H or by the Client at any time without notice and without stating reasons. S & H‘s fee entitlement shall not be affected thereby.
11.2. In the case of termination by the Client or by S & H the latter shall continue to represent the Client for a period of fourteen (14) days insofar as this is necessary to protect the Client from legal disadvantages. This duty shall not apply if the Client rescinds the Client-Lawyer Relationship and expresses that he does not want S & H to continue his activities.
11.3. The parties put on record that the Client-Lawyer Relationship has, in principle, been entered into for an indefinite period of time, unless it is terminated by the Client or S & H in accordance with Clause 11 of the General Terms and Conditions of Contract.
12. Duty to surrender documents
12.1. After termination of the Client-Lawyer Relationship S & H shall, upon the Client’s request, return original documents to the Client. S & H is entitled to retain copies of such documents.
12.2. If, after termination of the Client-Lawyer Relationship, the Client again asks for (copies of) documents which he already received in the course of the Client-Lawyer Relationship, the costs shall be borne by the Client.
12.3. S & H shall retain files for a period of five (5) years from termination of the Client-Lawyer Relationship and, if necessary, provide the Client with copies during that period. As regards the costs Clause 12.2. shall apply. If the law provides for longer retention periods they shall be observed. The Client agrees to destruction of files (including original documents) after expiration of the retention period.
13. Choice of law and out-of-court dispute resolution
13.1. These General Terms and Conditions of Contract and the Client-Lawyer Relationship regulated by them shall be subject to Austrian law.
13.2. In the case of disputes between S & H and the Client over the fee the Client shall be free to ask for a review of the fee by the Austrian Bar Association; if S & H agrees to a review by the Bar Association, the fee shall be reviewed for its reasonableness out of court and free of charge. In the case of disputes between Lawyers and Clients the Conciliation Board for Consumer Transactions shall act as an out-of-court conciliation board (www.verbraucherschlichtung.or.at). The Client acknowledges that S & H is not obliged to call in that Board for dispute resolution or to submit to it and that S & H will decide whether it will only agree to out-of-court conciliation proceedings or not if and when there is a dispute with the Client.
14. Final provisions
14.1. Unless otherwise agreed, S & H may correspond with the Client in any way that seems appropriate, including via email, using the email address which the Client has advised to S & H for communication purposes. If the Client sends email messages to S & H from other email addresses, S & H shall also be allowed to use those email addresses to communicate with the Client, unless the Client expressly objects thereto in advance. Unless otherwise provided, statements or declarations to be made in writing under these General Terms and Conditions of Contract may also be made via fax or email.
Unless the Client has given other written instructions, S & H is entitled to communicate with the Client by email in an unencrypted form. The Client represents that he is aware of the risks involved (in particular access, secrecy, alteration of messages in the course of transmission) and of the possibility to use TrustNetz and, being aware of such risks, agrees to email correspondence in an unencrypted form.
For that purpose the Client advises the following email address for communication with S & H: email@example.com
14.2. The Client expressly agrees that S & H will process, make available or transmit (as defined by the Austrian Data Protection Act [Datenschutzgesetz/DSG]) personal data concerning the Client and/or his business insofar as this is necessary or expedient for rendering the services requested from S & H by the Client or as this is required by statutory or professional obligations of S & H (e.g. using electronic legal communication [ERV], etc.).
14.3. In case of any discrepancy between the German and the English version of these Terms and Conditions, the German version shall prevail.