Engagement of External Legal Services Guidelines


These guidelines apply to all staff members at the University.


These guidelines provide explanation and recommended best practices for engaging external legal services.


  • Background
  • Costs, budgets and management
  • Privilege and protected documents and correspondence
  • Triage – role of General Counsel



  • In principle, the University regards the engagement of external counsel providing legal services as no different from engagement of other professionals or agencies where due care as to conflicts, value for services, quality and expertise in specialist areas must be taken into account
  • For legal services it is as desirable, as in other services, to avoid multiple providers within the above parameters
  • In addition, the need to engage external legal services commonly reflects the fact that the University is in a position of risk, which is a distinguishing feature from the engagement of most other professional services

Costs, budgets and management

  • A faculty/service division/cost centre will make provision in their annual budget for legal costs
  • There must be a clear understanding, before instructions are issued of where the costs will fall. The costs of the purchase of legal services will not, in principle, be different from other costs
  • Only in cases where the Vice-Chancellor directs that a particular matter will be managed in the Vice-Chancellor’s Office or a service division, will any allocation of costs issue arise, and in those cases the Vice-Chancellor delegates the decision to General Counsel
  • Reporting lines from external counsel on matters briefed will be established to ensure that legal files/matters are adequately managed
  • Monthly WIP (work in progress) reports must be a minimum requirement for the faculty/service division/cost centre, with copies to General Counsel
  • Legal instructions to external counsel need active management which will not be the responsibility of General Counsel but General Counsel and the three service divisions – HR, Property and Finance may be called on to assist with managing legal files
  • This assistance is not a transfer of management responsibility unless specifically agreed

Privilege and protected documents & correspondence

  • If any staff member believes an issue may require internal or external legal advice, care must be taken in recording, and particularly communicating, the circumstances and/or communicating why such advice or legal service is felt necessary
  • An unintended consequence of taking such actions (often simply writing a descriptive report or résumé, or taking other similar action which is not privileged) can be compulsory "discovery" of such a report by someone suing the University, or by using the Official Information Act procedures
  • The consequence can be that such reports or records are then available as evidence to any litigant or claimant against the University and/or can be published
  • If any staff member is in doubt or unsure about such reports, records, or communications, please seek the advice of General Counsel

Triage – Role of General Counsel

  • Where a staff member from a faculty/service division/cost centre other than Human Resources, Property Services and Financial Services believes there is a need for legal services there will be an initial assessment ("triage")
  • There may be urgent situations where this assessment is not possible, but generally the following will apply:
    • The circumstances will be described to, and discussed with, General Counsel. In some cases there may be no need to use external counsel
    • The use of any one firm or individual will be discussed and agreed with General Counsel
    • If a service division or cost centre (such as HR, Property or Finance) will be handling the matter or might ultimately have a responsibility, then this will be assessed and an appropriate reference made. Experience in dealing with particular situations should be called upon
    • The form of instruction and terms of engagement including costs will be discussed with General Counsel


The following definitions apply to these document:

Staff member refers to an individual employed by the University on a full or part time basis.

University means the University of Auckland and includes all subsidiaries.

Key relevant documents

Include the following:

Document management and control

Owner: DVCO and Registrar
Content manager: 
General Counsel
Prepared by:
Vice-Chancellor’s Office
Date: 11 September 2008, reviewed with no changes 2011
Review date: December 2013