What is Personal Information?
Personal information is information that identifies you, or from which you could be identified. We use personal information to provide clients with a wide range of legal services and to send notices to clients concerning our services and developments in the law. If we did not collect and use personal information we could not provide clients with legal services.
How Do We Collect Your Personal Information?
We collect personal information only by fair and lawful means and not in an unreasonably intrusive way. Wherever possible we collect your personal information directly from you; however, we may also collect your personal information from other sources, for example:
- your insurance company;
- your real estate agent in a property transaction;
- from a government agency or registry;
- your employer; and
- your accountant.
In most cases, we will ask you for your express consent, if we collect, use or disclose your personal information. We may ask for your consent in writing, but in some circumstances, we may accept your oral consent. Where appropriate, your consent will be implied from the services for which you have retained us or by your conduct.
Collections of Personal Information
Clients. We collect, use and disclose clients’ personal information to provide legal advice and services (and incidental activities), to administer client databases and to include clients in any direct marketing activities.
The General Public. For members of the general public, we collect personal information to gather and review evidence and/or facts that affect a legal issue concerning our own clients. Thus, the personal information is usually incidental to our providing advice to our client. Often this collection, use and disclosure is done without the individual’s consent because we are reviewing an apparent breach of law or an agreement and obtaining consent would compromise the investigation.
Credit Bureaus. To help us make credit decisions about clients, prevent fraud, check the identity of new clients and prevent money laundering, we may on occasion request information about you from the files of consumer reporting agencies.
Disclosure of Your Personal Information
We will disclose your personal information to third parties under the following circumstances:
- if we are required or authorized by law to do so, for example if a court issues a subpoena;
- if you have expressly or implicitly consented to the disclosure;
- if the legal services we are providing to you require us to give your information to a third party (for example a lender in a real estate mortgage transaction). In this case your consent is implied;
- if it is necessary to establish or collect fees;
- if we engage a third party to provide administrative services to us (like computer back-up services or archival file storage) and the third party has provided privacy assurances. In this case your consent is implied;
- if we engage law firms in other jurisdictions or expert witnesses on your behalf; and
- if the information is already publicly known.
Updating Your Personal Information
Since we use your personal information to provide legal services to you, it is important that the information be accurate and up-to-date. If any of your personal information changes while we are providing services to you, please inform us so that we may make the necessary changes.
Protecting Your Personal Information
We understand the importance of protecting personal information. For that reason, we have taken the following steps:
- paper information is either under supervision or secured in a locked or restricted area;
- electronic hardware is either under supervision or secured in a locked or restricted area. In addition, passwords are used on computers;
- paper information is transmitted through sealed, addressed envelopes or boxes by reputable companies;
- electronic personal information is transmitted to personal email addresses, fax numbers and the like only, unless we are directed otherwise by you;
- external consultants and agencies with access to personal information must provide us with appropriate privacy assurances.
Retention and Destruction of Personal Information
We need to retain personal information for some time to ensure that we can answer any questions you might have about the services provided and for our own accountability to external regulatory bodies. We remove your personal information from our client and contact directory information when we can if it does not appear that we will be contacting you again; and, if you ask, we will remove your contact information right away.
We destroy paper files containing personal information by shredding. We destroy electronic information by deleting it and, when the hardware is discarded, we ensure that the hard drive is physically destroyed. Alternatively, we may send some or all of the client file to the client.
Access to Your Personal Information
With some exceptions, you may have access to any personal information we hold about you. Before providing you with this access we will need to confirm your identity, if we do not know you. Summary information is available on request; however, more detailed requests that require archival or other retrieval costs may be subject to our normal professional and disbursement fees.
If there is a problem, we may ask you to put your access request in writing. If we cannot give you access, we will tell you within 30 days, if at all possible, and tell you the reason, as best we can, as to why we cannot give you access. If we collected personal information about you for a client, there is a good chance that the information is protected by solicitor and client privilege and you will not be given access to it without our client’s consent.
If you believe there is a mistake in your personal information, you have the right to ask for it to be corrected. This applies to factual information and not to any professional opinions we may have formed. We may ask you to provide documentation that our files are wrong. Where we agree that we made a mistake, we will make the correction and, when reasonably necessary, notify anyone to whom we sent this information. If we do not agree that we have made a mistake, at your request we will include a brief statement from you on the point in the file and, when reasonably necessary, we will forward that statement to anyone else who received the original information.
Requests for Access, Complaints, Questions
Our privacy officer will attempt to answer any questions or satisfy any requests for access that you may have. Please submit formal complaints about our privacy practices to our privacy officer in writing. Our privacy officer will acknowledge receipt of your complaint, ensure that it is investigated promptly and that you are provided with a formal decision and reasons in writing.
Our privacy officer can be reached at:
427 Laurier Avenue West, Suite 700
Ottawa, ON K1R 7Y2
Phone: (613) 236-0111
Fax: (613) 238-8507
For more general inquiries, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Canada oversees the administration of the privacy legislation in the private sector. The Commissioner also acts as a kind of ombudsman for privacy disputes. The Information and Privacy Commissioner can be reached at:
112 Kent Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 1H3
Phone: (613) 995-8210
Fax: (613) 947-6850
TTY: (613) 992-9190