Privacy of personal information is an important principle to Hassan Law. We are committed to collecting, using and disclosing personal information responsibly and only to the extent necessary for the legal advice and services we provide. We also try to be open and transparent as to how we handle personal information. This document describes our privacy policies.
WHAT IS PERSONAL INFORMATION?
Personal information is information about an identifiable individual. Personal information that relates to their personal characteristics (e.g: gender, age, income, home address, or phone number, ethnic background, family status), their health (e.g: health history, health conditions, health services received by them) or their activities and views (e.g: Religion, politics, opinions expressed by an individual, and opinion or evaluation by that individual). Personal information is to be contrasted with business information (e.g: an individual’s business address and telephone number), which is not protected by privacy legislation.
WHO ARE WE
Our organization, Hassan Law, includes the managing partner, Sharon Hassan, any associate lawyers employed by Hassan Law from time to time, all law clerks employed by Hassan Law from time to time, and our office managers.
We use a number of consultants and agencies that may, in the course of their duties, have limited access to personal information we hold. These include:
- computer consultants
- office security and maintenance
- bookkeepers and accountants
- file storage company
- our landlord
- professionals such as doctors, other lawyers, social workers, actuaries, engineers etc, from whom we may request a copy of your file or seek a professional opinion on your behalf
- other organizations such as police departments, government agencies, social agencies, educational institutions, employers, community organizations etc., from whom we may request copies of records on your behalf.
We restrict access to any personal information we hold, as much as is reasonably possible. We also request assurances that the party follows appropriate privacy principles.
REASONS WE COLLECT PERSONAL INFORMATION
Like all lawyers, we collect, use and disclose personal information in order to serve our clients. For our clients, the primary purpose for collecting personal information is to provide legal advice and services. Where our client is an individual, we collect information about the client’s legal issue including anything the client might have done or said that might affect their legal situation, so that we can advise the client as to their legal rights and responsibilities, their options for addressing the issue and then carry out their instructions.
A second primary purpose might be to collect personal information from third parties about a client’s legal issue so that we can ascertain how the third party’s perception of events can affect our client’s legal situation. A third primary purpose is to obtain home contact information so that we can contact the client in an emergency ( we avoid contacting clients at home unless absolutely necessary).
It would be rare for us to collect any personal information without the client’s express consent, but this might occur in a case of urgency. The applicable Privacy Legislation authorizes the collection of personal information without the consent of the party, in the following cases, among others:
- in the case of a medical emergency or an emergency that threatens the life, health or security of an individual;
- the investigation of a breach of a Canadian Law or contract, and the knowledge or consent would reasonably compromise the investigation;
- publicly available information.
About Members of the General Public
For members of the general public, our primary purpose for collecting personal information is usually to gather and review evidence that is relevant to a legal issue affecting our own clients (e.g: we are advising a regulatory body who provides us with information about their members and how their members have behaved towards their 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.
Another primary purpose for collecting personal information about members of the general public is to provide notice of special events (e.g: A seminar or conference) or to make them aware of legal services in general or our firm in particular. For example, while we try to collect work contact information where possible, we might collect home addresses, fax numbers and email addresses. We try to obtain consent before collecting any such personal information, but where this is not, for any reason, possible, we will, upon request, immediately remove any personal information from our distribution list.
About Contract Staff
For people who are contracted to do work for us (e.g: Temporary and contract workers and students), our primary purpose for collecting personal information is to ensure we can contact them in the future (e.g: for new assignments) and for necessary work-related communication (e.g: Sending out pay cheques, year-end tax receipts, tax filings). Examples of the type of personal information we collect for those purposes include home addresses and telephone numbers. It is rare for us to collect such information without prior consent, but it might happen in the case of a health emergency (e.g: an outbreak of a contagious disease) or to investigate a possible breach of law (e.g: If theft were to occur in the office).
When we act as an investigator for professional regulators or associates or other business clients, our primary purpose for collecting personal information is to gather the necessary information and evidence to express a sound opinion on the issue for our client and represent them in legal proceedings. For example, we collect information about an allegation of wrongdoing by a member of a professional body or an employee of our client. In such circumstances, we often act without the consent of the subject of the investigation because we are inquiring into an apparent breach of law or an agreement and obtaining consent would compromise the investigation.
REASONS WE COLLECT PERSONAL INFORMATION
RELATED AND SECONDARY PURPOSES
Like most organizations, we also collect, use and disclose information for purposes related to or secondary to our primary purposes. The most common examples of our related and secondary purposes are as follows:
- To invoice clients for legal advice or services that are not paid for at the time, to process credit card payments or to collect unpaid accounts;
- To advise clients and others of our newsletters, courses we provide, special offers and promotions that we have available;
- Our firm reviews client and other files for the purpose of ensuring that we provide high quality services, including assessing the performance of our partners and staff. In addition, external consultants (e.g: Auditors, lawyers, information and technology) may on our behalf do audits and continuing quality improvement reviews of our firm, including reviewing client files and interviewing our staff;
- Lawyers are regulated by the Law Society of Upper Canada who may inspect our records and interview our staff as a part of its regulatory activities in the public interest. In addition, as professionals, we will report serious misconduct, incompetence or incapacity of other practitioners, whether they belong to other organizations or our own. Also, our firm believes that it should report information suggesting serious illegal behaviour to the authorities. External regulators have their own strict privacy obligations. These reports could include personal information about our clients, or other individuals to support the concern (e.g: Improper services), although we try to keep this disclosure to a minimum. Also, like all organizations, various government agencies (e.g: Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, information and Privacy Commissioner, Human Rights Commission, etc.) have the authority to review our files and interview our staff as a part of their mandates (although, the solicitor and client privilege restricts their access to much of this information.) In these circumstances, we may consult with professionals (e.g: lawyers, accountants) who will investigate the matter and report back to us;
- The cost of some services provided by the firm to clients is paid for by third parties (e.g: Legal insurance policies). These third party payers often have your consent or legislative authority to direct us to collect and disclose to them certain information in order to demonstrate client entitlement to and responsible use of this funding;
- Clients or other individuals we deal with may have questions about our services after they have been received. We also provide ongoing services for many of our clients over a period of months or years for which previous records are helpful. We retain our client information for a minimum of ten years after the last contact to enable us to respond to those questions and provide these services ( the Law Society also required us to retain our client records);
- If Hassan Law or its assets were to be sold, the purchaser would want to conduct a “due diligence” review of the firm’s records to ensure that it is a viable business that has been honestly portrayed to the purchaser. This due diligence may involve some review of our accounting and service files. The purchaser would not be able to remove or record any personal information. Before being provided access to the files, the purchaser must provide a written promise to keep all personal information confidential. Only reputable purchasers who have already agreed to buy the organization’s business or its assets would be provided access to personal information, and only for the purpose of completing their due diligence search prior to closing the purchase.
You can choose not to be part of some of these related or secondary purposes (e.g: by declining special offers or promotions, by paying for your services in advance.) We do not, however, have much choice about some of these related or secondary purposes (e.g: external regulation).
Under the applicable Privacy Legislation, we may disclose personal information without a person’s consent, in the following circumstances:
- providing information to a person’s lawyer;
- for debt collection purposes;
- to comply with a subpoena, warrant or Court Order;
- at the request of a government institution for national security, law enforcement or administration;
- where there is an emergency that threatens the life, health or security of an individual, as long as the person to whom the information relates is informed forthwith;
- publicly available information;
- 20 years after the death of the person to whom the information relates or 100 years after the record was made.
This disclosure would be provided in accordance with the existing solicitor-client privilege.
CONSENT AND WITHDRAWAL
Your knowledge and consent are required before we may collect, use or disclose your personal information, except in special circumstances listed elsewhere in this policy. Also, we obtain additional written or oral consent before we and/or disclose more sensitive information such as medical records etc.
We accept any of the following as your consent for Hassan Law existing use and future collection, use and disclosure of your personal information:
- your unrestricted provision of information to Hassan Law either directly or through an agent; or
- your express written or oral consent as obtained through a retainer process.
You may withdraw your consent at any time upon reasonable notice, subject to legal or contractual restrictions. Please note, however, that withdrawing your consent may affect our ability to continue to provide you with the services that you have or would like to receive.
To withdraw your consent you should contact our Privacy Officer at the address and telephone number listed. Unless we hear otherwise from you, you are giving to us your consent for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information as provided in this Policy.
PROTECTING 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 at all times;
- 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 boxed by reputable companies;
- Electronic information is transmitted either through a direct line or is anonymized or encrypted;
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. However, we do not want to keep personal information too long in order to protect your privacy.
We keep our client files for about 10 years. Our client and contract directories are much more difficult to systematically destroy, so we remove such information when we can if it does not appear that we will be contacting you again. However, if you ask, we will remove such contact information right away. We keep any personal information relating to our general correspondence with people who are not our clients, newsletters, seminars ad marketing activities for about six months after the newsletters, seminar or marketing activity is over.
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 our client.
DISCLOSURE – YOU CAN LOOK AT THE INFORMATION
With only a few exceptions, you have the right to see what personal information we hold about you. Often all you have to do is ask. We can help you identify what records we might have about you. We will also try to help you understand any information you do not understand (e.g: short forms, technical language, etc.). We will need to confirm your identity, if we do not know you, before providing you with this access. We reserve the right to charge a nominal fee for such requests.
If there is a problem, we may ask you to put your 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 as 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.
REQUESTS FOR THE CORRECTION OF INFORMATION
If you believe there is a mistake in the 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 notify anyone to whom we sent this information. If we do not agree that we made a mistake, we will still agree to include in our file a brief statement from you on the point and we will forward that statement to anyone else who received the earlier information.
NOTIFICATION IF INFORMATION MISUSED OR MISAPPROPRIATED
We will endeavour to contact you as soon as practicable upon becoming aware of any misuse, misappropriation or improper disclosure of personal information and will take all steps to minimize the effects of the misuse.
DO YOU HAVE A CONCERN?
Our Information Officer, Sharon Hassan, can be reached at:
A. Chisholm Building
142 Dundas Street - 3rd floor
London, ON N6A 1G1
She will attempt to address any questions or concerns you might have.
If you wish to make a formal complaint about our privacy practices, you may make it in writing to our Information Officer. She will acknowledge receipt of your complaint, ensure that it is investigated promptly and that you are provided with a formal decision and reason in writing.
This policy is made under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. It is a complex Act and provides some additional exceptions to the privacy principles that are too detailed to set out here. There are some rare exceptions to the commitments set out above.
112 Kent Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1H3
Phone (613) 995-8210 Toll Free 1-800-282-1376
Fax (613) 992-9190 TTY (613) 992-9190