Privacy of personal information is an important principle to Common Ground Condo Law. We are committed to collecting, using and disclosing personal information responsibly and only to the extent necessary for the goods 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?
- Who We Are
- Primary Purpose of Collecting Personal Information
- Related and Secondary Purposes
- Protecting Personal Information
- Retention and Destruction of Personal Information
- Your Information
- Contact Information
What is Personal Information?
Personal information is information about an identifiable individual. Personal information includes 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, an opinion or evaluation of an 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 We Are
Our organization, the law office of Common Ground Condo Law, includes lawyers and support staff. 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, a file storage company, temporary workers to cover holidays, credit card companies, website managers, cleaners, our landlord and other lawyers. We restrict their access to any personal information we hold as much as is reasonably possible. We also have their assurance that they follow appropriate privacy principles.
We Collect Personal Information: Primary Purposes
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 to 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 (e.g., the client is unavailable) or where we believe the client would consent if asked and it is impractical to obtain consent (e.g., a potential witness is located).
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 condominium corporation that provides us with information about its members as relates to our client). 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 our delivery of legal services.
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.
On our website, we only collect, with the exception of cookies (electronic markers identifying computers that have previously visited our website), the personal information you provide and only use that information for the purpose you gave it to us (e.g., to respond to your email message, to register for a course, to subscribe to our newsletters). Cookies are only used to help you navigate our website and are not used to monitor you.
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 goods 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 new developments in the law (e.g., a newsletter sent to a home email of a client).
- 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 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, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, 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 the services they 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 seven years after the last contact to enable us to respond to those questions and provide these services (the Law Society also requires us to retain our client records). Please note, however, that we regularly delete routine email correspondence that does not contain substantive legal advice.
- If Common Ground Condo 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 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).
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.
- Electronic hardware is either under supervision or secured in a locked or restricted area or service at all times. In addition, passwords are used on computers. All of our cell phones are digital, which signals are more difficult to intercept (however, we still are careful on cell phones because sometimes they switch over to an analog service).
- Paper information is transmitted through sealed, addressed envelopes or boxes by reputable companies.
- Electronic information is transmitted either through a direct line or is anonymized or encrypted.
- 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. However, we do not want to keep personal information too long in order to protect your privacy.
We keep our client files for a minimum of two years. However, routine email correspondence that does not contain substantive legal advice is regularly deleted. Our client and contact 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 and marketing activities for about two years after the newsletter ceases publication or a 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.
You Can Look at Your Information
With some exceptions (one of which is quite broad), 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 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 (i.e., a legal duty to ensure that information obtained by or for a client will not be given to anyone else) and you will not be given access to it without our client’s consent.
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 have 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.
Do You Have a Question?
Our Information Officer can be reached at: Privacy Officer, addressed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Common Ground Condo Law
5700-100 King St W, Toronto, ON M5X 1C7
We will attempt to answer 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 reasons 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.
For more general inquiries, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada oversees the administration of the privacy legislation in the private sector. The Commissioner also acts as an ombudsman for privacy disputes. The Privacy Commissioner of Canada can be reached at:
30 Victoria Street
Gatineau, QC K1A 1H3
Phone: (819) 282-1376
Toll-free: (800) 282-1376