Effective date: April 2014
The Law Society of British Columbia regulates the legal profession in British Columbia. Its authority comes from the Legal Profession Act and Law Society Rules. Its duty is to protect the public interest in the administration of justice by setting and enforcing standards of professional conduct for lawyers.
The Law Society is committed to protecting the privacy of information it obtains in the course of carrying out its functions.
The Law Society’s management and protection of personal information provided to it by articled students, lawyers, applicants, members of the public, employees and volunteers, including information that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, is guided by the following principles:
- all personal information in our custody and control will be collected, used and disclosed in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), the Legal Profession Act (the Act), the Law Society Rules and other applicable legislation; and
- the Law Society will embody a culture in which personal information is protected and respected.
All employees, volunteers and service providers working on behalf of the Law Society are responsible for securing and protecting personal information in the custody and control of the Law Society.
All managers are responsible for overseeing the collection, use, disclosure, retention and disposal of personal information within their departments to ensure compliance with the Law Society’s policies.
Law Society management will provide effective leadership on privacy at the Law Society.
The Information and Privacy Officer, under the supervision of the Tribunal and Legislative Counsel, has overall responsibility for dealing with requests for access to information under FIPPA.
The Privacy Compliance Officer, under the supervision of the Tribunal and Legislative Counsel, has overall responsibility for:
- ensuring that the Law Society has appropriate policies and processes in place to safeguard the personal information in its custody and control; and
- monitoring the Law Society’s compliance with its privacy policies and legislative requirements.
4. What is personal information?
Schedule 1 of FIPPA defines “personal information” as recorded information about an identifiable individual other than “contact information”. Examples of personal information include an individual’s name, home address and phone number, age, financial information, and family status.
The definition of “contact information” includes an individual’s name or title, business telephone number, business address, business e-mail and business fax number.
5. Purposes for collecting, using, disclosing and retaining personal information
The Law Society collects, uses, discloses and retains personal information about articled students, lawyers, applicants, members of the public, employees and volunteers, and third parties in order to perform its duties and functions to regulate lawyers who provide legal services in British Columbia, including:
- to assess and administer applications for the enrolment, call and admission, and reinstatement of lawyers, including the assessment of good character;
- to the manage continued membership of lawyers, including the payment of fees;
- to receive, investigate and manage complaints and conduct disciplinary investigations and hearings;
- to manage the insurance programs for the profession and the Law Society’s staff and volunteers by the Lawyers Insurance Fund, and investigate, manage, litigate and settle claims;
- to provide practice advice;
- to audit and investigate law practice books, records and accounts;
- to investigate cases involving the unauthorized practice of law;
- to manage custodianships, where a lawyer is deemed unable to continue to practise law;
- for policy research and development;
- to enable the Benchers to carry out their functions;
- for statistical research and analysis purposes;
- to ensure compliance of members of the Law Society with continuing legal education requirements;
- to authenticate or confirm for third parties an individual’s membership in the Law Society or the governing body of another province or territory;
- to inform and protect the public in accordance with its duties under the Act;
- to investigate and adjudicate claims for trust money held by the Law Society under the Act;
- to receive and respond to requests for access to information;
- to assess the competence of lawyers and implement practice standards; and
- to establish, manage and terminate the employment and volunteer relationships between the Law Society and its employees and volunteers.
6. Collecting personal information
The Law Society is authorized under the Act, the Law Society Rules, FIPPA and other applicable law to collect personal information for certain purposes.
When collecting personal information, the Law Society will:
- limit the collection of personal information to what is necessary to undertake our functions or as permitted by applicable law;
- be open and transparent about the information that is being collected by communicating a clear and lawful purpose for the collection;
- ensure that all individuals have the right to request access to the personal information we hold about them, and the right to seek correction if that personal information is incorrect; and
- only collect personal information directly from the subject of the information, unless consent is given to collect information from other sources or collection from another source is permitted by applicable law.
7. Collecting personal information over the internet
In some instances, the Law Society may collect personal information over the internet. The online forms on the Law Society website use SSL encryption to protect the data stream. Upon its submission to the Law Society, the personal information is retained in a secure database.
8. Using or disclosing personal information
The Law Society will only access, use or disclose personal information for the purposes for which it was collected, or for a use that is consistent with that purpose, unless consent for another access, use or disclosure has been obtained, is permitted by the Act or the Law Society Rules, or is otherwise authorized by law.
Personal information will not be accessed, used or disclosed by Law Society employees or volunteers except as authorized in the course of fulfilling their duties and responsibilities.
9. Retaining and disposing of personal information
The Law Society will only retain personal information for as long as necessary to fulfill the purposes for which the personal information was collected, including for the purpose of meeting any legal, accounting or other reporting requirements or obligations.
If the Law Society uses personal information to make a decision that directly affects an individual, we will keep that information for at least one year after using it so that individuals have a reasonable opportunity to obtain access to it.
The Law Society has a file classification system that sets out specific retention periods for different types of information within the Law Society’s custody and control. These schedules will be reviewed periodically to ensure that personal information is not kept for longer than necessary to serve the original purpose.
When personal information is no longer required, the Law Society will dispose of it securely.
10. Safeguarding personal information
The Law Society protects personal information in accordance with applicable law.
The Law Society has made reasonable security arrangements to secure against the unauthorized access, collection, use, disclosure, copying, modification, disposal or destruction of personal information.
All Law Society employees and volunteers are required to comply with the Law Society’s policies and procedures, in relation to the security, management and protection of all personal information within the Law Society’s custody and control. Service providers working on behalf of the Law Society are required to comply with FIPPA and will be made aware of and reminded as necessary about the Law Society’s privacy policies.
11. Certain matters privileged
In regulating the legal profession, the Law Society handles information subject to privilege or confidentiality between lawyers and their clients. When the Law Society obtains information from a lawyer relating to a current or former client of that lawyer, the Society assumes all the lawyer’s obligations in relation to the protection of privilege and disclosure of that information, subject to the Act and Law Society Rules.
12. Third parties
The Law Society will not sell or rent personal information.
Where the Law Society is permitted by FIPPA, the Act, the Law Society Rules or is otherwise authorized by law to disclose personal information to a third party, we will inform the third party that it must not disclose the personal information for any purpose other than the purpose for which the Law Society gave the personal information to the third party.
13. Service providers
Privacy protections will be in place for all service providers. All contracts entered into by the Law Society with service providers that may have access to personal or confidential information will contain specific provisions requiring compliance with FIPPA and applicable law relating to the security and privacy of personal information. Managers may determine it is adequate for service providers to sign a confidentiality agreement if service providers do not have access to personal or confidential information or managers consider it is appropriate in the circumstances.
All service providers that may have access to personal information in the Law Society’s custody or control will be advised and reminded as necessary of the Law Society’s privacy policies and our obligations to ensure the security and protection of personal information.
14. Right to request access to personal information
Information or records available to the public through routine channels, such as the Law Society website and publications, may be disclosed to individuals without requiring the submission of a formal request. A list of the relevant departmental contacts at the Law Society can be accessed here.
Formal requests for access to information are processed under FIPPA. Any individual can formally request access to personal information in the custody or control of the Law Society by submitting a request in writing to the Law Society’s Information and Privacy Officer at email@example.com.
Before providing the personal information, we may need to ask individuals to verify their identity.
Under FIPPA, the Law Society has 30 business days after the information is requested to respond to a request. If we need more time to process the request, we will give an individual written notice before the expiry of the 30 business days.
The Law Society may refuse access to certain personal information where authorized or required by law to refuse access. In the event that access is refused, we will notify the individual of this decision in writing and outline the reasons for the refusal.
An individual has the right to request a review of the Law Society’s decision by submitting a request in writing to the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia within 30 days of being notified of the Law Society’s decision.
15. Right to seek correction of personal information
When an individual’s personal information is in the custody and control of the Law Society and the personal information will be used by the Law Society to make a decision that directly affects the individual, the Law Society will make every reasonable effort to ensure that the personal information is accurate and complete.
Individuals may write to the Law Society and request that any errors or omissions be corrected. If the Law Society is satisfied that a request for correction is reasonable, we will correct the personal information as soon as reasonably possible. If the Law Society does not agree with the request, we will advise the requesting party accordingly and note both the request and the Law Society’s reason for not making the requested change on the Law Society’s file.
If individuals are dissatisfied with the way the Law Society has handled their personal information, they are entitled to submit a complaint to the Law Society.
The Law Society’s Privacy Compliance Officer will investigate all complaints concerning compliance with the Law Society’s privacy policies and information and privacy law. The Privacy Compliance Officer will make every reasonable effort to resolve complaints including, if necessary, recommending changes to policies and procedures. The complainant will be informed of the outcome of the investigation regarding his or her complaint.
Any individual may seek advice from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia (at 250.387.5629, firstname.lastname@example.org or oipc.bc.ca) and, if appropriate, file a written complaint with the Commissioner’s office. However, individuals are encouraged to use the Law Society information and complaints procedures first.
1. What information do we collect when you visit the Law Society website?
When you browse our website, the following information is collected and stored:
- The IP (Internet Protocol) address of your Internet service provider or your computer which also identifies the domain name (such as shaw.ca or yourcompany.com) of your service;
- The operating system of your computer and the browser you use (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.);
- The time and date that you visited our site;
- The Law Society web pages or online tools that you used.
We use this information to analyze the use and performance of the Law Society’s website, using Google Analytics and other tools, to enable us to improve the website, evaluate our technical infrastructure and to monitor compliance with our terms and conditions of use. We do not use this information to identify website users, unless you choose to provide your identity to us through one of the means provided on the Law Society website or we are required to do so by law.
2. What do we do with information provided directly by you?
In order to access our secure server and use our online tools (such as Lawyer Log In, Trust Reporting Form and CPD Course Provider), you must be a member of the Law Society or another authorized user. Personal information will only be used for the purpose provided by the Law Society, or for a use consistent with that purpose, by persons authorized by the Law Society. If you believe your personal information is being used for a purpose other than what you intended, please contact the Law Society’s Privacy Compliance Officer at:
3. How do we protect personal information?
We offer the use of a secure server. All supplied sensitive information is transmitted via Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology and then encrypted into our database to be accessed only by those authorized with special access rights to our systems and required to keep the information confidential.
A cookie is a file that is stored on your computer by your web browser when you use an Internet site. The Law Society only uses session cookies, which remain in existence only during the course of your session.
In order for authorized users to access the secure section of our website, they must enable their computers to accept cookies.
5. Do we disclose any information to third parties?
We do not sell or trade personally identifiable information.
Trusted third parties who assist us in operating our website and conducting our business may have access to personal information if necessary in the circumstances. Information provided by articled students, lawyers, applicants, and members of the public through this website will be used and disclosed as necessary for regulatory and compliance purposes. In some cases we may be required to disclose information by law.
6. Third-party links
We feature links to third-party websites on our website. These third-party sites have separate and independent privacy policies. We therefore assume no responsibility or liability for the content and activities of these linked sites. Nonetheless, we seek to protect the integrity of our site and welcome any feedback about these sites.
7. Terms and Conditions
Our Terms and Conditions set out the use, disclaimers, and limitations of liability governing your use of our website.
By using our site, you accept the terms of this Privacy Statement.
1. Changes to our privacy statement or policy
If we decide to change our privacy statement or policies, we will post those changes to this page.
2. Contacting or communicating with us
Any questions about this privacy statement or any of our other privacy documentation should be directed to our Privacy Compliance Officer at:
Privacy Compliance Officer
The Law Society of British Columbia
845 Cambie Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 4Z9