WESTCOTT PRIVACY STATEMENT [PDF version]
Grace Westcott, Barrister & Solicitor (“Westcott”) recognizes the importance of privacy and the sensitivity of personal information. We are committed to protecting the personal information that we collect, use and disclose in providing legal services and operating this law firm, in accordance with all applicable legislation, and consistent with our professional obligations. As a lawyer, Westcott has a professional and ethical obligation to keep confidential all information received within the lawyer-client relationship. This Privacy Statement outlines how we manage your personal information and safeguard your privacy.
Privacy legislation in Canada defines “personal information” broadly as information about an identifiable individual or information that allows an individual to be identified. In general, personal information does not include what is considered business contact information: your name, title or position, business address, telephone number, facsimile number, or e-mail address.
From January 1, 2004, all organizations engaged in commercial activities must comply with the Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (the “Act”), unless the federal cabinet has exempted the organization because it is subject to “substantially similar” provincial legislation. Law firms in Ontario are not subject to any such exemption orders. As a result, the obligations under the Act extend to lawyers and law firms, including Westcott. Although as lawyers we have always been obligated by the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Rules of Professional Conduct to protect the confidentiality of client information, the Act gives you additional rights concerning the privacy of your personal information.
Westcott is responsible for the personal information we it collects and maintains. To ensure this accountability, we have established this policy and set in place procedures to implement it.
What personal information do we collect?
The types of personal information that Westcott may collect about you includes your name, home address, telephone number, personal email address, billing and account information, information about a client’s legal issue and other information incidental to providing legal advice and services (including personal information about directors, officers, employees, adverse parties, decision makers, experts, other professional advisors and our client’s business partners, investors, shareholders, competitors and customers who are individuals).
We collect personal information by fair and lawful means. We collect information directly from our clients at the start of our retainer and during the course of our representation of you. We may also receive personal information indirectly from others, such as from a government agency or registry, your employer, if we are acting for you at your employer’s request, your accountant and other consultants obtained by you to assist with your legal concerns.
Why do we collect your personal information?
In general, Westcott collects, uses and discloses personal information about our clients and service providers in order to provide our clients with professional legal services and to operate our firm business. We limit the amount of personal information we collect and disclose, wherever possible, to that which is necessary and appropriate. More specifically, we collect, use and disclose your personal information for the following purposes:
- to establish and manage client relationships, provide legal advice, perform legal services, fulfill legal duties, and avoid conflicts of interest;
- to share personal information between third parties for the purpose of providing legal services. Such third parties may include opposing parties, parties in interest, opposing, foreign and other counsel and advisors, witnesses, decision-makers and experts;
- to represent clients in the context of business transactions involving the exchange or disclosure of personal information;
- to establish and maintain commercial relationships with clients, suppliers and other third parties, including to issue invoices, to administer accounts, collect and process payments, to evaluate credit-worthiness and to fulfill contractual obligations;
- to contact and communicate with clients and other individuals for the purpose of market research, and evaluation of client service and satisfaction;
- to distribute our publications and invitations to events to individuals on our mail and e-mail lists;
- to develop, enhance, market, sell or otherwise provide Westcott’s products and services;
- to develop and manage our knowledge management precedent system and databases;
- to consider the admission of individuals as employees and members of the firm;
- to develop and manage our business and operations;
- to detect and protect against error, negligence, breach of contract, fraud, theft and other illegal activity, and to audit compliance with Westcott policies and contractual obligations, including, where necessary, to meet our insurance requirements;
- as permitted by, and to comply with, any legal or regulatory requirements or provisions; and
- for any other purpose to which you consent.
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 clients or prospective clients from the files of consumer reporting agencies.
Westcott will obtain the consents required under applicable privacy laws if it seeks to collect, use or disclose your personal information for purposes other than those to which consent has been obtained, unless required or permitted by law. We may obtain consent for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information either orally or in writing and such consent may be expressly given or implied. In determining how we obtain your consent, we will take into account the sensitivity of the personal information about you that we are collecting, using and disclosing. We will assume that an individual has consented to our reasonable collection and use of personal information consistent with the purposes for which the information was given, when the client initiates contact with us or voluntarily provides personal information to us. We also assume that clients who retain us consent to the reasonable collection, use and disclosure of their personal information to our professionals and agents for purposes of our representation or provision of legal services to our clients and for the conduct of transactions or proceedings involving our clients.
Accuracy of Information
In order to provide clients with a professional level of service and to maintain appropriate contact preferences, we may ask you to update your personal information or preferences from time to time. Clients are encouraged to notify Westcott when their information changes so that we may update the personal information we maintain in our client files.
To whom do we disclose your personal information?
Under certain circumstances, Westcott may disclose your personal information:
- when we are required or authorized by law to do so, for example if a court issues a subpoena;
- when you have consented to the disclosure;
- when the legal services we are providing to you require us to give your information to a third party, for example, to a lender, your consent will be implied, unless you tell us otherwise;
- where it is necessary to establish or to collect fees;
- if we engage expert witnesses on your behalf or if we retain other law firms in this or in other jurisdictions, on your behalf; or
- if the information is already publicly known.
Back-up of Data
It is Westcott policy to back-up data, including client file data, documents, emails and account information, in encrypted form, via the Internet, to a secure off-site third-party “cloud” electronic data storage and retrieval provider. In the event the third party service provider is located in other jurisdictions, such as the United States, such data may be accessible to the courts, law enforcement and national security authorities of that jurisdiction.
Tracking Website Usage On our website, like most other commercial websites, we may monitor traffic patterns, site usage and related site information in order to optimize our web service. When an individual visitor accesses the Westcott website, we may use a browser feature called a “cookie” to collect information, such as the type of Internet browser and operating system the visitor uses, the domain name of the website from which the visitor came, date and duration of the visit, number of visits, average time spent on our website, pages viewed and number of cookies accumulated. A “cookie” is a small data file that is sent to your browser and stored on your computer’s hard-drive when you visit certain web sites in order to “track” your movements on the site. Unless a visitor specifically informs us (e.g., by sending us an email from the website), we will not know who the individual visitors are. We may provide aggregated information to third parties with whom we have a commercial relationship to measure the use of our website, to improve its functionality and content of the website and to facilitate usage by a visitor, but these statistics do not include any identifiable personal information. Visitors can reset their browsers either to notify them when they have received a cookie or to refuse to accept cookies.
On-line Communications In order to provide our website users with public information or requested services, visitors may voluntarily submit personal information to us for such purposes as downloading publications or asking a question. We use information you provide only for the purpose for which you have provided it.
E-Mail Communications We may send e-mail communications to individuals in our contact database to advise of legal developments or to advise of events or seminars.
Where do we store your personal information?
Your personal information is stored in secured locations and on computers controlled by Westcott, located either at our offices or in secure off-site storage.
How do we protect your personal information?
Westcott takes all reasonable precautions to ensure that your personal information is kept from loss, unauthorized access, modification or disclosure. Among the steps taken to protect your information are:
- premises security;
- restricted access to personal information stored electronically;
- deploying technological safeguards like security software and firewalls to prevent hacking or unauthorized computer access;
- internal password and security policies;
- lawyers’ obligation to maintain client confidentiality under the Rules of Professional Conduct of the Law Society of Upper Canada;
- all employees and third parties that have access to personal information collected by Westcott will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement that is in keeping with this policy.
Access to Your Personal Information
Individual clients may ask for access to any personal information we hold about them. Summary information is available on request. More detailed requests that require archival or other retrieval costs may be subject to our normal professional and disbursement fees. However your rights to access your personal information are not absolute. Access may be denied when:
- denial of access is required or authorized by law (for example, when a record containing personal information is subject to a claim of legal professional privilege by one of our clients);
- information relates to existing or anticipated legal proceedings against you;
- when granting access would have an unreasonable impact on other people’s privacy or confidential information;
- when to do so would prejudice negotiations with you;
- to protect our firm’s rights and property;
- where the request is frivolous or vexations.
If we deny your request for access to, or refuse a request to correct information, we shall provide reasons. Westcott does not use your Social Insurance Number as a way of identifying or organizing the information we hold about individuals.
Challenging Compliance with this Privacy Statement
Westcott will respond to complaints from individuals or questions about our compliance with this and with applicable privacy laws. We will investigate and attempt to resolve all complaints. To challenge our compliance with this policy please contact our Privacy Officer, Grace Westcott, at:
115 Highbourne Road
Toronto ON M5P 2J5
Tel: 416 489-2738
Fax: 416 489-1918
We reserve the right to change our privacy statement at any time by posting a new privacy statement on our web site.