Lawyers in private practice in Nova Scotia are subject to federal privacy legislation, PIPEDA, when handling personal information. There are some variations, however, for instance lawyers who operate in a niche area such as health law, international trade or work for the provincial government, where other legislation might apply. As of the time of writing, a bill is before the House of Commons to overhaul privacy legislation, so the reader is advised to monitor this space and other sources of information.
In short, PIPEDA obliges you to treat personal information with great care, to collect only what you need for a valid purpose and to hold it only as long as you have a valid purpose. A typical legal file is replete with personal information, and it can be very difficult as a practical matter to separate. We encourage you to read the Handbook and the Guide for Business linked below. Among other things, you should:
- Appoint a privacy officer
- Consider what consent you need from your clients and whether to include it in your retainer agreement
- Adopt a file retention and destruction policy and destroy your files in accordance therewith to end your retention of personal information promptly, once the purpose for which you retain it is passed.
Resources: Privacy & Confidentiality Policies
Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, “NSBS File Retention/Destruction Template Policy” (Draft version of March 14, 2023). nsbs.org (word document).
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. “Privacy Guide For Business”, (October 2020). priv.gc.ca.
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. “For businesses”, (December 2023). priv.gc.ca.