The Canadian Privacy Commissioner released guidelines for lawyers seeking to understand  the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) at the Canadian Bar Association convention on August 16, 2011. Entitled “PIPEDA and Your Practice: A Privacy Handbook for Lawyers”, it provides an overview of PIPEDA requirements as they apply to lawyers and law firms in private practice as well as corporate counsel.

Whereas lawyers already must keep client information confidential, PIPEDA introduced additional requirements that are highlighted in the handbook. For example, conducting a credit check on a potential client requires prior informed consent, and the Commissioner recommends similarly obtaining informed consent for all information collected for litigation purposes (despite this latter point still not clear in the case law). Also, at a client’s request, information about the client must be provided within 30 days at no charge, and irrespective of whether or not a solicitor’s lien exists.

The Commissioner can make non-binding recommendations either following a complaint or on its own initiative, and the complainant or Commissioner may subsequently proceed to Federal Court for enforcement. The Commissioner’s website offers lawyers a Self-Assessment Tool to promote compliance with PIPEDA.