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Why does my lawyer ask for identification?

You call a law office. You speak with a person answering the phone for the first time and he or she asks you for your full name, contact information, the name of your employer and even your employer's contact information. The information you are asked to provide is private and except for a doctor's office, is not typically shared freely. Lawyers' offices obtain a lot of information from their clients that is private. It is no wonder that some clients feel ill at ease providing their personal information.

So, why does your lawyer ask for all this information?

The lawyers' governing body (Law Society of Ontario) has strict rules about client identification. By-Law 7.1 tells us that we must obtain the following information from every client:

- the individual's full name,

- home address and telephone number,

- occupation; and

- business address and telephone number, if applicable.

If the client is an organization, the lawyer must obtain:

- the organization's full name,

- business address and telephone number,

- for organizations other than a financial institution, public body or reporting issuer, the organization's incorporation or business identification number and place of issuance of the number if the organization has a number and the general nature of the organization's business, and

- the name, position and contact information of the individual giving you instructions on behalf of the organization.

Rule 2 of our Rules of Professional Conduct requires us to keep the information obtained from a client confidential. We cannot share the information with a third party unless authorized by the client or the client situation falls into an exception to the rule.

If you are ever in doubt about the reason(s) for the questions your lawyer is asking, go ahead and ask your lawyer directly or contact a representative at the Law Society of Ontario (

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