Confidentiality is critical to Assist’s work and forms part of our Mission Statement:
Enhancing the immediate and long-term well-being of Alberta lawyers, articling and law students, and their dependent families through confidential and non-judgmental psychological assistance, peer support, education and community
Assist’s structure is designed to protect your confidentiality. We are a charitable society governed by an independent board of directors. While we receive funding from the Law Society of Alberta, the Canadian Bar Association—Alberta and many other organizations and law firms, we do not provide confidential information to any of these entities.
Professional Counselling Services
Professional counselling services are provided by third party professional counsellors (registered psychologist and social workers) who are members of professional regulatory bodies who require strict adherence with confidentiality. You are encouraged to speak with your counsellor about confidentiality protections and any exceptions that exist.
Personal information about individuals using Assist’s professional counselling services is not disclosed by third party professional counsellors to Assist’s staff. Assist’s Executive Director is a lawyer and is governed by our profession’s Code of Conduct. A lawyer who has questions about Assist or its programs can speak to the Executive Director on a confidential basis.
Peer Support is provided by volunteer lawyers who are trained in confidentiality and ethics. They undertake to hold in confidence all matters that come to their attention in the course of providing support to lawyers and students with whom they work, and they are bound by confidentiality provisions of the Law Society of Alberta’s Code of Conduct.
Alberta lawyers’ core duty of confidentiality has one important exception, which is known as the future harm/public safety exception. Rule 3.3-3 of the Code of Conduct reads
A lawyer may disclose confidential information, but must not disclose more information than is required, when the lawyer believes on reasonable grounds that an identifiable person or group is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm, and disclosure is necessary to prevent the death or harm.
There are many important components in this exception:
- The lawyer cannot disclose more information than necessary
- There must be reasonable grounds for belief
- There must be an identifiable person or group that is in danger
- The danger must be imminent
- The danger must be of death or serious bodily harm
- The disclosure must be necessary to prevent the death or harm.
The Code of Conduct also requires lawyers to report breaches of conduct (Rule 7.1-3) but Commentary  to this Rule specifically addresses Assist’s Peer Support Program:
 The Society supports the ASSIST Program in Alberta and similar agencies in their commitment to the provision of counselling on a confidential basis. Therefore, a lawyer who is making a bona fide effort to have another lawyer seek help for such problems is not required to report to the Society non-criminal conduct of that lawyer that would otherwise have to be reported under the rule. However, the lawyer must advise the Society if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the other lawyer is encouraging or will engage in conduct that is criminal or is likely to harm any person or of any other conduct under the rule if the lawyer refuses or fails to seek help.
Assist’s Peer Support volunteers are trained in applying both the Rule and the Commentary, and Assist’s Executive Director is available for support in situations where this Rule may be applicable, as are the Practice Advisors.
Reporting of Program Usage and Trends
If you access professional counselling services, you will be assigned a unique identification number. The counsellors and counselling service provider do not disclose your name or personal information to Assist. Billing entries are by identification number only and Assist does not know the identity of the lawyer seeking services. We do not receive any reporting of personal information.
In turn, while we report to the Law Society of Alberta or members of the profession on usage rates, trends and costs of professional counselling services and our other programs, this reporting is on a generic and accumulated basis with no personal identifying information.
Law students may access Assist’s programs. Assist does not provide personal or confidential information to law schools.
You do not need to involve your member lawyer/articling student/law student in booking your professional counselling services appointments and we do not provide any information to that person.