Last year I blogged on the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) warning about the so-called lawyer directory, CanLaw and its principal, J. Kirby Inwood. The LSUC issued the following Notice to the Profession entitled “Law Society Cautions Against Use of Canadian Lawyers Index”:
Undeterred, Mr. Inwood’s site remains active.
I received the following email from Inwood which reads as follows:
From: Referrals [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: October 9, 2012 6:14 PM
To: ANTONIN I. PRIBETIC
Subject: What is one new client worth to you?
Antonin I Pribetic
Steinberg Morton Hope & Israel LLP
1100-5255 Yonge St
North York ON M2N 6P4
Good Morning Antonin
WHAT IS ONE NEW CLIENT WORTH TO YOU?
HERE’S THE DEAL:
SUBSCRIBE TO CANLAW’S LAWYER REFERRAL SERVICE INCLUDING YOUR
FREE BUSINESS CARD AD ON CANLAW
and we will email requests to find a lawyer from clients in the North York area directly to you for just
Only CanLaw Guarantees Referrals or Your Money Refunded
We average about 15,000 referrals a year.
HERE’S WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
Go to https://www.canlaw.com/secure/forms/lawyerads/buscard.htm
and subscribe today.
No other obligation. You will do very well with this service.
HERE’S HOW IT WORKS:
* CanLaw gets about 15000 requests to find lawyers for clients annually.
* These clients want a lawyer right now and are willing and able to pay.
* We forward the ones in your North York area to you.
* You pick and choose only those clients you want.
* The subject line in the referrals we send you lets you cherry pick the referrals without even opening the emails: e.g.
“CanLaw client wants Estates lawyer in North York”
“CanLaw client wants Criminal lawyer in North York”
* We never give your name to the clients.
* Delete any client you are not interested in.
* You do not have to contact any client you are not interested in.
* Fast, easy and you control everything.
No matter what your area of practice, paying CanLaw clients are asking us to find a lawyer like you right now.
SCEPTICAL? You can see a list of a few hundred current referrals at
Current CanLaw Referrals List
CanLaw delivers clients, not empty promises. Questions? Call me at 519-439-8884
J Kirby Inwood
Twenty Five Foster Ave
London ON N6H 2K7
According to the CanLaw website, here is how the lawyer directory is supposed to work:
HOW DOES CANLAW’S FREE LAWYER REFERRAL SERVICE WORK?
- First: Select your town in the box above and fill in the simple Find Me a Lawyer form to tell us why you need a lawyer. It only takes half a minute and it is free.
- Once CanLaw receives your request for a lawyer anywhere in Canada, it is evaluated by our expert staff.
- CanLaw selects the appropriate lawyers and immediately forwards your request, at no cost to you, to them.
- Those CanLaw lawyers who are interested in taking your case will then contact you personally by phone or email as you request, at the time you request.
- All CanLaw lawyers are carefully selected from CanLaw’s database of some 72,000 lawyers practicing law in Canada.
- CanLaw’s Lawyer Referral Service is free to anyone, or any business, anywhere in the world seeking a lawyer anywhere in Canada.
CanLaw’s “Terms and Conditions of Service” are, shall we say, unconventional:
TERMS and CONDITIONS of SERVICE
Absolutely nothing on this site constitutes legal advice.
CanLaw Inc. ( referred to as CanLaw or CanLaw Inc.) is not a law firm and we are not lawyers nor paralegals.
I release CanLaw Inc. and all others from any liability that may arise from my use of this site.
All access to and use of the CanLaw (and its related sites) web site is subject to all of the terms and conditions listed below. Your use of this site constitutes acceptance of all of our terms. CanLaw reserves the right to change these terms and conditions from time to time without notice.
Users of this site agree to be bound by any and all of the terms and rules of CanLaw which constitute a legal agreement between you and CanLaw Inc. If you do not agree, please do not use this site or our services. If you access and use this Web site, you accept and agree to be bound by and comply with all these terms.
All material produced by CanLaw is copyright by CanLaw. All sales are final.
CanLaw Inc. is the sole owner and operator of the CanLaw. Kirwood Inc. was closed in 2009 and ceased operations at that time.
So, neither Inwood nor any of his staff (presuming he has a staff) are lawyers or paralegals.
Perhaps Inwood has sought legal advice in crafting the T&C for the website, but I’m not confident of this assertion. Consider the following excerpt:
Opinion and Fair Comment
This site encourages debate and free speech
Any comments posted by CanLaw or its officers or agents are their personal opinion only.
The information appearing on this site is for general guidance purposes only. Such information is not intended to provide legal advice to any individual or entity.
You are urged to consult with your own legal advisors before taking any action based on any information appearing on this site or any Web site to which it may be linked.
The opinions expressed on the CanLaw sites, in articles and/or linked pages, are the opinions of the authors and not necessarily the opinions of CanLaw or our lawyers, our advertisers, subscribing or listed lawyers or CanLaw management. CanLaw has no opinions.
Opinions expressed in linked pages on other web sites are not under our control and we are not responsible in any way for their content.
CanLaw has no ownership or management connections to any other companies or law societies anywhere. We are not lawyers. We cherish our independence and freedom.
Dealing with Lawyers:
The information in each lawyer’s listing was supplied by him/her. CanLaw Inc accepts no responsibility whatsoever for any ramifications involving any individual’s use of this information.
No one may take any legal action against CanLaw Inc. for any reasons whatsoever arising from retaining a lawyer directly or indirectly through the CanLaw referral service or any other service of CanLaw Inc.
We make no claims, or guarantees to anyone who uses the information herein.
You are expected to make your own decisions regarding the choice of a lawyer and to live with the consequences of your decision regardless of any input from CanLaw.
The CanLaw site also boasts “300,000 free referrals” since its inception in 1996 and “averaging some 1,000, 000 hits a month. No one can match our record.” Moreover, CanLaw boldly represents that “We have 72,000 lawyers in our systems from coast to coast to coast in Canada. If we cannot find you a lawyer, no one can.”
All the disclaimers in the world will not help Inwood here. On the one hand, CanLaw is replete with statements that use of the site does not constitute legal advice and that the user accepts all responsibility for contacting and choosing a lawyer. On the other hand, CanLaw then recommends that one “Ask CanLaw for a Reference Before You Retain a Lawyer“.
Wait, there’s more.
What I can’t seem to figure out is how CanLaw can have access to 72,000 lawyers in Canada, without all 72,000 lawyers giving permission or prior consent to be included in a lawyer directory database. It is highly unlikely that this information is freely available from law society databases en masse. Perhaps CanLaw has an algorithm that is able to harvest the publicly available lawyer information, but many lawyers do not include email addresses, or, in some cases, telephone numbers. If the data has been harvested from other lawyer directories, then this may pose a bigger problem.
That said, any lawyer who subscribes and pays hard earned money to be added to legal directories run by non-lawyers, or have no licensed lawyers as principals or on staff, is either desperate or lazy. These types of lawyer directories are ungovernable by any law society. Caveat emptor applies to the public, but the Consumer Protection Act only goes so far, especially as this form of lawyer matchmaking or lawyer online dating service seems not to have caught the media’s attention.
Inwood appears to have a love-hate relationship with the legal profession. He certainly dislikes most lawyers, if these recent tweets are any indication:
In Inwood’s opinion, the LSUC are cowards and bullies, but it doesn’t stop him from calling lawyers bad names:
Finally, the following is the text of my email I sent to the LSUC-Complaints Services last night:
Dear Complaints Services:
Further to my tweet to your Twitter account: @LawSocietyLSUC this evening, please refer to the email below from J. Kirby Inwood of CanLaw of even date.
While it appears that the website has addressed the prior issue of misleading advertising by unauthorized statements of affiliation or approval of the LSUC, it also appears that Mr. Inwood is misrepresenting the nature and scope of the legal directory, boasting access to all lawyers in Canada. This, notwithstanding that there are very few lawyers listed in any given geographical region (e.g. “Ontario lawyers” or “Toronto lawyers”).
I trust the foregoing is of assistance,
Antonin I. Pribetic
I now leave this matter in the LSUC’s capable hands.