The president of a lawyer referral service that was the subject of a recent Law Society of Upper Canada notice of caution to the profession is claiming unfair treatment by the regulator.
“The law society at no time has ever asked me about my position on their piece,” Kirby Inwood said last week in response to queries about the LSUC notice. “They just condemned me without even asking me what was going on. Nobody spoke to me or anything and nobody ever has spoken to me.
They just published that thing. That’s how fair the law society is. They’re as corrupt an organization as exists.”
The comments come as the LSUC once again warned the province’s lawyers last month to steer clear of Inwood’s lawyer referral service that has allegedly prompted a number of complaints from members of the public and the profession about abusive correspondence.
According to the notice to the profession posted on the law society’s web site, CanLaw and the Canadian Lawyer Index, both found at canlaw.com, are linked to Inwood. Neither is associated with the law society, which “strongly recommends” that lawyers avoid subscribing to the service.
Inwood of London, Ont., claims to have gotten in on the ground floor of the Internet lawyer referral business. According to information on CanLaw, he set up the web site in 1996.
According to the web site, CanLaw offers free referrals to Canadians looking for a lawyer. The web site, which has nothing to do with the Canadian Law List or Canadian Lawyer, also offers additional services, including access to an online directory of 68,000 lawyers. It also warns users to beware of the LSUC and its “referral scam.”
“Law societies are designed to protect lawyers from consumers, not consumers from lawyers,” the site reads.
The CanLaw web site says Inwood also offers himself for public speaking on “how the legal industry really works” and adds that he’s “opinionated, outspoken, obnoxious, and provocative. The profession hates him.”
The web site continues: “He is NOT a lawyer, but has some 25 years of experience dealing with lawyers and the law.”
The law society says it has been getting complaints since 2000 about communications with CanLaw that expose recipients to “hatred, abuse, and obscenities.”
One complainant, the LSUC alleges, received this message: “Women like you are monsters who take and take and take.”
Another e-mail allegedly told someone: “Look you pompous power made two bit flunky, we do not take orders from the likes of you.”
According to a spokesperson for the LSUC, the law society previously warned lawyers to avoid the site in 2004 and 2008.
In 2003, the Law Society of British Columbia issued a similar warning. It noted that most of the complaints came from women.
In one of those cases, one woman requested a referral but allegedly received this reply: “Are you stupid? You want us to provide you with thousands of lawyers’ names for free? Piss off you pathetic lunatic.”
Another woman who requested a referral in a custody dispute but had her credit card rejected when she tried to pay a $5 service charge was, according to the B.C. law society notice, allegedly told, “You are a deadbeat. You are also a lunatic. I hope you and your family die. Now go to hell.”
In addition, the B.C. law society notice referred to a female lawyer who asked CanLaw to stop sending her unsolicited e-mails and allegedly received a response calling her “another stupid little girl who got through law school on her back” and a “despicable, ignorant, round-heeled, feminist bigot.”
Inwood, according to the web sites, has been an advocate for men’s rights. One article posted on CanLaw quotes Inwood as saying that “there is absolutely no justice or fair treatment for men in family law in Canada.”
The article continues: “I have consistently found women lawyers to generally be the scum of the earth. No morals, no integrity, no honour and no sense of justice. They will do and say anything to anyone to damage a male opponent, They are sadists unleashed.”
According to R. v. Inwood, Inwood had his own run-in with the court system during the 1980s. Another web site, kirbyinwood.com, hosts a section on a family law dispute involving Inwood and denounces the lawyers and judges involved.
According to Inwood, Inwood met Tanya Sidorova while on holiday in the Soviet Union in 1985 and soon married her and had a child, Misha.
After successfully lobbying Soviet politicians for exit visas, he brought them to Canada in 1987. But just nine days after their arrival, an incident took place that resulted in Inwood’s conviction for assaulting the woman and the child.
According to the ruling, Inwood was convicted for slapping the child and pouring water over him to stop him from crying. The high-profile trial provoked an outcry after Inwood received a 30-day jail sentence. The Crown appealed.
While a five-judge panel of the appeal court ruled in March 1989 that a three-month custodial sentence was appropriate, it said it would be counterproductive to return Inwood to jail after serving the initial sentence.
Inwood was later denied access to the child during a bitter custody battle with Sidorova.
One person who has been a target of Inwood’s verbal attacks says Inwood is a difficult person to deal with.
“He turns up periodically and denounces lawyers and the law society and everyone under the sun,” says the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I try just to ignore it.”
But Toronto family lawyer John Syrtash finds it difficult to reconcile the Inwood he knows with the comments quoted by the LSUC. He advertises on CanLaw and says he gets a steady trickle of inquiries through the referral site.
“I don’t have any problem at all with him,” Syrtash says. “He has always been civil, polite, honest, and business-like in all his dealings with me. Moreover, his service has been useful in providing a source for a number of client referrals for a modest price.”
Still, Syrtash says he’s concerned about the LSUC’s latest caution. “I will be contacting Mr. Kirby to give him a chance to answer these charges before making my decision but will find it difficult to abandon him given the quality of CanLaw’s services.
On the other hand, if these allegations are true, no one should be the subject of such vile abuse.”