Canada's first online lawyer community: interview with Alistair Vigier (2023)

A firm called Clearway Law, headed by Alistair Vigier, created Canada's first legal community. While other websites such as Lawyer Ratingz and Canada Law List have existed for many years, other websites offer little interaction between the public and lawyers.

It seems that Lawyer Ratingz is mainly used by clients and competitors who leave negative reviews of lawyers. This has made many Canadian lawyers nervous and sometimes angry at every new online community using lawyers' photos and information. At the same time, many law firms and marketing agencies are often looking for new, free or low-cost opportunities to expand their legal practice.

Ads on Google and Facebook can be very expensive. And only a few law firms can afford billboards and radio ads that can cost over $10,000 a month.

We interviewed Alistair Vigier, CEO of Clearway Law, to learn more about his lawyer profile project/company. We also asked him some tough questions about typical law firm problems. If you have any other questions you'd like Alistair Vigier to answer, feel free to leave them below in the comments section and we can try to arrange an interview for part two.

How did you decide to index all lawyers in Canada and put them online?

Alistair Vigier: I worked in a law firm for five years and I noticed that there is a huge disconnect between potential clients and lawyers. The firm's lawyers always needed new clients because they had to cover their "sales flow.” At the end of the three-week trial period, they would need a new legal job, but they had no time to talk to clients until the end of the trial period.

So each time potential clients would call the law firm, want to make an appointment for a consultation, and have to wait three weeks for an appointment. At the time, clients were acquired by other law firms that had paralegals or "customer service" employees to ask questions. It was frustrating.

Many lawyers were so afraid of the Law Society that they did not want to try anything new. However, the most clients (and yet they never got into trouble) were open-minded law firms.

For example, at the end of a three-week trial period, the lawyer will be out of paid work for several weeks. Potential clients weren't happy, and lawyers weren't happy. The public did not know which lawyers to contact for information. The lawyers barely made it financially.

I wanted to find a way for the public to search for lawyers and law firms by practice area, city, rating (1-5 stars) and price range (pro bono, legal aid, medium, high quality/price). Clearway Law's goal is not to replace lawyers (unlike some AI firms), but to increase the number of people who hire and pay lawyers. In some courts, only 30% of people are represented by a lawyer. I wanted to change that. Lawyers earn more and clients receive proper legal advice. Instead of the current situation where Canada is in a win-win situation, I would change the situation to a win-win situation.

But why did you have to add the profile of every lawyer in Canada to achieve your goals?

Why did you do it without permission and without asking lawyers to register?

Alistair Vigier: The goal was to allow the public to leave a review for any lawyer in Canada. It doesn't matter if the lawyer practices in Toronto in family law or in Victoria BC where he practices real estate law. The goal is that at least 80% of lawyers in Canada are qualified and all consumer lawyers are qualified. Lawyers working as in-house or government advisers may not have any qualifications. We check each rating to make sure it looks believable. We remove reviews if we discover they are illegal.

However, all lawyers must be on the website for the public to see their information. Which law school they attended, their office address (not home address), practice area, place of work name, their online grades, photo, and more.

It couldn't wait for 130,000 lawyers to self-register with Clearway Law. It would never happen.

Canada's first online lawyer community: interview with Alistair Vigier (1)

Online, we've seen some lawyers complaining that they can't change their Clearway Law profile picture. Why don't you change the photos?

We actually introduced the first version of the Clearway Law in February 2021, and it wasn't perfect. We tried to improve our code and web indexing algorithm, but honestly it didn't work out so well. The aim was to check whether the public is interested in the profiles of lawyers. When we hit 110,000 views per month, we were able to raise money from investors.

Our algorithm didn't work well with Indian names. When the code tried to find a photo of a lawyer on the Internet, it confused men and women with Indian names. So she posted a picture of a man on an Indian profile... We had a lot of lawyers in Surrey BC and Brampton Ontario who were nervous. Some of the lawyers left one-star reviews on Google Maps and wrote unpleasant things on social media (most of them completely untrue or at least very dramatic). I've even been called a Chinese spy, a fake veteran, a cheater, and an abuser for not deleting lawyers' profiles on demand.

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Since we didn't yet have a backend system set up to allow lawyers to submit their own profiles (we do now), I had to manually reply to each lawyer who wanted to change their address or profile picture. They emailed me with hundreds of lawyers every day. I have done my best to update the photos. Every lawyer who sent me their correct photo was edited by me. Some people threatened me, so I blocked them. I will not correspond with anyone who uses violence. In 2021, I manually changed the profiles of hundreds of lawyers.

Have you checked Canadian regulations on this matter?

Yes, we receive legal advice from Canada's leading privacy law firm. Indexing is allowed in Canada and many companies you know and love do. For example, search on Google and Yelp.

The only thing we can't do is "pay to remove" a negative review. company namedQualify for an MDI got in trouble for it. We didn't want to do it anyway because we think it's unfair.

Canada's first online lawyer community: interview with Alistair Vigier (2)

Clearway used to be a law firm?

Yes, in 2018 Clearway Law was an Ontario family law law firm. At one point, we had eight part-time contract lawyers, all based in Ontario. Most of the lawyers who worked for us worked remotely (we had no office space). The idea was that the Clearway Law staff would consult (rather than offer legal advice) and then send the client full pay. If the client was interested in employment, the lawyer would provide paid "legal advice" and hopefully sign a contract of employment and collect the money in his trust account.

We left the Law Firm in 2020 and became a legal directory. Investors were not interested or not interested in investing in a law firm because non-lawyers cannot own shares in a law firm in Canada. We needed to be able to raise millions of dollars to meet our goals of improving access to justice and accountability in Canada.

Lawyers continued to file complaints with the Bar Association (which were terminated without subpoenas) for a variety of reasons. They complained about our extensive legal and marketing structure and kept implying that we were not a law firm because I ran one. I went to law school, but they didn't call me as a lawyer.

We used a lawyer's license, but the lawyers didn't care. Not surprisingly, most of the complaints came from Toronto family lawyers we competed with.

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Either way, the lawyer we used had grown tired of responding to complaints from the Law Society. He planned to become a judge and thought that complaints would hurt his chances. We let her break her contract with Clearway. It was a difficult month, but we rose.

We read that you were shot with the Cadets or the Canadian Army.

I don't want to get into it because I've already talked to him about it.Saanich Newsand it has nothing to do with Clearway. I'm not sure why people said it was for cadets, meaning under 16s. I think they just wanted to slander.

Why are you making stupid law memes? We saw them on the Internet in groups of lawyers and law students.

For me, it's mostly fun. I don't like to post pictures of myself and food. But like most people, I get a dopamine rush when I post something and get thousands of likes and loads of shares. This is not part of our plan or marketing strategy. We don't get customers because of it. Interesting that they know him as the meme boy of the law.

Canada's first online lawyer community: interview with Alistair Vigier (3)

What's next for Clearway and Alistair Vigier?

We have profiled almost every lawyer in Canada. Some law firms loved it when we profiled, others weren't so sure. We were the first company to create photo profiles for lawyers across Canada.

We also have many lawyers who have registered with us so they can get more clients. Some lawyers write blogs and articles for us, adding their phone numbers to them. This generates business for them.

This also adds value to the market as more legal information articles on specific topics appear. Much better than the marketing articles published by most law firms.

We will soon offer the first "verified" lawyer qualification in Canada. This means that we will check if someone has been a customer before approving their rating. This means the end of fake reviews with 1 and 5 stars. People deserve to know better which lawyer to choose.

We will also add results from any Law Society discipline to lawyer profiles. You want to avoid the trouble of bad lawyers.

In short, we are working hard to solve the problem of access to justice. A lot of people in the legal industry talk about solving problems. Actually, we're working on it.

We plan to implement this in other Commonwealth countries, followed by the UK.

I still want to build a law firm and one day, maybe in the future, raise money for it in the UK, where investors will be able to own shares in one of them. But first we need to scale up and sell Clearway Law!

Interview with Alistair Vigier. Conclusions

If there is enough interest in this article, we will have another Q&A session with Alistair Vigier of Clearway Law to answer any questions raised in the comments. If you wish, you can also send them directly to us by e-mail. People have a lot of positive and negative opinions about lawyer directories, and we want to hear all the opinions.


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