An Ontario personal injury lawyer who gave himself awards for “#1 in client satisfaction” and “#1 personal injury law firm,” and boasted on his website of winning “millions and millions of dollars” for his clients has been found to have committed professional misconduct by the province’s legal regulator.
Brian Goldfinger, of Goldfinger Injury Lawyers, was reprimanded in June and ordered to pay $5,000 in costs after the Law Society of Ontario’s Tribunal found problems with his marketing practices.
In late 2017 the law society alleged Goldfinger promoted himself using awards that were not “bona fide” or that were likely to be “misleading, confusing or deceptive.” The law society also alleged the lawyer’s marketing was “improper” in that it was likely to leave the impression that his firm was larger than it was, and that the lawyer’s marketing obtained results for past clients “without any disclaimer indicating that past results are not necessarily indicative of future results.”
The agreed statement of facts in the case says the law society “does not suggest that the lawyer was dishonest or intentionally deceptive in his marketing practices. Nonetheless, the law society seeks a finding that the lawyer committed professional misconduct.”
In a statement on his website, Goldfinger said the resolution of the case “allows me to focus wholly on helping my clients and growing my thriving business.
“The rules we have to follow are sometimes ambiguous and leave room for interpretation. They are also frequently updated. Growing firms like mine need to be extra careful to keep up and ensure compliance,” Goldfinger’s statement reads.
His statement goes on to say that when he was notified about concerns with his advertising, he “moved swiftly and voluntarily to rectify them. He said the law society has “struggled for decades with what constitutes permissible advertising and marketing.”
“I hope this episode will help clarify the rules for the benefit of other young lawyers and small firm owners,” his statement reads.
Goldfinger’s lawyer, Gerald Chan, told the Star in an email his client’s case is “clearly not a case of dishonesty, which the Law Society acknowledges.”
The Star first reported on Goldfinger’s advertising claims in early 2017 as part of an investigation of the business practices of Ontario personal injury lawyers. The Star found that the law society had done little to curb questionable marketing practices.
The agreed statement of facts in the case decided by the Law Society Tribunal in June said this is the first instance of the society seeking a finding of professional misconduct in relation to a lawyer’s marketing.
Concerns about Goldfinger’s advertising were raised with the law society more than two years ago when a group of seven lawyers based in London, Ont., took issue with several of his claims, including that Goldfinger refered to himself as “the lawyer with the golden touch.”
The agreed statement of facts says Goldfinger marketed himself as “London’s Injury Lawyer,” “Kitchener’s Injury Lawyer,” and “Peterborough’s Injury Lawyer” while his head office was in Toronto. The statement said the office spaces in London, Kitchener and Peterborough are shared with other tenants and can be booked to meet with clients.
“The lawyer does not lease exclusive space at any of these three locations and he has no firm staff that attend at any of these locations on a full-time basis,” reads the agreed statement of facts.
Chan said his client’s case was about “how to regulate lawyers’ efforts to reach the clients they hope to serve in light of the modern day realities of how law is practiced (e.g., working out of shared spaces).”
The agreed statement of facts also says Goldfinger’s newspaper ads stated that his firm “specialized” in certain areas of personal injury law, even though neither the lawyer, nor any of his associates, had been certified as a specialist in civil litigation.
Goldfinger voluntarily removed the “golden touch” slogan, changed his marketing to reflect that he has “meeting offices” outside Toronto, rather than fully functioning offices in different parts of the province, and that, rather than specializing in certain areas of law, his firm “concentrates” on them, according to the agreed statement of facts.
It also says that Goldfinger removed reference to the two awards he had posted on his website. It states that he was the sole owner of the group that awarded them.
As part of its investigation last year, the Star found a website with the URL “elitelawyersontario.com” that was registered in 2015 by a Brian Goldfinger and Goldfinger Law Professional Corp. Reference to the awards was removed from Goldfinger’s marketing material in the winter of 2017 after the Star started asking questions.
According to the agreed statement of facts: “The lawyer explained that Elite Lawyers was something he created with the intention of being a group for lawyers to network and market themselves, but it never got off the ground.”