Lawson Lundell, a major law firm in downtown Vancouver, has asked a homeless man, Bill Simpson, for a $1,000 retainer. Simpson received the request in an Aug. 18th e-mail from Tom Woods, who identified himself as head of the Lawson Lundell Defamation and Media Law Practice.
Simpson had been hoping for a little pro bono help from Lawson Lundell in what is believed to be a clear cut libel case against the Carnegie Center Association (and some say, the City of Vancouver). The writer apologized and admitted in writing that he had published "libellous commentary" about Simpson.
Simpson was specifically named in the libelous commentary which included various claims, including one that Simpson had resorted to fraud to get himself elected to the Carnegie Board of Directors in June. In his subsequent retraction, the author of the libel stated that publishing such claims was "unconscionable". But the damage was done.
And it is not the first time that libel has been disseminated by the Carnegie Center Association, although it is the first time that Simpson was specifically named.
Woods told Simpson in the e-mail that after he paid the "up front" $1,000, he would be charged $400/hr. for his services as a senior lawyer. Woods would attempt, though, to recruit a junior lawyer to work under his supervision, whose time would go for $250 - $325/hr. Woods acknowledged that Simpson might find these "high numbers", so he offered to provide him with a number to call to get the names of lawyers outside the downtown core who have lower fees.
Unfortunately anything other than FREE is outside Simpson's price range. He has no job and no home. And he doesn't get welfare.
Simpson was amazed by the letter from Woods and appeared disheartened. He had believed that Lawson Lundell was aware that he was homeless. Material he had dropped off at the law firm pertaining to his case had included links to his website, Downtown Eastside Enquirer .ca, and to a blog, both of which identify him as homeless.
Simpson says it is possible that Woods had not reviewed the websites and was not aware that he was homeless.