When Toronto lawyer Tara Vasdani could not track down a defendant she was looking to serve, she turned to Instagram.
Vasdani recently obtained an order in Ontario Superior Court to serve a statement of claim using the social media app, which allows users to share photos and videos.
She says the order is likely the first of its kind in the province, and by allowing the service of a claim through Instagram, it signals a shift in how lawyers interact with technology.
“[I]n order to avoid becoming obsolete, it is our duty to evolve with society — and one of the concrete and surefire ways society is evolving is through technology,” she says.
Vasdani, who is an associate at Mason Caplan Roti LLP, issued the claim, in which she represents an insurance company, at the end of August.
She first attempted to serve the defendant on Sept. 1, 2017, using a physical address, and her process servers were told the defendant had moved away. She then tried using email, with a read receipt, but her messages were either ignored or never read.
Vasdani then looked up the defendant on LinkedIn and contacted her last listed employer, who told her the person never worked there.
When Vasdani could not find the defendant on other social media sites, she turned to Instagram, which the lawyer says she uses much more than Facebook or other apps.
Having found the defendant on Instagram, Vasdani brought a motion in court asking if she could serve the defendant through Instagram and LinkedIn.
The court granted service effective five days after Vasdani sent the necessary documents to the defendant through Instagram and LinkedIn, as well as through mail to her last known address.
Vasdani served the defendant in a private message on Instagram. The court did not require a read receipt be obtained for the service to be effective.
The lawyer says the order is the latest example of how the use of technology is creeping into the legal profession, which has been criticized for being largely resistant to change.
Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi has committed to digitizing and modernizing the courts.
The Ministry of the Attorney General recently made it possible to file civil claims online — a change Vasdani says would have been inconceivable to many lawyers a year ago.
“If we are able to shift the way that we use and apply the law and legal tools so that they are more consistent with the individuals we are seeking to hold legally accountable, we will be met with efficacy, client satisfaction and the prestige the profession since its inception has and deserves to continue to hold,” she says.
Editor's Note: Line added Feb. 6, 2018 to reflect that the court did not require a read receipt be obtained for the service to be effective.