Cincinnati Bar Association v. Mezher

982 N.E.2d 657 (2012)

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Cincinnati Bar Association v. Mezher

Ohio Supreme Court
982 N.E.2d 657 (2012)

Facts

Kathleen Mezher and Frank Espohl (defendants) advertised that their law firm provided free initial consultations. The advertisement did not give specific information about what constituted an initial consultation. Several members of a family saw the advertisement and met with Espohl for a free initial consultation about a probate matter. After meeting with Espohl for about 30 minutes to get general information, the family decided to hire the law firm and signed a fee agreement obligating them to pay a flat fee for the probate matter. The agreement stated that if the family ended the representation early, the firm would be paid an hourly rate for any work performed before being discharged. Because the family was eager to get started, Espohl left them in a conference room and conducted some research for about 20 to 25 minutes. Espohl then returned to the conference room and updated the family on his findings. After the family left, Espohl conducted another 15 minutes of research. The family then decided not to use the law firm after all. Espohl billed the family for the time he had worked after the fee agreement was signed. The family objected, claiming that they believed the entire initial meeting had been a free consultation. The Cincinnati Bar Association (plaintiff) filed a disciplinary complaint against Mezher and Espohl for having used misleading information in an attorney advertisement. Neither attorney had a prior disciplinary record, and both attorneys cooperated with the Cincinnati Bar Association’s investigation into the issue.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Lanzinger, J.)

Dissent (Lundberg Stratton, J.)

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