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Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar Assn.

United States Supreme Court
436 U.S. 447 (1978)


Facts

After learning that an acquaintance, Carol McClintock had been injured in an auto accident, attorney Ohralik (plaintiff) visited McClintock’s parents. He discussed the accident and applicable law, and recommended that McClintock hire an attorney. Ohralik next visited McClintock in the hospital, where he asked her to sign a retainer agreement. McClintock said she would need to talk with her parents and asked Ohralik to tell her parents to come to the hospital. At McClintock’s home, Ohralik secretly recorded his conversation with her parents, who told him that McClintock had agreed to sign his retainer agreement and also gave Ohralik information about the limits of their insurance policy. Ohralik visited McClintock in the hospital two days later, where she signed a contingent fee agreement assigning Ohralik one-third of any recovery. Later, Ohralik made an uninvited visit to the home of McClintock’s passenger, Wanda Lou Holbert, who had also been injured in the accident. Once again, Ohralik secretly recorded the conversation. Ohralik told Holbert that he had been retained by McClintock and advised her that she might be entitled to compensation under McClintock’s insurance policy. Ohralik offered Holbert the same contingent fee agreement he had offered McClintock. Holbert verbally agreed to have Ohralik represent her. The Ohio State Bar Association (plaintiff) undertook disciplinary proceedings and concluded that Ohralik had violated state rules of professional conduct prohibiting the direct solicitation of prospective clients for financial gain. The state supreme court upheld the findings from Ohralik’s disciplinary hearing and permanently suspended Ohralik’s license to practice law. Ohralik petitioned the United States Supreme Court for review.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Powell, J.)

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