December 3, 2012
Reprimand For Free Consultation That Got Billed
The Ohio Supreme Court has publicly reprimanded two attorneys who had advertised a free consultation on their web page but charged for the intial consult after they had been retained.
Justice Lundberg Stratton dissented:
Because the rules for advertising a free consultation have never been made clear, I would issue an opinion in this case, but I would find that the standards that it provides should apply prospectively only, to give notice to the bar for the requiremebnts for this type of advertising.
Here, respondents were entitled to begin earning their fee once they were retained, and they did in fact perform the work that they billed. Their only error was to fail to advise their client that billable time had started. That is a communication error, not an ethical violation. If we are to make it a violation, we should do so only with fair notice to the bar...
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