MR. JUSTICE POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.
In Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977), this Court held that truthful advertising of "routine" legal services is protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments against
Appellant, a member of the Ohio Bar, lives in Montville, Ohio. Until recently he practiced law in Montville and Cleveland. On February 13, 1974, while picking up his mail at the Montville Post Office, appellant learned from the postmaster's brother about an automobile accident that had taken place on February 2 in which Carol McClintock, a young woman with whom appellant was casually acquainted, had been injured. Appellant made a telephone call to Ms. McClintock's parents, who informed him that their daughter was in the hospital. Appellant suggested that he might visit Carol in the hospital. Mrs. McClintock assented to the idea, but requested that appellant first stop by at her home.
During appellant's visit with the McClintocks, they explained that their daughter had been driving the family automobile on a local road when she was hit by an uninsured motorist. Both Carol and her passenger, Wanda Lou Holbert, were injured and hospitalized. In response to the McClintocks' expression of apprehension that they might be sued by Holbert, appellant explained that Ohio's guest statute would preclude such a suit. When appellant suggested to the McClintocks that they hire a lawyer, Mrs. McClintock retorted that such a decision would be up to Carol, who was 18 years old and would be the beneficiary of a successful claim.
On his way appellant detoured to the scene of the accident, where he took a set of photographs. He also picked up a tape recorder, which he concealed under his raincoat before arriving at the McClintocks' residence. Once there, he re-examined their automobile insurance policy, discussed with them the law applicable to passengers, and explained the consequences of the fact that the driver who struck Carol's car was an uninsured motorist. Appellant discovered that the McClintocks' insurance policy would provide benefits of up to $12,500 each for Carol and Wanda Lou under an uninsured-motorist clause. Mrs. McClintock acknowledged that both Carol and Wanda Lou could sue for their injuries, but recounted to appellant that "Wanda swore up and down she would not do it." Ibid. The McClintocks also told appellant that Carol had phoned to say that appellant could "go ahead" with her representation. Two days later appellant returned to Carol's hospital room to have her sign a contract, which provided that he would receive one-third of her recovery.
Wanda's mother attempted to repudiate her daughter's oral assent the following day, when appellant called on the telephone
Both Carol McClintock and Wanda Lou Holbert filed complaints against appellant with the Grievance Committee of the Geauga County Bar Association. The County Bar Association referred the grievance to appellee, which filed a formal complaint with the Board of Commissioners on Grievances
The decision in Bates was handed down after the conclusion of proceedings in the Ohio Supreme Court. We noted probable jurisdiction in this case to consider the scope of protection of a form of commercial speech, and an aspect of the State's authority to regulate and discipline members of the bar, not considered in Bates. 434 U.S. 814 (1977). We now affirm the judgment of the Supreme Court of Ohio.
The solicitation of business by a lawyer through direct, in-person communication with the prospective client has long been viewed as inconsistent with the profession's ideal of the attorney-client relationship and as posing a significant potential for harm to the prospective client. It has been proscribed by the organized Bar for many years.
Appellant contends that his solicitation of the two young women as clients is indistinguishable, for purposes of constitutional analysis, from the advertisement in Bates. Like that advertisement, his meetings with the prospective clients apprised them of their legal rights and of the availability of a lawyer to pursue their claims. According to appellant, such conduct is "presumptively an exercise of his free speech rights" which cannot be curtailed in the absence of proof that it actually caused a specific harm that the State has a compelling interest in preventing. Brief for Appellant 39. But in-person solicitation of professional employment by a lawyer does not stand on a par with truthful advertising about the availability and terms of routine legal services, let alone with forms of speech more traditionally within the concern of the First Amendment.
Expression concerning purely commercial transactions has come within the ambit of the Amendment's protection only recently.
Moreover, "it has never been deemed an abridgment of freedom of speech or press to make a course of conduct illegal merely because the conduct was in part initiated, evidenced, or carried out by means of language, either spoken, written, or printed." Giboney v. Empire Storage & Ice Co., 336 U.S. 490, 502 (1949). Numerous examples could be cited of communications that are regulated without offending the First Amendment, such as the exchange of information about securities, SEC v. Texas Gulf Sulphur Co., 401 F.2d 833 (CA2 1968), cert. denied, 394 U.S. 976 (1969), corporate proxy statements, Mills v. Electric Auto-Lite Co., 396 U.S. 375 (1970), the exchange of price and production information among competitors, American Column & Lumber Co. v. United States, 257 U.S. 377 (1921), and employers' threats of retaliation for the labor activities of employees, NLRB v. Gissel Packing Co., 395 U.S. 575, 618 (1969). See Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton, 413 U.S. 49, 61-62 (1973). Each of these examples illustrates that the State does not lose its power to regulate commercial activity deemed harmful to the public whenever speech is a component of that activity. Neither Virginia Pharmacy nor Bates purported to cast doubt on the permissibility of these kinds of commercial regulation.
As applied in this case, the Disciplinary Rules are said to have limited the communication of two kinds of information. First, appellant's solicitation imparted to Carol McClintock and Wanda Lou Holbert certain information about his availability and the terms of his proposed legal services. In this respect, in-person solicitation serves much the same function as the advertisement at issue in Bates. But there are significant differences as well. Unlike a public advertisement, which simply provides information and leaves the recipient free to act upon it or not, in-person solicitation may exert pressure and often demands an immediate response, without providing an opportunity for comparison or reflection.
It also is argued that in-person solicitation may provide the solicited individual with information about his or her legal rights and remedies. In this case, appellant gave Wanda Lou a "tip" about the prospect of recovery based on the uninsured-motorist clause in the McClintocks' insurance policy, and he explained that clause and Ohio's guest statute to Carol McClintock's parents. But neither of the Disciplinary Rules here at issue prohibited appellant from communicating information to these young women about their legal rights and the prospects of obtaining a monetary recovery, or from recommending that they obtain counsel. DR 2-104 (A) merely prohibited him from using the information as bait with which to obtain an agreement to represent them for a fee. The Rule does not prohibit a lawyer from giving unsolicited legal advice; it proscribes the acceptance of employment resulting from such advice.
Appellant does not contend, and on the facts of this case could not contend, that his approaches to the two young women involved political expression or an exercise of associational freedom, "employ [ing] constitutionally privileged means of expression to secure constitutionally guaranteed civil rights." NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415, 442 (1963); see In re Primus, ante, p. 412. Nor can he compare his solicitation to the mutual assistance in asserting legal rights that was at issue in United Transportation Union v. Michigan Bar, 401 U.S. 576 (1971); Mine Workers v. Illinois Bar Assn., 389 U.S. 217
The state interests implicated in this case are particularly strong. In addition to its general interest in protecting consumers and regulating commercial transactions, the State bears a special responsibility for maintaining standards among members of the licensed professions. See Williamson v. Lee Optical Co., 348 U.S. 483 (1955); Semler v. Oregon State Bd. of Dental Examiners, 294 U.S. 608 (1935). "The interest of the States in regulating lawyers is especially great since lawyers are essential to the primary governmental function of administering justice, and have historically been `officers of the courts.'" Goldfarb v. Virginia State Bar, 421 U.S. 773, 792 (1975). While lawyers act in part as "self-employed businessmen," they also act "as trusted agents of their clients, and as assistants to the court in search of a just solution to disputes." Cohen v. Hurley, 366 U.S. 117, 124 (1961).
As is true with respect to advertising, see Bates, supra, at 371, it appears that the ban on solicitation by lawyers originated as a rule of professional etiquette rather than as a strictly ethical rule. See H. Drinker, Legal Ethics 210-211, and n. 3 (1953). "[T]he rules are based in part on deeply ingrained feelings of tradition, honor and service. Lawyers have for centuries emphasized that the promotion of justice, rather than the earning of fees, is the goal of the profession." Comment, A Critical Analysis of Rules Against Solicitation by Lawyers, 25 U. Chi. L. Rev. 674 (1958) (footnote omitted). But the fact that the original motivation behind the ban on solicitation today might be considered an insufficient justification for its perpetuation does not detract from the force of the other interests the ban continues to serve. Cf. McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 431, 433-435, 444 (1961). While the Court in Bates determined that truthful, restrained advertising of the prices of "routine" legal services would not have an adverse effect on the professionalism of lawyers, this was only because it found "the postulated connection between
The substantive evils of solicitation have been stated over the years in sweeping terms: stirring up litigation, assertion of fraudulent claims, debasing the legal profession, and potential harm to the solicited client in the form of overreaching, overcharging, underrepresentation, and misrepresentation.
Appellant's concession that strong state interests justify regulation to prevent the evils he enumerates would end this case but for his insistence that none of those evils was found to be present in his acts of solicitation. He challenges what he characterizes as the "indiscriminate application" of the Rules to him and thus attacks the validity of DR 2-103 (A) and DR 2-104 (A) not facially, but as applied to his acts of solicitation.
We agree that the appropriate focus is on appellant's conduct. And, as appellant urges, we must undertake an independent review of the record to determine whether that conduct was constitutionally protected. Edwards v. South
Appellant's argument misconceives the nature of the State's interest. The Rules prohibiting solicitation are prophylactic measures whose objective is the prevention of harm before it occurs. The Rules were applied in this case to discipline a lawyer for soliciting employment for pecuniary gain under circumstances likely to result in the adverse consequences the State seeks to avert. In such a situation, which is inherently conducive to overreaching and other forms of misconduct, the State has a strong interest in adopting and enforcing rules of conduct designed to protect the public from harmful solicitation by lawyers whom it has licensed.
The State's perception of the potential for harm in circumstances such as those presented in this case is well founded.
The efficacy of the State's effort to prevent such harm to prospective clients would be substantially diminished if, having proved a solicitation in circumstances like those of this case, the State were required in addition to prove actual injury. Unlike the advertising in Bates, in-person solicitation is not visible or otherwise open to public scrutiny. Often there is no witness other than the lawyer and the lay person whom he has solicited, rendering it difficult or impossible to obtain reliable proof of what actually took place. This would be especially true if the lay person were so distressed at the time of the solicitation that he could not recall specific details at a later date. If appellant's view were sustained, in-person solicitation would be virtually immune to effective oversight and regulation by the State or by the legal profession,
On the basis of the undisputed facts of record, we conclude that the Disciplinary Rules constitutionally could be applied to appellant. He approached two young accident victims at a time when they were especially incapable of making informed judgments or of assessing and protecting their own interests. He solicited Carol McClintock in a hospital room where she lay in traction and sought out Wanda Lou Holbert on the day she came home from the hospital, knowing from his prior inquiries that she had just been released. Appellant urged his services upon the young women and used the information he had obtained from the McClintocks, and the fact of his agreement with Carol, to induce Wanda to say "O. K." in response to his solicitation. He employed a concealed tape recorder, seemingly to insure that he would have evidence of Wanda's oral assent to the representation. He emphasized that his fee would come out of the recovery, thereby tempting the young women with what sounded like a cost-free and therefore irresistible offer. He refused to withdraw when Mrs. Holbert requested him to do so only a day after the initial meeting between appellant and Wanda Lou and continued to represent himself to the insurance company as Wanda Holbert's lawyer.
The court below did not hold that these or other facts were
Accordingly, the judgment of the Supreme Court of Ohio is
MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.
I agree with the majority that the factual circumstances presented by appellant Ohralik's conduct "pose dangers that the State has a right to prevent," ante, at 449, and accordingly that he may constitutionally be disciplined by the disciplinary Board and the Ohio Supreme Court. I further agree that appellant Primus' activity in advising a Medicaid patient who had been sterilized that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) would be willing to represent her without fee in a lawsuit against the doctor and the hospital was constitutionally protected and could not form the basis for disciplinary proceedings. I write separately to highlight what I believe these cases do and do not decide, and to express my concern
While both of these cases involve application of rules prohibiting attorneys from soliciting business, they could hardly have arisen in more disparate factual settings. The circumstances in which appellant Ohralik initially approached his two clients provide classic examples of "ambulance chasing," fraught with obvious potential for misrepresentation and overreaching. Ohralik, an experienced lawyer in practice for over 25 years, approached two 18-year-old women shortly after they had been in a traumatic car accident. One was in traction in a hospital room; the other had just been released following nearly two weeks of hospital care. Both were in pain and may have been on medication; neither had more than a high school education. Certainly these facts alone would have cautioned hesitation in pressing one's employment on either of these women; any lawyer of ordinary prudence should have carefully considered whether the person was in an appropriate condition to make a decision about legal counsel. See Note, Advertising, Solicitation and the Profession's Duty to Make Legal Counsel Available, 81 Yale L. J. 1181, 1199 (1972).
But appellant not only foisted himself upon these clients; he acted in gross disregard for their privacy by covertly recording, without their consent or knowledge, his conversations with Wanda Lou Holbert and Carol McClintock's family. This conduct, which appellant has never disputed, is itself completely inconsistent with an attorney's fiduciary obligation fairly and fully to disclose to clients his activities affecting their interests. See American Bar Association, Code of Professional Responsibility, Ethical Considerations 4-1, 4-5. And appellant's unethical conduct was further compounded by his pursuing Wanda Lou Holbert, when her interests were clearly
What is objectionable about Ohralik's behavior here is not so much that he solicited business for himself, but rather the circumstances in which he performed that solicitation and the means by which he accomplished it. Appropriately, the Court's actual holding in Ohralik is a limited one: that the solicitation of business, under circumstances—such as those found in this record—presenting substantial dangers of harm to society or the client independent of the solicitation itself, may constitutionally be prohibited by the State. In this much of the Court's opinion in Ohralik, I join fully.
The facts in Primus, by contrast, show a "solicitation" of employment in accordance with the highest standards of the legal profession. Appellant in this case was acting, not for her own pecuniary benefit, but to promote what she perceived to be the legal rights of persons not likely to appreciate or to be able to vindicate their own rights. The obligation of all lawyers, whether or not members of an association committed to a particular point of view, to see that legal aid is available "where the litigant is in need of assistance, or where important issues are involved in the case," has long been established. In re Ades, 6 F.Supp. 467, 475 (Md. 1934); see NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415, 440 n. 19 (1963). Indeed, Judge Soper in Ades was able to recite numerous instances in which lawyers, including Alexander Hamilton, Luther Martin, and Clarence Darrow, volunteered their services in aid of indigent persons or important public issues. 6 F. Supp., at 475-476. The American Bar Association Code of Professional Responsibility itself recognizes that the "responsibility for providing
In light of this long tradition of public interest representation by lawyer volunteers, I share my Brother BLACKMUN'S concern with respect to Part VI of the Court's opinion, and believe that the Court has engaged in unnecessary and unfortunate dicta therein. It would be most undesirable to discourage lawyers—so many of whom find time to work only for those clients who can pay their fees—from continuing to volunteer their services in appropriate cases. Moreover, it cannot be too strongly emphasized that, where "political expression and association" are involved, ante, at 438, "a State may not, under the guise of prohibiting professional misconduct, ignore constitutional rights." NAACP v. Button, supra, at 439. For these reasons, I find particularly troubling the Court's dictum that "a State may insist that lawyers not solicit on behalf of lay organizations that exert control over the actual conduct of any ensuing litigation." Ante, at 439. This proposition is by no means self-evident, has never been the actual holding of this Court, and is not put in issue by the facts presently before us. Thus, while I agree with much of the Court's opinion in Primus, I cannot join in the first paragraph of Part VI.
Our holdings today deal only with situations at opposite poles of the problem of attorney solicitation. In their aftermath, courts and professional associations may reasonably be
The state bar associations in both of these cases took the position that solicitation itself was an evil that could lawfully be proscribed. See Brief for Appellee in No. 76-1650, p. 17; Brief for Appellee in No. 77-56, p. 19. While the Court's Primus opinion does suggest that the only justification for nonsolicitation rules is their prophylactic value in preventing such evils as actual fraud, overreaching, deception, and misrepresentation, see ante, at 432-433, 437-438, I think it should
Like rules against advertising, rules against solicitation substantially impede the flow of important information to consumers from those most likely to provide it—the practicing members of the Bar. Many persons with legal problems fail to seek relief through the legal system because they are unaware that they have a legal problem, and, even if they "perceive a need," many "do not obtain counsel . . . because of an inability to locate a competent attorney." Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, supra, at 370.
Not only do prohibitions on solicitation interfere with the free flow of information protected by the First Amendment, but by origin and in practice they operate in a discriminatory manner. As we have noted, these constraints developed as rules of "etiquette" and came to rest on the notion that a lawyer's reputation in his community would spread by word of mouth and bring business to the worthy lawyer.
The impact of the nonsolicitation rules, moreover, is discriminatory with respect to the suppliers as well as the consumers of legal services. Just as the persons who suffer most from lack of knowledge about lawyers' availability belong to the less privileged classes of society, see supra, at 473, and n. 4, so the Disciplinary Rules against solicitation fall most heavily on those attorneys engaged in a single-practitioner or small-partnership form of practice
By discussing the origin and impact of the nonsolicitation rules, I do not mean to belittle those obviously substantial interests that the State has in regulating attorneys to protect the public from fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, overreaching, undue influence, and invasions of privacy. But where honest, unpressured "commercial" solicitation is involved—a situation not presented in either of these cases—I believe it is open to doubt whether the State's interests are sufficiently compelling to warrant the restriction on the free flow of information which results from a sweeping nonsolicitation rule and against which the First Amendment ordinarily protects. While the State's interest in regulating in-person solicitation may, for reasons explained ante, at 457-458, 460-462, be somewhat greater than its interest in regulating printed advertisements, these concededly legitimate interests might well be served by more specific and less restrictive rules than a total ban on pecuniary solicitation. For example, the Justice Department has suggested that the disciplinary rules be reworded "so as to permit all solicitation and advertising except the kinds that are false, misleading, undignified, or champertous."
Accordingly, while I concur in the judgments of the Court in both of these cases, I join in the Court's opinions only to the extent and with the exceptions noted above.
MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST, concurring in the judgment.
For the reasons stated in my dissenting opinion in In re Primus, ante, p. 440, I concur in the affirmance of the judgment of the Supreme Court of Ohio.
Girardeau A. Spann and Alan B. Morrison filed a brief for Public Citizen et al. as amici curiae.
In explaining the contingent-fee arrangement, appellant told Wanda Lou that his representation would not "cost [her] anything" because she would receive two-thirds of the recovery if appellant were successful in representing her but would not "have to pay [him] anything" otherwise. Id., at 120a, 125a.
DR 2-103 (A) of the Ohio Code (1970) provides:
"A lawyer shall not recommend employment, as a private practitioner, of himself, his partner, or associate to a non-lawyer who has not sought his advice regarding employment of a lawyer."
DR 2-104 (A) (1970) provides in relevant part:
"A lawyer who has given unsolicited advice to a layman that he should obtain counsel or take legal action shall not accept employment resulting from that advice, except that:
"(1) A lawyer may accept employment by a close friend, relative, former client (if the advice is germane to the former employment), or one whom the lawyer reasonably believes to be a client."
"Injured workers or their families often fell prey on the one hand to persuasive claims adjusters eager to gain a quick and cheap settlement for their railroad employers, or on the other to lawyers either not competent to try these lawsuits against the able and experienced railroad counsel or too willing to settle a case for a quick dollar." Id., at 3-4.
In recognizing the importance of the State's interest in regulating solicitation of paying clients by lawyers, we are not unmindful of the problem of the related practice, described in Railroad Trainmen, of the solicitation of releases of liability by claims agents or adjusters of prospective defendants or their insurers. Such solicitations frequently occur prior to the employment of counsel by the injured person and during circumstances posing many of the dangers of overreaching we address in this case. Where lay agents or adjusters are involved, these practices for the most part fall outside the scope of regulation by the organized Bar; but releases or settlements so obtained are viewed critically by the courts. See, e. g., Florkiewicz v. Gonzalez, 38 Ill.App.3d 115, 347 N.E.2d 401 (1976); Cady v. Mitchell, 208 Pa.Super. 16, 220 A.2d 373 (1966).
Nor could appellant make a successful overbreadth argument in view of the Court's observation in Bates that "the justification for the application of overbreadth analysis applies weakly, if at all, in the ordinary commercial context." 433 U. S., at 380. Commercial speech is not as likely to be deterred as noncommercial speech, and therefore does not require the added protection afforded by the overbreadth approach.
Even if the commercial speaker could mount an overbreadth attack, "where conduct and not merely speech is involved, . . . the overbreadth of a statute must not only be real, but substantial as well, judged in relation to the statute's plainly legitimate sweep." Broadrick v. Oklahoma, 413 U.S. 601, 615 (1973). The Disciplinary Rules here at issue are addressed to the problem of a particular kind of commercial solicitation and are applied in the main in that context. Indeed, the Bar historically has characterized impermissible solicitation as that undertaken for purposes of the attorney's pecuniary gain and as not including offers of service to indigents without charge. Compare American Bar Association, Committee on Professional Ethics and Grievances, Formal Opinion 148 (1935), with Formal Opinion 169 (1937); see H. Drinker, Legal Ethics 219 (1953). See also NAACP v. Button, supra, at 440 n. 19. Solicitation has been defined in terms of the presence of the pecuniary motivation of the lawyer, see People ex rel. Chicago Bar Assn. v. Edelson, 313 Ill. 601, 610-611, 145 N. E. 246, 249 (1924); Note, Advertising, Solicitation and Legal Ethics, 7 Vand. L. Rev. 677, 687 (1954), and ABA Formal Opinion 148 states that the ban on solicitation "was never aimed at a situation . . . in which a group of lawyers announce that they are willing to devote some of their time and energy to the interests of indigent citizens whose constitutional rights are believed to be infringed." We hold today in Primus that a lawyer who engages in solicitation as a form of protected political association generally may not be disciplined without proof of actual wrongdoing that the State constitutionally may proscribe. As these Disciplinary Rules thus can be expected to operate primarily if not exclusively in the context of commercial activity by lawyers, the potential effect on protected, noncommercial speech is speculative. See Broadrick, supra, at 612, 615. See also Note, 83 Harv. L. Rev., supra, at 882-884, 908-910.