The questions presented deal with the propriety of restrictive covenants in employment contracts between lawyers employed as associates of a law firm, as employees, and a law firm, as employer, and the propriety of restrictive covenants in partnership contracts.
Specifically, the inquiries are:
1. Is it proper for a firm to have a contract of employment with an associate lawyer providing that, upon leaving the firm, the associate would be restricted for a “reasonable time” from practicing law in competition with the firm in its geographical area of practice? (Emphasis added.); and,
2. Is it proper for a firm to require each of its associate lawyers to enter into an agreement providing that, upon termination of the associate’s affiliation with the firm for any reason, the associate would be prohibited from soliciting employment by any of the firm’s “current clients” for a period of two (2) years from such termination? (Emphasis added. The inquiry presented states that “the two (2) year limitation period is used as an example only and is subject to modification.); and,
3. Is it proper for a firm to require each of its associate lawyers to enter into an agreement providing that, upon termination of the associate’s affiliation with the firm for any reason, the associate would be prohibited from accepting employment by any of the firm’s “current clients” for a period of two (2) years from such termination? (Emphasis added. Again, it is stated that the period of two (2) years is used as an example only and is subject to modification. Further, the inquiry suggests a definition of the “firm’s current clients” in both inquiries 2 and 3 as meaning “any client brought in to the firm, whether by a partner or an associate, where legal services are currently being provided for such client or have been provided for such client within the twelve (12) month period immediately preceding the date of termination of the associate.”); and,
Is it proper for a law partnership agreement to provide that an exiting partner, whether leaving by choice or by expelling, would be prohibited from continued representation in legal matters of clients who were originally brought to the firm by one of its remaining partners?
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