October 16, 2019 Top Story

Firms May Force Lawyers to Sign Non-solicitation Contracts

Court upholds non-solicitation agreement that exempted legal work

By Onika K. Williams

A firm can fire a lawyer who is an at-will employee and who refuses to sign an agreement for non-solicitation of the firm’s current or potential customers. According to the Supreme Court of Kentucky, a non-solicitation agreement that makes an exception for legal work does not violate Kentucky Supreme Court Rule 3.130 (Rule of Professional Conduct 5.6), which prohibits a lawyer from agreeing to restrict her practice following cessation of employment, with certain exceptions.

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Employee’s Concerns About Potential Ethics Violation Leads to Her Termination

The conflict in Greissman v. Rawlings and Associates, PLLC began when Rawlings and Associates, a law firm that practices healthcare subrogation, terminated one of its licensed attorneys who worked as a subrogation analyst. Before dismissing the attorney, the law firm presented her with an agreement that included a provision not to “solicit, contact, interfere with, or attempt to divert” any of the law firm’s current or potential clients for three years after ceasing employment. The firm typically presented a similar agreement to attorneys and non-attorneys at the time of termination. The attorney and non-attorney versions of the agreement used the same language, except the attorney agreement included a savings clause that said: “except to the extent necessary to comply with the rules of professional responsibility applicable to attorneys.”

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