An agreement that barred a lawyer from soliciting clients within a geographic area was unenforceable after the lawyer left the firm under the rules governing the professional conduct of attorneys.
An agreement prohibiting a former associate attorney from soliciting clients of the firm after his resignation may be enforceable in New York, thus a case alleging a breach of that agreement could proceed to trial.
Attorney Rule of Professional Conduct 5.1 that prohibits restrictions on the practice of law is unlikely to shield non-attorneys who act on behalf of a lawyer from liability.
Can a lawyer be prohibited from soliciting the clients of his former firm? The general rule is that restrictions on the practice of law, including any non-competition agreements, are void and unenforceable.
It came as a surprise to me, therefore, that the appellate division in the first department in New York had affirmed the trial court’s decision that let a case go to trial alleging the breach of a non-solicitation agreement signed by a former lawyer.
The case is Feiner & Lavy v. Zohar. Here are the three most important holdings in the decision. First, an agreement prohibiting a former associate of a law firm from competing with his former employer within 90 miles of New York City was void and unenforceable. Continue reading