Non-Compete Clauses for Lawyers
By Megan Zavieh
Megan Zavieh focuses her practice on attorney ethics, representing attorneys facing state bar disciplinary action and providing guidance to practicing attorneys on questions of legal ethics. She has been representing attorneys facing disciplinary action before the California State Bar since 2009 and is admitted to practice in California, Georgia, New York and New Jersey, as well as in Federal District Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. She blogs at CaliforniaStateBarDefense.com and is a contributor at Lawyerist.com and AttorneyatWork.com.
Non-compete clauses are largely unenforceable in California except as to business owners, and the general rules contained in statutes and public policy apply equally to lawyers. However, the Rules of Professional Conduct go further to protect lawyers’ right to practice in their profession. In the end, the interplay of the Rules of Professional Conduct, the Business and Professions Code, and public policy yields a rule under which associates are free to move from one firm to the next or go solo as they choose, and partners cannot be precluded from competing with their old firms but can be required to compensate their old partners for doing so.
GENERAL RULE AGAINST NON-COMPETE AGREEMENTS IN CALIFORNIA