Non-Compete 101

We live in a professional culture where men and women feel some kind of stigma or embarrassment in asking for help.

We are asked to sign a 38 page Mortgage contract, and we sign the document without inspection review or asking a professional for help in understanding the terms. Three years later our mortgage payment balloons to a greater number – and we immediately think, that isn’t fair! But a close examination of the document reflects the balloon terms. Oops.

We show up to a new job eager and excited to start, and sign everything put before us, again without question. Maybe we glance over the non-solicitation paragraph, or see that there is a headline called Non-Compete, but does that really mean they can fire me and I can’t work in this industry? Oh well. We worry about that later. 

Well now is later for most folks who want to know in an improving economy, whether they can look for a new job. 

So, I am drafting this for you all: Non-compete 101. 

If you have a non-compete, I recommend the following course of action. Start at #1 and follow the list as you are able:

1.  Get a copy of any document you have signed with your employer. For your own records. 

2. Read the documents. 

3. If you are not sure what something means ask. 

4. Thinking of making a change? Hire a lawyer licensed in the state defined by the choice of law in the contract. So, if you work in Virginia but the contract states you agreed to the laws of Delaware, get a DE attorney. 

5. Ask the attorney if he or she has experience with these contracts. Also, you want someone who has actually litigated these contracts.

6. Don’t call your brother in law and ask his cousin who is in Minnesota to give you a quick free read of the contract, unless of course he is an excellent and seasoned non-compete lawyer and your contract has a Minn. choice of law.

7. Don’t DO anything until you know what your rights and restrictions are.

8. Realize, you don’t likely own your client list or work product.

9.  Realize you owe legal duties NOT spelled out in your contract (like a duty of loyalty). 

10. Understand that getting a review of your contract is 1/100 th of the price of litigating these issues. So make the effort now to understand your rights – before you get served with a lawsuit! 

And yes, read the contract. 

Lauren Ellerman

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at lellerman@frithlawfirm.com.