These summaries were prepared by McGuireWoods LLP lawyer Thomas E. Spahn. They are based on the letter opinions issued by the Virginia State Bar. Any editorial comments reflect Mr. Spahn's current personal views, and not the opinions of the Virginia State Bar, McGuireWoods or its clients. 
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12-Withdrawing Lawyers (Including Non-Compete Issues)

Lawyers may not hire a lawyer pursuant to an employment agreement that includes a non-compete. "It is unethical for an attorney employing another attorney to include as part of the employment contract a restrictive covenant prohibiting the employee from practicing law in the city and county for two years after the termination of employment." "Clients are not merchandise. Lawyers are not tradesmen. They have nothing to sell but personal service. An attempt therefore, to barter in clients, would appear to be inconsistent with the best concepts of our professional status. "It appears to this Committee that a restrictive covenant of the type described would be an attempt to 'barter in clients." Even without a non-compete, lawyers formerly employed by a law firm may not solicit employment from the law firm's clients. "Canon 27 prohibits every form of solicitation of employment. A former employee of a lawyer or law firm would be bound by these canons to refrain from any effort to secure the work of clients of his former employer." Such a non-compete "appears to this Committee to be an unwarranted restriction on the right of a lawyer to choose where he will practice and inconsistent with our professional status."

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn