ATTORNEY EMPLOYMENT CONTRACTS MUST BE FAIR
As an attorney who practices law involving attorney employment agreements, I have read many cases where the contract is unenforcable because in impinges on the clients’ right to freely chose their counsel. Attorney employment agreements are unenforcable that state that when an attorney leaves a firm and takes firm clients with her, the departing attorney’s portion of the fee will be limited if she informs the firm’s clients she is leaving. In Becker v. Cellino & Barnes the Court held unenforcable a contract that stated that if the departing attorney informed his clients that he was leaving, prior to his departure, he would only be entitle to what amounts to 11% of the overall fee, regardless of the amount of work he did on the file after he left the firm. This was determined to be unenforcable as it limits the clients choice of counsel.
There were other methods/calculations regarding how to divide the fee, but those calculations only came into play if the departing attorney did not herself initiate contact with the cleints to inform her clients she were leaving. In the case linked above in which I was the plaintiff, I believe the court was misguided in holding that there were issues of fact regarding those provisions. Regardless of whether those provision were fair or not, the other provisions could only be reached under the contract if the client herself did not initiate contact to tell her clients she was leaving. Further, the law discussed by the court regarding the methods in the employment contract to divide the fees if the attorney did not contact her clients does not pertain to employment agreements, but deals with agreements that are made between two firms at the time of substitution of one firm to another, such as in a referal situation or when one firm takes a case away from another firm.
If you have any questions regarding an agreement please feel free to contact me directly.