Monday, November 10, 2008

The Non-Compete Playbook: Preliminary Considerations

The Scenario
Assume the following: Jordan James, a successful legal recruiter employed at Company A has left to start her own placement firm. James signed a non-compete and non-solicitation with Company A and it is believed that James took her Microsoft Outlook contacts that contains all of her client information. What should Company A do and what should James anticipate?

Preliminary Considerations

(1) What are Company A's objectives? Is James worth the time and money from a cost/benefit analysis? Is James competing with Company A a threat? Even if not, has she taken information that is important to Company A? The reality is James will be able to compete some day against Company A but she should not be able to with information that does not belong to her or in violation of her contractual covenants.

(2) Is the non-compete enforceable? Before Company A instructs its lawyer to file a lawsuit and obtain a temporary restraining order (discussed in next week's entry), the next question should be what is the likelihood of enforceability of the non-compete? Obviously, no lawyer can predict what a Court can do, but they can give an educated guess. Hopefully, Company A already had this discussion with the lawyer who drafted the non-compete, but in many cases a lawyer wasn't involved and the law changes.

(3) Are James' documents in order? This includes any employment agreement, her employment file, and any company manuals that contain policies she is subject to. Can you capture (within the confines of the law) James' most recent communications (email/phone messages) with clients? Is there any evidence of James' contacting clients after her departure from Company A?

(4)What clients did James service? Were they serviced primarily by James or others at Company A? Would it make sense to contact the clients James worked with at Company A and let them know she has departed and who will be taking over her responsibilities? Not only will contacting them potentially protect business and preempt James, it is a means for developing allegations in a lawsuit and the basis for a temporary restraining order by finding out if she is talking to Company A clients and customers.

Next, the focus will be the filing of a lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order.