Peter A. Steinmeyer, Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s Chicago office, was quoted in Law360, in “Tully Rinckey's Atty Contracts Offer Warning to Other Firms,” by Alison Knezevich. (Read the full version – subscription required.)

The ongoing disciplinary case against the founders of Tully Rinckey PLLC over restrictions the firm placed on departing attorneys is an unusual one, but experts say it's still an important reminder for lawyers to be mindful of the ethical considerations of their employment agreements.

Tully Rinckey's leaders find themselves in hot water over employment and separation agreements that imposed monetary penalties on attorneys who left its Washington, D.C., office and sought to prevent attorneys from working with former colleagues after leaving the firm. While the provisions were extreme enough to garner the attention of D.C. disciplinary authorities, and it's more common for disputes between firms and departing lawyers to arise in arbitration, the case highlights the legal ethics issues posed by such conflicts. …

Central to the case is Rule 5.6, which prohibits attorneys from entering agreements that restrict the right of a lawyer to practice after leaving a firm. A version of the rule has been adopted in every state. …

There are also implications for in-house counsel.

Peter A. Steinmeyer, managing shareholder of Epstein Becker Green's Chicago office and co-chair of the firm's national trade secrets and employee mobility practice, told Law360 Pulse that, with many companies using noncompete agreements for senior executives, questions can arise about what restrictions may be allowable for company attorneys "who may wear a lawyer hat and a nonlawyer hat."

"And so the question is, to what extent can they have a noncompete or a nonsolicit particularly as it pertains to their nonlawyer work?" he said.

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