Does No Non-Compete Mean Clients Can Be Taken?

Most executives believe that no non-compete or non-solicitation agreement means that they are free to raid their employer’s business. This idea has huge potential for hazardous consequences. Having no restrictions on future employment and business relationships certainly keeps a lot of doors open, but you should always be cautious when planning to go after your former employer’s clients.

In these situations I often hear from the executive that the clients are hers and not the employers. While you and the client may both be under that impression, your former employer and the law have a different perspective. In most cases, without contractual restrictions, client’s have every right to choose to work with you. However, the potential for hazardous consequences arises from the means by which you attempt to secure their business. Are you contacting them before you even leave your former employer’s employ? Are you using materials you created through your previous employment? Are you using information you learned from your previous employment?

Starting out a new job with the possibility that your previous employer may sue you is not typically a good start to a new relationship. The smartest thing you can do is avoid future disputes is wrap up the work professionally and minimize your access to “company information.” Don’t download files. Don’t start soliciting business for your new employer. Don’t advertise your new opportunity to colleagues and networking contacts. And, do offer to work out a transition plan with your old employer.