Restriction on covenants not to compete have been a long-time feature of legal practice. Rules prohibiting law firms from restricting lawyers' ability to practice or imposing penalties on lawyers that leave a firm attempt to balance the law firm's interest in survival in a competitive market with the countervailing interests of attorney mobility, and protecting clients' choice of counsel. Restrictions on covenants not to compete should be vigorously enforced, and the exception that allows for the forfeiture of retirement benefits by attorneys that choose to leave a firm should be narrowly applied to only those funds to which the departing attorney is not already entitled.
Daniel J. Capra, Richard Friedman, Arthur Handler, and Diana Parker,
Ethical Issues Arising When a Lawyer Leaves a Firm: Restrictions on Practice,
20 Fordham Urb. L.J. 897
Available at: http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/ulj/vol20/iss4/5