Are Non-Compete Contracts Binding in Virginia? Yes (Maybe)!

Seriously, I hear this all the time when clients call for non-compete advice:

“I signed the non-compete because they aren’t really binding or enforceable, right?” [No, they are actually very much binding in Virginia and enforceable unless a judge says otherwise.] “Yeah, but there is a technicality. You see, it says my start date was October 4, 2013 and I really started the 3rd, so its void, right?” [No. There is no law that says misstatements make your contract void.] “Oh, but I forgot to mention my job title changed since I signed it.” [So what?] “And the company moved from Virginia Beach to Chesapeake, so now they can’t sue me for competing in Norfolk, right?”

It depends on the circumstances, which are different in every case.

Searching for a “technicality” doesn’t mean what you think it does (thinking of Mandy Patinkin in Princess Bride saying, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”)

Here is the bottom line: If you sign a contract, every single term in it is binding on you until a judge says otherwise. But some contracts are less likely to be enforced than others.

No automatic outs. No triggers. No technicalities. Nobody’s actions or emails or winks make it void. Its binding. UNTIL a judge after months of litigation (maybe years) tells you otherwise.

So, please change your approach. When you sign something act in accordance with its terms. Play by the rules and act as you promised you would. And remember the only technical issues are in legal arguments which may or may not be made on your behalf.

And if you want help in understanding what your agreement actually means in the real world, call an attorney who understands Virginia law to help explain.

As Patinkin says in Princess Bride, “let me esplain. No, there is no time to esplain.”


Lauren Ellerman
Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at