Some professionals call their client list a “book of business.” A law firm, accounting firm, skilled workers like plumbers and electricians, have loyal customers. These customers may follow this professional wherever they go.
We often see in our non compete work, that an employee is hired away from company #1, and given a great opportunity with company #2, so long as they bring their book of business with them.
Well this is America, where capitalism and the great American dream prevail, so what is wrong with taking your clients with you?
Nothing if you live in California.
If you live in Virginia however, taking your book of business could subject you to litigation.
1. Breach of fiduciary duty: Were you making plans to move while still employed? Did you let customers know of the move before your employer? YIKES – you have a legal duty not to compete with your employer while still employed. That includes taking customers, etc.
2. Breach of contract: Did you sign a non-compete that said you wouldn’t take clients or even contact them? Breach of contract cases are time consuming.
3. Trade Secrets: Is a customer list protected as a trade secret or proprietary information? Did you print all the customer addresses the week before you left or email them to your personal account. Please say no – this will look bad later.
Moral of the story is (and it is a sad moral) that in Virginia, you must be very careful when leaving. The only way to leave without subjecting yourself to possible litigation is…. well… there is no sure proof way. Just be careful, know what your contract says – and as always, we would advise you get legal help before you make any move.