Specialization has benefits. A lawyer who repeatedly handles the same type of case will tend to become an expert in that type of case, understanding the nuances, tricks, unanswered questions, and grey areas. See Do I Need a Specialist to Handle My Texas Non-Compete Case?
But becoming an expert on an area of law can have a less obvious downside: the tendency to forget that things that are self-evident to you may not be so obvious to a client.
For example, if you’re a plaintiff’s personal-injury lawyer, it’s pretty obvious that a person who claims he suffered a debilitating injury probably shouldn’t post photos on Facebook showing himself water-skiing at the lake last weekend. But as I discussed here, you still might need to tell the client to avoid posting social media content that could hurt his case.
Let’s apply this to the type of case I often handle. If you’re an employee planning to quit your job and go to work for a competitor, it’s probably a bad idea to lie to your employer about where you’re going. But even an honest employee could make a mistake like this when caught off guard.
This is just one example. There are a lot of things departing employees should and shouldn’t do.
That’s one reason it’s a good idea for a departing employee to consult with her own lawyer ahead of time. Many common mistakes can be avoided by getting some basic advice from an attorney.
But what if your lawyer inadvertently leaves something out? What if the one thing your lawyer forgets to mention on the phone is the one crucial mistake you make on the way out the door?
If only someone could come up with a simple list of do’s and don’ts for departing employees. Some kind of form that could be shared with both lawyers and clients.
Wait a minute. I could do that.
Here it is: Wolfe’s Do’s and Don’ts for Departing Employees. Download it, study it, follow it, critique it. Whatever you want. Just don’t ignore it.
Of course, I need to accompany this with the usual MASSIVE LAWYER DISCLAIMERS:
*This list is for general educational purposes only. Every case is different. If you are the employee, consult with your own lawyer, Don’t rely on this as legal advice for your particular case.
*Even if you’re a lawyer, keep in mind these are only general tips that apply to most departing employee scenarios. They don’t cover specific substantive legal questions, like Is the Employee’s Non-Compete Enforceable?, Is the Company’s Pricing Information a Trade Secret?, or How Should a Departing Employee “Return” Company Documents? You may need to consult your friendly neighborhood litigation blogger about these issues.
But hopefully these tips will help people avoid some common mistakes. Like posting that water-skiing photo.
Zach Wolfe (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Texas trial lawyer who handles non-compete and trade secret litigation at his firm Fleckman & McGlynn, PLLC.
These are his opinions, not the opinions of his firm or clients, so don’t cite part of this post against him in an actual case. Every case is different, so don’t rely on this post as legal advice for your case.