Friday, January 24, 2014

Clients Behaving Badly

"The only thing I don't like about being a lawyer is the clients."  How many of us attorneys have heard that one? 

I tend to disagree, for the most part.  I've had the great fortune of working for some really great people and organizations.  But they can't all be roses, can they?  Clients can sometimes make our jobs very difficult; they can be rude, disorganized, slow payers ... I'm sure I don't need to elaborate.

But all of that is manageable.  What I struggle with are clients who behave badly.  And in the context of a non-compete or trade secrets lawsuit, bad client behavior can lose an otherwise winnable case. 

Take, for example, the client who was a defendant in a trade secrets case who downloaded client information in the middle of the night using a copy of the key he returned when he was resigned the day before.  He had no non-compete.  But I think you know what happened.  He was ordered to return the information, he was barred from contacting anyone on the client list he took, and he was taken out behind the court house and beaten (well, not beaten, but I certainly tried to put the fear of God into him). 

Or what about the client with a non-compete that prohibited him from working for a specific, named competitor?  That shouldn't be too hard to understand, right?  WRONG.  Even though everybody knows you can't do indirectly what you can't do directly, my client formed a company of which he was the sole member and employee and his new company worked for that competitor.  Um .... that's pretty hard to defend. 

Even when bad behavior doesn't lose a case, it can certainly be embarrassing.  My favorite example is the client who literally took his work laptop with him when he walked out the door of his former employer.  You shouldn't do that.  I told him he would have to give it back and that I would offer it up at the hearing. 

But at the preliminary injunction hearing, my client informed me for the first time that he would give all of the former employer's information back, but that he really, really wanted to keep the laptop.  His reason?  Porn.  Yup, his laptop was filled with it.  To the brim.  It was everywhere.  My poor, poor IT guy.  He was tasked with segregating all of the former employer's information from my client's "personal" information.  IT guy couldn't looked at me without blushing ever again.

I'd be willing to bet you, dear readers, have some whoppers.  So let 'em rip.  Don't tell any tales out of school.  Change all names to protect the innocent guilty.  But do tell - what's your favorite "Client Behaving Badly" story?  I'll feature them in a future post.

Liza Favaro
Non-Compete Counsel

* Disclaimer: The ideas and opinions shared on this site are my own and are not attributable to my employer. No amount of interaction on this site will create an attorney-client relationship. If you have a legal question and you ask it here, I will also answer it here (if I can), but such answers do not guarantee results and do not create an attorney-client relationship. If you wish to contact me directly, you may do so at

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