Noncompete agreement: Competition: Fiduciary duty: Law partnership: Partnerships: Attorney:
(…) This weighing of equities is evident in a case like Howard v. Babcock (1993) 6 Cal.4th 409, 412, where we deemed enforceable a law partnership’s noncompete agreement, which imposed a reasonable cost on departing partners who competed with the firm. In doing so, we sought “to achieve a balance between the interest of clients in having the attorney of choice, and the interest of law firms in a stable business environment.” (Id. at p. 425.)
(…) (Under our partnership law, partners cannot compete with their firm during the partnership, even for “the most remunerative cases.” (Jewel, 156 Cal.App.3d at p. 179; Corp. Code, § 16404, subd. (b)(3) [stipulating that partners have a fiduciary duty “to refrain from competing with the partnership in the conduct of the partnership business before the dissolution of the partnership”].) Our law also makes clear that the duty to refrain from competing with the partnership only pertains to the period before dissolution. (Corp. Code, § 16404, subd. (b)(3); Sen. Com. on Judiciary, Analysis of Assem. Bill 583 (1995-1996 Reg. Sess.) as amended June 5, 1996, p. 7 [indicating that “a partner is free to compete . . . upon dissolution” since “the duty not to compete only applies to the ‘conduct of the business’ and not to the ‘winding up’ ”].) This temporal limit, perhaps counterintuitively, readily advances the spirit of RUPA’s prohibition against competition during the life of the partnership. When partners know they may freely compete after a firm dissolves, they have less reason to compete during the life of the partnership.)
(Cal. S.C., March 5, 2018, Heller Ehrman LLP v. Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, S236208)
Sociétés de personnes, "partnerships", prohibition de concurrence : le droit californien prévoit que les associés ne peuvent pas faire concurrence à leur étude, cela pendant toute la durée du "partnership", considérant l'existence d'un devoir de fidélité. Dite prohibition prend fin avec la dissolution de l'étude. De la sorte, pendant la phase de liquidation, la concurrence est possible.
Cependant, les clauses de prohibition de concurrence entre associés, s'appliquant hors contexte de dissolution, peuvent être admises par la Cour, après analyse au cas par cas. L'analyse prend notamment en compte l'intérêt du client à choisir son avocat et l'intérêt de l'étude au maintien d'un environnement professionnel stable.