Most practices have some type of contract with associates. For the most part, these agreements work well. But sooner or later, you are likely to have an employee seek to leave before his or her contract has expired. This blog is not intended to present legal advice but rather to look at the practical implications of an associate severing an agreement.
Do you care?
In many incidences, the associate’s future with your practice may have already been in doubt. Them severing the relationship can be a blessing to all parties in that it will accelerate your efforts to replace a marginal employee with a great one.
Will this cause damage to your operations?
Every member has a place on your team, but will you be able to replace their skill set in a reasonable amount of time with an associate who will have a similar compensation package?
Did your company breach the agreement in any way?
It is almost impossible to write an agreement that could not be interpreted in different ways. That’s why it is essential to check in with key employees throughout their contracted period to be sure that they are happy in their work. The easiest time to fix a contract dispute is before it becomes an issue.
Are they going to work with a direct competitor in your market?
This is a point of concern and one that will make legal action more compelling.
What are the costs of pursuing a legal remedy, and does the associate have the means to satisfy any judgment against them?
Legal proceedings can be costly. A good attorney can help you lay out the cost and options as well as look at the agreement to define if your practice may have done something to violate the contract.
As a general rule, the mere presence of a contract is usually enough to avoid the issue of an associate breaching it. This is part of the value of a contract. Realistically, once an associate has violated the agreement, it will be difficult to normalize the relationship. The best you can hope for is to minimize the damage. It is essential to involve legal counsel early in the dispute even if you don’t intend to pursue an action to get your side of the story recorded in an accurate and timely manner.
If you find yourself in a position where you need to find a new associate quickly, contact ETS. We talk to exceptional candidates every day, and we may have an excellent fit for your practice in our pipeline.