When you join a consulting firm you may be asked to sign
You’ll receive the standard forms, such as W-4, I-9, etc.
But one of the documents with which you’ll be presented
you’ll not have seen before if you’ve worked only for
hospitals: a “non-compete” document.
Some people just say to themselves,
“I’ll just sign it, because
I don’t want to deal with
it, and I’ve heard they’re
Here’s the issue: If there’s a clause in
a signed contract that’s unenforceable,
you may win if you’re brought to court.
But you’re going to have deal with the fact that you’re going
against something you agreed to.
The best thing to do is to deal with this before you join the
firm, so that if and when you decide to leave, your transition
will be as smooth as possible.
So, what’s reasonable and what’s not reasonable within
On the one hand, you usually don’t find a company that
doesn’t at least ask you to stay away from clients with which
they’ve put you on projects for a period of time.
At Healthcare IS, this is our company policy for
the timeframe of one year.
The consulting firm’s logic is that they introduced you to this
client and they want to protect themselves for a period of time
from the consultant leaving the company only to go directly
back to the client themselves.
The firm feels they were a part of putting the relationship
together and they want to protect themselves from being
unreasonably phased out by a consultant or a client.
On the other hand, some
consulting firms have their new
employees agree to not do
work for any of the firm’s
clients for a period of one year
after leaving the firm.
Not just the clients with which
you’ve been engaged, but any
of the firm’s clients.
How do some of these companies define
They define a client as any company with which
they’re doing work now or have ever done work with
in the past.
So, let’s say you’ve worked with Cerner products for the last
If you join a firm agreeing to this clause, you’ll not be able to
leave the firm and provide your expertise to any Cerner
client for which the firm you’re leaving has ever done work.
I’m aware of at least two consulting firms that have this as a
standard clause that they introduce to all new employees.
In my opinion, this is not reasonable and is something you
should use to evaluate the firm you’re thinking about joining.
It’s one thing for the
consulting firm that
provided all the
training you currently
have for your skill set
to ask you to stay with
them for a period of
time, so that they can
It’s another thing altogether when you have the skill set before
the firm hires you, but then the firm asks you to refrain from
offering your skill set to a number of organizations due to
where they have done business.
Again, in this case, you’re bringing your skill set to them
If you bring the skill set to your employer, it would not be good
for your career to agree to conditions that will significantly
reduce the number of potential clients to which you can offer
your skill set once leaving that firm.
This would affect your future marketability.
If you do sign the non-compete, they have the right to
enforce the document, which may eventually be thrown out
of court by a judge, but only after you’ve spent the time and
money to defend yourself.
This will be a major inconvenience to deal with
when it could’ve been avoided by simply realizing
that the clause alone is ridiculous and should not
have been agreed upon to begin with.
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