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Rules of Professional Conduct

Rule 5.6: Restrictions on Right to Practice

A lawyer shall not participate in offering or making:

(a) A partnership, shareholders, operating, employment, or other similar type of agreement that restricts the rights of a lawyer to practice after termination of the relationship, except an agreement concerning benefits upon retirement; or
(b) An agreement in which a restriction on the lawyer’s right to practice is part of the settlement of a controversy between parties.


[1] An agreement restricting the right of partners or associates to practice after leaving a firm not only limits their professional autonomy but also limits the freedom of clients to choose a lawyer. Paragraph (a) prohibits such agreements except for restrictions incident to provisions concerning retirement benefits for service with the firm. Whether provisions limiting benefits are retirement provisions, excepted by this rule, will depend on a number of factors. See Neuman v. Akman, 715 A.2d 127 (D.C. 1998).
[2] Restrictions, other than those concerning retirement benefits, that impose a substantial financial penalty on a lawyer who competes after leaving the firm may violate paragraph (a).
[3] Paragraph (b) prohibits a lawyer from agreeing not to represent other persons in connection with settling a claim on behalf of a client.
[4] This rule does not prohibit restrictions that may be included in the terms of the sale of a law practice pursuant to Rule 1.17.