In a case involving two issues of first impression, the Colorado Court of Appeals has cracked down on contractual terms imposed by law firms to deter departing lawyers from taking clients with them.

In Johnson Family Law v. Bursek, Judge Morris B. Hoffman wrote for the appeals court that financial disincentives designed to indirectly discourage, rather than outright prohibit, attorneys from continuing to represent clients after leaving a firm can still be violations of Colorado Rule of Professional Conduct 5.6(a), which prohibits any “agreement that restricts the right of a lawyer to practice.”