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VicGal

Working in-house AND doing part-time solo work

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I work for a small law firm in Victoria. A client of mine has asked me to come work in-house for them, on a part-time basis. I am considering making the move. If I do, I will be cutting ties completely with my old law firm. However, I would like to be able to perform some "legal" services should the situation ever arise. Assuming I am not breaching any contractual duties to my future employer, is there any concern with opening up a solo practice and providing legal services through it? 

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I'm in Ontario and I've thought about this, biggest issue business-wise is that you may need to pay the full overhead for a full-time practice but only take in part-time revenue, so may not really be worth it etc. (but you may be able to avoid this to a degree if you are ok with working from home etc)

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Won't your employment contract have a term about only being able to work for your employer? But if it is truly important for you, you could negotiate it. Conflicts might be tricky.

 

That being said I think there is a poster on the board who has a job and does some private practice "on the side."

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My employment contract does not have an exclusivity provision. So I don't see how working outside of my normal hours of employment would be improper. But maybe I am missing something...

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Whatever other considerations you'd have to take into account, you'd have to consider conflicts. And not just legal/ethical conflicts, but also business conflicts (e.g. taking on files that you can ethically work but which your employer will be unhappy with - extreme example, your employer probably doesn't want to read about your successful defense of a notorious child molester in the paper).

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I work for a small law firm in Victoria. A client of mine has asked me to come work in-house for them, on a part-time basis. I am considering making the move. If I do, I will be cutting ties completely with my old law firm. However, I would like to be able to perform some "legal" services should the situation ever arise. Assuming I am not breaching any contractual duties to my future employer, is there any concern with opening up a solo practice and providing legal services through it? 

 

Just to be fair, tell your employer (sorry for that comment if that's your intention). My fear in your place would conflict  interest issues. Victoria is small-ish, and the potential for inadvertently talking to a former client or file is a reasonable concern. You know best... I deal with Victoria clients a lot, so I'm sure we have crossed-paths :-)

Edited by Ciaran
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I work for a small law firm in Victoria. A client of mine has asked me to come work in-house for them, on a part-time basis. I am considering making the move. If I do, I will be cutting ties completely with my old law firm. However, I would like to be able to perform some "legal" services should the situation ever arise. Assuming I am not breaching any contractual duties to my future employer, is there any concern with opening up a solo practice and providing legal services through it? 

 

TL;DR: Isn't this simply a matter of negotiating terms with your new employer before you accept? What's the difficulty?

 

If you're only going to be working PT, and they are only paying you on that basis, it seems a reasonable thing to ask for. If they were opposed, and only paying you on a PT basis, why would you want the position? Unless of course there are personal/health/family/etc. reasons to work PT, I'm not trying to pry.

 

Like the above I'm assuming you would let your new employer know, and better to do so before you accept rather than assume they'd be okay and then told they're not; I'd be concerned if you didn't inform them (not that I am able to give advice regarding BC ethics and employee duties...).

 

When I took a non-law position (I still practice law PT as a solo) we agreed that I was free to do legal work (obviously, I wouldn't do anything with a potential conflict for ethical reasons). LSUC and Lawpro are fine with it (I made sure they knew what I was doing, in case there were any concerns). I obviously don't know the BC situation. Though depending upon the nature of the in-house work and the type of legal services you intend to offer (or possibly offer), there might be more or less potential for conflict - my FT work being non-law simplifies things for me.

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TL;DR: Isn't this simply a matter of negotiating terms with your new employer before you accept? What's the difficulty?

 

Agreed. The only thing is that I don't see why I would need to negotiate this term into my contract. If my part-time employer wants exclusivity, that it something for THEM to negotiate into the employment contract. Based on my understanding of B.C. law, it would be unlikely for there to be an implied term of exclusivity in an employment contract: if my new employer wants exclusivity, that is a covenant they have to bargain for. This, of course, assumes that I will not breach any other terms of my employment contract (for example, number of hours worked per week, etc.). 

 

But aside from that difference, your analysis makes sense. Thanks for input. 

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Whatever other considerations you'd have to take into account, you'd have to consider conflicts. And not just legal/ethical conflicts, but also business conflicts (e.g. taking on files that you can ethically work but which your employer will be unhappy with - extreme example, your employer probably doesn't want to read about your successful defense of a notorious child molester in the paper).

 

Thanks - good point re: conflicts. Something to think about. 

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Agreed. The only thing is that I don't see why I would need to negotiate this term into my contract. If my part-time employer wants exclusivity, that it something for THEM to negotiate into the employment contract. Based on my understanding of B.C. law, it would be unlikely for there to be an implied term of exclusivity in an employment contract: if my new employer wants exclusivity, that is a covenant they have to bargain for. This, of course, assumes that I will not breach any other terms of my employment contract (for example, number of hours worked per week, etc.). 

 

But aside from that difference, your analysis makes sense. Thanks for input. 

 

As a lawyer (my understanding is you're a BC lawyer?), if you had a client in your situation, and they said they could either:

 

1. Have a contract explicitly saying they're free to do other legal work;

 

2. Have a contract that does not say they're free to do other work;

 

Which contract would you suggest they choose to have?

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As a lawyer (my understanding is you're a BC lawyer?), if you had a client in your situation, and they said they could either:

 

1. Have a contract explicitly saying they're free to do other legal work;

 

2. Have a contract that does not say they're free to do other work;

 

Which contract would you suggest they choose to have?

 

There are other reasons why I would prefer not to disclose this to my employer.

 

And in any event, and respectfully, I don't share your view that having a contract that explicitly states X employee is free to earn income outside of his/her regular work hours is necessary at all. The question is: do I have a legal obligation to tell my employer? If the answer is no, that is all I need to know. I personally don't think my employer needs to know about all aspects of my life, including my income earning hobbies. I earn side income as a wedding photographer. Probably significantly more than I will earn as a "part time" lawyer in the next 5 years. Further, I believe in privacy. I don't feel obligated to tell every person I meet (or even all of my family members) that I have a side business as a photographer, so why I would treat my employer any differently I am not sure. I feel like we may value privacy a lot differently.

 

Similarly, I own multiple revenue properties in the prairies. I spend at least 20 hours a month on this, sometimes more when I travel home. According to your logic I better disclose? Why?

 

If you do think I have a positive obligation to tell my employer, what is the source?. My research suggests that so long as there is no conflict of interest, and so long as I am not breaching any duties to my part-time employer, contractual (including implied duties (good faith, etc.)), statutory or otherwise, I am free to do as I wish in my spare time with respect to earning a legal wage.

 

An employment contract is a contract: someone is agreeing to pay me $X for Y Hours of work (etc. etc.)...not to dictate what I may or may not do in my own time outside of the hours for which they own my time. 

 

Let me pose a question for you: if I did inform my employer, and they communicated to me that they did not find this practice acceptable, yet I continue, and they terminate my employment on that basis, would that be grounds for a claim for wrongful dismissal? As mentioned earlier, I have no express contractual duty of exclusivity. If you do think that would be grounds for a claim for wrongful dismissal, I would suggest to you I have no legal obligation to inform my employer. 

 

Zzzzz. All I ask from you is that you point me to a precedent from which your imaginary "obligation to disclose other sources of income" duty arises. Then I will shut up. 

 

Edited: spelling

Edited by VicGal

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There are other reasons why I would prefer not to disclose this to my employer.

 

And in any event, and respectfully, I don't share your view that having a contract that explicitly states X employee is free to earn income outside of his/her regular work hours is necessary at all. The question is: do I have a legal obligation to tell my employer? If the answer is no, that is all I need to know. I personally don't think my employer needs to know about all aspects of my life, including my income earning hobbies. I earn side income as a wedding photographer. Probably significantly more than I will earn as a "part time" lawyer in the next 5 years. Further, I believe in privacy. I don't feel obligated to tell every person I meet (or even all of my family members) that I have a side business as a photographer, so why I would treat my employer any differently I am not sure. I feel like we may value privacy a lot differently.

 

Similarly, I own multiple revenue properties in the prairies. I spend at least 20 hours a month on this, sometimes more when I travel home. According to your logic I better disclose? Why?

 

If you do think I have a positive obligation to tell my employer, what is the source?. My research suggests that so long as there is no conflict of interest, and so long as I am not breaching any duties to my part-time employer, contractual (including implied duties (good faith, etc.)), statutory or otherwise, I am free to do as I wish in my spare time with respect to earning a legal wage.

 

An employment contract is a contract: someone is agreeing to pay me $X for Y Hours of work (etc. etc.)...not to dictate what I may or may not do in my own time outside of the hours for which they own my time. 

 

Let me pose a question for you: if I did inform my employer, and they communicated to me that they did not find this practice acceptable, yet I continue, and they terminate my employment on that basis, would that be grounds for a claim for wrongful dismissal? As mentioned earlier, I have no express contractual duty of exclusivity. If you do think that would be grounds for a claim for wrongful dismissal, I would suggest to you I have no legal obligation to inform my employer. 

 

Zzzzz. All I ask from you is that you point me to a precedent from which your imaginary "obligation to disclose other sources of income" duty arises. Then I will shut up. 

 

Edited: spelling

 

The fact that you don't want to disclose this raises a red flag - it doesn't necessarily mean that you're wrong, again, I'm not a BC lawyer and you are; but feeling the need to hide is a concern because it suggests you know your future employer would have a problem with it (and maybe for a good reason?). And your initial presentation of the facts was that they want to hire you (PT only) and that you haven't yet started working there. This is NOT the situation of e.g. someone who's already been doing this for a while.

 

You're focused on the law (and generally re non-fiduciaries I assume), I'm thinking of professional legal ethics. Reread the BC ethical rules regarding moonlighting - I haven't read them, I'm not a BC lawyer. See if the LSBC has any materials/advice/letters regarding moonlighting. Here the moonlighting would be as a lawyer, which is even more concerning (I assume the rules are thinking of non-legal outside work, but again, haven't read the BC ones).

 

It's also possible the future employer has a code of conduct regarding moonlighting - whether or not you agree with its enforceability or not, would you be comfortable agreeing to terms you intended to violate (even if your opinion was that they were unenforceable)?

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The question is: do I have a legal obligation to tell my employer? If the answer is no, that is all I need to know.... If you do think I have a positive obligation to tell my employer, what is the source?

 

Thanks for clarifying this. You are asking for legal advice and we cannot help you.

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