A failure to communicate

Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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10 Responses

  1. LeeEsq says:

    Associates in law firms are not supposed to have clients of their own. Any legal business you come across is supposed to be given to the firm. Corporate law requires directors and officers of the corporation to not usurp business from their corporation. Any business opportunity is to be given to the corporation first and only if the corporation refuses can the director or officer take it for herself. This is standard business ethics.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Yet, the transition from associate to partner is motivated by nothing so much than the degree to which the associate is able to assemble a book of her own. Whether by skirting the rule, or breaking it subtly, or working below the radar of the partner to whom she reports, the associate looking to move up and play in the big leagues must muster client loyalty to herself rather than to her firm — and only then display her loyalty to the firm by allowing them to offer partnership or a sufficiently large piece of her own book before jumping ship to Brand X or setting up her own shop.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Burt Likko says:

        @burt-likko I mean yes. Most lawyers thinking of transitioning to partner or breaking out on their own start developing a client base before they really are ethically able to. Its not supposed to happen but it does.Report

        • Burt Likko in reply to LeeEsq says:

          My thinking is that the extant system all but requires that this happen. If you don’t push the edge of the envelope, you’re not going to have what it takes to make partner when the time for review comes. So the system filters out those people who aren’t willing to test the boundaries — sometimes exceeding the boundaries — of what is both ethically and legally acceptable.

          Perhaps the end result is what is desired: aggressive cultivators of business holding equity. Whether this is actually desirable, YMMV.Report

  2. Burt Likko says:

    This sort of thing is bread-and-butter work for me, @vikram-bath. So from where I sit, it happens all the time, ethically or otherwise.

    On the business ethics level, I would give it a pass if the employer knows what’s going on and does not want the kind of clients for work that the employee is stepping up privately. In practice, this requires that the employee present the opportunity to the employer in explicit terms, and that the employer passes explicitly. Further, it must not interfere with the employees ability to do her own work. If she can do it on her own time, and the employer does not want to do it itself, then it’s an open field.

    That set of circumstances, as you might imagine, is remarkably uncommon.Report

    • Vikram Bath in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Funny litigation should come up, because:

      So, today, I was fired for lack of commitment, working on other things, and disclosing company trade secrets. I was warned of the complex legal issues my actions would have created had I been working at a larger company.

      Truthfully, I did not know better about disclosing trade secrets. I am 20 and this was only my second “real” job after dropping out of school.

      It sounds like there is no lawsuit, but the intimation is that there could have been one if the employer were so motivated.Report

  3. True story:

    I worked for a few years for a company that provided staffing for software projects (AKA a “body shop”) –call it X Inc. It It had a strict non-compete clause that covered many situation:

    * leaving and going to work for a competitor
    * leaving and going to work for any company X provided staffing for, without X getting a buy-out
    * taking on any side projects yourself without X getting a cut

    (All of this is apparently illegal in California, but legal in the state where X was headquartered, which is also the case with many companies that have non-compete clauses.) We were regularly warned about this in so many words by the VP I worked under (call him Jerko.)

    So, Jerko decided he wanted to be an entrepreneur, so he left X and started a company in the same space: that is, a direct competitor. And since he was well-liked, X said “fine”, and even sublet him some unused office space. And did nothing about the fact that Jerko’s wife continued to work at X as an administrator — in fact, she was the one I faxed my team’s time sheets to every week. It wasn’t until it became clear that Jerko’s wife was telling him confidential information about X’s prospective customers that they evicted him and fired her.

    So, the real problem with the person discussed in the OP is thinking he could get away with that without being corporate officer.Report

  4. Michael Drew says:

    Hey, if it leads to success rather than the death of a career (and I’m sure it has many times), then it does. If it leads to career death, then it does. But I’m pretty sure it has often led to success.

    Are you making a point (about ethics, perhaps?) beyond that? Or not so much?Report

  5. Damon says:

    I work for a moderately large company as every year we have “training” on this stuff.

    Everyone knows what they should do, even the interns, and the potential consequences of not following the rules. Although I’m surprised that “Truthfully, I did not know better about disclosing trade secrets. ”

    Really? Even at 20 you had no inclining that disclosing trade secrets would be a problem? Really?Report