This is just for an entry level associate position at a small firm. The contract has a non compete clause that says I can't work in this area in any capacity in this practice area for 1 year after I am no longer working there. The district specified is more than a quarter of the state, and it's by far the most populated and built up part.
It does say that the clause won't be valid if I am terminated or laid off however.
Is this a common thing for entry level attorney positions (on the consumer side) or is this strange?
Bullsh1t. It's not just odd, it's most probably completely unenforceable and a violation of the ethics code (and when I left the firm, if they tried to enforce the clause, I'd tell them to shove the clause where the sun don't shine).
Forty-nine states have adopted Model Rule 5.6 or some modified version of it or its predecessor, ABA Model Code of Professional Responsibility D.R. 2-108. Maine is the only state with a rule that allows restrictions on the practice of law as a condition for receiving post-employment compensation.
Model Rule 5.6 provides as follows:A lawyer shall not participate in offering or making
(a) a partnership, shareholders, operating, employment, or other similar type of agreement that restricts the right 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 client controversy.
Termination of the relationship = laid off, quit, terminated... whatever. The relationship terminates whenever you no longer work there for whatever reason.
Many of these rules stem from the belief (and the rule) that the client should have unfettered access to choose his attorney, assuming there are no conflicts which would otherwise prohibit representation.