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LexisNexis owned Law360 settles with New York Attorney General on noncompetes

LexisNexis Law360 noncompetes

As reported by the Wall Street Journal’s Aruna Viswanatha last week, LexisNexis owned Law360 has entered into a settlement with the New York Attorney General’s Office dropping noncompete agreements for reporters.

Stephanie Russell-Kraft, a former journalist, went to work at Reuters last September to cover the business of law. However, Reuters terminated Russell-Kraft only a couple weeks later when the company received a letter from LexisNexis informing Reuters of the non-compete. She hasn’t found a full-time position since.

Russell-Kraft told the AG’s office that her job at Law360 was her first job in journalism and she knew nothing of the noncompete which she signed. Per an earlier report by Viswanatha:

…[S]he was given the agreement to sign along with tax and benefit forms on her first day of work, but didn’t get a copy or understand the impact it could have. She said she forgot about it.”

Russell-Kraft welcomed the Reuters job as it was a step up from Law360 which publishes newsletters covering case law and legal developments.

It’s possible that the Law360 noncompetes were never enforced until LexisNexis’ acquisition of the company. Marius Meland, who founded the company told Viswanatha that noncompetes were routine but that it was his policy not to enforce them.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he didn’t see the noncompetes as legal altogether. “Unless an individual has highly unique skills or access to trade secrets, noncompete clauses have no place in a worker’s employment contract.”

Under the terms of the settlement, Law360 will no longer require editorial employees to sign noncompetes and will notify current and former employees that their noncompetes are no longer in effect.

Speaking to a legal publisher a few years ago, I mentioned that I was impressed by what Law360 had pulled together as a business. His response was along the lines of “It’s great, hire a bunch of NYU journalism grads as junior employees, lock them in the room and get them to write all day.”

Harsh words and perhaps only half true, but Law360 at least provided the opportunity for a start in journalism — in New York City off Park Avenue no less. But LexisNexis’ decision to choke off a path for young professionals to advance their careers because of its competition with Thomson Reuters is a little tough.

It’s also running a bit rampant on free press. Reporters are not apt to have trade secrets and customer lists, the assets a company may be looking to protect with a noncompete agreement. Such reporters aren’t even on the “business” side of the equation.

It’s tough enough to get a good job in journalism, let alone having companies limiting reporting to those who were not hamstrung with a noncompete in their first job.

Competition between LexisNexis, Thomson Reuters and now, Bloomberg Law, is well known. Non-competes may be standard and they may be aggressively enforced in the case of senior people. I don’t know. At least in the case of reporters, noncompetes are now out.

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