The case deals with a non-solicitation clause. There was no non-dealing/non-acting clause. You will probably find one of those in your law firm employment contract/partnership agreement so you may not find this case as helpful as it might otherwise be, especially as the judge says, albeit obiter in paragraph 383, that these may still be reasonable.
There is not a lot of law in the decision, and the Honorable Mrs Cox deals with it briefly, mainly relying on the text books and concludes:
"In my judgment a contractual, non-solicitation clause of the kind in this case means that ex-employees must not directly or indirectly request, persuade or encourage clients of their former employer to transfer their business to their new employer. Employers are entitled to prevent ex-employees from exerting influence of this kind over their clients. The question in this case is therefore whether Towry has demonstrated to the civil standard on all the evidence that an individual Defendant's communications with Towry's clients, as they became, contained a material element of persuasion, with a view to gaining the business of those clients. Whether there has been persuasion or encouragement will depend, in each case, on all the circumstances. Determination of this issue is clearly fact specific".(paragraph 440 - my emphasis)It was accepted that solicitation and canvassing were the same thing (paragraph 434).
The other important point to note is that the burden of proof to the civil standard lay firmly with Towry and the stories show that even with cross-examination they could not get that evidence before the Judge.
The value of this judgement to those in the real world it gives us the facts and story line for each of the individual defendants.
In this case the leavers were not motivated by personal greed - their original employer Edward Jones had failed to make its US model work in the UK and sold out in financial difficulties to Towry, so their employees were being ported across with new contracts that did contain a non-dealing clause (as well as many other changes to their working practices and environment) and some chose to go to Raymond James after resigning and/or having their employment terminated when they refused the new terms. The covenant issue loomed large from the beginning and all parties had taken advice. As it transpires that initial advice was worthwhile.
Since the clients all knew there was a hiatus, it is not surprising that many contacted their former advisers without being contacted first. Google Ads from other advisers are still suggesting that clients transfer away from Towry.
The evidence of what was done after the former clients had made contact and expressed a desire to transfer was not taken into account as solicitation. See for example:
"Making particular recommendations, explaining fees and costs, or giving information or advice as to how to give effect to their decision to transfer and move forward, after those clients had already made their decision to stay with Mr Bennett and to do what was necessary to bring that about, does not in my judgment evidence solicitation." (paragraph 635)
Mr Chandler's script for talking to clients before he left was from Russell Jones & Walker and he told them he could not say that he would definitely stay with Towry because he did not yet know enough about their investment proposition. He also stressed that he had restrictive covenants, which he took very seriously, and that, if he did leave, he would be prohibited from contacting them. He said nothing to suggest that clients should call him if he left.
It is likely that the judge was much influenced by the evidence of the individuals who said they had delete, removed or disposed of client contact details and waited for their clients to contact them. It seems that they kept their mobile phone numbers. It was clear that the clients would have had little difficulty finding and contacting their former advisers as they were mainly living in the same local communities so no Internet social networks were required. The clients also had good factual reasons to transfer their work away from Towry so there was no need for the advisers to exercise any persuasion on them. They had made their decisions before they went through the new client care procedures prescribed by their regulator.
Any case is limited by its facts, but the stories here show the virtues of having good client relationships and your own mobile phone number. If your clients contact you and demand service you can talk to them if you have no non-dealing covenant. Otherwise you are sitting it out, unless the clients have the wits to demand your former employer release them and brook no denial. It is pretty sad that employers demand such covenants but equally they have a business to run and sustain. Here the loss of business was on such a large scale that Towry must have felt obliged to try and recover their losses on the acquisition.
I don't know whether there will be an appeal. It seems unlikely that the evaluation of the evidence by the judge can be changed. For more information read the judgement.