When we start our private practices, it can feel like a huge relief to take some clients with you from your old agency or group. Knowing you’re not starting at zero can be a huge boost for some therapists, but knowing the ethics behind it is also a majorly crucial first step.
So can you take clients with you when you leave an agency or group practice? It depends on a few things; you may have had to sign a non-compete clause that says you wouldn’t solicit clients of the practice. Those don’t typically stand up in court because it is our clients’ right to see whomever they choose, but how you tell them you’re leaving the practice matters. Some people have said, “I’ll be working somewhere else, but I’m not legally able to tell you where, but google can.”
I’ve seen some sneakiness in contracts that state people can bring their clients with them but that they have to pay the former agency a fee for every session the client has with the provider in the other workplace.
I’d recommend reviewing anything you signed as an employee or contractor. If you didn’t sign anything, speak to the owner/manager of the practice you’re leaving and ask how they would like you to handle it. Remember to stay grounded in your client’s rights and wishes in that conversation. If you didn’t sign anything, you should be totally ok to tell clients where you are going and let them know that they are welcome to set up an appointment there or be transferred to another provider in your current clinic.
Here’s my perspective as a group practice owner- we don’t have non-competes here. Though it may have been my marketing that got the clients in the door, the clients’ relationships are far more sacred than the numbers they may represent to the business. Yes, it costs money to onboard new clinicians. Yes, revenue would drop if a clinician left and brought their clients with them. And you know what? That’s fine with me because people are still getting treated by the person they feel comfortable with and are doing great work with.
So obviously, I can get soapboxy about this because the right thing feels clear to me. But I want you to CYA just in case and look at contracts, and if they’re full of legalese, take them to an employment law attorney and get their take on it.
As always, your clients should come first. Read your contract carefully, and have some grounded and open discussions. If you’re ready to open a private practice and need some extra help, there’s always the Abundance Party!