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Find an employment attorney. Pay that person for an hour or two to read the contract for you. They will be able to offer much better advice than HN.

This is the correct answer.

I worked at a company that was acquired earlier this year and I didn't care for the new employment contract. Unfortunately, the sale was contingent on a certain percentage of the team signing the new employment contract. I had a lawyer look at the whole thing and he told me that because of the way the deal was worded I could sign and quit without affecting things.

I looked at the contracts a ton myself and basically made no sense of it. The lawyer spent a couple hours and it was a big help.

did you quit in the end?


Had a friend mention he was going to do this on a job interview and the company he was talking to almost immediately cut him a settlement check to keep him from doing it and to just make him go away.

Don't ever assume something a company is doing is on the up-and-up.

Can you elaborate? He was interviewed as in, came in off the street, so to speak, to interview, made mention of having a lawyer review contract language and was cut a check?

Or was this an interview with the acquiring company?

He went through a phone screening, then a technical interview. They made him an offer and sent him a contract. A clause in particular caught his eye:

    Employee fully and unconditionally grants, assigns and transfers to the Company any 
    and all Inventions created, developed, discovered, conceived, invented, learned, or
    suggested by Employee during the performance of Employee’s obligations under this
    Agreement and for a period of one (1) year thereafter, whether or not such 
    Inventions are made during working hours or on the property of the Company, whether
    or not such Inventions are related to the business, activities or interests of the 
    Company and whether or not such Inventions are patentable, copyrightable, or 
    protectable with a trademark, service mark or otherwise.
He asked me to look it over, a more experienced eye I guess. As soon as I opened the document, big red flag, it was 15 pages long. I've never had anything over 3 pages. The more I read it, the worse it got. They really, really needled in on the invention thing, and had all these side rules that it included anything that wasn't even patentable, and that you wouldn't argue against any claim they made unless you could prove that your work had been done before starting there by producing a patent. They required 30-days notice before leaving, which in PA is illegal to stipulate. There were restrictions for two years against soliciting anyone they had ever solicited, not just their customers. There were statements that unpaid overtime was expected, which is also illegal in PA (employees are allowed to work unpaid overtime but it cannot be a requirement for employment). And there were weird things in there like stipulating that the employee worked exclusively for the CEO. What was the point of that? It was just a complete mess.

So I suggested he should get a lawyer to review it. In the mean time, they started pressuring him to sign, he told them it was with the lawyer right now (though he hadn't yet found one, he was just stalling), and they freaked. Cut him a check of a few thousand dollars to go away and agree to a gag order.

But I didn't agree to shit! However, I still won't name them because I'm fairly certain they'd launch a full-frontal libel lawsuit against me. Just one of those kinds of places.

during the performance of Employee’s obligations under this Agreement and for a period of one (1) year thereafter

This sort of term is exactly why you get a lawyer to review the contract. If it's enforceable (big "if", in many places) then that's a guaranteed year you can't realistically either be employed by anyone else in the industry or be working on something like open source projects to keep your skills up to date. As career death sentences go, that's probably pretty close for anyone early in a career in software, web development, or any similar creative field.

That's exactly what I told my friend.

Why would they do that in a job interview? Why not just not extend an offer? That seems very strange.

You should mention what company it was, I would love to go to a few interviews and then walk away with a settlement check for no reason.

They really didn't want any outside lawyers to see that contract. A good sign that it had abusive terms.

Their biggest worry was probably that the reviewing lawyer would smell blood, track down other employees (or former employees) and offer them to litigate on contingent. Truly abusive contracts will get thrown out and all those mandatory unpaid overtime hours and what not will suddenly become owed, with interests.

Whats the best way to go about finding one on short notice in a generic major city?

I won't name the "Uber for Lawyers" service we recently used for a minor task, but it was just as bad as you might think it would be. I would not recommend anything like that to anyone, especially for trivial services.

When hiring another firm I did a lot of prelim research on Avvo.com - they give you a good amount of detail and user reviews without having to create an account. It's easy to find the attorneys who are listed on there without having to use Avvo's system.

I still think the best way to find an attorney in a specific field is to ask other attorneys in any other field.

Having heard horror stories of Uber drivers asking the equivalent of, "Which bridge is the Golden Gate Bridge?" I cannot imagine the clusterfuck that would result from an Uber for lawyers.

Asking for a recommendation from friends/family is best, even if their lawyer doesn't specialize in employment law. In the case where the lawyer doesn't do employment law, say you were recommended by a friend/family and ask them if they can refer you to a lawyer with the right expertise.

Failing that, contact your state bar association. For example, the CA bar association offers a list of certified lawyer referral services that will help you find a lawyer with the right expertise: http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/LawyerReferralServicesLRS.as...

NO NO do NOT get a non specialist lawyer

He uses 'with the right expertise' twice, merely uses the non-specialist lawyer as a way to get to one that is specialized.

But those of us who have experience in employment issues know the damage that j random lawyer you met down the golf club can do.

Which is why I think it was necessary to be very direct about the issue

I don't think the objection is to being direct. It's to dramatically expressing contradiction when you are in fact agreeing.

Next time try something like, "Yes yes yes, definitely find a specialist employment lawyer. Referrals and the state bar are a good way to do that, but make sure you end up with somebody who has spent a few years dealing directly with cases like this."

At no point does he say to get advice from that non-specialized lawyer. He even says that if the lawyer doesn't practice employment law, to simply get a referral. What more do you want? A massive billboard with "only use employment lawyers here"?

If you're a member of a professional association or union, they might be able to provide you employment-contract advice. In Denmark in the engineering field for example, most workers are members of the engineers' union 'Ingeniørforeningen', which will provide you employment-related legal advice [1].

[1] http://english.ida.dk/why-join/core-benefits/counselling

You might just try contacting the biggest union near you and asking. They typically know plenty of labor lawyers. It can't hurt.

If the OP is in the US: in the US, 'labor law' and 'employment law' are two different specialties. Labor law focuses on the laws concerning unions, organized labor, and collective bargaining, while employment law is concerned with laws affecting all aspects of the employer-employee relationship. You'd want an employment law specialist for this sort of issue, or a generalist lawyer with experience in helping software engineers deal with employment law issues.

Asking for a labor Lawyer won't get you anywhere, but smutticus is right that reaching out to Unions or Labor Lawyers and asking for an employment lawyer is a smart move.

Big Unions often employ or know top notch employment lawyers (it's not a focus for unions, but they still might work together on select cases), employment lawyers that can scare the acquiring company before negotiations begin :p

Pretending it was myself I googled Employment Lawyer Minneapolis

Which pointed me to http://lawyers.findlaw.com/lawyer/firm/employment-law-employ...

FindLaw is a Thompson Reuters business, so I trust it enough, and it came up with 43 results which it seems should be enough to find something adequate.

I've had success selecting lawyers with Avvo in the past. They have a new service called AvvoAdvisor that will connect you with a lawyer immediately (I haven't tried it, but I've tried Lawdingo which was OK). I think this can help you perhaps get a bird eye view on your matter and pre-select someone for more thorough work.

If you're in California I can give you a recommendation (I have no affiliation with him aside from hiring him in the past). I don't know of a general way of finding a lawyer on short notice.

As can I

If you can't get a referral, use Chambers:


Reddit's /r/legaladvise regularly advises asking the local bar association for a good recommendation.

/r/legaladvice is the one you want (American spelling). 45,000 subscribed users versus 8.

Ask friends or acquaintances that you trust.

Indian Lawyers but can verify generic legal language and quick to respond typically with in an hour for about US$20.


That is probably worth what you pay for it. I'd be happy to let an Indian lawyer review documents under Indian law but for a situation in the US or in Europe I'd use a local lawyer specializing in the problem domain (in this case labour law).

'Generic legal language' is not your problem, specific legal language applicable to this specific case is the problem and if $20 is the differentiating factor then you might as well quit the job or sign the contract anyway.

There's some very good discussion about IP rights in this thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2208056

yes. talk with a lawyer.

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