A law department in the U.K. just announced it hired a lawyer who had been a secondee from a major law firm (Legal Week, Sept.15, 2005). It is probable that some law firms, before sending their best and brightest to a client as a secondee, ask the client to agree not to recruit that lawyer.
I vote against signing that agreement. If an associate wants to try a law department career, why block them? And, if a law department likes the work of a secondee and wants to hire that person, the hiring forges a closer relationship with the law firm. Finally, most associates leave (at least from major U.S. law firms), so why not facilitate a desirable departure? No second thoughts on hiring secondees.