I recently wrote a letter on behalf of a nice lady who had a noncompete, which was on the verge of costing her a good job offer. However, the prospective employer was temporarily holding the job open to see if she could get released from her non-compete. Fortunately, we had some strong arguments that the agreement was not enforceable, and sent a well researched letter making our case. Her former employer responded in two weeks that the company was releasing her from those obligations. It can be that simple.
But, it is not always that simple. Sometimes, former employers will continue to insist on enforcement, which requires an employee to institute a declaratory judgment action. Other times, the noncompete has a provision requiring an employee to litigate out of state, so it makes since to file a preemptive lawsuit before writing the letter. Otherwise, the former employer may bring its own action in another state, which can be more time consuming and more expensive. And, if you have filed an action before initiating negotiations, your former employer does not wonder whether you are serious or not. It all depends on the circumstances.
Nonetheless, in a few cases, a well written, well researched letter can be enough. The cost for a consultation and a letter will generally be about $500, although some cases can be a bit more complicated. Of course, the cost of inaction can be much more.