Earlier this week, Dr. Goodhook touched on the important doctor career subject of differences between offer letters and contracts.
As a follow-up, this post will focus on how to choose the best attorney for your physician employment contracts.
Generally, employment contracts are long, confusing and full of legalese. If you take one look at an employment contract and feel overwhelmed, you should definitely seek legal counsel. Even if you have a good understanding of your contract, an attorney can help you spot things you may have missed.
First, we’ll explore what an attorney can do for you. Then, we’ll discuss how to find the best attorney for your needs.
Physician Contracts: How an Attorney Can Help
If you’re just beginning your doctor career, it’s a good idea to seek the help of an attorney when dealing with employment contracts. It’s a good idea period, but as a new physician, knowing you have your bases covered will give you a sense of security.
A good attorney can help you…
- Interpret and translate complicated language
- Address needs in a contract
- Understand your risks and responsibilities
- Identify good points for negotiation
Although hiring an attorney usually costs quite a bit, these are huge long-term payoffs for your doctor career.
Choosing the Right Attorney for Your Needs
When it comes to choosing an attorney to review your physician employment contracts, there are three important things to consider:
1) Expertise and Specialty
At the very least, your attorney should specialize in employment law. However, it’s best if he or she has experience with physician employment contracts. Specialists know best how to leverage a negotiation for your future doctor career.
2) Hourly Rates and Overall Cost
Attorneys make a pretty penny, and usually charge $200-$600 per hour. While an attorney who specializes in physician employment law may cost more per hour, he or she will know exactly what to look for, so fewer hours may be billed.
3) Accessibility and Responsiveness
When it comes to employment contracts, time is of the essence. You’re generally expected to respond to the agreement within 12 days, so your attorney should be available to respond to your questions promptly.
Key Tips for Saving Time and Money With Your Attorney
Attorneys are expensive, so it’s important to maximize your time with them. Being clear about expectations up front prevents confusion, but it also saves time and money.
Here are the best ways you can be proactive when reviewing physician employment contracts with an attorney:
Provide instructions. Never send an attorney a contract without instructions, as he or she may waste valuable time rewriting something that you didn’t want rewritten. You should also be very clear with your attorney if you have a standard contract that doesn’t permit changes.
Outline expectations. Let the attorney know whether or not you’d like a basic review with comments or a rewrite with recommended changes. In most cases, you’ll initially only want them to flag key points for discussion.
Be specific. Here’s a great way to introduce your attorney to a contract: “Please give this contract a brief review and contact me to discuss your initial comments and how to proceed. Mainly, I’d like to know about things that stand out or may need extra clarification.”
Create deadlines. Contracts are time-sensitive, so it’s important that you be upfront with your attorney about deadlines.
Select and meet your attorney before you start interviewing for your doctor career. This time-saving step will save you a lot of hassle when you land your first contract or offer letter.
Have you ever selected an attorney to review physician employment contracts? If so, how did you end up choosing yours?
Doctor Career: Sponsors
Though the views expressed above are solely the writer’s, Beloit Health supports “The Dose with Dr. Goodhook” and is partnering with Adventures in Medicine to create an open, inspiring and insightful community for residents and physicians. Click here to learn more about ways that Beloit Health is making practice purposeful.
As a medical contracts attorney that handles lots of physician employment contract reviews in Illinois and teaches graduating residents and fellows, I can say this is excellent advice. All I could add is to make sure that the attorney you choose has handled at least 75-100 PHYSICIAN EMPLOYMENT CONTRACTS, not just employment contracts. Physician Employment Contracts are different. Knowing what is usual, reasonable and customary in the medical community in your state is essential. Knowing generally acceptable alternatives to forcing you to buy the tail and the scope of a reasonable post-employment restriction is worth the average fee many times over. For more information, visit JGUNNLAW.COM
Very good point, Jonathan. Physician employment contracts contain their own nuances and complications that are easy to look over or misunderstand unless you have experience with them. Here at Adventures in Medicine, we always encourage physicians to seek out an attorney who has experience in this arena. Thanks for the comment!