Negotiating a Medical Employment Contract
When negotiating a medical employment contract, it is essential to remember that a contract is only as good as the two people who sign it. An agreement, in the most fundamental sense of the word is simply a meeting of two minds. Therefore, it is crucial for the physician to possess a full and complete understanding of the terms and conditions defined in the agreement. In addition to basic comprehension, the physician must determine which terms are negotiable, and which are not. An initial assessment by the physician of “deal breaking” issues will help streamline the negotiation process. It is important to keep in mind that there is no such thing as an ironclad contract. However, when an employment contract is executed, it should be with the full intent of honoring it. Litigating contract disputes can cost thousands of dollars, and frequently, even the prevailing party stands to lose a great deal.
Medical employment agreements are typically divided into five major components. These sections generally include employment duties, compensation, benefits, covenants not to compete, and termination. In addition, medical employment contracts will outline legal topics such as severability, applicable law, and legal fees associated with contract disputes.
Due to the fact that employment agreements are drafted in complex legalese and clauses may include excessive restrictions or omit necessary language, it is critical that an experienced attorney review the agreement. However, often times there is apprehension associated with retaining legal assistance. Some of the common concerns include the expense due to uncertainty of excessive billable hourly fees, the length of time for review, and the potential for a prolonged negotiation period. In addition, the creation of animosity between the employer and the physician during the negotiation process may terminate a potential deal, or alternatively, put a strain on the employment relationship prior to the commencement of services.
To alleviate some of the issues related to legal assistance, physicians may wish to explore various options with regard to representation. For example, a physician may request a flat fee for defined services to be performed within a certain number of business days. In addition, an attorney’s knowledge and insight regarding the standard practices and priorities of healthcare professionals can be a key factor to understanding, defining, and successfully negotiating the terms of employment. Finally, subsequent to the physician being advised with regard to the proposed agreement, direct dialogue between the parties may ease and simplify the negotiation process.
As with any transaction, coming to terms on a medical employment agreement can be a daunting ordeal. However, physicians should not be intimidated by this process and misguidedly opt against taking the crucial step of engaging legal representation. If a physician is equipped with the knowledge and tools to navigate through the waters of the contracting process by an attorney who truly understands the needs of the physician, it can be a painless, amicable experience that can result in a long and prosperous career.