One of the biggest myths told to physicians in the early stages of a contract negotiation goes something like this: “The contract is just a routine form. We really don’t negotiate it.” If we had a dollar for every time our team heard this repeated, we would be retired on a tropical beach far away by now! In truth, it’s a standard line used in every industry (and a pretty lame one at that).
Please don’t take it at face value. If you are ever told something similar about your contract being non-negotiable, alarm bells should be going off because it’s a ruse and it’s not true. In reality, your employer hopes you’ll just take the contract as-is. That would be the easiest thing for everyone involved, right? Wrong. It’s the path of least resistance.
If there’s one thing you can be certain of, it’s that your contract was written by an attorney working for the employer using language that gives them the greatest advantage. It strains credulity beyond the breaking point to believe that every physician within every specialty is offered a non-negotiable boilerplate contract as if it came straight off the shelf of the local big box office supply store. Secretly, there is an entirely different dominant thought running through the mind of the hiring manager. If you could read their mind like you read the thought bubbles from your favorite comic strip character, you’d see that what they are really thinking is:
“We’re willing to changes some things, but not everything.”
“I’m not the expert here. I’m just repeating what [my boss / our lawyer] told me to say …”
“I’m just a human resources professional, and I don’t have any experience or training in negotiating employment contracts … (please just sign the contract so I don’t have to deal with any more of this).”
“By ‘form,’ I mean the same contract that we’ve entered into before (perhaps with just one or two other doctors, perhaps a fairly long time ago)…”
“The contract is really favorable to us (and unfavorable to you); please hurry up and sign it before you discover the provisions that you don’t like….”
In our experience of negotiating thousands of employment contracts, we can tell you without hesitation that employers that use the “it’s a form contract that we don’t negotiate” line still end up accommodating requests for changes anyway. It’s a mistake to think that physician employment contracts are not negotiable when they are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of the contract term. Make sure to engage an attorney that specializes in physician employment contracts to help eliminate physician contract pitfalls. Request a free, no-obligation initial consultation with one of our physician-specific contract experts here.