If you’ve just received a physician’s employment contract, congratulations! You’re on your way to building and advancing your career. After years of medical school, the life you’ve envisioned is just around the corner.
But as excited as you may be, you’ve got to read and understand the agreement before you sign on the dotted line.
Contracts are complicated documents. The terms and parameters are often hard to comprehend.
But, they’re legally binding. Signing a lousy agreement could have serious repercussions down the road. So, it might be time to hire a physician contract lawyer for their legal services if you have no legal experience yourself.
Some medical professionals choose to review the document themselves. Others hire legal counsel with extensive experience in both healthcare law and employment law to help them through the process. Keep reading for the answer to the question that every physician asks:
Do I need to hire a physician contract lawyer?
What Does a Physician Contract Include?
Advanced doctors have seen dozens of legal documents throughout their careers. But, new physicians don’t always know what they’re looking at when they see their first employment agreement.
If you’ve just entered the field, here are a few things that you can expect to see in your contract:
Responsibilities and Obligations of a Physician
Every contract details your obligations to the job.
This section of the document describes your job expectations in detail. It outlines everything from what type of medicine you practice to your work schedule for a period of time. Your days, hours, and weekend schedule are all included in the contract.
Keep in mind:
Your obligations may extend beyond seeing patients, HIPAA privacy laws, and practicing your specialty. Some physicians are responsible for other duties as well.
For example, you might have to take care of administrative work or be available for calls during off-hours.
The location of the job is also detailed. This is especially important if you seek employment with a large hospital or medical group with multiple locations.
There are two primary types of physician compensation: fixed and variable.
Most new physicians can expect their contracts to include a fixed compensation rate. Variable compensation is usually reserved for physicians with years of expertise.
If your compensation rate is tied to specific expectations, the document should describe that as well.
For example, you might be contractually obligated to see a certain amount of patients per month or bill patients a set amount of dollars per visit. Some compensation packages are tied directly to these types of requirements while others are not.
Don’t overlook the benefits section. This details your health, dental, and vision benefits. It also outlines paid vacations, personal days, and maternity leave as well as financial benefits like 401k plans and life insurance.
Some packages include other benefits such as malpractice tail coverage or disability insurance. In some instances, your potential employer may even agree to pay for licensing fees or to help with student loan repayments!
Malpractice Insurance Provisions
Most employers cover malpractice insurance benefits. But, some do not.
Make sure your contract includes a provision about this crucial insurance coverage, as well as how claims are paid.
For instance, there could come a time when someone sues you after you’ve already left the job. You need to make sure that your employer takes responsibility for the claim with tail coverage when you move on to a new job.
There are two main types of termination provisions: “for cause” and “without cause.” It’s critical that you understand the difference between the two.
If your termination provision is without cause, you can be fired without reason. Clearly, that doesn’t provide much job security.
If it’s a for cause termination provision, the employer needs a legitimate and specific reason to fire you.
Most for cause provisions state that the employer can only fire you if you lose your practitioner’s license or board certification. They might also indicate that you’re subject to termination if you can’t obtain certain types of insurance.
Almost every contract states the amount of notice you must give before leaving the job.
Some employers require one month. Others need two. Depending on the size of the practice, you may be obligated to give them one year to find a new doctor.
Your contract will stipulate the specific notice period. It also outlines the legal action you’ll face if you leave without honoring this disclaimer.
Reasons to Hire a Physician Contract Lawyer
The details seem easy enough to read through, right?
Physician employment contracts aren’t as easy to understand as our summaries above. They’re often coded in complex legal jargon. Anyone who hasn’t spent time in law school will have difficulty sifting through the contract language.
Hiring a contract lawyer is a way to ensure that you understand every term in the agreement. It’s also a way to make sure you get a fair deal
If you’ve never reviewed one of these documents, we recommend that you find a law firm to look through it before you sign off.
Here are the five main reasons why you should hire a contract specialist attorney to do a physician contract review:
1. A Contract Specialist Knows What Contracts Should Include
The healthcare industry is highly regulated. That means that physician contracts include things that other employment agreements don’t. An attorney will tell you what should or shouldn’t be in there.
If it’s missing something important, a lawyer can spot it right away. And if there are any unnecessary clauses or provisions that impose unwanted limitations, they’ll find those as well.
They’ll also explain which contract terms are negotiable and which are non-negotiable. Ultimately, this helps you to get the best possible deal out of signing.
2. An Attorney May Negotiate For You
Experienced contract attorneys have seen a lot of data. They’ll provide complete legal advice so you know your contractor agreements and compensation are fair.
Don’t make the mistake of selling yourself short. Don’t agree to a salary that’s lower than you deserve. Hire someone who understands where your salary should be at this point in your career.
A contract specialist may even have reviewed contracts from your new employer in the past. They may have even more insight than you know. If they’ve seen agreements from this employer before, they’ll know whether you’re getting a fair deal.
3. A Contract Specialist Can Protect You Against Inflation
Large hospital groups have standardized salaries. So, negotiation might be impossible if that’s where you’re seeking employment.
However, you can ask your lawyer to add an inflation rider to the contract. Essentially, this clause ensures that your compensation rises as United States inflation occurs.
If you plan on working as a physician until retirement (which you probably do), this is an important clause. The cost of housing, gas, and food is going to rise throughout your career. An inflation cause helps you to maintain the same standard of living even as life gets more expensive.
4. Your Contract Specialist Will Review Non-Compete Clauses.
Employers draft contracts with their best interest in mind – not yours. If yours includes unreasonable restrictions, your career could suffer.
If they include a non-compete clause, for example, you could face legal issues and have trouble getting a job if you ever leave the practice.
Some non-competes stipulate that you can’t work for a certain period after the contract ends. Others specify that you can’t seek employment within a certain radius of their facility. A good lawyer ensures that any non-competition clauses offer you a fair opportunity to work elsewhere when you leave the job.
To keep your career on track when you leave this employer, you’ll need to have as few limitations as possible. Make sure the contract doesn’t prohibit you from starting your own private medical practice or joining another group in the future.
A contract specialist will know what the standard practices are in your state and what your employer can get away with.
5. An Attorney Will Make Sure It’s All in Writing
A comprehensive contract is one that documents every aspect of the job in writing. Don’t rely on verbal promises made to you during the interview process or letter of intent. If you know people that already work there, do not assume that you’ll see the same benefits they do.
From your schedule to your salary, the document should outline every aspect of the job. Your lawyer will ensure that everything that needs to be in the contract is there.
If there are important items that you discussed with your prospective employer during interviews but don’t see in your agreement document, let the lawyer know. They have no way of knowing what you discussed in an interview unless you bring it to their attention.
Do you need a lawyer to look over your contract? Request a contract review from Physicians Thrive today!
How to Choose a Physician Contract Lawyer
When it comes time to review your contract, don’t hire just any attorney. You need a reputable physician contract attorney.
Just like doctors specialize in certain types of medicine, attorneys specialize in specific types of law. Don’t hire a lawyer unless they have specific experience in reviewing physician employment agreements.
It’s also critical to find an experienced attorney who is available immediately. Most contracts include a two-week signing deadline. If they can’t review it within the week, look for someone else.
Start lawyer shopping before you even enter the negotiation phase. That way, they’ll review the terms and start negotiating as soon as you receive a job offer with a healthcare provider.
Keep in mind that some legal professionals charge by the hour and others charge a flat fee.
Their billing method isn’t an indication of their level of expertise. But, it could make a big difference in the overall cost. Find someone who will do the work at a price you can afford.
Ask friends or colleagues in your industry for referrals. You’ll also find reviews online. The sooner you start looking, the sooner you’ll find an attorney that meets your needs.
Whether you’re new to the medical field or have years of experience, you should always hire a lawyer for your physician contract review. If you don’t, you could find yourself in serious trouble down the road.
A physician contract lawyer will ensure that your document details all of the key terms. These terms include your obligations, compensation, benefits, and termination provisions.
Whenever possible, engage a contract specialist lawyer familiar with the hospital or practice offering you the job. Prior experience with your employer can help when it comes time to contract negotiations.
Employment contracts can be tricky business. Don’t assume that you can read and understand the terms yourself. If you don’t know what to look for and what might be missing, you could set yourself up for failure.
Even though you should always ask for help, it’s still important to read the document.
Contact Physicians Thrive today to see how we can help you with the contract review process.