Physician Contract Review FAQs Pt. 1

With the increasing amount of questions that our team receives regarding contract reviews, we are going to be focusing on addressing some of the most common questions over the next few weeks on the blog.

QUESTION: They didn’t teach us how to negotiate employment contracts in medical school – the suggestions you’ve given me are helpful, but how do I communicate these to the employer?

ANSWER: As the lawyer reviews each issue in the employment contract with you, he or she will discuss both the “legal substance” AND negotiation strategy.  Take, for example, a situation where the employer offers a contract with no signing bonus.  The lawyer might recommend asking for a $10,000 signing bonus, which is the average number for your specialty and geographic area (our advisors will perform research that helps the lawyer arrive at the $10,000 number – this is one of the benefits of working with our team).  However, the lawyer might also recommend something like the following:

“When you’re talking to the employer, if they hesitate to agree to give you the signing bonus, but you think they may be close to doing so, you can also recommend that the signing bonus be subject to potential repayment if you don’t stay with the employer for a certain minimal amount of time.  For example, you could take a period of two (2) years – if you leave during the first year, you pay back the entire signing bonus; if you leave during the second year, you pay back only half of the bonus; but if you stay the full two years, you get to keep the entire signing bonus, free and clear.”

This is what the lawyer’s negotiation coaching looks like during one of the conference calls.  However, once you are on your own to discuss things with the employer, we normally recommend that you do the following:

(a) Forward (normally via email) the lawyer’s “marked up” copy of the employment contract to the employer.  During and after your phone call with the lawyer, he or she will revise the document to incorporate your discussion, and do so in a way that the document doesn’t include anything that is inappropriate for the employer to see.

(b) In the body of the email to the employer, request a brief amount of time as soon as possible to discuss the mark-ups on the phone (or in person, if possible).

(c) Talk to the employer about the requests for changes and questions you have related to the contract.  You want to do this for several reasons: (i) it gives you the chance to explain the reasoning behind your requests for changes; (ii) it’s easier for you to communicate things over the phone (or in person) than over email and (iii) it’s harder and more awkward for the employer to say “no” to your requests over the phone (or in person) than over email.

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