If you're like most people, you're thrilled at being offered a job, and the untold riches that await you if you work really hard. You've been given assurances, promises, guarantees, pats on the back, maybe even a few â€˜atta-boy' congratulations.
If you’re like most people, you’re thrilled at being offered a job, and the untold riches that await you if you work really hard. You’ve been given assurances, promises, guarantees, pats on the back, maybe even a few ‘atta-boy’ congratulations. But when all the celebrations quiet down, it’s time to read the fine print. Here are 5 reasons physicians lose money on their first contract:
1) They don't have an experienced lawyer evaluate their contract.
Do not entrust your physician employment contract to your local general practitioner. While there are some similarities to general contracts and physician contracts, you should have an attorney who has extensive experience reviewing them. There are more differences than similarities and an experienced lawyer will be able to spot them and correct them before they cause harm. You wouldn't want a family practitioner performing coronary artery bypass surgery on you unless that physician has had years of training and fellowship in that field of medicine. The same holds true for lawyers.
2) A young doctor is money conscious and is afraid to spend money to hire a lawyer.
The common thinking is that if they can save a few dollars by not having to pay a lawyer, then they're ahead of the game. Wrong. That's what you call 'penny-wise and pound foolish'. By spending money for a good lawyer now you will be protecting yourself for years to come knowing that you have fought for everything you can possibly get in your contract. Remember, your contract will guide you for many years. If you make mistakes at the beginning by not knowing and not being an informed consumer, you will regret it for years to come. Believe me—I've seen physicians kick themselves for not having their contracts reviewed by an experienced lawyer before signing it.
3) The young doctor is afraid to make waves with a new group or hospital.
You've just been hired. “You got the job!” But, once you see the contract you realize that all is not rosy. However, with good counsel, you can learn to negotiate, and you can have your lawyer be the bad guy and negotiate for you. It never hurts to say, “My lawyer felt this was inappropriate...”, “My lawyer advised me to have this re-worded...”,”My lawyer felt this was unfair and needs to be removed.” Let your lawyer be the bad guy. Do you think the groups’ lawyer is looking out for your interests? Never.
4) The group wants to give you as little as possible.
You have little to compare your contract to. All you know is that when you leave residency you'll be making a tremendous jump in salary as an attending physician. That's good, but that's only part of the equation. You need to know much more. How do you learn more? By reading books written by attorneys who have experience in this area. Learn all you can about your contract and physician employment contracts. Have your attorney give you a crash course on contracts and negotiation. I guarantee you it'll be the best money you ever spend. An experienced lawyer should know what the going rate is for your specialty in your geographic area. He/she should know whether the other benefits you're getting are consistent with other competing groups. You must ask lots of questions.
5) The young doctor fails to do research about the group or hospital he/she is joining.
This is vital. You must investigate your group. Ask your colleagues about their reputation, their ethics, their surgical or non-surgical abilities. Speak to members who have left the group if possible. The more information you have about the group, the better informed you'll be, and you'll be able to make judgment calls knowing full well what your options are.
ConclusionBe informed, do your research, read your contract, and then hire an experienced contract lawyer who specializes in doctor's contracts.
Gerry Oginski is a New York trial attorney with extensive experience evaluating and negotiating physician employment contracts. He lectures to residents and physicians in practice about how to evaluate their employment contracts and recently wrote a book on the subject, The Doctor’s Employment Contract Bible. He welcomes comments at 516-487-8207.