Negotiating Your Contract
Contract negotiations are a very difficult part of the hiring process simply because of a physician's unfamiliarity with the legal aspects of a contract. The following are some suggestions to make the negotiations result in satisfaction to both parties.
You and Your Attorney
- Choose an attorney who is acquainted with medical contracts or physician employment law. A lawyer whose specialty is wills and divorces is not the advisor you need. Ask your faculty or attending physicians for suggestions or ask your recruiter (if you have one) for names and phone numbers of experts.
- Read the agreement and be familiar with the terms before talking to the attorney. Note the areas of the agreement you do not understand or you have questions/concerns about. Educating yourself on the terms will make your discussion with the attorney more productive and will help the attorney focus on the issues that are important to you.
- Ask the attorney to quote a fee up front. The fee will depend on the length and complexity of your contract, but the attorney should be able to quote an approximate charge. Review of a typical 10-page document will usually cost $300-$500.
- Stipulate a date by which the review must be completed. The hiring entity expects you to respond in a business-like manner, which means within 10-15 business days.
- Attorneys and physicians are trained to look for problems. Ask your lawyer to tell you what is good about your contract as well as what needs reconsideration.
- Be sure that the attorney does not attempt to negotiate for you. Instead, request that your lawyer's questions or reservations be written. In fact, it is typically best to have a firm understanding with the other party that lawyers will not be allowed to be involved with the negotiating.
- Ask your attorney which items are most important. Negotiation is compromise. You can not expect to prevail on every issue. Are there any "deal breakers" that you can identify?
You and Your Future Employer:
- If you want changes in the contract, you should request them yourself. You will appear stronger and savvier if you plead your own case. Arrange a time to have an extended conversation, a time when your beeper or your children will not interrupt you.
- Negotiate only with a person who has the power to make a decision for the other side. This will not be a hospital recruiter nor will it be an executive assistant. You should speak with the administrator, the practice manager, or the hiring physician.
- Be prepared to compromise. Prioritize your requests, and know what is most important to you and what is not essential. Present all your requests at the same time. Do not ask for three things in one conversation, have the employer acquiesce, and then call the next day to request three more.
- If you must return to your attorney for further advice, let the employer know your plan and specify when you will call again.
- If you are working with a recruiter, keep them informed of your plan and your progress. Recruiters read dozens of contracts and may be able to suggest language or compromises that have worked in other situations.
These articles are included to inform you, in general, about healthcare legal issues. The information contained herein is not intended to provide solutions to individual problems. It cannot be relied on as legal advice. We caution you to not attempt to solve individual problems on the basis of this information and advise you to seek competent legal counsel to address your specific issues.