Choosing an attorney with health care and contracting experience to review your contract with you is the first step to success. Before hiring a lawyer, you need to know what to ask about their:
You should hire a lawyer as you begin your job search or when you know a contract renewal period is approaching. This will allow you to establish a relationship before you have a contract in hand.
Much like physicians, attorneys specialize in certain areas of law. You’ll want to find a health care attorney with experience in physician employment contracts. Your lawyer must be able to ask the right questions on physician employment–specific topics and to inform you what may be missing or nonstandard in your contract compared with other physician contracts they have reviewed.
Although all contracts share common features, physician contracts have unique provisions that require expertise of counsel, just as real estate contracts require review by a real estate lawyer.
Additionally, contract lawyers are generally used to making deals and seeking a win-win outcome. Sometimes using a lawyer with a litigation background can backfire on a physician because an overly aggressive or litigious approach does not always send the right message in a contract negotiation.
Your health care lawyer should be willing and able to respond to questions about their experience in reviewing health care contracts. Answers to many of your questions may be available on their firm’s website, which will usually state the type of clients they represent as well as their area of expertise. You should also look for articles or presentations they have done related to physician contract issues.
Select an attorney with whom you are comfortable and whose professional judgment you trust. You should understand what to expect as you work with the attorney so you don’t later feel that you aren’t getting what you thought you were paying for.
You should also be sensitive to how the lawyer’s style when working with the employer can reflect on you. An overly aggressive or curt lawyer can send the wrong message in a friendly contract negotiation. Similarly, a lawyer who presents a long list of demands or changes without first encouraging you to discuss them with the employer can negatively impact both the negotiation process and any future employment relationship.
The attorney should provide you with clear expectations about how you will work together. Make sure they address how they will communicate with you during the process, and what approach they will take when negotiating.
You need to understand what you can expect to spend as you work together in the contracting process and be able to compare services before selecting an attorney.
You want to clearly understand the rate the attorney will bill, about how many billable hours to expect, and when you will be billed. A lot of lawyers charge a flat fee, which can leave you paying for time you never use. For physicians joining employers that use a contract form in which little can be negotiated, the lawyer’s role will be to review and highlight issues in the contract the physician should know about and fully understand. Under these circumstances, the time commitment will be much less than that for an intense negotiation process.
In general, lawyers in large firms are likely to charge more for their services than a smaller law practice or solo lawyer. Shopping around to compare costs and services is likely worth your time.
Befor you meet with a lawyer, be prepared to tell them: