Conference Coverage

Negotiating an employment contract? Lawyer up



– Preparing to enter into employment contract negotiations? Lawyer up, Michael Sinha, MD, advised in a presentation at the annual meeting of the American College of Physicians.

Dr. Michael Sinha Gregory Twachtman/MDedge News

Dr. Michael Sinha

In a presentation that outlined the essentials of reviewing an employment contract, Dr. Sinha of Harvard Medical School, Boston, advised hiring a lawyer with expertise in health care law and health care employment contracts once the letter of intent has been received. Understanding the contract process is helpful, “but ultimately the lawyer is going to be the one helping you with regional expertise. Perhaps they have already interacted with this employer and have a long-standing relationship. They are going to know state laws that are relevant to you. They are going to have a lot of insights that you are just not going to be able to bring to the table very easily.”

A lawyer also will have expertise in negotiation. “If you can form an alliance and negotiate as a team, you are much more likely to get the things you want out of a negotiation,” he said.

Dr. Sinha advised going into a contract knowing exactly what you want. He recommended coming up with six or seven things that matter to you, such as base pay and bonus structure, fringe benefits, relocation expenses, work hours and locations, terms, employee versus independent contractor, and no compete clauses. Even if you have only three key things you’re looking for out of the negotiations, still try to come up with six or seven items.

To get the best results, you need to do your homework. Find out starting salaries and use salary scales when available. Get a sense of who the prospective employer is, what their needs are, and who is competing with you for that contract. Talk to the staff to get a sense of what the work environment is like.

“And then, really speak to people in the community. ... I think this [factor] gets overlooked,” he said. “You can get a lot of valuable information, get a sense of public perception about a physician group, a hospital, a medical school. Those are important considerations as well.”

He also stressed understanding the economic viability of the organization and the growth opportunities for the organization, and recommended reading the contract multiple times. “Understanding the contract is the key to being able to negotiate the provisions.”

Finally, he emphasized that there is no need to accept the first offer made.

“There is always room for negotiating and the bottom line is both sides have to be happy with the contract they negotiated,” he said.

Next Article: