One of the most important points in every physician’s job search comes right at the end of residency or fellowship – when it’s time to negotiate your first physician employment contract. However, this is the part many physicians are most uncomfortable with. Many young physicians mistakenly believe that they should not try to negotiate their contracts. Often they fear that negotiation could jeopardize the job offer. However, it is virtually unheard of for a hospital or practice group to revoke an offer because a physician asks to negotiate the terms of the contract. Indeed, total passivity about the terms of the contract will only lead the hospital or practice to conclude that the physician doesn’t care about contract terms of importance to the hospital or practice, or alternatively doesn’t care about securing contract terms, not found in the initial contract, which would be favorable to the physician. The secret known to all experienced physician contract lawyers is that all physician contracts are negotiable.
Once you understand that it is important to actually review and negotiate the contract terms, the next question is whether you should review and negotiate the contract terms yourself or hire a lawyer to represent your interests. There may be a temptation to go it alone. This would be a mistake. What may appear to be straightforward text, most assuredly is not. Physician employment contracts are complex, have hidden landmines, cover detailed and often confusing subjects such as professional liability insurance and “tail” coverage,” have “claw-back” provisions that take back compensation and benefits under certain circumstances, and may or may not cover all the subjects that need to be covered from the physician’s perspective (e.g., signing bonus, relocation expenses, student loan repayment, etc.). In other words, you cannot just react to what is set forth in the proposed contract, but rather need to be proactive in insuring that your needs and wants are covered in the contract.