Once your job search progresses to the offer stage, it’s time to have the contract reviewed. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of contract review attorneys advertising their ability to assist. Unfortunately, that means you’re now tasked with evaluating the plethora of options to determine the best fit for your needs.
As with any service, the quality and scope provided can vary greatly from one option to the next. These questions can ensure you make the best selection.
What is your experience in reviewing physician contracts?
The first thing you should know is that attorneys often specialize in certain areas of law, similar to physicians in their practice of medicine. Just as it would not be in your best interest to see a cardiologist for your stomach pain, you do not want to select an attorney that specializes in family law.
Attorneys will often list out their areas of practice on their website, but it is also good to dig deeper during your evaluation to determine the actual depth of their experience. Given the ever-changing regulations within the health care industry, it is important that your attorney has recent (and multiple) experiences to draw upon.
Ask how many physician contracts they have reviewed over the past year, and compare that to your other options. The highest number is not necessarily the sole determining factor, but it will certainly help you eliminate unsuitable options from the start.
What is included as part of your review service?
This is another area in which your potential options may vary significantly. Beyond their initial legal review of your contract, what can you expect to happen next? This is where a number of follow-up questions may ensue. Will they simply send over their notes for you to review, or can you expect to schedule a call to discuss their findings? If the latter, are you limited to a single time-restricted call or will you have telephone (and/or email) access to them for any follow-up questions that may arise? And if you do have continued access beyond the initial review, are they able to assist with negotiations by either helping your create talking points or proposed language revisions? Do they possess compensation data and the ability to help evaluate the proposed model and metrics in place? These are all items you should assess and consider as you determine your needs vs. what is offered by each prospective attorney.
What is your average turnaround time?
It is beneficial to know how long the review process will take with each attorney. Even if you did not receive a deadline from your prospective employer, you do not want unnecessary delays slowing down the process. Delays could potentially come across as a lack of interest on your part, which is not the impression you want to give when multiple candidates may be involved. If negotiations ensue following the initial review and this is an area you know you would prefer continued help, you also need an attorney that will be easy to access and has prompt availability for follow-up assistance.
What are your fees?
This is where you find out if the attorney will be charging you a flat rate or hourly rate for their review service. Flat rates are obviously much easier to compare, while hourly rates could be potentially risky should you require any back-and-forth correspondence with the attorney following either the initial review and/or during continued negotiations with the employer. That is not to say that hourly rates should automatically be dismissed from consideration, just that you need to take the “running clock” under consideration when evaluating those prospective options vs. flat rate options.
There is much on the line both personally and professionally as it pertains to your contract, and your decision on an attorney should not be taken lightly. Understanding the differentiating factors and preparing your questions ahead of time should help provide the confidence you need (and deserve) as you make this very important selection.
Jeff Hinds, MHA, is president at Premier Physician Agency, LLC, a national consulting firm specializing in physician job search and contracts.