You are an attending physician with an employment agreement. Perhaps you are thinking about a change. If so, you need to understand your current obligations before you enter into a new agreement and start a transition. Perhaps you have a question or problem with your existing practice. Either way, you need a path with solutions without getting entangled in unnecessary legal conflicts or expense. Mr. Gunn has personally handled over 700 Physician employment contracts, many of which involved transition related issues. Transitions generally involve a two-step process:

Step 1: Understand your existing physician employment contract obligations. At a minimum, this includes:

Generally speaking, when a Restrictive Covenant is supported by adequate consideration, protects a legitimate business interest, and is reasonable in time and distance, its likely enforceable. However, exceptions do exist. Some practices over-reach. A court may refuse to enforce an over broad or overreaching physician Restrictive Covenant entirely or may, in some instances, redraw the Covenant to make it  reasonable. Enforcement may involve an injunction or court order to cease practice, an award of monetary damages, and/or attorney fees.  Where a practice over-reaches, there is sometimes a potential to negotiate a reasonable compromise.

Where there is occurrence based malpractice insurance coverage, there is generally no need to purchase a tail policy or coverage. However, if malpractice coverage is on a claims made basis, then you must determine whether tail coverage must be purchased or whether you can get ongoing malpractice coverage with a retroactive date. If the purchase of tail is required, who pays? Even where the physician is required to pay for tail coverage, alternatives can sometimes be negotiated.

Are you precluded from soliciting patients or referral sources? How about soliciting or hiring current or past employees of the practice? If so, for how long? How about the records?

Commonly, a minimum amount (60-180 days) of advanced written notice is required for contract termination. Sometimes, the precise termination date may impact eligibility for (or payment of) bonus or retention compensation. 

Fully understanding all of these and the other important contractual issues from a legal standpoint is critical in order to avoid complicated and expensive legal disputes. 

Step 2: Analyze and understand the new contract to make sure the new medical contract is fair and reasonable. Also, does it conflict with your existing medical contract?

Its important to recognize the difference between merely understanding the words contained in a physician employment agreement and understanding all of the practical implications of those same words. An experienced medical contract review attorney can explain terms and the all important practical implications, which sometimes do not need negotiation. Other times, there may be unfair or unenforceable terms and/or special considerations which call for creative solutions. A medical contract attorney experienced with physician employment contracts can often formulate creative solutions to difficult problems and help with negotiation points, priorities and strategies. Some physicians may want to handle negotiations directly while others want to use an attorney. Regardless, having an experienced medical contract review attorney guiding you can help avoid future problems and expensive disputes. Each and every situation is different. An experienced medical contract review attorney should be able to provide a level of assistance that fits your needs. Experience is critical. Mr. Gunn has personally handled more than 700 physician employment contracts. Some physician employment contracts provide that in the event of litigation, the prevailing party is entitled to recover (in addition to all other remedies) attorney fees and costs. While sometimes tending to promote negotiated solutions, such clauses may also be used as an oppressive weapon, especially if the physician employment agreement is one sided. All-out litigation is generally expensive, time consuming, stressful and risky. As a result, its almost always better to find a negotiated solution rather than proceed to litigation or arbitration. But to reach such solutions, you need someone with experience. An experienced medical contract attorney can often craft and negotiate agreements and solutions that will avoid the time, trouble and expense of litigation.

Physician employment contract issues can be thorny and contentious. The first step is to clearly understand the relative rights and obligations of the parties to a physician employment agreement. Problem solving does NOT always mean litigation or arbitration. When all is said and done, creative negotiated solutions are frequently less expensive and more palatable then all-out litigation. You should consult with a medical contract attorney interested in and experienced with formulating creative, negotiated, non-litigation medical contract solutions.