Michael Salchert Responds to Questions About What Doctors Need To Know About Employment Contract Negotiation


Larkin Hoffman's attorney Michael Salchert recently had the opportunity to answer a few questions about the most common mistakes he sees doctors make when negotiating new employment contracts.  In an interview for Panacea Financial, Michael responded to questions posed by Dr. Michael Jerkins.

In the interview, Michael explained that a number of doctors contact him after they have signed a contract without seeking legal advice and end up wanting to renegotiate the contract for unforeseen reasons.  Michael explained that "Employers often create deadlines that benefit them, so I tell doctors to press the pause button and tell employers they need time to consult with an attorney." 

Another common mistake Michael sees is not having a prevailing party attorney’s fees clause in the agreement. "Without a prevailing party attorney’s fees clause, bringing an action against an employer or former employer is an expensive proposition even if you do win, and large employers will string the case out depending on the claim to cause the doctor to expend considerable resources to maintain the claim." He goes on to explain that "If there is a prevailing party clause in the contract and you win your claim, the employer pays your attorney’s fees as well as their own. Of course, if you lose, you pay yours and theirs, so the clause governs against marginal claims and works to mitigate the advantage one party might have over another because of access to resources."

When asked what doctors should negotiate with an employment contract, Michael responded that doctors should look to negotiate the important terms of the agreement before they receive the written agreement. "The more doctors can discuss and communicate what they want—compensation, incentives, benefits, equity options, and time off—prior to the agreement being drafted, the less burdensome it is to negotiate the written agreement."   

He goes on to explain that doctors should pick their battles in negotiating an agreement. "Typically, doctors will be presented with a form agreement that contains terms and clauses that the employer is unlikely to negotiate."  

The skill of negotiation is to identify what is in play. "Likely the benefits being offered are not as much in play as whether the employer pays for the doctor’s licenses, malpractice insurance, professional association dues, and continuing education costs. Every situation is unique, so doctors should gather as much intel from the employer first, prior to negotiating terms to determine what is or not in play." 

Finally, Michael was asked for one tip he would give to doctors when engaging in or negotiating a new contract.  Michael's response was to "never sign an agreement without first seeking counsel from an attorney who practices in the area of health law employment. The practice of law is not the practice of medicine."

Michael Salchert advises dentists, veterinarians, and optometrists in corporate, business, real estate and transactional matters. He primarily works with these professionals on the sale or purchase of professional practices, providing general business advice including employment and other business contractual and real estate matters.

For more than 35 years, Michael has worked with health care professionals mostly in the dental industry. He also has extensive experience in the veterinary and optometry industries. Michael leverages his longtime business experience in counseling his clients on a wide range of business and legal issues.