A Primer On Negotiating Contracts for New Doctors

I think every doc owes it to himself to read a book on contracts (preferably a specialty-specific one) at the beginning of his final year of residency, and re-read it every time he changes jobs. The first chapter of A Doctor’s Basic Business Handbook is all about contracts. It isn’t quite as much as you’ll get out of a book dedicated to the topic, but it’s a darn good summary. It covers almost all of the important points, such as term, termination, pay and benefits, enforceability, restrictive covenants etc. If he had briefly touched on the importance of malpractice coverage (specifically who pays the tail) it would have been perfect. The best part of the chapter, however, is at the end when he talks about negotiating, especially the importance of the BATNA- Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. Far too many doctors just don’t get this. The way you “win” a negotiation is by having another great offer that you’re willing to take, and playing them off each other.

The BATNA is your proverbial Plan B option if things in the negotiation simply do not work out between you and the other party at the negotiating table. If you are negotiating an employment contract with a potential employer, then your BATNA might be a job with another employer in the same market or in another town. If negotiations are not going your way, and you know that your BATNA is perhaps a better deal than the one developing at hand, then you can confidently walk away from the negotiation. On the other hand, if you don’t know what your other options could be, then you hold a much weaker position in the current negotiation.

One party always has a better hand in any negotiation. The way you make sure you have the best hand is to make sure you have another option acceptable to you in your back pocket. Then you have all the power- they either meet your demands or you leave. Either way, you win.



Basic Business Handbook


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