When starting a medical practice, there are two professionals you need for your business early on – an accountant and a lawyer.
The reasons for hiring an accountant are pretty straightforward. You need a professional to help you set up your chart of accounts, periodically review your numbers, prepare for all your necessary tax returns, and more.
Hiring a medical lawyer may not seem like such an apparent choice in the beginning. However, a good lawyer can assist you with some of the most important aspects of your medical practice such as ensuring you have all the necessary permissions, documents, and processes set in place.
Should you go with a big firm or a small firm?
Usually, the larger the law firm, the greater the overheads, therefore the higher the hourly rates you’ll have to pay. However, larger firms do offer more advantages compared to smaller firms.
For example, if you choose to go with a solo practitioner or a small firm, it’s likely that they may not offer multiple skills that you’ll need to set up and grow your medical practice. One lawyer or a small firm may not be able to:
Handle your lawsuits,
File a patent or trademark,
Negotiate your office space or lease agreement,
Advise you on terminating a troublesome employee,
Draw up employee and patient contracts,
Oversee any investment deals,
There is a good chance that at some point, a solo practitioner or a small firm lawyer will have to refer you to a specialist and soon you’ll find yourself dealing with multiple attorneys.
On the other hand, while slightly more expensive to deal with, larger firms come with two significant benefits:
They’ll be able to provide you with various kind of skills all under one roof
They have strong clout in the local/national legal community
Additionally, being in business with a large and well-established law firm also offers certain intangible benefits. For example, they have extensive connections and may be willing to introduce you to financing sources or give you their reference when seeking external partnership agreements.
When it comes to choosing between the two, it comes down to:
What stage of the business you are in, and
How much are you willing to invest in a lawyer?
Bear in mind, that partnering with a good medical lawyer for your practice can go a long way in securing your business and investment.
Different types of lawyers
Like doctors, lawyers too are becoming more and more specialized. For instance, an attorney who mostly does house-related matters or wills may not be the best fit for your medical practice. To begin with, make sure your lawyer has the following 3 skill sets (however, the more skills they can bring to the table, the merrier):
You want a lawyer who understands the ropes of the medical business and can help you draw-up standard form contracts that you’ll need with patients, employees, suppliers, etc. They should also be able to help you understand and respond to contracts that you need to sign with external parties.
2. Real estate
Commercial real estate leases are usually highly complex and are often drafted to benefit the landlord. Often those renting such spaces are misled into thinking that these agreements are non-negotiable, which is not the case. Your lawyer should have a standard addendum containing provisions that benefit you (the tenant) that can be added to the final lease document.
3. Licenses and taxes
Although your accountant will help you prepare and file your business tax returns on a yearly basis, your lawyer should help you register your business for federal and provincial tax identification numbers. They should be able to understand and guide you on the consequences of the basic transactions that your medical practice will engage in.
5 tips to Find the Best Medical Lawyer for your Practice
Hiring a lawyer for your medical practice isn’t as easy as choosing the first one that comes up in a Google search. There are many different factors that you must consider when making a choice. Here are five tips to help you narrow down the best medical lawyer for your practice.
1. Look for personal referrals
A personal referral is a great way to find a lawyer who is good for your medical practice. If you know other doctors who have also built their own practice, ask them for a referral. The biggest advantage here is that you’ll be getting first-hand testimony regarding the experience they’ve had with a lawyer.
If you know a lawyer who doesn’t specialize in your industry, then ask them to help you find one. Local attorneys and law firms are usually a tight-knit network. If they don’t personally know a medical lawyer, they may know someone who might.
One of the biggest benefits of getting a referral from another attorney is that they can listen to your situation and quickly understand who can help you the best and point you in the right direction.
2. Browse through online reviews
Online reviews play a major role in the decision-making process of users seeking professional products or services. This applies to law firms and lawyers too.
People like to let others know of their positive or negative experiences. Reviews could help you gain an insight into the personality of an attorney and learn about how they operate. Doing thorough research and checking reviews and testimonials helps you understand what it’s like to work with someone and what kind of success they’ve had in the past. It gives you an insight into what to expect when getting into a professional relationship with them.
Pro tip: Be objective in your research but lookout for anything related to unprofessional business practices or appointment cancellations.
3. Be mindful of their qualifications
Qualification and experience are two of the most important aspects to consider when looking for a lawyer for your medical practice. Just because a lawyer once handled a medical case doesn’t mean they are qualified to handle the nitty-gritty of your business. You need to pay close attention and find someone who is well-versed with the Canadian medical industry.
You must also look into how many years they’ve been practicing and if they’ve devoted their career to the medical industry. All this information is usually available on their website or personal profile.
You can also look for any articles that the lawyer has put up. Many lawyers are now using blogging as a tool to share useful content that highlights their expertise in a particular industry.
4. Look for qualified referral services
The Canadian or provincial bar associations are a great resource to find qualified lawyers. Most of these institutions have referral services that connect individuals to the right attorneys. In fact, most lawyers list themselves on their bar association website. For example, the Canadian bar association has a search tool to find a lawyer near you.
Finding a lawyer through a bar association gives you the confidence of hiring someone who is qualified and trusted. Most of these associations demand a certain level of experience in a specific field in order to advertise them.
5. Consider the financial implications
Most lawyers charge a flat one-time fee for routine matters such as drafting a contract. Ask what their fees would be before starting the work and clarify if the fee includes other disbursements such as courier charges, filing fees, any out-of-the-pocket expenses, etc.
If you choose to work with a firm (small or large), they may put you on a monthly retainer. Here, it’s important to gauge at what stage of the business you are in and how much legal help you require. For those just starting out, you might need some help drafting and negotiating various contracts and documents. But, for those who have been in the business for a while, it might be best to look for lawyers on an ‘as needed basis.’
Questions to ask before hiring a lawyer for your medical practice
Remember, just because someone is charging a higher fee does not necessarily mean they are more qualified. Consequently, a low fee may hint at some inexperience. After meeting with the lawyer, you should ask yourself the following questions to make an informed decision:
Does the lawyer’s experience and qualifications fit with your legal needs?
Did the lawyer have proper and credible responses to your questions?
Do you feel comfortable working with them?
Are you comfortable with the fees and how they are structured?
Are you comfortable with the terms of the fee agreement and/or representation agreement?
Before hiring a lawyer for your medical practice, speak to your friends and colleagues and ensure that you thoroughly vet the professional you choose to work with. A lawyer will help you not only set up your medical practice but will also protect you from any possible harm in the future so you want to make sure you feel comfortable with them, and that there’s a level of trust, before signing anything.
Communication and understanding are important qualities that you must share with your lawyer. If you decide to look for a lawyer, use the tips mentioned above to decide whether they are qualified enough to represent you or not.