One of the points a veterinary contract expert may bring to your attention during a consultation is that the contract you
sign today may affect you more in the years to come than it does now. In my law practice I often see a scenario in which a
recent graduate moves to a new city to take a job in hopes of developing an interesting career in that new city. After signing
a contract containing a substantial noncompete clause, the newly minted doctor works for several years, gets married and sets
down roots in the community. But then a new and exciting job opportunity comes along at the same time that the ownership/management/staff
situation changes at the current workplace. The now-experienced practitioner looks over her old employment contract and sadly
discovers that she can't take advantage of the new local opportunity.
And it only gets worse. The original contract has an assignability clause providing that any new practice owner can enforce
the noncompete clause. Therefore, even though the associate might have convinced her original boss to waive some of the time
or distance in the noncompete, the new corporate owner has a reputation for not reducing those limitations. So what's the
result? The veterinarian is ultimately stuck. She doesn't want to move, she doesn't want to stay at the current job and she
can't afford to litigate the issue of the noncompete clause against the much deeper pockets of the large veterinary corporation
that has purchased her old contract.
Brief isn't always better
Finally, many veterinarians think that if their employment contract is brief, outlining just the main points of the job, compensation
and benefits, that it's less likely to need a professional review. That's not the case.
When employers write contracts in an overly simplistic way, important issues generally tend to fall through the cracks. Then,
later in the employment relationship, tension develops over things like health coverage, 401(k) match amount, timing of vacation
and so on—headaches for everyone.
Bottom line? Spare yourself the pain and have a professional review the contract on your behalf before you sign anything.
You won't regret it.
Dr. Christopher Allen is president of the Associates in Veterinary Law PC, which provides legal and consulting services to veterinarians.
Call (607) 754-1510