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We will review the elements of the physician employment agreement that can cause the greatest problems, focusing on the pitfalls and the complications that can develop when the parties do not fully understand what is being agreed to. Such items as corporate practice, term and termination, termination for cause, duties of the physician, call, non-compete clauses, and compensation are all items that should be clearly set out in the agreement and fully understood by the parties.


  • Understand the language in terms used in Physician employment agreements. 
  • Avoid mistakes commonly made by Physicians and their employers when entering into employment agreements; and 
  • Understand what to look for when entering into an employment agreement and avoid potential pitfalls.

Formal written contracts establish the legal relationship between the parties; they state the terms and conditions of that relationship and the rights and obligations of each party.  They confirm the intentions and relationships of the parties as they enter into this relationship, and they eliminate uncertainties regarding mutual rights, obligations, and relationships.  If everything remained as it was at the time the agreement was signed, there would be little need for formal documents.  However, the agreement serves to protect against future disputes.  Therefore, it should include as precise language as possible.  Ambiguous terms in agreements are of little effect when disputes occur over the meaning of a party's rights or obligations.  
You should attend to gain an understanding of what should and should not be in a physician employment agreement, as well as the pitfalls of some of the problem areas.


  • Hospital executives, particularly CEOs, COOs, CFOs, CNOs, and CMOs,
  • Physicians, 
  • Physician practice managers, and
  • Attorneys who represent physicians and/or hospitals

William Mack Copeland, MS, JD, PhD, LFACHE, practices health care law in Cincinnati at the firm of Copeland Law, LLC, where he is president and CEO. He is also president of Executive & Managerial Development Group, a consulting entity providing compliance and other fraud and abuse related services. A graduate of Northern Kentucky University Salmon P. Chase College of Law, Bill is a frequent author and speaker on health law topics. He is a member of the American Health Lawyers Association, American, Ohio and Cincinnati Bar Associations. A former hospital chief executive officer, he is a life fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives. He was awarded the American College of Health Care Executives Senior-Level Healthcare Executive Regent’s Award in 2007.

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