Partnership demand

August 6, 2010

How to determine whether to go ahead with a partnership with new associate.

Q: My internal medicine practice is growing and I am considering bringing in an associate physician. It seems many of the doctors wanting to join a practice want "partnership," or at least some assurance that partnership will be offered. How can I protect my practice if the candidate doesn't work out?

A: Except in a rare case, partnership should not be offered without a trial period for the new doctor in your practice. To maintain control, he or she should be an employee of your business, not an independent contractor. In the employment agreement, provide for an opportunity by including wording such as: "though mutual ownership is neither offered nor implied with this Agreement, it is the intention of the parties to work toward a more permanent association." Include an evaluation of the candidate after 12 to 18 months to start permanent association discussions. Set standards in the agreement to be met during the trial period and include a non-compete covenant.