The Biggest Legal and Financial Physician Mistakes

December 11, 2012

One hundred articles for doctors on law and business later, and you still have some great questions.

Yes, it’s hard to believe but we are nearly two years and 100 articles into our journey together. First and foremost, I’d like to say thank you for your support, interest, comments, questions, and even the occasional complaint. It’s been a pleasure to share my experience with you and I look forward to doing so in the New Year as advisors like myself help our physician clients navigate increasingly the complex waters of healthcare. I’d also like to thank Physicians Practice and editors Keith Martin and Marisa Torrieri in particular for giving me the editorial discretion to cover a wide range of topics that I felt were logically related to asset protection, wealth, law, and business and the subject of the articles you can reference here in the index on the right.

Today I’ll answer several of the most common questions you have sent me and share some thoughts on what’s to come. I’ll also renew my call for your e-mails with questions on specific issues that you have concerns about, as I am more than open to suggestions and requests for information on specific topics you need to know more about (that’s the core purpose of this column).

Q: Where do you get your story ideas?

A: From a variety of sources, but first and foremost from my daily legal practice experience. I’ve worked with a national client base that includes literally thousands of physicians in all 50 states for nearly a decade and personally help handle many of the issues we’ve discussed for them on a recurring basis. My personal core expertise is as an asset-protection attorney, and in many cases my role is simply to triage and help doctors get the right help from experts in other specific areas; we’ve had commentary and guest columns from some of those resources. Either way, I’m the first person most of these clients call, so we get to see the actual effects of handling (or not handling) many of the issues we have cautioned you about over and over.

The second major source is more general: the world around us. This includes changes in the law, events and issues in the media, and trends in healthcare, business, and litigation. The best treatment in law and business, just as in medicine, is always proactive. We’ve tried to emphasize this in most of the articles you seen from me. Finally, some of the columns you’ve read have been a specific response to reader questions sent to me directly.

Q: What’s the biggest financial and legal mistake you see doctors make?

A: This is easy - PROCRASTINATION. The number one thing that Doctors say in a legal or financial crisis, especially when it could have been averted is, “I’ve been meaning to do that…” I work with a generally driven, hard-working, and successful group of people nationally. That success has been based in part on their exceptional clarity of focus and drive, but in that success we find a double-edged sword. You must slow down and take steps to preserve your hard-earned success, the success that many of you spend more than 10 hours a day building and that has taken you years and in many cases incredible discipline and sacrifice to achieve. Consider the cost and effort of your education, residency, and the investment you and, in many cases, your entire family has made and please remember that your future success and achievement will be based, at least in part, on you protecting the foundation you have built. We are going to try to help with this going forward in the new year by providing you a “12 Month Practice Makeover and Check Up Plan” that will hopefully allow many of you to take positive action and either address or delegate simple steps that will protect you from big exposures one month at a time.

Q: What’s the single biggest threat doctors face?

A: This is at once simple and complex: financial exposures. Yes, of course medical malpractice claims remain a huge exposure and must be addressed proactively (the only time asset protection works) but the last five years in particular have shown us that doctors face many other exposures, the same exposures that every other American business owner has faced in the toughest economy many of us have ever personally experienced. A few examples include employee lawsuits, investment losses, and changes in compensation and insurance-contract models that are making practices that were profitable only three years ago virtually insolvent. Add to that the carnage in the real-estate market that we have covered in a variety of articles here and we have a monetary crisis that equals, if not surpasses, the lawsuit crisis itself. Doctors must make top legal, financial, and tax planning a key part of their business models and overhead projections for the future. You are, in general as a profession, going to make less. This means you need to keep more of every dollar you make going forward.

We look forward to providing intel and specific action plans on these issues in the year ahead.