Chapter 23: Lawyers

There is no doubt about it: at some point you will need to work with a lawyer for the success of your business. In fact, you might need to work with several lawyers who specialize in different aspects of business and dentistry. Understanding how lawyers work can help you get the most benefit from them.

What Can Lawyers Do for You As a Dentist?

Lawyers can create or review contracts between you and others you do business with. They can represent you in court as well. Here are some of the things your lawyer can help you with:

  • Association agreements with other dentist(s)
  • Business setup (such as forming a corporation)
  • Lease agreement reviews
  • Employment agreements
  • Buying or selling a dental practice
  • Tax planning
  • General business legal advice
  • Malpractice suits


Choosing the Right Lawyer

Before you hire a lawyer, you need to determine what you need the lawyer to do for you. Do you need a generalist or a specialist? Will the lawyer need to represent you in court? What expectations do you have about the lawyer’s services? Consider all the questions before you seek legal help.

In many cases, you can hire a lawyer who specializes in the dentistry business. In essence, this lawyer may be a general lawyer in terms of what you need as a dentist. They are familiar with the regulations governing dentistry, so you will never have to “train” your lawyer before they know how to help you in your industry. They will already likely know more about the dentistry profession and business than you will ever have the opportunity to learn.

Gather Needed Documents Before Seeing the Lawyer

If you already know what to bring, set it aside in your briefcase to have with you at the time of your meeting. If you are unsure of what the lawyer will need to help you, you can talk to a legal assistant for clarification. In any event, your discussion with the lawyer may reveal the need for additional documents. You will need to get them to his or her office before the next session.

Actively Participate in the Meeting

Lawyers know the law. You know your unique business. It is in the merging of the two knowledge bases that you will find solutions to legal problems together. Certainly, you need to treat your lawyer with the utmost respect. At the same time, you need to question anything that doesn’t make sense or sounds wrong to you.

Don’t Make An Appointment When a Call Would Suffice

Use the lawyer’s time judiciously. Remember that the lawyer will charge you for every minute you spend with him or her, as well as for phone calls, letters and negotiations with others. If you need to relay a simple message or submit reports you already know the lawyer needs, you can deal with his or her office staff rather than sitting down for a more costly appointment. The lawyer is there to help you, but he or she is there at a price. So, use the lawyer’s time only when you absolutely need to use it.

Checklist for Working with Lawyers

  • Determine your needs for legal services
  • Choose a lawyer who is familiar with the dentistry business.
  • Use the lawyer’s time as sparingly as possible.
  • Gather all needed documentation before the meeting.
  • Actively participate in legal sessions.