By Alex R. Thiersch, JD

A knowledgeable healthcare attorney is a vital part of keeping a medical aesthetics practice in business and out of trouble. Naysayers tend to think that attorneys are either swords or shields—useful when they want something or are in trouble, but otherwise unnecessary. They tend to view the cost of retaining an attorney to be more than the value they receive from such an arrangement. In reality, it costs significantly more to repair a legal problem than it does to prevent one.

For example, if employees leave a practice and are not signed to a binding non-solicitation agreement, they may try to take the practice’s clients to their new practice. What happens if former employees take a dozen clients with them? The practice would likely engage an attorney to draw up a binding non-solicitation agreement for current and future employees to sign, but that’s a case of closing the stable door after the horses have bolted. The practice’s bottom line has already taken a big hit and, what’s more, it’s paying for the services of an attorney anyway.

Additionally, it’s important to get an attorney on board early, so that he or she can help set up protocols and contracts right away that will protect the practice later on. Typically, it is not a good idea to try to circumvent legal expenses by using forms and documents from online services, such as LegalZoom. These forms lack the detail required for setting up a business in the tricky field of medical aesthetics, which has more than its share of legal nuances that cannot be anticipated or accounted for with documents designed for general use.

As a practice grows, an attorney who has been working with that practice since day 1 will be better able to anticipate and assess its needs. And it will take far less time for an attorney who has been associated with the practice to help it, since he or she won’t need to learn the ins and outs of the practice’s business.

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Help Wanted

It can be a challenge to find a good healthcare attorney who is in tune with the industry and its quirks. The best way to do this is to get a referral from medical aesthetics industry veterans. If they can vouch for an attorney’s ability and expertise, that attorney will likely be able to help efficiently establish a practice. The American Health Lawyers Association, a local bar association, and the American Med Spa Association (AmSpa) can also provide resources.

A new business should always allocate part of its budget to attorneys’ fees, and it should probably be a larger allocation than its owners and operators might initially anticipate. There are few things in business as frustrating as dealing with legal expenses when they are not expected. If a medical aesthetics practice sets a high budget number for attorneys’ fees, it is less likely to take an unforeseen financial hit should it actually need a lawyer’s services.

Get as specific an estimate as possible from any attorney. This is an inexact science, but a good, experienced attorney will have some idea of what a project should cost and will convey that to prospective clients. People are often inclined to nickel-and-dime their legal expenses, but if you’re dealing with an industry as complex and fraught with peril as the medical aesthetics industry, it’s very likely that you’ll get what you pay for with your representation. Attorneys who know their way around the medical aesthetics industry may command a premium, but they’ll be worth it in the end.

Thiersch_Alex Alex R. Thiersch, JD, is the founder and director of the American Med Spa Association (AmSpa). Look for more of his articles in PSP. Thiersch can be reached at [email protected].