Expert Mentor Session Part 7: Should I Use Legal Document Templates?

Expert Mentor Session Part 7: Should I Use Legal Document Templates?

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[Sunny Smith]: Michael H. Cohen is the founder of Cohen Healthcare Law Group.

He’s a former professor at Harvard medical school and a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The author of over a hundred articles in law reviews and peer reviewed journals, as well as six books, including four published by an academic presses like Johns Hopkins University Press. Michael’s a thought leader who pioneers legal strategies and solutions for clients in traditional and emerging health and wellness markets. In doing so, he advises many physician clients in a variety of businesses and practices. Michael and his attorney team have a wide range of knowledge and he’s glad to have this chance to share some of it with us today.

[Sunny Smith]: What are your thoughts about templates versus paying for time for someone to generate, say like, your standard, “I’m going to put up a website. I need some disclosures.” Should I just download some disclosures or should I hire someone?

[Michael H. Cohen]: All right. I’m going to be … Say, take two and call me in the morning.

[Sunny Smith]: What does that mean for you?

[Michael H. Cohen]: That’ll be $500. You can pay my billing clerk on the way out the door.

[Sunny Smith]: So would you tell them to download stuff?

[Michael H. Cohen]: That was my template. I hope you got it. Look, I use templates and then I build it from them.

[Sunny Smith]: Yes.

[Michael H. Cohen]: I build from them.

[Sunny Smith]: And so, for instance, I can say, I reached out to your firm and we used to have conversations and now I have conversations with your staff. I was like, “Hey, I’m going to be doing some business coaching. I don’t usually do business coaching. It’s not in my typical contract. Should we add some stuff about like, there’s no income guarantees and whatever.” And I said, “Should I get some templates for my independent contractors?” Because I have coaches who work for me…

[Michael H. Cohen]: She said the right thing-

[Sunny Smith]: She like, Dude, she said to me, I mean, she didn’t say dude, but you know what I mean?

She’s like, come on? templates?

She’s like, “No templates for you.”

But I do know a lot of physicians who do use templates and things.

She’s like, “The Uber law in California was just made. You got to be sure you have that. You got to be sure you have this.”

So my contract with the contractors is 11 pages long and they’re like, “Sunny, this is ridiculous.”

And I’m like, “Well, I don’t know. That’s my lawyer who gave me.”

But the templates are shorter, they’re more simple and they’re the same across all the states. And so just speak from your experience about templates versus hiring a lawyer and when it’s time to invest.

[Michael H. Cohen]: Well, it’s time to invest.

[Sunny Smith]: It’s good to know, right? It’s good because they don’t…

[Michael H. Cohen]: I remember being through a lot of coaching. I remember, do you have a hobby or do you have a business? Remember that one, right?

[Sunny Smith]: Yeah. We say it’s like a jobby. Do you have a jobby or is this going to be a real business?

[Michael H. Cohen]: Yeah. You want to take it seriously?

I mean, look, we have … I mean, my firm is way more complex than I ever imagined. I used to do everything. I remember answering the phone. People would call. I mean, it’s great that I have an attorney now. I was doing everything. Oh my goodness.

And one day I realized my life was out of control. Now, if I’m talking to early entrepreneurs, you’re not there yet. You’ll be there within a year. Your life will be out of control and you are going to hear this word that’s going to become the most important word, it’s called scaling, right? You’re going to want to scale because you can’t do everything.

[Sunny Smith]: Plan to scale from the beginning, right? Plan to scale-

[Michael H. Cohen]: Plan to scale and get professional advice. I mean, I pay tens of thousands of dollars a year on professional coaching. We have a fractional CEO. We had a fractional COO. I have two sets of accountants. One is management accountant. One is a tax accountant.

I don’t make a move without them. I have an employment lawyer. I have, I don’t know, there’s others in there. I have 401k administrator. And I found myself now at my level of scaling, which, was still early phase with people saying, “Michael, what’s the answer to this?”

And I used to be flattered because I knew so much and what I realized part of my own, I think you get a spiritual guy, they have come out now. Part of my thing was, let me not … I’ll get back to the state line thing. Let me not have an ego.

So part of me not having an ego was I had an ego that I knew everything and I got tired of it. And I know I get mad when somebody asks me something as if the secret answer is somehow in here, no, the answer is in a system and I’ve written it down and it does now require me.

And how did I learn that?

I learned that because of coaching, because my coaches are people who scaled law firms. And I used to think that you couldn’t scale a law firm because after all, I’m a great lawyer because I know so much about law and I can do all this. And that is the trap, right? I think, who said that, Michael, what’s his name? The E-Myth Michael Gerber.

The trap, you get trapped, probably Kiyosaki said it. I mean, you get trapped is an entrepreneur thing that you have to do it all. And especially if you’re a professional, because you’re used to service and being professional. So one thing I want to say is, business advice, you’re wearing a different hat. You’re wearing a totally different hat.

The challenge with health coaching is what you have to do is you have to remove your professional hat and say, I’m only doing coaching right now. It’s challenging because you have to disclaim the professional role and you have to make it clear to regulators as well as potential plaintiffs, that what you’re doing is different.

We could call it health coaching, life coaching, you’re saying, I’m not a doc. I’m not functioning as a doctor. I know a lot about medicine, but I’m going to stay away from the practice of medicine. And it’s challenging. But I think one of the things is if you realize that you’re wearing two hats, that your coaching hat is a different hat, it’s going to help because now you’re committed to that hat.

In your whole life, you’ve been committed to your professional hat. Look how much work it took, right?

And now once you wear that hat as seriously as you did your medical hat, you’re not going to think twice about hiring a lawyer, paying for a coaching program, making an investment, because you’re looking for the return on investment, which is satisfaction, professional satisfaction, fulfillment, monetary return, maybe not in that order, but all the things that you wanted out of medical school. You’re going to take it really seriously wearing that coaching hat. And you’re going to know that it’s a different hat than practicing medicine. That’s the distinction.

It’s a legal distinction, but also it’s a distinction that you have to draw where again, the disclaimer is not the be all and end all, but that’s part of the strategy of putting in these definitions. This is what I do. Just like Sunny, you did with your Dean, right? And it’s the same thing in your professional existence, right?

[Sunny Smith]: And so they’re saying, “Okay, here’s what you do. If you’re a physician, before you start your business, this is exactly the things you need.” I’ll say, for instance, for me, sort of in summary, what you said to me was, and I’ll see if I’m remembering correctly, but there’s terms and conditions on your website. Even to put up a website, I had to have terms and conditions that you understood when you’re reading my website, that these were the terms and conditions, they’re buried in the footer.

Everybody could go to my website and see your terms and conditions in my letter. There’s the disclaimer, which is that, although I’m your doctor, I’m not your doctor in this role. And then there is a third one that, so that was one document terms and conditions. One document was called disclaimer. One document was called services agreement.

[Michael H. Cohen]: Yes. I don’t want to say anything about anything confidential about you, but people should just know that.

What should you do? We have a list, you have a list, it’s not a one size fits all. I think that I can give you some couple of things to think about.


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