Business owner signing legal document

Veterinary Practice Mistakes That Can Result in Legal Challenges

Although operating a veterinary practice is a rewarding endeavor, it isn’t without its challenges. One such challenge is the threat of legal action. Fortunately, many of the legal issues with which veterinary practice owners must contend can be avoided with appropriate planning. And even when legal challenges arise, they can often be resolved successfully with the help of an experienced veterinary practice litigation attorney. In this article, we examine several common veterinary practice mistakes that can lead to legal challenges.  

Mistake #1: Failing to Practice as an Entity

If you practice without the protection of a corporation or LLC, you are taking a huge risk. Without the protection afforded by a corporation or LLC, you can be held personally liable any time a legal issue arises involving you or your practice. 

Mistake #2: Delegating Financial Duties

Most veterinarians would rather focus on animal care than finances. This is understandable. However, as a veterinary practice owner, you must remain involved in the financial aspects of your practice. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t hire someone to help you manage your practice’s finances. However, by totally ignoring this aspect of your business, you take a huge risk.  

Mistake #3: Ignoring Inventory and Operations

As a veterinary practice owner, you must fulfill many roles. One such role involves managing the operations and inventory of your practice. If you completely delegate these areas to your employees, you could very well face a lawsuit in the near future. Expired medication, insufficient inventory, and similar issues can all result in legal action. So, you must remain involved in managing the inventory and operations of your practice. 

Mistake #4: Recordkeeping Oversights

Good recordkeeping is mandatory if you want your practice to succeed. Unfortunately, however, veterinarians routinely find themselves in trouble for failing to keep detailed records. This is especially true in the case of employee records. When an employee’s performance leads to his or her termination, it is important to maintain a record of these actions. Otherwise, if an employee later files a lawsuit, you’ll lack sufficient evidence to support your actions. 

Mistake #5: Failing to Deal with Upset Clients Effectively

Not all clients will be happy with the service you provide. However, when a client is unhappy, you must do everything you can to address his or her concerns. Not only will this help you maintain a good reputation in your community, but it can help you avoid lawsuits. 

Contact Our Experienced Veterinary Attorneys 

Although legal issues are practically inevitable when you run a veterinary practice, many legal problems can be avoided through proper planning. Therefore, if you are a veterinary practice owner, and you’d like to address common legal issues before they arise, you should enlist the services of an experienced veterinary practice litigation attorney. At Mahan Law, our experienced veterinary legal professionals understand the veterinary business. Founded by veterinary hospital owner Anthony Mahan, our practice is dedicated to helping veterinarians avoid litigation. However, should you face legal action, we are also available to provide you with powerful legal representation. Please contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.

Business woman signing a legal document

Are You Considering Selling Your Veterinary Practice?

If you are considering selling your veterinary practice, you need to be prepared—and part of this preparation includes ensuring that you have all the necessary information before you place your practice on the market. In this article, we examine several things you should consider before you sell your veterinary practice. For additional information on selling your practice, please contact an experienced veterinary practice attorney for assistance. 

Get an Appraisal 

The first thing you should do prior to placing your practice on the market is getting an appraisal. By having your practice appraised, you enter the sales process with an accurate assessment of the value of your practice, and this can help you avoid pricing it too high or too low. 

Review Your Finances

Before you sell your practice, you should be ready to respond to requests by potential buyers to provide copies of your tax returns and interim statements. In addition, you should ensure that your practice’s financial management system is current and capable of creating timely financial statements. If upon reviewing your practice’s finances, you discover that your practice has a history of declining revenue, you may want to consider trying to improve its financial performance before placing it on the market.  

Find Potential Buyers

To sell your practice, you must find someone willing to buy it. When it comes to selling a veterinary practice, there are many potential sources of buyers. The first place you should begin is other veterinarians with whom you have longstanding relationships. Another option to consider is merging your practice with a competitor or allowing a larger practice or organization to buy you out.

Discuss the Sale with Your Staff 

Finally, when preparing for the sale of your veterinary practice, you should be candid with your staff. By being transparent with your employees, you increase the odds that they’ll want to continue their employment after the sale (if this is an option), and that can be a great selling point to potential buyers. In addition, if your practice is successful, there is a good chance that the hard work of your staff has played a key part in its success. Therefore, you owe it to your employees to be as open as possible during the sales process. 

Contact Our Experienced Veterinary Attorneys 

If you are ready to explore your available veterinary practice sales options, Mahan Law is here for you. At Mahan Law, our veterinary professionals will utilize our extensive experience and vast network of co-counsel attorneys to increase your odds of a successful veterinary practice sale. When you come to us for help, you can rest assured that our attorneys have the knowledge and skills necessary to obtain the best price possible for your veterinary practice. Please contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our talented attorneys.

veterinary practice owner signing legal documents

Valuing Your Veterinary Practice

As a veterinary practice owner, you have a lot to handle. In addition to providing your customers with excellent care and customer service, you must take steps to ensure your business’s success and longevity. One of these steps is placing a dollar value on your practice. In this article, we examine the process of valuing your veterinary practice. 

The Purpose of Valuing Your Practice

There are many reasons to determine the value of your veterinary practice, including:

  • Future sale: The most common reason to value one’s veterinary practice is to establish a sales price. Before placing your practice on the market, it is important to know how much profit you may be entitled to from a successful sale.
  • Sales management: When you decide to sell, terminal cash flow will define how much your practice is worth. Understanding the value of your practice will allow you to determine whether you are taking steps to enhance its profitability.
  • Qualify for a loan: If you plan on applying for a personal or business loan, you may use some or all of your veterinary practice as collateral. Therefore, when seeking a loan, it is important to know the fair market value of your practice. 

Veterinary Practice Valuation Methods

There are three fundamental approaches to valuing a veterinary practice: the income approach, the market approach, and the asset approach.  

Income Approach

Determining income is the most popular method of valuing a veterinary practice. The income approach focuses on the cash flow earned by a practice. Cash flow helps to determine a practice’s growth prospects and risk. This approach requires an analysis of the following types of risk:

  • Geographic risk: An analysis of geographic risk reveals how dependent a practice is on the economy of the area in which it is located.  
  • Size risk: This type of risk pertains primarily to small businesses.
  • Key person risk: This applies if a veterinary practice relies on the services of a single veterinarian.

Market Approach

Under the market approach, a practice’s value is assessed based on the value of similar veterinary practices in the same region. The difficulty with this approach, however, is the lack of available and accurate data from other practices. 

Asset Approach

The asset approach focuses on determining the value of a veterinary practice’s net asset value, which is how much the practice’s current tangible assets are worth, including goodwill. Goodwill, which is an intangible asset, is the fair value of a practice’s assets minus the market value of its liabilities. 

Contact our Experienced Veterinary Attorneys 

If you own a veterinary practice, you need an experienced veterinary attorney on your side. At Mahan Law, our experienced veterinary professionals understand how to succeed in the veterinary industry. When you come to us for assistance, our experienced veterinary attorneys will strive to ensure that you reach your professional goals. Please contact us today to begin getting the most out of your veterinary practice.

Veterinary practice owner shaking hands with veterinary practice manager

What is a Veterinary Practice Manager?

Veterinarians are great at what they do—caring for animals. However, some veterinarians who also own their own practices lack the desire or business acumen to deal with the day-to-day administrative tasks necessary to run a successful practice. This is where veterinary practice managers come in. Veterinary practice managers provide business management services to veterinary practice owners. They ensure that a veterinary practice’s daily operations run smoothly, allowing veterinarians to focus on practicing medicine. In this article, we discuss the important role that veterinary practice managers play in the veterinary industry. 

Veterinary Practice Manager Duties 

Veterinary practice managers perform several important duties, including:

  • Patient medical records oversight 
  • Financial reporting
  • Client service and relations
  • Community involvement
  • Staff management 

Veterinary Practice Manager Salary

Several factors can affect the salary of a veterinary practice manager, including the size of the practice, the number of staff members managed the manager’s job responsibilities, the manager’s level of experience, and the location of the practice. In 2019, veterinary practice managers earned the following annual salaries: 

  • Top 10% veterinary practice manager annual salary: $66,000 
  • Median veterinary practice manager annual salary: $47,000 
  • Bottom 10% veterinary practice manager annual salary: $35,000 

Veterinary Practice Manager Education, Training, and Certification

A college degree isn’t required to be a veterinary practice manager. However, a bachelor’s degree or a background in business management is useful for those looking to enter the profession. In addition, veterinary practice managers may benefit from various certification and training programs designed specifically for this career path. For example, the Certified Veterinary Practice Manager designation is highly regarded in the industry and may give aspiring veterinary practice managers an edge in the hiring process.  

Veterinary Practice Manager Skills 

To be a successful veterinary practice manager, it is necessary to possess or develop the following skills:

  • Organization skills: Management of any kind requires superior organization skills. The veterinary industry is no different. Therefore, veterinary practice managers must be highly organized. 
  • Leadership skills: Another important trait that veterinary practice managers must possess is the ability to lead others. Not only does this include directing employees, but it also involves motivating them and helping them grow personally and professionally. 
  • Communication skills: Most of a veterinary practice manager’s day is spent dealing with other people, so it is essential for managers to have excellent verbal and written communication skills.

Contact our Experienced Veterinary Attorneys 

If you are a veterinary practice owner, you need an experienced veterinary attorney in your corner. At Mahan Law, our knowledgeable veterinary professionals know what it takes to succeed in the veterinary industry. Whether you need assistance with a legal dispute, or you simply want to improve the performance of your practice, Mahan Law is here for you. When you come to us for help, our experienced veterinary attorneys will strive to ensure that your professional and personal goals are achieved. Please contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

client meeting attorney

Can a Vet Sue an Owner Following a Dog Bite?

Veterinarians routinely deal with agitated and unruly animals. Therefore, it isn’t unusual for veterinarians to suffer the occasional bite or scratch. Although many of these incidents are minor, veterinarians sometimes suffer serious injuries. This raises the following question: can a vet sue an owner following a dog bite? 

Dog Owners are Generally Liable for Bites

Under normal circumstances, an owner is usually liable for injuries caused by his or her dog. However, if a dog bite victim was aware of a dog’s dangerous nature prior to the bite, then the owner can assert this as a defense in court. This defense, which is known as the assumption-of-risk defense, allows the owner of a dog to argue that a person who was bitten voluntarily undertook the risk due to his or her prior knowledge of the dog’s nature. Depending on the state, this defense is sometimes asserted when a veterinarian sues a dog owner over a bite. 

Assumption of Risk by Veterinarians 

As noted above, depending on the state, courts sometimes apply the assumption-of-risk defense when a dog injures a veterinarian. The courts that apply this defense reason that animal bites are an inherent risk of the veterinary profession. Using a similar rationale, courts have found that the assumption-of-risk rule also extends to veterinary assistants, vet techs, kennel operators, pet groomers, and other professionals who work with animals for a living.  

Exceptions

Even if a state applies the assumption-of-risk defense to veterinarians, there may be exceptions depending on the circumstances. Common exceptions to the assumption-of-risk defense include: 

  • The dog owner had full control of his or her dog at the time it bit the veterinarian.
  • The dog owner hid a specific hazard from the veterinarian that went beyond the normal risk of working with animals.

Veterinarians as Animal Keepers

Courts in some states have found additional reasons to dismiss lawsuits by veterinarians who are bitten by dogs while on the job. For example, some courts have held that a veterinarian should be considered the keeper of the animals under his or her care. From a legal perspective, this places a veterinarian in the shoes of a dog’s owner while he or she has possession of the animal. This prevents a veterinarian from filing a lawsuit for a dog bite suffered while it was in his or her possession. 

Contact a Veterinary Attorney Today 

The veterinary business is unique. Therefore, if you own a veterinary practice and require legal assistance, not just any attorney will do. Instead, you need an experienced veterinary practice litigation attorney on your side. At Mahan Law, we know the veterinary business. Founded by veterinary hospital owner Anthony Mahan, our veterinary litigation practice is focused on helping veterinary practice owners avoid, initiate, and respond to litigation. Please contact us today to schedule a free consultation. 

man signing veterinary legal documents

The Importance of Employee Handbooks for Veterinary Practices

If you own a veterinary practice, it is absolutely imperative that you have an employee handbook in place. An employee handbook is a resource that every veterinary practice should have, regardless of the number of employees. A handbook is important because the key to healthy relationships between veterinary employers and employees is clear communication. With a handbook in place, employees have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. This can help reduce workplace dissatisfaction, tension, and even litigation. In this article, we discuss the importance of employee handbooks for veterinary practices. 

The Parts of an Employee Handbook

A typical employee handbook includes the following information: 

  • An introduction to the veterinary practice’s culture, values, and mission 
  • An explanation of employee rights and the steps to take if an employee believes that a violation of his or her rights have occurred
  • An understanding of what is expected of employees regarding job performance, attire, punctuality and attendance, client and patient interactions, and workplace communications
  • Information about employee benefits and how to use them
  • Information about how employees can communicate with ownership or management

Benefits of an Employee Handbook

The different parts of an employee handbook provide employees with valuable information. In addition to serving as a useful tool for employees, an employee handbook helps ensure compliance with local, state, and federal laws, and it can serve as evidence in litigation. 

Periodic Review 

Every practice should review its employee handbook at least annually. However, certain significant events may warrant an immediate review, such as: 

  • Changes in local, state, or federal laws: Laws are continually amended and created. Therefore, every practice should review and update its employee handbook when laws are changed and enacted. Not only does this keep the handbook current, but it can help practices avoid inadvertently violating the law. 
  • Changes in staff size: Many employment laws are based on staff size. Therefore, as a practice grows (or shrinks), it may be necessary to update the employee handbook to ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations.
  • Location changes: When a practice changes its location or opens a new location, it may be necessary to revise the handbook to address laws specific to the new location.
  • Changes in procedures or practices: Finally, any time a veterinary practice implements new procedures or practices, this should be reflected in the employee handbook.

Contact our Experienced Veterinary Attorneys 

If you are a veterinary practice owner, you need a knowledgeable veterinary attorney on your team. At Mahan Law, our veterinary professionals understand how to succeed in the veterinary industry. Whether you need assistance with a specific legal issue, or you want to improve the overall performance of your veterinary practice, Mahan Law is on your side. When you come to us for assistance, our experienced veterinary attorneys will work hard to ensure that your professional and personal goals are met. Please contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

vet examining cat x-ray

What is a Veterinary Surgeon?

When an animal develops a medical issue that requires advanced care, surgery is sometimes necessary. When this is the case, an animal’s veterinarian will usually refer the pet to a veterinary surgeon. In this article, we examine the specialized field of veterinary surgery. 

Veterinary Areas of Specialization 

Like the majority of health care fields, the veterinary profession has several areas of specialization. In addition to surgery, common areas of specialization in the veterinary field include: 

  • Internal medicine
  • Radiology
  • Anesthesiology
  • Ophthalmology
  • Neurology
  • Emergency and critical care
  • Dermatology
  • Cardiology
  • Oncology
  • Sports medicine and rehabilitation

Veterinary Surgery Certification

Routine surgeries, such as soft tissue and orthopedics surgeries, are usually performed by general practice veterinarians. More complicated surgeries, however, are usually performed by board-certified veterinary surgeons. Becoming certified as a veterinary surgeon is a long process that requires advanced education and training. Veterinarians who specialize in surgery obtain certification through the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS), which is a veterinary specialty organization that certifies veterinarians in large and small animal surgery. The ACVS undergoes a comprehensive evaluation every three years to ensure that it maintains the required standards for its certification process. 

Advanced Training

Veterinary surgeons undergo advanced training following veterinary school. This training consists of a minimum of a one-year internship and a three-year residency program that meets ACVS standards. During residency, surgeons in training must meet specific training and caseload requirements. In addition, applicants are required to publish a research study and pass a rigorous exam.

The Process

As noted above, general practice veterinarians may perform surgery as part of their veterinary practice. Difficult procedures, however, are usually best managed by a specialist. When a general practice veterinarian determines that an animal requires an advanced surgical procedure, he or she refers the animal to a veterinary surgeon. After this referral, the two veterinarians usually work closely together with both before and after surgery to ensure continuity of care for the animal. After surgery and any follow-up care, the animal’s primary veterinarian resumes its ongoing care.

The Bottom Line

Veterinary surgeons perform complicated surgical procedures on animals. They also provide consultations to general practice veterinarians on difficult and unusual cases. With their advanced training, veterinary surgeons are an important part of the animal health care field.  

Contact our Experienced Veterinary Attorneys 

If you are a veterinary practice owner, you should have an experienced veterinary attorney as part of your team. At Mahan Law, our veterinary professionals know what it takes to succeed in the veterinary industry. Whether you need assistance with a specific legal matter, or you want to improve the performance of your practice, Mahan Law is here for you. When you come to us for help, our experienced veterinary attorneys will work diligently to ensure that your goals are met. Please contact our office as soon as possible to schedule a free consultation.

man signing veterinary legal documents

Tips for Starting Your Own Veterinary Practice

Starting your own veterinary practice can be extremely rewarding. However, before taking the plunge into practice ownership, you must ensure that you are fully prepared. Without a solid game plan in place, you run the risk of making mistakes that can sink your practice before it gets off the ground. If you’re considering starting your own veterinary practice, the following tips should help ensure that your transition into practice ownership is a success. 

Get Comfortable as a Practitioner 

Before you open your own veterinary practice, it’s a good idea to first obtain some experience as a veterinarian. By working as a veterinarian in an established practice, you will gain an understanding of the veterinary profession that will serve you well when you open your own practice. 

Learn Some Business Basics

As a veterinary practice owner, you must have some basic business skills. After all, a veterinary practice is just that—a business. Without a solid foundation in business, your veterinary practice is bound to run into problems down the road. Luckily, however, if your business skills aren’t quite up to par, you can enlist professionals—such as a veterinary practice attorney—to assist you with the business-related aspects of your practice. 

Do Your Research

After gaining some experience as a veterinarian and developing some basic business skills, you must begin conducting research in multiple areas. The first thing you should begin researching is the location of your practice. You also must decide if you want to purchase an existing practice, rent an existing location, or build a new practice from scratch. When making these decisions, you should determine how many other practices are near the locations you’re considering in order to gauge the amount of competition. 

Choose the Right Team

Most successful veterinary practice owners work with a solid team of professionals. In addition to your staff, your team may include a veterinary practice attorney, an accountant, an insurance agent, and a veterinary practice business consultant. 

Develop Financial and Marketing Plans

As noted above, it’s a good idea to work with an accountant when starting your own veterinary practice. An accountant will ensure that your practice’s finances are in order. In addition, you should work with a professional, such as a veterinary practice attorney, to help you develop a solid marketing plan to attract clients to your business. After all, without clients, you don’t have a business!  

Contact Our Experienced Veterinary Attorneys 

If you are ready to start your own veterinary practice, you need an experienced and knowledgeable veterinary practice attorney on your team. At Mahan Law, our team of veterinary professionals has a deep understanding of the veterinary business. Founded by veterinary hospital owner Anthony Mahan, Mahan Law is here to help you get your veterinary business off the ground. Please contact us to schedule a free initial consultation. 

Woman at the vet with her dog

4 Common Misconceptions About Selling a Veterinary Practice

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about the veterinary practice sales process. This isn’t surprising. After all, selling a veterinary practice is complicated, and complicated topics tend to create confusion. Unfortunately, if you’re considering selling your veterinary practice, relying on inaccurate information can cost you time and money. To help you avoid mistakes during the sales process, we’ve compiled a list of 4 common misconceptions about selling a veterinary practice. 

#1: It’s easier to sell a small practice than a big practice

All veterinary practices, regardless of size, present their own unique challenges. From the standpoint of the buyer, a small practice can mean smaller profits. Large practices, on the other hand, also present challenges when it comes to selling. Therefore, it’s not wise to make assumptions about the ease or difficulty of selling a practice based solely on its size. Rather, when beginning the sales process, keep in mind that every veterinary practice sale is unique.  

#2: Location doesn’t matter if the practice makes money 

Profit is always important when it comes to selling a business. However, it’s a mistake to discount the importance of location. Even if a business is profitable, location will always be an important consideration for buyers. Therefore, regardless of profit, you must take your location into consideration when determining the value of your practice. 

#3: You can determine the value of your practice based on a prior year 

When determining the value of your practice, you are expected to consider the last three years—even if one or more of these years weren’t as profitable as you would have liked. However, even if you’ve recently experienced an earnings slump, you should remember that every business experiences fluctuations and potential buyers are usually willing to overlook a handful of underperforming years—especially if your practice has been successful in the past.

#4: You should sell stock in your practice rather than assets

There are two primary ways to sell a veterinary practice: through stock and through assets. Selling stock in your practice offers certain tax advantages, so many sellers prefer this method. However, when you decide on a stock sale, you decrease the number of potential buyers and the amount many buyers are willing to pay. Most buyers prefer to have the option to write off or depreciate some or all of a practice’s purchase price. When you sell stock instead of assets, buyers lose this ability. In addition, in many cases, the taxes saved via a stock sale are minimal, making an asset sale the best option for most practices. 

Contact Our Experienced Veterinary Attorneys 

Selling a veterinary practice can be a difficult process. Therefore, if you are interested in selling your practice, you shouldn’t try to do it alone. Instead, you should hire an experienced veterinary attorney to walk you through the process. At Mahan Law, we understand what it takes to successfully sell a veterinary practice. When you come to us for assistance, our experienced veterinary attorneys will do everything in our power to ensure that the sale of your veterinary practice is a success. Please contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Two figures discussing legal documents

6 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Veterinary Practice Litigation Attorney

If your veterinary practice is facing legal action, you need an experienced veterinary practice litigation attorney on your side. However, with so many attorneys out there, it can be difficult to know where to start. Luckily, by asking the right questions, you can quickly determine whether a prospective attorney is a good fit for you. In this article, we discuss 6 questions to ask when choosing a veterinary practice litigation attorney. 

#1: How many years have you practiced law? 

The number of years of experience an attorney has can directly affect his or her effectiveness. It takes a long time to learn the ins and outs of legal practice, so you should hire an attorney who has years of relevant experience. 

#2: How much experience do you have with veterinary practice litigation? 

Although experience is important, it must be the right kind of experience. In other words, you shouldn’t hire a probate attorney to handle a veterinary practice litigation case. Instead, you should work with someone who has years of experience representing veterinarians and veterinary practice owners in litigation. 

#3: How many cases have you handled that were like mine?

After explaining the facts of your case to your prospective attorney, you should ask whether he or she has ever handled a case that is like your own. When an attorney has ample experience handling cases like yours, this is a positive sign. 

#4: Besides your law degree, do you have any specialized training or knowledge that may be useful in my case? 

Veterinary practice litigation cases are unique, as they involve many issues outside the typical legal realm. Therefore, to give yourself the best chance possible at a successful outcome, you should choose an attorney who has specialized training, experience, and knowledge in the veterinary field. 

#5: What is the cost? 

When it comes to choosing an attorney, cost matters. Therefore, make sure you are clear on your prospective attorney’s fee structure before you sign on the dotted line. However, you should also never choose an attorney based solely on cost. 

#6: What is the likely outcome in my case?

No attorney should ever guarantee a result in a legal matter. However, your prospective attorney is free to share his or her opinion with you about the strength of your case. 

Contact Our Experienced Veterinary Attorneys 

Owning a veterinary practice can be a rewarding experience. However, it isn’t without its risks. Unfortunately, every veterinary practice owner is bound to face legal action at some point. If you are a veterinary practice owner facing legal action, you need an experienced veterinary practice litigation attorney on your side who understands the unique challenges of running a veterinary practice. At Mahan Law, we know the ins and outs of the veterinary business. Founded by veterinary hospital owner Anthony Mahan, we are here to help guide you through the legal process and obtain the best result possible in your lawsuit. Please contact us to schedule a consultation.