I’ve found that many practitioners take months or even years to get the legal aspect of their business covered. Legals for health practitioners overwhelming and terrifying for many – but it doesn’t have to be. That’s why I decided to interview my favourite legal eagle, Michelle Whitehead, about legals for health practitioners.
Legals For Health Practitioners – A Lawyer’s Perspective
Can I just copy disclaimers from someone else’s site or program?
For a start, disclaimers are actually copyright to the person who wrote them – usually a lawyer. It is never a good idea to steal stuff from a lawyer!
Secondly, there is nothing worse than a patchwork legal document. When you grab pieces you like from here and there and cobble them together, you’re likely to leave in bits that don’t belong, or miss out on things that need to be included.
Thirdly, nobody else’s business is going to be exactly like yours. A good disclaimer can’t do its job of protecting you and your clients unless it is tailored specifically for your business and how you practice.
Finally, think about it from an energetic perspective. If you copy someone else’s disclaimer, you are always going to feel at least a little uncomfortable or icky about it. That kind of energy can lead to self-sabotage.
So it’s much better to have a disclaimer that you are proud of and have complete confidence in. You’ll be happy to share it with your clients, knowing that it sets the boundaries between where your responsibility ends and theirs begins. It will also educate them about any potential risks they need to be aware of when working with you.
Which legals for health practitioners are essential?
Finally, it is a good idea to have a Client Service Agreement, or a course/membership site agreement if relevant. The need for this kind of contract increases with three factors:
1. How much time and money people are spending with you. The greater their investment, the more important it is to manage their expectations.
2. How much risk there is to your clients, and to you. The greater the chance someone could be injured or suffer damage or loss, the more important it is to manage issues of responsibility and liability.
3. How comfortable you are. If you are holding back from growing your business because you don’t feel safe, a contract can go a long way towards boosting your confidence and clarity around how you work and what is best practice in your industry.
I find legal stuff overwhelming and/or I have a limited budget. Where should I start?
Start with your Website T&Cs. In writing them, we cover all the basics that you need to set up for your business. You will be creating a disclaimer, a refunds policy, a cancellation & rescheduling policy, intellectual property protection, a dispute resolution policy and a lot more. Once you have all of these basics done, your sense of overwhelm will decrease.
What happens if I don’t have the right legal coverage for my business?
Maybe nothing. I am not one of those scaremongers who tells you the world will end if you don’t get your legals sorted.
However, it is almost inevitable that there will be a problem eventually. It’s part and parcel of being in business. When that happens, having legal protection in place allows you to respond from a place of calm certainty. You have already thought about your policies and put them publicly in place to stand behind.
If you don’t have the legals needed, you are often left in a panicked state of fight or flight. This leaves you feeling powerless as you plead with a lawyer to make the problem go away, and actively regretting not getting your systems in place sooner. This is the response I have seen most often when people come to me needing urgent help!
What do I need if I decide to launch an online course or write an ebook?
When launching an online course, you need to first get familiar with the terms of service for your platform provider. You want to know what the rules are for the place where your course will be running from the start.
A course agreement is also a good idea, as it gives you clarity around how you want your participants’ experience with you to flow. It also helps you set boundaries for consistent behaviour and gives your participants certainty about what to expect.
If you are writing an ebook, first you need to become familiar with the concept of copyright. This is to prevent you from infringing anyone else’s intellectual property. But it also gives you an understanding of what rights you have in your creation and how to protect them.
It’s best to get legal advice before signing any contracts given to you by agents, editors, publishers or online sellers. That way, you know exactly what you are getting into and can negotiate changes in the honeymoon period before you leap into working together.
Do different rules apply if I’m seeing clients who are international? Which legalities apply for those situations?
Generally, the rules that apply are the rules of the country where the services are being delivered. In your case, this is likely Australian consumer law.
However, there is a big grey area around this and it is possible to argue that the other country’s laws apply instead. This can be addressed in your client service agreement, which would generally specify that the applicable law is that of the Australian state or territory where you practice.
The biggest problem for dealing with an international client is enforcement. Say they owed you a large amount of money and an Australian court decided that they were in the wrong and had to pay you. You would still need a court in their country to ratify that decision before you could recover the payment. Also, be aware that Australian insurance may not cover you, particularly if they are from a litigious nation like the US.
Michelle has made it pretty clear. Legals for health practitioners are not a luxury – they’re a necessity.