In an interview with Dental Practice Ray Goodman and John Grant, Directors of the recently formed specialist law firm Goodman Grant warn that there is trouble ahead for unlawful incorporated practices.
Before they started the new firm of Goodman Grant, Ray Goodman and John Grant were the best of competitors in the specialist field of commercial dental law. Both come from larger, more corporate legal backgrounds and both have come to appreciate the value of carving a specialist niche for themselves.
They met at BDTA Showcase some 10 years ago over a bowl of Quality Street chocolates and began a bantering friendship that has finally evolved into a business partnership, which was officially launched in mid 2013.
The new firm will help dentists with the sales and purchases of practices, incorporation and employment law. They don’t usually deal with negligence, preferring to deal with commercial matters, which, they say, makes them unique as a specialist transactional team. The business pattern that John outlined, and the reason they steer away from negligence cases (which should be covered by indemnity insurance anyway, says Ray) has been developed because they would rather work with dentists instead of against them.
Between them, Ray and John have created a team that keeps abreast of changes to the legal requirements demanded of dental practices, but such is not always the case, as Ray explained, “There are three types of lawyer dealing with dental law at present, There’s the lawyer who knows what they’re doing, and that’s fine. Then there’s the lawyer who doesn’t know what they’re doing but is aware of it, and that’s okay too. Then there’s the lawyer who has no idea what they are doing but thinks they do, and they are a real pain. They slow down every transaction, because they are sorting out the mess they’ve made.”
Ray went niche after leaving a massive legal practice that housed over 100 staff and supported seven partners. He hived off his dental legal team and plunged them fully into the complex world of dental law, his aim being to create a legal centre of excellence. John left a large firm employing 70 staff where he was a managing partner, and quickly realised the value in joining forces with Ray because of the resultant depth of experience, especially in employment law.
Ray continued: “Dental law is not taught at law school and 50 per cent of the legal work raised by dentistry is sector specific. It was complex enough to begin with, but it was made even more complex when the 2006 contract was introduced, and since then it has been further complicated by the requirements of the Care Quality Commission.
“As a result I would not advise any lawyer who is not a dental specialist to touch legal work in a dental practice, and I would strongly advise any dental professional to only employ a lawyer who is a member of the National Association of Specialist Accountants and Lawyers (NASDAL) or the Association of Specialist Providers to Dentists (ASPD).”
Between them, Ray and John are enthusiastic members of both associations, which has the benefit of giving them access to a peer group who freely exchange information about changing legislation and requirements in their sector, something that is not available to the non-specialist.
Ray and John insist that their attitude to practices using non-specialist lawyers is not an elitist or protectionist stance but result from real concerns.
Using a non-specialist lawyer might seem the more cost-effective option, but in at least two cases that Ray has seen during 2013 well meaning, but uninformed lawyers and accountants have created a practice structure that is actively unlawful and putting the situation right has incurred a substantial cost for the principal that would have been completely unnecessary if the job had been done correctly in the first place.
Ray observed that 85 per cent of incorporated practices that he has seen are flawed and unlawful due to poor work by non-specialist providers; he calls it a legal time-bomb that is set to go off at any time. He also observed that tax breaks that dentists have enjoyed in their unlawful practice may well be reclaimed by HMRC and practices could even be closed down.
John concluded: “When we met over those chocolates at Showcase in 2003 and started a conversation that hasn’t stopped to this day, dental law was already a minefield, now it is much, much worse. You need a seasoned guide to get through it or you’ll end up in real trouble, and that’s where we, and other lawyers like us, come in.”
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