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Christopher Allen DVM, JD
Dr. Christopher Allen graduated from law school in 1982 and practiced for a New York City law firm specializing in insurance defense. He received his DVM in 1988 and purchased a multi-doctor veterinary practice the same year. He now owns two veterinary practices in upstate New York as well as his law and consulting practice, Associates in Veterinary Law, P.C., which advises and represents veterinarians and their families and business interests exclusively. Dr. Allen is a frequent lecturer at state and national veterinary conferences and has been the monthly legal columnist as well as an editorial board member of DVM Newsmagazine for over 15 years.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the cost of a veterinary attorney compare to a general practice lawyer?

The cost tends to be about the same on an hourly basis. Overall, however, the cost of a veterinary lawyer can be lower. This is because a specialist in the veterinary area already knows a great deal about the profession and the nuances of practice and the people who do veterinary medicine for a living. For example, employment and practice sale contracts in our profession are far different from those in any other field. So are compensation and financing formulas. General practice attorneys have a learning curve for which they frequently have to charge.

Is there any particular career stage when I could most benefit from veterinary legal advice or consulting?

The type of advice and counsel we offer spans the entire veterinary career. Questions can arise at any stage of our profession; even before or after active practice. Here are a few examples:

  • Jr/Sr. Veterinary Student:
    How restrictive a non-competition clause should I sign?
    Should I ask to have our discussions of partnership put in writing?
  • Experienced Associates:
    A buy-in offer is on the table but I am concerned about one of the partners becoming disabled or deciding to "cut back" on work with no reduction in draw. How do I limit my risk?
  • Partnership Candidates:
    How can I tell if the profitability of the practice will meet my future income needs and debt service?
    As a minority owner, will my shares be something I can sell later?
  • Practice Purchase:
    The practice owner won't sell me his building/won't sell the practice separately from the building/won't give me a reasonable length lease/won’t get around to letting me see the financials...
  • Practice Ownership:
    I want to share my practice's profit and growth with my top associate but I don't want to give up decision-making. How do I construct that agreement?
  • Retirement/Exit Strategy:
    I might have a buyer; how do I value the assets to maximize my after-tax proceeds?
    The buyer wants me to pay for a phase-two environmental assessment on the property - what is that?

Throughout Practice Life:
Tax minimization is critical in order to maximize return on practice investment, as well as return on time invested in work. That doesn’t just mean income tax…it means sales tax, FICA, Medicare, property tax, capital gains and recapture taxes, gift and estate taxes. And let’s not forget the "tax-like" effects of employee management problems which can result in huge unemployment insurance and workers' compensation assessments.

Do I even need a lawyer at all?

Many of our clients actually don't end up needing legal advice; merely an action plan for how to move forward with an idea or concern they have. Here are some examples:

  • Practice Buy-in Offers
    Many times veterinary associates take a position and the topic of partnership or purchase is raised during the interview. Subsequently, the associate doesn’t hear about the issue again and isn’t sure how to approach the practice owner in order to pursue a buy-in or buy-out. We have seen this numerous times and have been successful in getting the subject and the financials out in the open for associates.
  • Associates
    "My contract calls for my compensation being calculated based on production. It took me months to get an accounting of my production and once I did, I discovered many services I performed were not credited to me. The owner constantly puts me off. How do I proceed without risking my job?"