Legal nurse consultants are registered nurses who provide medical consultation and expertise to attorneys/lawyers on medical-legal matters.
These high-trained experts act as consultants in legal circumstances where the presence of a medical expert is beneficial.
Legal nurse consulting is a relatively new field for registered nurses.
This profession began in the 1970s, providing lawyers and clients with better and more accurate information regarding the medical aspects of their cases.
Eventually, this career evolved and expanded into the legal-medical profession we have today.
What Do Legal Nurse Consultants Do?
Legal nurse consultants specialize in cases that require medical knowledge and expertise.
As a result, they provide medical guidance and consultation to lawyers, attorneys, and other members of the legal system.
Their services are essential when working on legal-medical cases because most legal experts don’t possess the medical knowledge required to resolve their issues.
Legal nurses provide numerous services to ensure that information is accurate and viable in the trial.
It includes collecting medical data, analyzing complex medical records, and offering guidance based on the evidence.
They also simplify complicated medical jargon for lawyers, judges, and the jury to understand.
It helps judges, lawyers, and trial members make informed decisions.
There are many medical-legal cases, and claims nurse consultants provide consulting services.
It includes medical malpractice, insurance fraud, wrongful death, personal injury claims, criminal defense cases, and other matters.
During these cases, legal nurse consultants help determine the validity of the evidence and act as the bridge between legal and medical affairs.
- Screen and research cases
- Review, assess, and organize case/medical records
- Research legal-medical matters to present to attorneys
- Provide written reviews based on findings and evidence
- Consult and contribute personal opinions
- Participate in client interviews
- Determine a cases merit/validity
- Simplify complex medical terminology
- Find expert witnesses
Because every case is different legal nurse consultants must do lots of research to determine new ways to examine cases.
It’s especially true when involved in unusual cases lacking valuable information or outside their usual scope of practice.
The relationship between legal nurse consultants and attorneys is cyclical.
Legal nurse consultants help expand the attorney’s limited knowledge allowing them to pursue and win more legal-medical cases.
The legal nurse consultant expands their business by expanding the attorney’s knowledge and client base.
It benefits legal nurse consultants with a strong relationship with a particular attorney.
They often work with the same attorneys on new cases that come up and evolve.
Roles of Legal Nurse Consultants
When working on legal cases that require medical expertise, legal nurse consultants primarily work in one of two capacities.
These capacities or roles are known as behind-the-scenes and expert witnesses. Each role has distinct characteristics that benefit cases in different ways.
The following section overviews the two roles and how they differ/overlap.
Behind the Scenes
Legal nurses who work behind the scenes don’t go to trial or act as witnesses.
Instead, they play a behind-the-scenes role and work directly with the attorneys to determine evidence and prepare for trials.
Fundamentally, they focus on gathering evidence, researching medical histories, preparing documentation, and consulting attorneys privately.
Educating attorneys is crucial as most lawyers and legal experts have limited experience with the medical components of a case.
As a result, behind-the-scenes legal nurses are useful for attorneys that require consultation services but don’t benefit from having them as expert witnesses.
Also, nurses working as expert witnesses generally cost attorneys more money, preparation, and time.
Legal nurse consultants who work as expert witnesses perform many of the same duties as behind-the-scenes legal nurses.
However, they play a more prominent role in legal-medical cases. These medical experts offer expert opinions at trials and testify as expert witnesses.
In this capacity, they provide evidence to the judge, attorneys, and jury and answer questions to determine the validity of a case.
Because working as an expert witness involves additional preparation and work, legal nurses expect to charge higher hourly rates.
However, participating as an expert witness means taking on extra responsibilities for those working from home or preferring behind-the-scenes work.
Consequently, it’s not for everyone, but it’s an excellent way for nurses to make extra money, display their expertise and develop a reputation.
Self-Employed Legal Nurse Consultants
A legal nurse consultant can work for an institution, law firm, consulting agency, paralegal firm, or other agency.
However, many legal nurse consultants work as self-employed individuals who operate in different capacities.
For example, some legal nurses work exclusively from home, providing consultation over the phone, via video, and email.
Conversely, other legal nurses open offices, hire staff and train them to perform specific tasks and responsibilities.
Legal nurse consults may also choose to specialize in a particular field of medical-legal practice.
For example, they may specialize in medical malpractice, insurance fraud, correctional healthcare, personal injury claims, or other medical-legal matters.
As a result, they must be highly skilled, knowledgeable, business-oriented/entrepreneurial, professional networkers, and great marketers.
Those who become self-employed legal nurse consultants have many jobs to manage to ensure they’re gaining clients and winning cases.
That said, self-employed nurses have more flexibility in the case they pursue.
They’re also able to make significant incomes due to owning their own business.
Some legal nurse consultants earn well over six figures providing their knowledge and expertise to clients.
Overall, there are a lot of opportunities for self-employed legal nurses.
However, it requires being diligent, willing to work long hours, and developing business and marketing skills to be successful.
How to Become a Legal Nurse Consultant
Since legal nurse consulting is growing, there are many questions about what is required to become a legal nurse.
To become a nurse consultant, you must first be certified and experienced as a registered nurse (preferably with a bachelor’s degree).
From there, it is essential to take continuing education courses related to legal nursing.
Essentially, the more experience you acquire, your knowledge and training will improve.
Legal Nurse Consulting Programs
Registered nurses pursuing this profession should consider taking a specialized legal nursing consultant program.
Various Universities and Legal Nurse Consulting Educational Centers offer these programs.
This program is not a master of science or doctorate of nursing practice degree.
Legal nurses don’t require an advanced degree to work as an LNC.
However, registered nurses can (optional) pursue an MSN or DNP degree while taking a legal nursing consultant program.
It allows nurses to specialize in their education and earn a combined post-maser legal nurse consultant certificate and an advanced degree.
Depending on the legal nursing consultant program, students can expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.
Lastly, consider participating in workshops and seminars geared towards educating and training nurses in legal nursing.
It will help you better understand legal nursing and what is necessary to start and succeed.
Legal Nurse Certification
The next step is to get professionally certified.
The American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants offers certificates for nurses who can meet their standards and pass their exams.
While it isn’t essential to have a formal background in legal nursing, those who have proven their knowledge and experience in this field have the best opportunities to get hired.
Highly trained and certified LNCs often receive the best wages.
At the very least, attend several workshops and seminars dedicated to educating registered nurses on legal nursing.
It will help you better understand what these nurses do and what areas of medical study are most important for success.
It is essential because many legal nurse consultants branch independently to establish and advise clients.
Therefore, having the skills and expertise necessary to be successful is critical.
Consult Legal Nurses and Attorneys
Finally, speak with a diverse range of attorneys and nurses in this area of expertise.
They’ll be able to help you determine what education and experience are most important in this profession.
Fortunately, there are tons of legal nurses online offering valuable advice.
These medical professionals provide consultations and personal programs to teach aspiring nurses how to become legal nurses.
After acquiring the educational background and certifications needed, some nurses become self-employed and start their consulting services.
However, other nurses consult with agencies looking to hire them per case.
Steps to Become a Legal Nurse Consultant:
- Graduate from an accredited nursing program
- Pass the NCLEX-RN exam
- Gain work experience as a registered nurse
- Consider joining a legal nurse consultant program (optional)
- Obtain certification as a legal nurse consultant (optional)
Legal nurse consulting offers numerous opportunities for registered nurses pursuing a different career path from traditional nursing.
Those working in this profession set their hours, determine the cases they want and charge higher rates (if their skills and expertise allow).
As a result, some nurses work fewer hours and enjoy more of life.
That said, building a client base initially takes a lot of work. As a result, most new nurses work extra hard to establish themselves.
To help offset the cost of starting a legal consulting business, most nurses work a secondary position at a hospital or healthcare facility.
It allows them to cover expenses while building a business and establishing clients.
Eventually, the side business will earn enough money to replace its full-time income.
Nurse consultants can dive into their business and expand their practice at this point!
Legal nurse consultants use their expertise to aid attorneys in medical injuries and abuse cases.
They assist by using their medical knowledge to assess the case’s legitimacy.
They maintain legal and medical records, research the client’s and accusers’ medical history, assist in helping attorneys understand complex medical terms, and bring their knowledge to a host of other medical factors that may play a role in a potential case.
While legal nurses and legal attorneys are experts in their fields, legal experts often lack the expertise needed to bring all of the legal and medical required elements into the case.
By working solo, the attorney may significantly hurt their chances of creating a successful case.
The substantial increases in knowledge and information these two experts acquire by working together allow them to give a much clearer view of the case.
It provides much more information, better legal assessments, and higher-quality evidence. As a result, they can provide their clients with the best possible outcomes.