We recently wrote an article detailing 5 great side business ideas that you, as a nurse practitioner, can try and pursue this year to better your career and increase your income. One of them was becoming a Legal Nurse Consultant, or LNC.
Legal Nurse Consultants are also sometimes referred to as “legal nurses,” for short. It’s a very interesting career path that some people choose as their primary job.
If you enjoy doing research, analysis, and want to put your clinical knowledge to good use (outside of patient care), becoming an LNC might just be the job you need right now.
Let’s look at the current salary, requirements, and benefits of being a Legal Nurse Consultant. We’ll try to answer the most common questions about the job as well.
So, what exactly is a Legal Nurse Consultant (LNC)?
In essence, LNCs are Registered Nurses (RNs) that provide expert advice on clinical matters to help with legal issues. They do consultation for attorneys, but they can also work with insurance companies, healthcare providers, and financial institutions, for example.
The key word here is Registered Nurse. You don’t need to be a Nurse Practitioner to become an LNC. In fact, we’ve seen some people actually argue against that.
However, the fact that you are an APRN should not stop you from pursuing this path. Just know that the actual experience you might need to do legal consulting primarily lies with your work as an RN.
Legal Nurse Consultants can bring their clinical expertise to court, serving as expert witnesses that assist legal professionals with litigation processes.
You can have an independent consulting practice, or you can simply offer your services from time to time. The whole process can be very flexible and convenient if you know how to market yourself.
What can an LNC do? How do they work?
There are many skills that you’ll be using as an LNC. Here are a couple of common examples:
- Interpreting medical records: Your ability to summarize the information on medical records (so lawyers and other non-clinical people might understand them) is going to be a key factor. With your help, these records can serve as evidence in legal proceedings.
- Identifying possible clinical or ethical issues: There are many cases of malpractice that you can help to solve. You can use your nursing experience to identify issues with standards of care, patient injuries, damages, etc.
An LNC usually works independently, but they can also work as an in-house employee for a law firm or other businesses. This is also quite normal. As a consultant, you can also help attorneys to identify strong cases that might work in their favor.
Also, as a Legal Nurse Consultant, legal professionals will require your skills to prepare for depositions, review cases for merit, arbitration, mediations, settlements, among others. You are the bridge between their legal skills and the medical world, which makes you quite essential for many cases.
So, if you’re interested in things like malpractice lawsuits, this is definitely something that you should look into. It’s a great opportunity not only to educate other professionals, but also to educate yourself in many law related matters.
What are the requirements to become a Legal Nurse Consultant?
We already identified one key aspect, which is your previous education as an RN. This brings us back to the most common requirement, which is of course, having an active, unencumbered license.
If there are no problems with your current license, you’re ready to move on to the other usual requirements. You’ll find that there aren’t almost any online resources pointing to requirements for NPs, only RNs, but many LNCs out there do have advanced nursing education.
Now, with that in mind, let’s answer the most common question of all. Is there an actual list of requirements that you need to fulfill in order to become a Legal Nurse Consultant?
The answer is… Not really. There are requirements for certification as an LNC, which you should consider if you really want to be competitive at this job. We’ll talk more about that below.
The consensus online seems to be that you need to have:
- Your license (passing the NCLEX-RN).
- At least 5 years of experience as an RN.
- Full-time employment in a particular specialty of nursing practice in order to serve as an expert witness in legal cases involving issues within that specialty. For example: Being a PMHNP to help with cases involving malpractice in a psychiatric setting.
However, if you want to take this seriously (and you should), the best move for you is to actually pursue additional education and get certified. Let’s talk about how you can do that.
Legal education for nurses and LNC certification
So, you’re ready to work on your first case. Let’s say you were able to find an attorney that requires your services. They’re willing to walk you through the whole legal stuff, and they just need you to provide clinical insight.
This is completely okay, and a great opportunity for you to get started as a Legal Nurse Consultant. You can totally learn this stuff on the job. In fact, that’s what most LNCs do!
However, to make things easier for yourself, and your clients, you can pursue additional legal training. There are many specific courses, diplomas, and certificates that can teach you specific subjects and skills related to the law.
The AALNC offers courses and resources that can help you get a better picture of what LNCs do, and how they should do it. They’re also the ones who offer actual, official certification for the job.
The LNCC certification, as it’s called, is one of a kind. The AALNC is the only organization in the United States that can make this official.
The requirements to get certified are:
- Your RN license.
- A minimum of 5 years as an RN.
- Evidence of 2,000 hours of legal consulting within the past five years.
To get to those 2,000 hours, the best thing you can do, really, is pursue additional education on legal matters. The LNCC examination will test your knowledge on the following areas:
- Personal injury
- Product liability
- Regulatory compliance
- Risk management
- Civil rights
- Forensic or criminal matters
- Life care planning
- Toxic tort
- Workers’ compensation
- Long-term care litigation and elder law
Legal Nurse Consulting salary and job outlook
According to Payscale, the average hourly salary for an LNC is about $49.13, which is not too bad. The average yearly salary, if you’re going to be doing this full-time, is $85,351.
The average yearly salary is a little bit more than the median salary of an RN, but it can be a lot less than what you’d be making as a nurse practitioner. This is why we think your best bet is to see this job as a side gig.
Since being an LNC is not really an “official” specialty for nurses, even if they have their own organization, there is little information about job growth and opportunities. However, there are always going to be malpractice lawsuits, that’s for sure.
If you get educated as a legal nurse to pass your AALNC certification exam, there is potential for you to earn more than what we’re discussing here.
The job of the LNC depends a lot on word of mouth, on-the-job training, and dedication, but it does pay off if you’re willing to market yourself and take some chances. Think about it.
You don’t have to get a preceptor, and you don’t necessarily have to go back to school. The whole thing is way more flexible (but it does take time, don’t be fooled).
More LNC resources for you to check out:
Books on Legal Nurse Consulting on Amazon
A more thorough job description of Legal Nurse Consulting
Side note: There are many LNC programs and courses out there that just want your money and offer little value. Do your research and talk to other LNCs on LinkedIn, social media, or in person!
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