Legal nurse consultants offer advice to attorneys, paralegals and legal experts regarding medically-related issues of the law. A legal nurse consultant’s nursing education and clinical expertise uniquely qualify her to analyze complex medical information and render informed opinions to attorneys in medical-legal matters. Legal nurse consultants assist attorneys in a wide variety of matters including medical malpractice, products liability, worker’s compensation, nursing liability, personal injury, wrongful death, toxic tort, sexual assault, and criminal defense cases.
Job Duties (Consulting)
Legal nurse consultants screen new cases for merit, locate and interview medical experts, serve as a liaison between law firms, medical experts, and other parties, formulate medical-legal case theories, identify deviations from nursing standards of care, research medical literature, and coordinate independent medical examinations.
A frequent role of the LNC is the management and analysis of a plaintiff’s medical records. Legal nurse consultants assist in analyzing medical records; interpreting the notes of physicians and nurses; and preparing medical record chronologies, charts, diagrams, and timelines.
Job Duties (Expert Witness)
In addition to serving in a consulting role, legal nurse consultants also serve as expert witnesses, testifying at trials, depositions, hearings, and arbitrations and preparing expert witness reports for use at trial.
Legal nurse consultants are licensed, registered nurses with a minimum of five years’ experience in any nursing specialty. Most legal nurse consultants possess bachelor’s degrees in nursing and some have advanced degrees. Nurses generally enter the legal nurse consulting field by taking legal nurse consulting coursework and/or obtaining a legal nurse consulting certification.
Skills required to be a successful legal nurse consultant include solid organization, communication, and multi-tasking skills. Critical thinking skills are crucial in developing case theories. Solid research and writing skills are also necessary. Nurses must have a firm grasp of legal terminology and stay up-to-date on developments within their nursing specialty.
About 50% of all legal nurse consultants are employed in law firms, insurance companies, and other private institutions, while the other half work as independent consultants.
Legal nurse consultants employed by law firms earn slightly less than their independent counterparts, with billing rates averaging between $60–$100 per hour and annual income averaging $50,000-$75,000. Independent consultants bill at rates ranging from $65-$200 per hour, depending on the task and nursing specialty.
Generally, legal nurse consultants charge premium fees for serving as an expert witness. Typical rates range from $150 to $200 per hour for deposition and trial testimony.
According to CareerBuilder.com, legal nurse consulting is one of the ten hottest careers today. With over one million licensed attorneys in the United States and growing, legal nurse consultants will continue to be called upon to advise attorneys on the medical aspects of a case.
- American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants
- National Alliance of Legal Nurse Consultants
- The Journal of Legal Nurse Consulting