How to Become a Legal Nurse Consultant
Working as a legal nurse consultant (LNC) can be a rewarding career that connects nursing with the field of law. This guide covers how to become a legal nurse consultant, what an LNC does, the environments in which they work and the salary they can potentially earn.
What Is a Legal Nurse Consultant?
Registered nurses have several specialties from which to choose that provide them with expertise in their preferred area of focus. A legal nurse consultant is a registered nurse (RN) who specializes in serving the legal field and assisting attorneys.
Legal nurse consultants can be an invaluable source of expertise for lawyers in a variety of cases. As a legal nurse consultant, you may help attorneys analyze and evaluate the facts and testimony in a case. You might also offer expert testimony related to healthcare, nursing, nature and cause of injury and distribution of health services.
As a legal nurse consultant, you may assist in these types of cases:
- Personal injury
- Long-term care litigation/elder law
- Medical malpractice
- Workers’ compensation
- Risk management
- Civil rights
- Employment discrimination
- Regulatory compliance
- Toxic tort
- Medicare set-aside
Legal nurse consultants perform an array of tasks, ranging from client intake to legal testimony. You can work in many settings, including hospitals and government agencies.
When serving as a legal team’s medical expert, legal nurse consultants can play a pivotal role in cases across many industries and types of law. With expert knowledge in the medical field, you may contribute to legal cases that require medical expertise.
Common Steps to Becoming a Legal Nurse Consultant
Legal nurse consultants must fulfill specific requirements before they can lend their expertise in a legal setting. If you’re wondering how to become a legal nurse consultant, you will first want to become a registered nurse by earning a nursing degree. Legal nurse consultants will also need to pass the NCLEX exam.
This is the standard exam for anyone working to become an RN. To further differentiate themselves as experts in their field, legal nurse consultants will want to get an LNC certification called the LNCC. Read more about some common steps to become an LNC:
1. Earn a nursing degree
To become a legal nurse consultant, you will want to earn an associate degree in nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. When deciding which program is right for you, consider whether you will be pursuing your degree full time or part time and if your program is in person or online. The course load may affect how quickly or slowly you earn the degree.
2. Pass the NCLEX
To become a registered nurse, you will need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain licensure and start working. Additional resources for taking and passing the NCLEX exam exist. Make sure you meet all of your state’s requirements for working as an RN.
3. Apply for Your Certification as an LNCC
Certification can help registered nurses distinguish themselves from other legal nurse consultants. Even though certification isn’t a requirement, it may enable you to be more competitive in the field of legal nurse consulting.
To become a certified legal nurse consultant, you will need to pass the legal nurse consultant certification exam. After you pass the LNCC exam, your board certification will demonstrate that you have met the educational and experiential requirements to become a certified legal nurse consultant. This certification meets the rigorous standards of the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification.
What Does a Legal Nurse Consultant Do?
Legal nurse consultant jobs and responsibilities span the board. As a legal nurse consultant, you could work as a medical expert to assist attorneys with legal cases.
Here are a few examples of the typical day-to-day duties of a legal nurse consultant:
- Organize and analyze medical records and prepare chronological time lines of medical events for use by attorneys.
- Identify standards of care in medical malpractice cases.
- Draft and review medical information in legal documents.
- Educate clients and attorneys on pertinent medical issues.
- Serve as an expert witness and organize and brief other expert witnesses.
- Evaluate case strengths and weaknesses through a medical lens.
- Provide an expert opinion to support causation and damages issues.
- Identify medical needs and associated costs including cost-of-care estimates.
- Locate and prepare medical evidence.
- Attend medical exams and participate in case management discussions.
Where Do Legal Nurse Consultants Work?
As consultants with medical expertise, certified legal nurse consultants may work in a variety of settings as:
Expertise in the fields of nursing, medicine and the healthcare system make LNCs’ contributions highly beneficial and recognized in medical legal cases.
A certified legal nurse consultant can work in many different settings, including:
- Law offices
- Government administration agencies
- Independent practices
- Insurance companies
- Healthcare facilities
Legal Nurse Consultant FAQs
A legal nurse consultant may find a rewarding career in a niche within the legal and nursing fields. Following are some of the most frequently asked questions about legal nurse consulting, from salary information to skills you’ll probably want to possess.
How much do legal nurse consultants make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses made a median annual income of $75,330 in May 2020. The highest median income by industry for registered nurses was in:
- Government: $84,490
- Hospitals: $76,840
- Ambulatory healthcare services: $72,340
- Nursing and residential care facilities: $68,450
- Education: $64,630
Earning additional certifications beyond that of an RN may potentially increase the legal nurse consultant salary. Some RNs find that earning a Master of Science in Nursing degree may increase their possible earning and hiring potential.
Is an LNC career worth it?
A career as an LNC offers a potentially interesting application of nursing to the legal field. Employment of registered nurses is projected to grow by 9% between 2020 and 2030. The growth can be partially attributed to increases in:
- Global elderly population
- Chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease
- Home health services increasing as hospitals are continually pressured to discharge people more quickly
These trends are likely to also affect the need for certified nursing consultants who work in the general healthcare system.
Are there specific legal nurse consultant degree programs?
Currently, there are no specific legal nurse consultant programs that grant you a degree. However, special certifications can help to differentiate a legal nurse consultant from an RN.
The American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC) maintains updated information about legal nurse consulting. AALNC is a nonprofit that supports legal nurse consultants with education and a forum to exchange information about the field. The organization also provides the Code of Ethics and Conduct guidelines for legal nurse consultants that is in line with the values and practices of the American Nurses Association.
What skills does a legal nurse consultant possess?
Legal nurse consultant skills that can help you in the field range from critical thinking to empathy to organizational skills. These consultants are valuable resources given their knowledge and concrete understanding of the medical field including anatomy, physiology and treatment of disease.
Having extensive clinical experience can contribute to the interpretation of medical records and literature.
Last updated December 2021.