Medical malpractice, personal injury and billing fraud are where the medical and legal fields cross paths. When that happens, attorneys and other legal professionals call on medical personnel for consulting and expert opinions. A legal nurse consultant (LNC) may be one of those experts.
The primary role of an LNC is “to evaluate, analyze, and render informed opinions about the medical issues, delivery of healthcare and/or the health outcomes as they relate to cases or issues within the medical-legal arena,” according to the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC). It is important to note that an LNC does not practice law, perform paralegal functions or act as a legal assistant.
Role and Duties of an LNC
A legal nurse consultant may organize and analyze medical records and related litigation materials, conduct client interviews, do medical literature searches, or locate and prepare demonstrative evidence. In medical malpractice cases, the LNC may identify standards of care or put together healthcare event chronologies and compare them to allegations made in a case.
Other activities that may be part of legal nurse consulting include:
- Helping establish the merits or defensibility of a case.
- Helping attorneys develop case management and trial strategy.
- Assisting with depositions and trials, including developing and preparing exhibits.
- Identifying, screening, retaining and consulting expert witnesses.
- Serving as a liaison among attorneys, healthcare providers, clients and experts.
Most LNCs practice in general professional negligence (medical malpractice) or other personal injury litigation (such as auto accident and slip and fall cases), according to the AALNC. Other areas in which LNCs provide services include case management, life-care planning, Medicare set-asides, product liability, risk management, toxic torts (exposure to hazardous chemicals or substances), and Workers Compensation.
LNCs may be employees of law firms, insurance companies, government agencies or hospitals. Other LNCs are independent practitioners who offer consulting services.
Becoming an LNC
Nurses began consulting in the legal field in the late 1970s, according to the AALNC. Typically, a registered nurse (RN) — having no law training — learned about the law by working with attorneys and self-study. Even today, on-the-job training is a common way for nurses to get started in legal consulting.
The only experience required to become a legal nurse consultant is licensure and experience as an RN. However, nurses can attend a formal legal nurse consulting program or a certificate program offered by educational institutions or for-profit businesses. Other education options include paralegal programs or other legal seminars.
Although a bachelor’s or advance nursing degree is not a requirement for consulting, nurses may find that completing an online RN to MSN program increases their value (and earnings) in the consulting field. Nurses may also increase their value by becoming certified as a Legal Nurse Consultant (LNCC). Nurses must have at least five years of experience as an RN and 2,000 hours of experience as an LNC during the three years prior to be able to take the AALNC certification exam.
Becoming an LNC can offer a rewarding career for nurses who have an interest in the legal system and want to move away from clinical practice. This career path offers the flexibility to work in a variety of practice areas — attorneys’ offices, government agencies, self-employment and more. If you are considering a career as an LNC, research the options and find what works best for you.
Learn more about the UT Arlington online RN to MSN program.