Legal Nurse Consulting: Job Description, Salary, and Career Outlook
For nurses looking to advance their careers, the field of legal nurse consulting can be an exciting and rewarding move. The job allows Registered Nurses (RNs) to use their clinical experience, specialized knowledge, and critical thinking to consult on medical issues involved in legal cases and claims.
If you enjoy researching, organizing, problem-solving, educating others, and, most importantly, advocating for patients, a career as a legal nurse consultant (LNC) has the potential to be incredibly fulfilling. As an LNC, you have the chance to be a valued part of a legal team as you use your nursing skills in a new and powerful way.
What Is a Legal Nurse Consultant (LNC)?
A legal nurse consultant is a nursing professional who uses their medical expertise to advise on legal cases, and sometimes appear in court. An LNC is not an attorney or a paralegal, but they evaluate the medical- or health-related aspects of a case and make sure they’re being handled accurately and appropriately.
For example, in a personal injury case, a lawyer may not be familiar with the type of injury, the expected recovery time, or the possible complications. An LNC acts as a liaison between the medical and legal professions by examining patient records, educating the team on the extent of the injuries, and ultimately helping to build the case.
Where LNCs Work
Legal nurse consultants have the chance to work in a variety of settings. You’ll frequently find them in law firms, but LNCs can also be employed by these types of agencies and organizations:
- Government offices
- Insurance companies
- Healthcare facilities
- Business legal departments
- Patient safety advocacy groups
- Forensic or criminal justice organizations
These roles may be on a full-time, part-time, or consultation basis. Many legal nurse consultants begin by working part-time and build their skills and reputation before becoming full-time LNCs.
Independent Contractors and LNC Firms
As an LNC, you can also choose to run your own independent consulting business, letting you choose what clients you want to work with, what cases you take on, and what hours you’ll be working. You might assist a law firm in a single case or even just one aspect of a case.
About half of all LNCs work as independent contractors, and they’re often able to command a higher hourly rate than LNCs who work with a single employer.
In some cases, several LNCs might come together as part of a consulting firm. An LNC firm brings together nurses with many different specialties, allowing the firm to take on a wide variety of cases. A firm could have one nurse with ICU experience, another with pediatric experience, and yet another with wound care experience. This allows the firm to consult on complex cases dealing with any one or several of these areas.
Legal Nurse Consultant Job Description
The primary job of an LNC—sometimes referred to as a litigation management or support nurse—is to bridge the gap between the medical and legal fields. The ways this can be done depend upon the case and the expertise of the nurse. The LNC might do any of the tasks outlined in the sections below.
1. Review medical records
As a clinical professional, an LNC can review all medical records that are relevant to the case. These records can be used to prepare a timeline of events or demonstrate the extent of a client’s injuries.
2. Identify medical standards of care
An LNC can use their knowledge to identify the care a patient needs and determine if appropriate care was received.
3. Educate the legal team
Legal professionals aren’t trained in medicine and might not understand medical terminology, be able to interpret patient records, or know how to accurately communicate this information to a judge or jury. As an LNC, the core of your work is to educate the team on the medical issues relating to a case to help them determine what legal action should be taken.
4. Research cases
LNCs can research the details of a case, looking into the medical professionals who were involved, the hospital or provider’s records, and other information that might help the attorney build the case.
5. Prepare for trials and other legal proceedings
To prep for legal proceedings, LNCs can take on tasks such as interviewing other medical professionals, talking to witnesses and compiling the most relevant medical records.
6. Testify as an expert witness
LNCs are sometimes called upon to provide expert testimony. They can use their knowledge to explain medical terms to the judge and jury and present the medical facts of the case. Generally, LNCs who serve as expert witnesses are still working as clinical RNs.
How to Become a Legal Nurse Consultant
To work as a legal nurse consultant, you must first hold an active and unrestricted RN license.
Education and Certification Requirements
In order to pursue a career as an LNC, you must complete an educational program and earn your RN license.
Students interested in becoming registered nurses can choose from a two-year associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), or a four-year bachelor’s degree (BSN) offered by universities.
Following successful completion of your program, you then need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to obtain your RN license and work as a nurse. In most states, RNs have continuing education requirements in order to keep their license active.
Some LNCs also seek out additional certifications in nursing specialties or have advanced degrees like a master’s or doctoral degree. A 2011 survey conducted by the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC) and published in the Journal of Legal Nurse Consulting found that 71% of LNCs hold a BSN or higher in nursing.
LNC Certification Exam
Many LNCs opt to pursue certification as a Legal Nurse Consultant Certified (LNCC) through the AALNC. Though not required, gaining this certification can help you be more competitive in the job market as it shows potential employers that you’re knowledgeable of and dedicated to the field.
In order to be eligible for the exam, you must have at least five years of experience as an RN and have completed 2,000 hours of legal medical consulting three years prior to taking the test. Training courses for the exam are offered by the AALNC and other organizations.
How to Get Started as a Legal Nurse Consultant
If you’re interested in working as a legal nurse consultant, you’ll need to earn your RN license through an accredited program. If you’re already a working RN, you can begin to look into opportunities for work as an LNC.
Training courses are offered by several organizations and can be a great way to get started. Once you’ve secured jobs as a consultant, any hours you work can be used toward qualifying for the LNCC certification exam.
LNC Salary and Benefits
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses make a median annual salary of $70,000.
RNs with advanced degrees, certifications, or specialties tend to make a higher overall wage.
The amount you can earn as an LNC also depends on your location, experience, whether you’re an independent contractor, and the extent of the services you offer. Most LNCs work on an hourly basis, and rates can range anywhere from $60 to sometimes $200 per hour depending on the service.
While the benefits offered to an LNC vary depending on the place of employment and whether the position is full- or part-time, many nurses find additional benefits to the career move. For example, if you’re an RN who’s been working overnight shifts for several years, you might enjoy the chance to work regular hours, spend less time on your feet, and do work that’s less physically demanding.
Work from home
Since many LNCs are independent contractors, they’re able to work from home and set their own hours. As an independent contractor, an LNC acts as their own boss and can decide how much or how little they want to work. This can be especially helpful for LNCs who are still practicing clinical RNs since working from home allows them to set their hours around their clinical schedule.
Are Legal Nurse Consultants in Demand?
Nursing as a whole is a rising field with immense opportunity for growth. In fact, by 2028, the BLS projects that jobs for RNs will grow by 12%, a rate that’s more than two times higher than that of the national average. The BLS doesn’t track legal nurse consultants separately from registered nurses, so the growth in the healthcare industry is the best indicator available of demand for LNCs.
Job Growth and Career Outlook
Many types of legal cases require the expertise of LNCs. These cases can include issues such as:
- Personal injury
- Medical malpractice
- Product liability
- Elder abuse
- Long-term care
- Workers’ compensation
- Criminal cases
- Civil rights
- Medicare planning
- Employment discrimination
With so many kinds of cases needing medical expertise, the need for qualified LNCs will likely continue to grow. Legal nurse consultants who are independent contractors might land more jobs the longer they work. Over time, they can build relationships with multiple legal firms or clients, allowing them to expand their business and their earnings.
Healthcare and an aging population
According to the Population Reference Bureau, 15% of the current population is over age 65, and that number is projected to hit nearly 24% by 2060. This aging population is expected to create an increased need for healthcare and a higher number of legal cases requiring medical expertise.
Cases of elder abuse, fraud, and medical malpractice will likely all be affected by the increased number of Americans over 65. LNCs will be needed to make sure these cases are handled accurately and fairly.
Nurse paralegals and nurse attorneys
If you really love working in law, you may want to look into a career as a nurse paralegal or nurse attorney. Unlike an LNC, nurse paralegals and nurse attorneys are dual professional roles for which you need to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree, or a law degree in addition to your RN license.
What’s the next step?
Working as a legal nurse consultant can be an incredibly exciting and rewarding career—one where you’re truly making a difference in the well-being of patients.
- If you’re an RN: If you’re already an experienced nurse, you can go ahead and pursue LNC opportunities—though you may want to consider getting a master’s degree to round out your skills or build on your strengths. Search for MSN programs near you using our “find schools” button below.
- If you aren’t a nurse yet: Learn more about the education you need to get started on our Nursing Degrees page.