How to Become a Legal Nurse Consultant

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Written by Marie Hasty, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Aldo Zilli, Esq. Senior Manager, B2B Content, IntelyCare
A nurse researches how to become a legal nurse consultant.

Looking for a non-bedside role that values your clinical expertise? Legal nurse consulting bridges medicine and law. These experts work as medical consultants, helping attorneys, hospitals, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies with medical cases. If you’re wanting a change of pace or looking for a career change, you might be interested to learn how to become a legal nurse consultant.

When you think about a legal nurse consultant (LNC), you might picture someone sitting on the witness stand being questioned by an attorney. And while testifying can be part of this role, LNCs also use their critical thinking skills to weigh in on medical cases that don’t go to trial.

This role was established in the late ’80s and is a great option for nurses who enjoy analyzing information, researching, and problem solving outside of the clinical setting. Discover the ways the law and medicine interact as you learn how to become a legal nurse consultant.

What Is a Legal Nurse Consultant?

Legal nurse consultants use their clinical expertise to assess, analyze, and provide insight into medical cases. Guided by the nursing process, they usually consult with attorneys on cases involving:

  • Medical malpractice
  • Personal injury
  • Toxic tort
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Risk management
  • Life care planning
  • Long-term care litigation
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Forensic and criminal cases
  • Civil rights
  • Employment discrimination
  • Medicare set-asides
  • Product liability

Additionally, LNCs can work with pharmaceutical companies to review patient records or assist in medical claims. They can also partner with hospitals, clinics, care facilities, and health insurance companies. To do this job well, you must be familiar with medical terminology, documentation, and case analysis, because your guidance could alter the course of legal proceedings.

What Does a Legal Nurse Consultant Do?

An LNC might work on a single project with a law group, but they can also work on an ongoing basis with a legal team. These are the core tasks that legal nurse consultants might work on during the course of a case:

  • Reviewing medical records: Analyzing medical records, identifying discrepancies, and summarizing key details for legal teams.
  • Preparing expert witnesses: Assisting in preparing questions for depositions and trials by providing expert opinions on medical matters.
  • Case research: Conducting in-depth research on medical literature, standards of care, and regulations related to the case.
  • Offering medical expertise: Interpreting and explaining complex medical information in layman’s terms for attorneys and jurors.
  • Assessing damages: Evaluating the extent of injuries, disabilities, or damages resulting from medical malpractice or other causes of personal injury.
  • Consulting with attorneys: Collaborating with legal teams to develop case strategies and providing insights into medical aspects of the case.
  • Trial support: Providing support during trials, including organizing medical evidence and assisting attorneys during cross-examination.

How Much Do Legal Nurse Consultants Make?

The average legal nurse consultant salary is $81,994 per year. Your salary will depend on your experience, any certifications you earn, and your location. Additionally, specializing in a specific area could earn you a higher pay in this role.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Legal Nurse Consultant?

If you’re not yet a nurse, becoming a legal nurse consultant could take at least seven years. Going through nursing school, getting your license, and gaining experience take time. But if you’re already a working nurse, you might be able to get started in just a few months.

How to Become a Legal Nurse Consultant: 4 Steps

Want to become an LNC? If you’re not yet a nurse, follow these four steps to become a legal nurse consultant. If you’re already a nurse, you can skip to the fourth step.

Step 1: Go to Nursing School

The first step to your legal nurse consultant career is becoming a nurse. A bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) is the highest-level starter degree for nurses and typically takes four years to complete. An associate degree in nursing (ADN) is a shorter track that can be cheaper.

Can an LPN be a legal nurse consultant? Yes. Becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN) via a year-long training program is another cost-effective way to enter the nursing profession quickly.

Step 2: Take the NCLEX

Once you graduate from nursing school, you’ll need to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX) to obtain licensure. If you completed a BSN or ADN degree, you’ll sit for the NCLEX-RN. If you took an LPN course, your exam will be the NCLEX-PN.

These standardized exams assess your knowledge as a beginner nurse, and they determine your eligibility for practice. Learn about the newest NCLEX exam.

Step 3: Gain Experience

Since this role requires medical expertise, you’ll need to gain at least two years of experience before you start looking for LNC roles. Working in acute care settings can build your critical thinking skills, as well as your clinical judgment. On the other hand, many legal cases involve post-acute care, and getting experience in this area could also be helpful.

Step 4: Get Started as an LNC

Once you’ve laid a foundation for your nursing expertise, you can get started as a legal nurse consultant. This title isn’t a license, and you don’t have to become certified to practice. You might start by calling around to law firms and asking if they ever need an LNC for their cases. A nurse may start a consulting business as an LNC and continue working in their clinical role.

If you still have questions about how to become a legal nurse consultant, you might check out one of the many legal nurse consultant programs. Joining a cohort of other LNCs can also expand your professional network and help you build relationships with law groups. Check out one or more of these certifications and courses to learn more:

  • Legal Nurse Consultant Local Courses:Taking a class at a local university or technical college can help you lay a groundwork.

If you find that you really enjoy the legal side of healthcare, you might consider going to law school. Check out our guide to becoming a nurse attorney.

Learn About Other Nursing Roles

Now that you know how to become a legal nurse consultant, you might be curious about other nursing roles available to you. Sign up for nursing job notifications to find opportunities in your area.