Day in the life of
Legal Nurse Consultant – Maryjane Duquette, RN, BSN, LNC
My name is Maryjane Duquette, RN, BSN, LNC. I am the Founder & CEO of MJD Legal Nurse Consulting.
I became a legal nurse consultant after some friends of mine asked me to assist their attorney to understand some medical issues related to their case. After seeing the value in the work I was able to complete, I was hooked and never looked back.
Legal nurse consultants compliment any law firm that handles medical records. There is a huge need for this type of work out there, and our attorneys really need us.
The primary role of a Legal Nurse Consultant (LNC) is to be the medical brains for our attorney clients. We work behind the scenes with attorneys handling cases that involve medical records and medical issues. Some of the legal specialties we work with include but are not limited to: Personal injury, medical malpractice, worker’s compensation, nursing home abuse, class action cases, products liability cases (defective products or consumer goods), premise liability cases (our slip and falls), criminal cases with medical issues, family law cases with medical issues at stake, and more! Our goal is to support and educate our attorney clients to ensure that they walk into any courtroom or other negotiation prepared and just as knowledgeable on the issues at hand as any medical expert.
My Typical Day
A day in the life of an LNC. Every day is different when you are an LNC but here is what most days look like for me.
I typically start my day checking my emails. I am looking for any communication from current or prospective clients. I handle any urgent matters right away, which could include inquiries into when a case might be finished? Urgent questions or updated medical records. Really, anything goes here.
Then I move on to client work. The work that I am doing for each client is different depending on the case. I spend most of my time reviewing medical records and proving my attorney clients with some combination of the following work products:
- Medical Chronology: These are timelines that outline the medical care that was rendered for each client. They are a great way to summarize thousands of pages of medical records. Attorneys prefer nurses to do this work because we are able to filter out the irrelevant information and help the attorney focus on what is most important to the case.
- Fact Summary Reports: These reports outline the injuries, who and if there is any liability for these injuries, any red flags the attorney needs to know about, a summary of the medical research we have compiled for the attorney, and anything additional the attorney requested or is relevant to the case.
- Medical Billing Summary: A summary of the medical bills incurred as they relate to the case. There are some subspecialties of LNCs, called Life Care Planners, that can provide cost projections to the court for future care the injured party will need later on in life.
- Location of Testifying Experts: We help our attorneys locate testifying experts for their case. We can also help them determine exactly what type of expert is needed based on the needs of the case.
- Attend Independent or Defense Medical Exams: We accompany injured clients to these exams to help ease their anxiety, ensure that the client has a fair exam, and be the eyes and ears for our busy attorney clients. We type up a report at the end of the observation and provide it to the attorney so they have a reference to refer to later on as things progress with the case.
Once I am done with client work, I wrap up my day by preparing and sending invoices to get my time compensated. I usually recheck my emails at this point and handle any last minute tasks that need to be done. I have additional management responsibilities as a business owner that I typically handle this time of day. Then I plan out my To-Do list for the next day.
Some atypical days in the office include attending legal conferences to build my knowledge base and meet new people, I provide education sessions (lunch and learns) to local law offices on request, I even attend trials/depositions with my attorneys as often as time allows to be a resource if any urgent matters come up, and any internal team meetings I need to have for my own team of subcontractors and employees.
- I own my own business and work for myself on my own time.
- An LNC does not have to own their own business to work in this field, and many do not want the added hassle of business ownership. They can work as a subcontractor and help other LNC business owners (like me) as they take on more cases and grow and scale their business.
- You can work as an LNC full-time or part-time. It is completely up to the individual and his/her goals.
- You can work primarily as a nurse expert witness and only testify on cases that require a nurse’s expertise. This is different from the behind-the-scenes position that I mentioned above but some nurses love the excitement of getting to testify in court.
- We work from home most of the time.
- I get to help attorneys give their clients the best representation possible. These clients are often dealing with the worst situations of their lives and some have even lost loved ones. It is rewarding to know that I was able to help them get the help they need.
- There are many training programs that can teach you all about this specialty of nursing.
- Some people have a hard time working in the home setting. It can feel isolating at times and requires a whole lot of discipline.
- Due to the behind-the-scenes nature of this work, there is not a great deal of clinical experience. This would not be a position for someone directly out of nursing school.
- Business ownership is hard sometimes. It can also be difficult for a nurse to build a business, as many of us never got any business training in school. We have to learn it all as we go or find a really great mentor.
- You get paid on a case-by-case basis, which means you do not get the same weekly paycheck every week. This can also be a good thing because I often make way more than I would have in the hospital but this isn’t the case if you are starting out.
- Some of these cases are very sad, but just like anything else in nursing, we find our own way to cope.
Advice for students thinking about a career as an LNC
If you want to become an LNC you should gain some experience as a clinical nurse first. The speciality isn’t important. Follow your passion in this area and just soak up all the knowledge and experience you can. The amount of time a nurse should work in the clinical setting varies. Personally, I prefer to hire nurses with 5+ years experience.
The second thing to think about is whether or not you want to be a subcontractor and work for an LNC firm like mine or if you want to become a business owner and start your own LNC firm. There is no right or wrong answer. Both paths are very rewarding.
There are several certificate programs that you can take to learn the ins and outs of the legal system. While certification isn’t necessary it is extremely helpful just to learn the legal side of what we do.