What are the differences between legal nurse consultants and paralegals?

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What are the differences between legal nurse consultants and paralegals?
What are the differences between legal nurse consultants and paralegals?

Recently, I met a nurse who was very excited because she was pursuing certification to become a legal nurse consultant. Or so she thought. As we started discussing her studies and certification program, it became quite clear to me that what she indeed was pursuing was a certification program for paralegal studies. As I explained the differences, she became unsure if she had chosen the right path.

Early into my career as an LNC, I found myself in a similar position. I thought that LNCs and paralegals were one in the same and was confused about how the two differed in relation to the services provided to attorneys.

Over the years I've learned that understanding the unique role that I play is an important marketing tool and helps me emphasize my value to attorneys who specialize in medicolegal cases.

Paralegals are extremely crucial to the legal team and perform various duties that an LNC may not have the expertise to carry out as far as legal particulars go. The two roles differ in that LNCs have nursing expertise to assist attorneys in educating their clients about medical events that occur in their cases, such as breaches in standards of care.

I recommend that LNCs get acquainted and communicate frequently with paralegals as often times the two work in conjunction in lieu of direct communication with the attorney The paralegal often serves as an LNC's go-to person to determine case status, the availability of new legal information, or any transitions in direction of the case, including important deadlines.

Maintaining close communication with the paralegals you work with is critical to your continued rapport and services ­– this relationship can make or break you. Paralegals are your “gatekeeper” to the attorney, and it is crucial that they understand how your services can help them help the attorney.      

As an LNC you will use the nursing expertise you've gained as a registered nurse to act as a consultant on legal cases involving medical issues. In my next blog, I'll begin to discuss the LNC's scope of practice and specific services LNC's can provide. Learning what services you can offer will help guide you to market and land the clients that you need to keep your business thriving.

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