How to Become a Legal Nurse Consultant (LNC)

15 Min Read Published June 25, 2024

Legal nurse consulting is a growing nursing field perfect for nurses with a keen interest in the law. This article explores how to become a legal nurse consultant (LNC), including education requirements, salary, and career outlook, to help you determine whether this exciting, non-bedside career suits your nursing journey.

How to Become a Legal Nurse Consultant

Legal nurse consultants (LNCs) provide valuable consultation and expertise to legal teams regarding medical cases. They must have a nursing background, including registered nursing (RN) licensure and relevant work experience. Additionally, LNCs will have a robust legal education that, combined with their nursing expertise, makes them indispensable legal team members.

Legal nurse consulting took root in the late 1970s as a specialty area of nursing and further established itself with the formation of the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC) in 1989. With strong roots in clinical nursing practice, LNCs apply the nursing process to evaluating relevant, complex information in legal cases. They uniquely bridge the gap between the legal process, healthcare science, and patient outcomes.

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Primarily, legal nurse consultants advise legal teams on medical cases. Their duties include analyzing healthcare records, establishing chronology, evaluating the merit of claims, and providing expert opinions. LNCs may also be called to testify as fact or expert witnesses in court.

However, your duties as a legal nurse consultant may vary based on your practice area. The AALNC identifies the following practice areas for LNCs:

  • Medical malpractice
  • Personal injury
  • Long-term care litigation/elder law
  • Product liability
  • Toxic tort
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Medicare set-asides
  • Risk management
  • Life care planning
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Forensic/criminal
  • Civil rights
  • Employment discrimination

Legal Nurse Consultant Responsibilities

Legal nurse consulting allows you to work independently and with many types of people and requires that you function well under pressure. As a legal nurse consultant, you may be tasked with performing various specialized functions, including:

  1. Reviewing and analyzing medical records
  2. Conducting client interviews
  3. Conducting medical literature reviews
  4. Identifying medical professional standards of practice
  5. Identifying and securing expert witnesses 
  6. Translating healthcare language for attorneys and other legal staff
  7. Educating attorneys about medical issues
  8. Providing testimony in court as an expert witness
  9. Preparing for depositions and trials
  10. Producing exhibits for trials and depositions
  11. Serving as a jury consultant for the legal team
  12. Consulting on product liability cases

Legal nurse consultants must only accept cases in which they have a solid clinical or academic foundation. Often, LNCs prepare for their roles by gaining experience as critical care or medical-surgical nurses. They may also pursue specialized nursing experience in orthopedics, obstetrics, neurology, cardiology, oncology, or rehabilitation.

>> Show Me Legal Nurse Consulting Programs

Legal nurse consultants work in many settings, including independent consulting practices, insurance companies, and legal firms. According to the AALNC, potential work environments for the LNC include:

  • Business and industry legal departments
  • Forensic environments
  • Governmental agencies
  • Healthcare facilities
  • Health maintenance organizations (HMOs)
  • Insurance companies
  • Law firms
  • LNC consulting firms
  • Patient safety organizations (PSOs)
  • Self-employed independent practices

Regardless of the setting, the LNC field offers endless professional growth and development opportunities. 

Legal nurse consultants earn between $89,000 and $142,000 annually, according to reports from Glassdoor. The website estimates a median annual salary of $112,000. These figures far exceed the median annual RN salary of $86,070 or $41.38 per hour, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Reported LNC salaries vary for several reasons. The most significant factors affecting your income as a legal nurse consultant include your practice specialty, level of education and credentials, years of experience, location, and employer. 

Additionally, many independent practice LNCs do not publicize their rates, making it difficult to estimate incomes. This trend results from the professional community avoiding attempts to price-fix LNC services.

Top-Paying States for Legal Nurse Consultants

Your location greatly impacts how much you can earn as a legal nurse consultant. The following states offer the highest wages for LNCs in the United States:

State Annual Salary Hourly Wage
Washington $103,990 $50.00
New York $93,624 $45.01
Vermont $91,755 $44.11
California $88,885 $42.73
Massachusetts $86,899 $41.78

Source: ZipRecruiter, Retrieved 6/20/2024

Legal Nurse Consultant Salary by Experience

Legal nurse consultants with more experience can earn higher salaries. Here's a breakdown of the average legal nurse consultant's salary by years of experience:

  • Less than 1 year of experience: $69,627 per year; $48.03 per hour
  • 1 to 4 years of experience: $82,122 per year; $47.84 per hour
  • 5 to 9 years of experience: $87,429 per year; $49.96 per hour
  • 10 to 19 years of experience: $86,249 per year; $50.87 per hour
  • 20 years of experience: $95,041 per year; $50.25 per hour

Source: Payscale, Retrieved 6/20/2024

Legal Nurse Consultant Private Practices 

One desirable aspect of becoming a legal nurse consultant is the opportunity to open your own practice. As an independent business owner, you can set your hours and rates, build a clientele, and be your own boss. 

Legal nurse consultants in private practice must develop a multi-faceted business plan that includes an adequate budget for office rent, marketing costs, travel expenses, cost of office equipment and supplies, liability and other insurance premiums, necessary non-billable activities, employee salaries and benefits, and many others.

>> Show Me Legal Nurse Consulting Programs

1. Become a Registered Nurse (RN)

You must become a registered nurse before you can work as an LNC. Earning your RN license requires attending a 2-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. 

Upon graduation, you’ll be eligible to sit the national licensure exam, known as the NCLEX. Once you pass this exam, you may apply for your first nursing job.

2. Gain Relevant Experience

Legal nurse consultants need a solid clinical nursing background to understand the medical nuances of cases. Working as a medical-surgical nurse or in specialty areas (e.g., obstetrics, orthopedics, rehabilitation, neurology, cardiology) can provide a solid foundation for an LNC career. 

Ideally, you should have at least 2-3 years of relevant nursing experience before pursuing a legal nurse consulting career.

3. Earn Certifications

Although you do not need a certification to work as an LNC, it can help you prepare for the role and signal your dedication to employers. A few organizations offer paths toward becoming a certified legal nurse consultant (CLNC), including Legalnurse.com and LNC STAT.

While employers recognize these certs, the gold standard is the LNCC credential offered by the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants. However, you can only earn this certification after gaining some experience as an LNC.

>> Explore Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Review Materials*

4. Apply for a Legal Nurse Consulting Position

Once you’ve gained the appropriate experience and earned a credential, if desired, you can begin applying for legal nurse consultant jobs. You can find open positions at several workplaces, from law firms, insurance agencies, and HMOs to more traditional nursing environments like healthcare facilities and hospitals.

As you progress through your career, you may amass your own clientele and even open an independent practice.

>> Show Me Legal Nurse Consulting Programs

Our list of the top legal nurse consultant programs focuses solely on certifications and courses for existing registered nurses. Because individual nursing pathways and careers take various forms, the top 9 legal nurse consultant programs are ranked in no particular order. 

Methodology

We curated this list using Nurse.org's proprietary ranking methodology. Our nurse panel considered several factors to rank these programs, including:

  • Reputation
  • Pass rate
  • Tuition
  • Acceptance rate

Nurse Panel

Our selection panel is made up of 3 Registered Nurses with years of experience and multiple degrees:

  • Tracy Everhart, MSN, RN, CNS
  • Tyler Faust, MSN, RN
  • Kathleen Gaines, MSN, BSN, RN, BA, CBC

1. Duke University

  • Program Cost: $2,195 (Duke employees are eligible to receive a $200 discount)
  • Online: Yes
  • Program Length: 1 month

Created for anyone with an active RN license, Duke University's legal nurse consulting program prepares nurses to apply their skills to the legal field. This entirely online program consists of six modules completed over one month. Nurses complete modules synchronously, meaning at the same time, on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 8:30 to 4:00. While the courses cannot transfer into a graduate program or count toward continuing education, it's tough to find a better institution for healthcare education than Duke. 

2. Berkely College

  • Program Cost: $2,895
  • Online: Yes
  • Program Length: 14 weeks

Berkely College's LNC program is for registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and nursing students who want to learn how to apply their clinical expertise in the legal field. The 12-credit course introduces students to the American legal system, including the litigation process and legal research strategies. Students will learn how LNCs function in and out of court and what their role is in cases. Additionally, they may apply the credits in this program toward an A.A.S. or B.S. in legal studies degree.

3. Louisiana State University New Orleans

  • Program Cost: $1800 (when paid in full at the beginning of the course)
  • Online: Yes
  • Program Length: Varies (self-paced)

Louisiana State University New Orleans' legal nurse consultant course is entirely online and self-paced, meaning nurses can finish the course as quickly or slowly as they'd like. The 10-module course also counts as 100 CNE credits, which nurses earn at the end of the course. Upon finishing the modules, nurses also receive a certificate of completion. Students can also complete a two-day preceptorship, a show of an active legal nurse consultant in New Orleans, Louisiana. The combination of price, exposure, flexibility, and CNE opportunities make this an excellent option. 

4. Florida Atlantic University

  • Program Cost: $1,000
  • Online: Yes
  • Program Length: 8 weeks

Florida Atlantic University attracts nurses nationwide with one of the most affordable legal nurse consultant certificate programs. The online program requires an active RN license and three years of clinical nursing experience, so only experienced nurses may apply. This eight-week program counts 33 continuing education credits and prepares nurses for the Legal Nurse Consultant Certified exam. The cost alone makes this a great option, both for the certificate and continuing education credits. 

5. University of Georgia

  • Program Cost: $1,195
  • Online: Yes
  • Program Length: 2 months

Available to RNs and PAs, the University of Georgia's legal nurse consultant training prepares students to take and pass the Legal Nurse Consultant Certified exam. The program uses bi-monthly start dates with six start date options throughout the year, and students complete their courses online. The program requires 42 hours and counts toward 4.2 continuing education credits. This quick, affordable program requires a much lower time commitment than other options. 

6. California State University Long Beach

  • Program Cost: $1,195
  • Online: Yes
  • Program Length: 7 weeks

California State University Long Beach's legal nurse consultant training course comes entirely online, so nurses won't get to relocate to Southern California for seven weeks. However, the program is great for anyone interested in a career as a legal nurse consultant. The program requires nurses to pass several exams to earn the certificate, and CSU Long Beach estimates the program takes 42 hours, which is good for 4.2 hours of continuing education credits. 

7. Wilmington University

  • Program Cost: $7,860
  • Online: Classroom or Online
  • Program Length: 15 weeks

Wilmington University's legal nurse consultant certificate is a post-baccalaureate program that requires nurses to first complete a BSN. However, the program allows for online study, and nurses can use all credits completed toward a graduate degree. Because the program uses actual college courses and credits, the cost is steeper than other programs. Anyone interested in becoming a legal nurse consultant and earning an MSN could get a head start through Wilmington. 

8. University of Rochester

  • Program Cost: $10,080 
  • Online: Hybrid
  • Program Length: 6 months

Perhaps the most comprehensive legal nurse consultant program on this list, the University of Rochester's course combines online classes with a 168-hour internship. Nurses in the program finish with over 2,000 hours of practice and can become Legal Nurse Consultant Certified. Because the program utilizes a mandatory internship, nurses need to complete at least some of the program in person. Also, credits completed could transfer into a degree program. 

9. University of Arizona

  • Program Cost: $1,195
  • Online: Yes
  • Program Length: 7 weeks

The University of Arizona offers a seven-week legal nurse consultant training course for RNs and PAs. Like other programs, this option comes online and offers six different start dates throughout the year. The course takes an estimated 42 hours to complete. While the cost is higher than similar options, students get to take advantage of Arizona's extensive network. 

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WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Although not required, LNCs can pursue certification through the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC). AALNC certification demonstrates your commitment to the profession and best practices in legal nurse consulting. Additionally, becoming a certified legal nurse consultant may give you a competitive edge in the job market and during salary negotiations.

Many organizations offer courses and certificates in legal nurse consulting; however, certification through the AALNC is the industry gold standard. The designation for an LNC certified through the AALNC is LNCC. This credential is accredited by the American Board of Nursing Specialties (ABNS) and is comparable to recognized nursing credentials such as RNC, CCRN, CEN, and CPN.

Requirements to sit for the certification exam include:

  1. Current licensure as an RN in the U.S. or its territories (full and unrestricted license)
  2. A minimum of five years practicing as an RN
  3. At least 2000 hours of documented LNC experience within the past three years

Career Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts nursing employment will grow 6 percent through 2033. Additionally, nurses nearing retirement and the growing health demands of the baby boomer generation are causing a current and predicted future nursing shortage.

The legal nurse consulting field is unique, so it is difficult to predict the demand. Carefully research your local market and potential opportunities, including the density of potential employers and clients discussed.

Resources

Many sources can help you find out more about legal nurse consulting. The American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC) offers many publications, including a free official publication, the Journal of Legal Nurse Consulting.

Other organizations you can explore to find out more about becoming a legal nurse consultant include:

  1. American Association of Nurse Attorneys
  2. Jurex
  3. LNC STAT
  4. American College of Legal Nurse Consulting
  5. Vickie Milazzo Institute, National Alliance of Legal Nurse Consultants
  6. American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics
  7. Nurse Theory/Legal Nurse
  8. LNCExchange

You can leverage these resources to network with currently practicing LNCs. Your local chapter of the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants can be a starting point for finding a contact who may even become a professional mentor.

>> Show Me Legal Nurse Consulting Programs

Many sources can get you started in your search for LNC job opportunities. First, check the “Careers” pages of websites of medical malpractice firms and LNC consulting firms that interest you.

Additionally, several online resources are available for legal nurse consultant job searches. These include nursing social media sites, career sites, and dedicated nursing career sites like our nurse.org job board.

You can also join your local AALNC chapter to pursue networking opportunities and place your name in the online marketing database, which allows attorneys to search for available LNCs.

FAQs

  • What is a common responsibility of a legal nurse consultant? 

    •  LNCs assist with legal cases by analyzing medical records involved in a case and delivering their official professional opinion on those records. 
  • What’s the difference between CLNC and LLNC? 

    • LNCC certification is issued by the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification (ABSNC) and requires passing an exam along with a minimum of five years of experience as an RN and 2,000 hours of working as an LNC within the past 5 years. A nurse can become a CLNC (Certified Legal Nurse Consultants) after taking a 6-day program and passing an exam. No experience is required. 
  • How much do legal nurse consultants make? 

    • Pay varies based on certification, experience, and type of case, but it can range from $20-$60/hour to upwards of $200/hour.

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