I Earned $125,000 in 4 Months as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant*
by Darlene Bellows, RN, CLNC
I was the director of nursing at a nursing home when I decided to become a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant. One day, a staff nurse told me she was taking the CLNC® Certification Program. She shared some of the information with me, and it piqued my interest.
Within three months my legal nurse consulting cases were piling up so much that I had to seek help from a CLNC® subcontractor.
A year later, I left the director of nursing position and accepted a position in the legal department of my long term care company. I began reviewing medical records involved in litigation for the in-house attorney. Then the company hired a new president who began an initiative to reduce the number of lawsuits. He had the foresight to recognize how valuable I could be as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant. The company paid for me to take the CLNC Certification Seminar in May.
Thrilled and excited, I headed for Orlando to become a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant. I never thought I’d make it through that week. There was so much information and so many new things to learn. But with Vickie constantly reminding us that we were successful CLNC consultants, I passed the test.
I took my new knowledge back to work and continued assisting the company in defending against lawsuits. I was promoted to director of the department, hired another nurse and sent her to the CLNC Certification *Seminar in October.
I Accepted My Husband’s Outrageous Holiday Challenge
I soon realized I was doing legal nurse consultant jobs and getting paid $35/hr instead of the $100-$150/hr I could be making on my own. When I complained about this to my husband, he said, “Why don’t you try it part time and see if you like it?”
That was in early December. With the holidays looming, our son’s wedding scheduled for two days after Christmas and a houseful of guests expected for both events, I said, “Maybe after the first of the year.”
My husband quickly came back with, “What are you waiting for?” I always accept a challenge, especially from my husband. He has steered me in the right direction for the last 20 years.
The next day I called a defense attorney who handled some of my company’s cases in Florida. I asked if he thought I could succeed at legal nurse consulting. He said I would be great, and he would keep me busy full time. I told him to send me just one case for now and tell me how I did.
The following week, just days before Christmas (and the wedding), the attorney sent me the medical records. Not a large case, but big enough for my first one. He asked if I could report back to him by New Year’s Day. Once again I was challenged, and I rose to the occasion and got the assignment done in plenty of time. The feedback I received was that my work was exactly what he needed.
My Part-Time CLNC® Career Blossomed into Full-Time Success
From that point, I continued to work at my full-time job, then come home every night and worked several hours on my new part-time job, as well as up to ten hours on the weekends. No one at my full-time job knew I was moonlighting, but they wondered why all of a sudden I only worked eight hours instead of my usual 12-14-hour days.
Within three months my legal nurse consulting cases were piling up so much that I had to seek help from a CLNC subcontractor. I heard another nurse in the office complaining that she could earn much more as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant and really wanted to pursue it. I recruited her as a subcontractor. Together, we continued turning out the work for another few months.
After attending my first National Alliance of Certified Legal Nurse Consultants (NACLNC®) Conference in March, I went home and told my husband my goal was to be on my own no later than the end of the year. Two events soon sped up the process. First, my part-time CLNC® career was generating enough work that I had to hire another subcontractor. My goal was and still is to produce top quality work and get it back to the attorney-client in a timely manner. Second, management changed the direction of our department at my full-time job. This made it easy for me to decide to jump in with both feet and go full time as a CLNC® consultant.
The decision was still scary. All I could think was, “What if I don’t get any more cases? Good thing my husband loves peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and I diet most of the time.”
Nevertheless, I made the plunge in May. For a short while, I could not keep up with the records. I sent my marketing packet to every defense attorney I had come to know through my former company. I also phoned these attorneys to let them know where I was and what I was doing. As a result, within four months as a full-time independent CLNC consultant, I billed more than $125,000.
Currently, I consult for four nursing home defense attorneys. They keep my CLNC business growing. I organize and review medical records; prepare brief or detailed chronologies and narrative summaries; do research and phone consultation; and help long term care companies assess their medical records for liability exposure and documentation accuracy.
One case makes me especially proud – analyzing four years of one patient’s nursing home records. The assignment took me 89 hours. When I asked my attorney-client for feedback, he said, “You certainly are detailed. I’ll call back when I get through it.” Two weeks later he phoned to say my chronology was the best work he had ever seen. Everything he needed from the record was in my CLNC report, and he would be able to use it instead of hauling the volumes of medical records to depositions and mediations. He appreciated how thorough I had been.
Learning to Break the 8-5 Habit Was Part of the Fun
After years of working an 8-5 job, it was hard for me to break the habit. It took me about three months to realize I did not have to feel guilty if I went for a walk with my 84-year-old dad, had lunch with friends, took a day off to pamper myself or spent time with my grandchildren. My best friend and I took our first “girl trip” together to Florida. Of course, I had my laptop, medical records and marketing brochures with me, and I had appointments to see more attorneys.
The money is great. My CLNC business continues to be very successful. I’ve had up to 20 cases in progress at one time and as many as five subcontractors working with me. Last year I billed $330,000. But the greatest satisfaction comes when an attorney calls or emails to say, “Your work was awesome. It will be a great help to me in depositions, mediations and at trial.”
My success has allowed my husband to retire and help me in my business. In the past couple of years we have taken three fabulous vacations. I’ve also had time to spend with my three wonderful grandchildren and with other Certified Legal Nurse Consultants.
I attribute my CLNC success to several things: my many years of nursing experience; my experience in the risk management and legal departments in long term care; my supportive family and friends who encouraged me to take a leap of faith; and the foresight of the company president who sent me to the CLNC Certification Seminar. Vickie’s CLNC Certification Program was great, informative and certainly the beginning of my success.
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