My First Legal Nurse Consultant Retainer Check Was More Than an Entire Month’s RN Salary*
by Jamescia Hambrick, RN, BSN, CCRN, CLNC
My mother and grandmother were both nurses, so I was third-generation. In my 23rd year as a nurse, I started wondering what was next. Single, with grown-up children, I was free to take the next step. And I knew I wanted to go back to school – maybe get my masters or become a nurse anesthetist, but nothing inspired me.
Early in my career, my mom gave me some really good advice. “When you work in a hospital,” she said, “don’t limit yourself to one particular area. Learn as many specialties and get involved in as much as possible, so the hospital administrators feel they can’t get along without you.” That’s what I did.
Receiving my first retainer check opened my eyes to the incredible possibilities available to me as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant. The number on that check was more than I made as a nurse for an entire month.
One of my instructors in nursing school, a person I’m still really close to, tells me I was always an overachiever. From day one, options and variety were important to me. When the opportunity arose to float to a different unit or to participate on committees, I was the first to raise my hand. Because of that, I’ve worked in many areas of nursing, from pediatrics to burns to critical care.
Grabbing Hold of an Unexpected Opportunity Changed My Life
In college, I had a lot of girlfriends who went to law school. Two years ago, one of my close friends was running for vice president of the National Bar Association, and I helped with her campaign, including attending the convention. I couldn’t sit in on many of the classes or symposiums because I was busy helping my friend, but I acquired an interest in the legal side of business as I sat in the background, listening.
My friend invited me to her inauguration in Washington, D.C., where I attended a couple of the balls. I also attended other events, including the National Bar Association convention, and this time I was free to enjoy the seminars and symposiums related to medical fields. During the luncheon, most of the attorneys assumed I was also an attorney. When I clarified that I was a nurse, they seemed suddenly interested.
“Are you a legal nurse consultant?” they asked. Immediately after lunch, I went to my hotel room, googled legal nurse consulting, quickly researched the topic, and found that Vickie Milazzo Institute was offering the CLNC Certification Program in Las Vegas where I live. With my varied nursing experience, I felt this was a job I could do because I could service many different attorneys and review all kinds of cases. Vickie’s CLNC Certification Program was affordable, and since I had so many contacts in the legal world, how could I pass up the opportunity?
A Life-Changing Event Almost Changed My Mind
Vickie Milazzo Institute’s CLNC Certification Seminar was scheduled to start on October 21st. Then, on October 3rd, my mom passed away. My mom and I were close, so I had a hard time, but remembering she was the one who encouraged me to keep learning, I knew I had to attend the CLNC Certification Program.
During one of the sessions, Vickie talked about starting her legal nurse business in honor of her mom, after her mother passed from cancer. I immediately started bawling. People around me asked, “Are you okay?” “Yes, absolutely,” I said, because despite my tears, I felt like my mom was saying, “Jamescia, you’re doing the right thing. You’re going to be good at this.” Later, when I explained to Vickie and told her how much I appreciated her talking about her mom, she hugged me. What more did I need in the way of confirmation?
The Realities of Launching My CLNC Business Stimulated Me To Think Bigger
Right after signing up for the CLNC Certification Program, I informed my attorney contacts that I would be starting my business as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant. Then immediately after passing the test, I launched my CLNC business, set up a home office, and created my CV, which I sent to the Vickie Milazzo Institute for CLNC Mentoring. The Institute responded right away, offering excellent advice.
All of this helped me to think bigger than a typical RN salary. Much bigger.
One of my struggles, however, was learning to delegate. I would work at the hospital during the day, then come home and be up until 1:00am tending to the many little details required for starting and marketing my CLNC business. It began to exhaust me.
Finally, I hired a personal assistant to help with things like going to the post office, putting together promotional packets and delivering tins of popcorn to my attorney-clients at Christmas. Taking that step has kept me from being overwhelmed.
Seizing the Day Turned an Opportunity into Real Money
Recently, a Las Vegas hospital was all over the news when a patient they had been treating, after giving birth to premature twins, was discovered to have tuberculosis. Unable to diagnose her illness, they sent her to UCLA, where she died. The autopsy revealed TB and the twins were also positive for TB, so there was a huge exposure in the Las Vegas hospital. Luckily, I wasn’t employed there.
A respiratory therapist I once worked with, who’s also a Facebook friend, knew the attorney who was filing a class action lawsuit against the hospital. My friend, seeing that I’d started my CLNC business, contacted me, gave me the attorney’s name and said I should talk to him.
Not one to pass up an opportunity, I immediately phoned the next morning and set up an appointment with the attorney for the following week. One of the partners of the law firm met with me and asked a lot of questions about TB. Afterward, he told his partners, “I want to sign this woman to work on the case.” They hired me that day. When the attorney handed me my first retainer check, I wanted to jump up and scream. I managed to keep my composure but was so excited that as soon as I was alone in my car, I yelled, “This is it!” (The check was more than an entire month’s RN salary!)
A short time later, the attorney was doing community outreach near the hospital to educate people about tuberculosis. I wrote a research paper for him and he invited me to attend the afternoon event. His talk was scheduled for about three hours. People could receive the information, and find out if they were at risk. Listening to him speak, I had to interject some clarifications, because the attorney wasn’t saying things quite correctly. He asked me to come up and speak in front of this large group of people. I was shaking inside, but I did it.
So far, 172 people are plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the hospital. The case is huge, and I’m the primary Certified Legal Nurse Consultant. When the attorney calls or texts me, “I need information …” on this or that, he knows I’ll get it for him.
Becoming a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant Took Me Out of the Hospital and Into the World
Maybe the signal went out in the universe, because right after signing that first contract, I got calls from other attorneys. “Can you do this?” “Yes.” I responded immediately. I make a point of getting back to people right away, and I give my attorney-clients a quick turnaround time. All of this came about in less than three months. Currently, I have about 15 attorney-clients.
I have a friend in Detroit who is a district court judge. After hearing that I started my CLNC business, she invited me to come out for five days to meet with attorneys and to also attend six holiday parties with her. Having run for the Supreme Court a couple of years earlier, this judge is well known in her city.
I love dressing for formal events. Choosing colors that attracted attention, and intentionally carrying a clutch that held my brochures and business cards, I set out to let people know who I was, a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant. At one point, I confess to being a little bit “star struck,” when I spied a beautiful personal injury attorney that I’d seen in TV commercials and on billboards all over Detroit. She had an entourage with her. While setting appointments, I researched her and made an appointment at her firm for the following day.
While the judge and I were at coat check, this attorney came up to say hello, and after she and the judge exchanged greetings, she wanted to know who I was. She hugged me and said, “I can’t wait to meet with you tomorrow.” People who saw me hugging her must have wondered, “Who is that woman?” For me, it was another “This is it!” moment.
One of the many good things that happened on that trip is that I was invited to return to Detroit for a Barrister’s Ball. The travel and the excitement of meeting new people are part of what I love about being a CLNC consultant.
I Want It All and I’m Making It Happen as a CLNC Consultant
One of the things I decided during the CLNC Certification Program is that I want CLNC subcontractors. I want to be out there marketing, traveling, attending various events and growing my CLNC business. I’ve already contacted some of the nurses who were in class with me. Their CVs and resumes are in my files, ready to go. They’re excited about working together, and so am I.
Creating relationships is my strong suit. I constantly send emails and updates to my attorney-clients. I’m also working on a newsletter, and my attorney-clients are good about communicating with me, as well.
I’m so glad I took Mom’s advice early on to seize every opportunity available to me in nursing. Receiving my first retainer check opened my eyes to the incredible possibilities available to me as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant. The number on that check was more than I made as a nurse for an entire month, even after 23 years, so I knew starting my CLNC business was the right decision.
I just exhibited at a legal conference as a CLNC consultant in Atlanta and landed a case with 16,000 pages of records. It’s my largest case and I’m making over $10,000 a week. If everything keeps going as it has for the last three months, I project making $100,000 my first year, and quite possibly, a lot more. (Quite a bit more than an RN job salary, that’s for sure!)
Thanks to my mom for encouraging me and to Vickie Milazzo for helping me make it happen. You and your course have truly been a blessing.
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