Certified Legal Nurse Consultants are called to interview with different types of attorneys. No matter the attorney’s specialty (personal injury, medical malpractice or products liability), there’s no trick to interviewing successfully. Interviewing comes down to 12 best legal nurse consulting practices as nine Certified Legal Nurse Consultant Pros will describe.
- Show up properly – Do your homework. You can’t market your legal nurse consulting services to an attorney you know nothing about. It pays to research every attorney you interview. You will be better equipped to customize your marketing materials and script to the attorney and the attorney will appreciate that you already know something about him.
As Certified Legal Nurse Consultant Camille H. Joyner, RN, CCM, CLNC says, “Demonstrating knowledge of the law firm shows you cared enough to do your research.”
The Internet has made researching easier than ever. Search the attorney-prospect’s website and social media sites to learn as much as you can about the professional you’ll be interviewing with. There’s simply no excuse for going into an interview unprepared. Thanks to the Internet, you can go into any attorney interview knowing almost more about the attorney than he knows about himself (LOL). You learn about recent cases, areas of practice and personal things such as alma mater. Research helps with everything from comfortably getting the conversation started to closing a case with confidence. CLNC consultant, Jorie Akins, RN, BSN, CLNC shares, “I do one final read-through of my search results of the attorney. I arrive early, take a deep breath and walk in with the same mindset as when I walk into a nervous patient’s room for the first time – a calm demeanor, a wiliness to inform and educate and, if the situation will allow, to defuse any tension with a little bit of humor.”
Researching doesn’t end once you arrive for the interview. CLNC® consultant, Carolyn J. Bilodeau, RN, BSN, MS, CLNC says, “Even if you have researched the attorney, you still know only superficial and easily obtainable information. It’s not until you meet and listen to the attorney that you discern less tangible qualities such as values, philosophy of practice, approaches to clients and the like. Listen, listen and listen again. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. While you may be eager to talk about yourself (your experience, your education, your preparation as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant) and what you can do for the attorney, you should listen more than you speak. Search for problems and unmet needs the attorney shares and use that to your advantage during the interview.”
- Get prepared – Practice the Institute’s Common Attorney Interview Questions before you go to an interview. CLNC consultant, Michelle Neal, RN, BSN, CLNC emphasizes the importance of getting prepared even when the attorney doesn’t ask the common interview questions, “I remember my first interview. I was so nervous. I had reviewed all of Vickie’s interview questions and prepped as best I could. I had my portfolio all prepared to show the attorney, but to my surprise he didn’t even ask to see it. The interview was brief and went well. I walked out of his office with the case and the medical records.”
- Dress professionally, act professional and be on time – Show up for every interview looking your best. CLNC consultant, Robert Malaer, RN, MSN, PMHN, SANE, CNLCP, CALM, CLNC emphasizes, “Dress for success. Always present your best and most professional self. Anytime you plan to meet with an attorney-prospect, dress like you would if you were testifying at trial.”
First impressions count, so start the interview with a firm handshake, speak your name clearly and above all, remember to breathe. Attorneys are human. If you can talk to patients and stand up to doctors and administrators, you can easily talk to an attorney. They are crazy busy and their time is valuable. They know Certified Legal Nurse Consultants have something to offer and they want to hear what you have to say, otherwise they wouldn’t have invited you in. Don’t let an attorney’s silence derail you. It isn’t disapproval, it’s just silence. The attorney may be thinking about the perfect case for you, an upcoming deposition or his golf game. Don’t feel pressured into breaking the silence with something silly you’ll beat yourself up for later. Stay focused.
CLNC consultant, Michelle Neal shares a funny story, “My third attorney-prospect wanted to meet for lunch to do the interview. We went to an Italian restaurant and I remember thinking, ‘I can’t get pasta, there is no way I could professionally draw the noodle up into my mouth and interview at the same time without looking ridiculous.’ The attorney clearly didn’t have this concern. He ordered a huge plate of pasta then proceeded to unbutton a few buttons on his shirt. I am pretty sure I just froze and was speechless. Seconds later (though it felt like minutes), he started to tuck his tie into his shirt so it wouldn’t get dirty. I’m pretty sure at this point, I forgot everything Vickie taught about attorney interviews because clearly this scenario was not covered in the CLNC Certification Program. Stay focused no matter what comes your way.”
- Observe your surroundings – CLNC consultant, Robert Malaer points out, “One of the benefits of meeting an attorney in person is the opportunity to learn more about him. Pay attention to how he decorates his office. Does he have a family and children? Does he have specific hobbies? After meeting with an attorney-prospect, I sent a thank you letter the following day. I had noticed during an interview with a new attorney that he was a football fan and had a specific university team displayed in his office. I ordered a small gift from the university and included it with the letter. The attorney called me upon receipt of the package and expressed his surprise at my attention to detail. He said he decided to hire me over other candidates due to this fact.”
- Be real – Be yourself. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. CLNC consultant, Robert Malaer states, “Focus on your strengths and be confident. As an RN, you bring much to the table through your education, training and experience. Even if you’ve never reviewed a case or written a report, focus on what you have done and how the attorney can benefit from your expertise. Understand what is required for each type of case prior to each meeting. When asked by a defense attorney if I had ever worked on a criminal defense case, (which I had not) I focused on the services I could provide. This specific attorney-client hires me for all of his cases now.”
CLNC consultant, Jorie Akins states, “When I’m thinking less about having to sell myself and more about how my 27 years of nursing experience can help the attorney build the strongest case possible, I feel much less performance pressure. I sell my extensive understanding of all things nursing and explain how this knowledge can complement the attorney’s cases. Then the pressure is really back on the attorney to decide if she feels it can benefit her practice.”
Always communicate how your years of nursing experience will benefit the attorney. If an attorney says No, he’s not rejecting you. He rejecting a valuable Certified Legal Nurse Consultant and it’s his loss. Move on to the next attorney-prospect. There are more than 1,800,000 attorneys in the U.S.
- Be present – Engage the attorney. When the attorney talks and participates in the conversation not only will you gain valuable insights into the attorney’s needs, he will also be more engaged. An engaged attorney is a stronger prospect. It’s easier than you think to get an attorney to talk about his cases. Certified Legal Nurse Consultant Millie Mannion, RN, BSN, CNOR, CLNC says, “Who doesn’t like to talk about themselves? Attorneys are no different.”
- Be relevant – Give the right interview to the right attorney. This is the most important legal nurse consulting best practice of all. An actor friend once said, “You don’t audition for a comedy by performing Hamlet.” In other words what you bring to the interview must be relevant to the attorney-prospect. If you’ve done your homework this part is easy. Bring the appropriate sample work product and don’t try and shoehorn inappropriate work product into the discussion – “This is my work-up of a case involving defective defibrillator leads. I’m sure we can adapt this to the injuries from the car accident you’ve described.” Dorene Goldstein, RNC, BSN, CLNC adds, “Know your unique selling position (USP) and how you can relate it to the attorney’s practice. By doing this you will appear more prepared.”
CLNC consultant, Camille Joyner adds, “Keep notes on every attorney you meet. You can put what you learn about an attorney to good use in a future interview. People like to be remembered, especially if the memory was favorable.”
CLNC consultant, Robert Malaer discusses the importance of focusing on a specific case the attorney is handling. He states, “Find out as much about the case as you can during the interview. Ask questions and make recommendations. Take notes and focus on key aspects of the case specifically regarding potential breaches of duty and causation. Inform and educate the attorney-client on the services you can provide for the specific case and explain why they will be beneficial.”
- Be honest – We’ve all heard the axiom “Fake it ‘till you make it,” which is a great reminder to not voluntarily expose your weaknesses. But remember that attorneys’ careers are based on honesty. You don’t want to hedge or appear less than truthful when questioned. Likewise, how you phrase something can help or hurt you. For example, this may be your first case, but you’ve been reviewing medical records your entire nursing career, thus you bring those years of nursing practice and experience to the attorney, plus you’ve achieved CLNC Certification. Communicating those facts is going to be stronger than saying, “I’ve never done this before.”
CLNC consultant, Michelle Neal states, “Don’t fabricate or lie about your experience as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant (or lack thereof). If the attorney asks about your experience, take the opportunity to discuss your advanced certification in legal nurse consulting, your nursing experience and how they can benefit the attorney’s cases.” Kaylin Chase, RN, BSN, CNLCP, CLNC describes, “When an attorney asks that one question I don’t know the answer to I’m honest. I tell the attorney I don’t know, but I will research it. We don’t have to be perfect but we should remember we’re RNs and acknowledge the expertise we have that the attorney doesn’t.”
- Employ humor – Things will go wrong during an interview and when it does humor can save the day. Kaylin Chase shares how humor not only rescued her from an embarrassing moment but also bonded her and the attorney, “My first attorney-client interview was on a Saturday morning. We had a great visit and I was closing the deal on two cases. As it was an informal meeting on a Saturday, I brought an oversized purse instead of a briefcase. I provided the attorney with my business card and brochure. He asked for more brochures to pass to his attorney friends and colleagues. As he was looking through the brochure a GasX strip fell from it onto the floor. We both looked at it in horror. I simply asked him if he would care for a minty refreshment. We both laughed and laughed. Today he is my best attorney-client. I always carry a briefcase to interviews now – no need to have personal stuff interfere with a good interview.”
- Ask for the case – Dorene Goldstein shares, “Early on in my CLNC business I was interviewing with an attorney-prospect and I was very nervous. I was able to meet the three objectives that I set for myself including asking for the case. The interview went well and the attorney seemed very interested. I was getting ready to leave when the attorney gave me a case and asked how much he should write for the retainer check. It never occurred to me that I would get a case and a check that day.”
- Guarantee the first case – Take the risk off of the attorney an on to you. CLNC consultant, Dale Barnes, RN, MSN, PHN, CLNC shares her experience “There are many medical nuances that Certified Legal Nurse Consultants know which go beyond the attorney’s expertise. I always tell an attorney who doesn’t understand why he needs me ‘Let me do one case and if you’re not happy, I provide a 100% money back guarantee.’ I have never in all these 20 years of consulting had a single attorney ask for money back.”
- Follow up – Did I say follow up? This is quite possibly the most important aspect of an interview. CLNC consultant, Robert Malaer states, “Attorneys are busy and can easily and unintentionally forget your visit or what you do. Establish and implement a strict marketing plan that includes a follow-up schedule for in-person, telephone, email and mail contacts after the initial meeting. I have met with so many attorney-prospects that have discussed specific cases with me and promised to contact me at a later date. I have a very specific marketing plan with timed follow-up contacts. Many of these attorney-clients shared they had forgotten to contact me and were grateful I had contacted them. Establishing a marketing plan and sticking to it has proven invaluable.”
Thanks to Jorie, Dale, Carolyn, Kaylin, Dorene, Camille, Robert, Millie and Michelle for sharing these 12 best legal nurse consulting practices for successful attorney interviews. Put them to use in your next attorney interview.
Success Is Yours,
P.S. Comment and share your best legal nurse consulting practices for successful attorney interviews.