We all make mistakes in our legal nurse consulting business, but what if you could make fewer ones? It’s easy. Just follow the advice of these 11 seasoned CLNC® consultants. They outline 18 common mistakes RNs make when launching a CLNC business. Plus they reveal how to avoid them.
- Poor planning. Carolyn Bilodeau, RN, BSN, MS, CLNC shares: “You acquire stuff for your legal nurse consulting business. You purchase pens, paper, markers and notebooks. You choose a computer, set up an office, buy business cards, stationery, a printer and a scanner. But did you develop your business plan? If no, you will get sabotaged by poor planning when you get your first cases. To work effectively, plan to work when you know you are fresh and not distracted. Avoid feeling overwhelmed by breaking up your work in small, planned chunks. Set up regular work hours.”
Jorie Akins, RN, BSN, TNCC, ECRN, CLNC discusses: “Setting weekly and monthly goals keeps me focused and also keeps me from becoming overwhelmed. Most of us start our CLNC careers while still working a full-time nursing job. I find if I attempt to accomplish daily tasks on my to-do list when I’m working back to back 12-hour shifts, I’m easily overwhelmed. Frustration sets in and I’m suddenly in an abyss. However, if I have a few tasks lined up for the week I’m able to fit them in my schedule more successfully.”
Dale Barnes, RN, MSN, PHN, CLNC advises: “I’ve had new Certified Legal Nurse Consultants tell me they don’t need a marketing plan because they know what they are going to do. This was a mistake I made in the beginning as well. And, this is a big mistake! When you develop your marketing plan, you can make it in a way that is obtainable for you. Don’t be so ambitious that you’re setting yourself up for failure. A plan gives you short-term and long-term goals so that you can focus on attaining those goals.”
- Expecting attorneys to come to you. Being an experienced RN and Certified Legal Nurse Consultant is a starting point, but focused effort and hard work are also required. Carolyn Bilodeau states: “As some romantically dream of a shining knight on a white horse, so might novice Certified Legal Nurse Consultants expect attorneys to find them. Waiting for an attorney on a gleaming stallion just doesn’t work. You must put effort into your CLNC business.”
- Procrastinating. Dale Barnes describes: “Some Certified Legal Nurse Consultants delay the start of their CLNC business because every single item is not in place. For example, they don’t have sample reports. Excuses just delay moving forward with marketing and obtaining attorney-clients. Don’t let any issues prevent you from moving forward.
Dorene Goldstein, RNC, BSN, CLNC advises: “Some beginner CLNC consultants think they’re not ready after they complete the CLNC Certification Program. You get everything you need in the Basic CLNC Certification System. You just have to go for it. Don’t wait for the right time because you may lose out on prospects. I received several leads in the beginning from people who wanted to help me. I didn’t feel ready. Then days turned into weeks and weeks into months and it was too late to use the leads I had been given.”
Margaret Gallagher, RN, MSN, LNCC, CLNC states: “Early on the failure to believe in myself and to eagerly embrace the potential for growth likely resulted in some lost business opportunities. After completing the CLNC Certification Program, my legal nurse consulting business grew exponentially each year. I have reviewed approximately 1,200 cases and still find each case a challenge and a reward both personally and professionally. You can do it too!”
- Fearing failure. Kaylin Chase, RN, BSN, CNLCP, CLNC advises: “New Certified Legal Nurse Consultants are afraid to fail. The first report is the hardest. You have to dive in and just do it. Get feedback from your attorney-clients. Attorneys are much nicer than cranky surgeons.”
- Dabbling. You’ve got a detailed plan of action, but you haven’t quite gotten around to implementing it. Carolyn Bilodeau discusses: “‘The plants need watering, I must check my email, and I have to take the chicken out of the freezer or was fish on the menu tonight? Its lunchtime now so I know the attorney won’t be in the office,’ and on and on. When these stalling tactics occur, it’s time to ask what’s interfering with your ability to implement your plan. Your thought-provoking answer will set you in motion.”
Robert Malaer, RN, MSN, PMHN, SANE, CNLCP, CALM, CLNC adds: “Success is a state of mind as well as a life endeavor. The most successful entrepreneurs are not always the most educated or most intelligent individuals, but those who apply themselves and strive to be the best each and every day. This process begins the moment you decide to work as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant and start your own business. Begin by establishing a specific office space where you can work and not be distracted. Set specific work hours to ensure you stay focused and on schedule. Working from home presents unique distractions. Identify the distractions that apply to you and work to minimize them to ensure maximize effectiveness.”
- Allowing your current nursing position to take priority over building your CLNC business. Susan Schaab, RN, BSN, CLNC advises: “Don’t allow the hospital headaches to consume your focus and drain your energy. After giving your patients first class care (to prevent all the injuries we know are rampant in hospitals) you must still take one action step toward your CLNC business every day as Vickie teaches. Without action, it’s impossible to stay focused on your CLNC business. Before you know it a year has passed with no marketing efforts and no attorney-clients. Develop and implement a sound marketing plan with specific goals for obtaining attorney-clients. This is how you will succeed as a CLNC consultant.”
- Being timid. Kaylin Chase describes: “New Certified Legal Nurse Consultants tend to be timid while searching for new attorney-clients. They need to be willing to accept that not all attorneys are going to hire them. It is a numbers game. Keep hustling until you get too much work!”
- Not following Vickie’s instructions. Kaylin Chase states: “Many new Certified Legal Nurse Consultants do not follow Vickie’s game plan. As she teaches you must take one action step a day in order to succeed. After you accomplish and maintain one action step it develops into several action steps and soon you’ve created a successful CLNC business.
- Not following up with attorneys. Dorene Goldstein states: “This may be your first test that the attorney has for you. Don’t wait for the attorney to call you back. Be proactive; call and schedule an appointment.”
Kaylin Chase adds: “New Certified Legal Nurse Consultants are afraid to continue to contact attorneys after the first contact. As nurses we’re trained not to bother the doctors unless it is a life threatening emergency. I have found that my attorney-clients are very open to short informal meetings. They appreciate that I’m willing to hustle for more legal nurse consultant jobs. Remember, they also are hustling to get cases.”
Michelle Neal, RN, BSN, CLNC shares: “The easiest part of marketing is sending out promotional packages. The challenge is the follow-up. It’s so important to be consistent and persistent in your follow-up with attorneys. I used Vickie’s mail-call approach which led me to my first three attorneys – two of which I still consistently work with. It took a third and final call with one attorney until I finally got a case. If I hadn’t been persistent, I would have missed out on an amazing opportunity.”
- Giving up too soon! Susan Schaab states: “Marketing can be terrifying for a new Certified Legal Nurse Consultant. I had never written a business letter, developed a unique selling position (USP) and I didn’t even know any attorneys. Vickie said that she became a student of marketing when she began her CLNC career, so I knew I had to do the same. The key to marketing is knowing your target audience (attorneys) and creating a plan that focuses on how you can fulfill their needs. If I didn’t meet a goal, I didn’t quit – I just created a new strategy to reach attorneys. I didn’t panic if a case didn’t come to me immediately. I continued to build the relationship. Several of my best attorney-clients sent cases to me months after we first met. Be confident and follow your marketing plan.”
Dale Barnes advises: “It’s a numbers game. You need to keep talking to attorneys and give the process some time.”
- Underpricing. Don’t doubt your worth. Your nursing knowledge is extremely valuable to attorneys. Attorneys need, want and know they must pay for your expertise. Margaret Gallagher shares: “I charged only $100/hr before I completed the CLNC Certification Program. Vickie advised that the going rate for Certified Legal Nurse Consultants is $150/hr. That business mistake would have cost me big over the past ten years. Thank you, Vickie!”
- Not connecting with CLNC peers. Jorie Akins states: “Continue to stay in contact with professional contacts you have made along the way. This helps to keep your name in front of other Certified Legal Nurse Consultants who may need you as a subcontractor in the future. Staying connected also helps you maintain accountability to yourself and your CLNC business.”
- Believing that the marketing stops when an attorney-client gives you a case. Susan Schaab describes: “Getting a case from an attorney is really just the beginning of the marketing process. You worked hard to earn the attorney’s trust and it takes excellent work product and smooth communication to build on that trust. By following Vickie’s advice on creating high quality work product, I have established long term relationships with all of my attorney-clients. I love it when they brag about my work and refer me to other attorneys! As Vickie says, exceptional work product is the best marketing strategy of all.”
- Not discussing the attorney’s expectations. Michelle Neal states: “Always discuss what the attorney needs for the case. Make sure you have an understanding of what is expected, the budget and whether the attorney has a preference on the report format. Don’t ever assume you know what the attorney wants and don’t be afraid to ask questions.”
Robert Malaer shares: “In an attempt to not come across as an amateur, I failed to ask specific and necessary questions of one of the first attorney-clients who hired me. The result – a poorly drafted report reflecting little understanding of what the attorney-client needed. Fortunately, the attorney was willing to provide recommendations for improvement. Through this experience, I learned the importance of openly discussing not only the specifics of every case with each attorney-client, but also my own personal needs for clarification regarding my inexperience with specific types of cases or requests. After voluntarily rewriting the report and presenting it to this attorney-client for free, she has continued to utilize my CLNC services and is one of my largest advocates.”
- Assuming the attorney knows what you know. Camille Joyner, RN, BSN, CCM, CLNC gives an insightful example: “I work on Medicare appeals. It is not unusual to have an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing for a patient stay that took place in a prior year. Medicare changes its interpretation of policies and your attorney needs to know in advance how the laws were being enforced at the time of the beneficiary’s stay because those are the policies that governed the stay. In a recent hearing, I had assumed the attorney knew that detail, but she didn’t speak up. Evidently, the assigned ALJ didn’t realize there was a discrepancy between policy interpretation. He kept asking the physician why he documented the way he did. Not wanting to upstage either the attorney or the ALJ, (and also because I was not sworn in), I kept silent and hoped the ALJ would not hold the attending physician responsible for the current policy interpretation. Fortunately, in the final decision, that worked out and we won. But, I did later share the policy change info with our attorney and sent her a copy of the old Medicare policy interpretation that was in effect at the time of the case.”
- Not giving an opinion. Dorene Goldstein advises: “Be decisive and communicate your opinion. Attorneys are paying you for your experience and want your advice on whether a case is meritorious.”
Robert Malaer stresses: “Attorneys are not hiring CLNC consultants to regurgitate the medical record and rewrite what they can read for themselves. The role of the Certified Legal Nurse Consultant is to review the medical records, identify additional information required and identify deviations from recognized standards. Understanding what the attorney-client specifically needs to prove or disprove a case is critical not only for the success of the case, but for the CLNC consultant as well.”
- Submitting a report without proofing it. Robert Malaer states: “To this day, I continue to have my wife read my reports for grammatical errors and structural deficiencies. Although I utilize the spell check tool, it is not uncommon for the program to miss subtle mistakes.”
Marcia Bell, RN, BSN, CAPA, CLNC adds: “Edit. Rewrite. Check the report again. I still struggle with this at times. Don’t be in a hurry to get a report done. Let the report sit for a few hours or overnight. Print the report out to check for mistakes. An organized, well-written and accurate report is one of the best marketing tools for your CLNC business.”
- Turning down cases outside your comfort zone. Michelle Neal discusses: “While intimidating, accepting cases outside of your comfort zone and clinical specialty may create opportunities you don’t plan. If I had turned down cases in the beginning of my CLNC career because I wasn’t comfortable with them, I would not be successful today. My clinical background was emergency nursing. The third case I did as a CLNC consultant was a nursing home case. I knew absolutely nothing about the standards in nursing homes. I utilized all the research strategies taught in the CLNC Certification Program, spoke with the CLNC Mentors and spent hours learning about nursing home guidelines and regulations. Now I feel proficient in an area I knew nothing about. I am so glad I took on the challenge, as approximately 50% of my legal cases are long term care.”
Thanks to Carolyn, Jorie, Dale, Dorene, Margaret, Kaylin, Robert, Susan, Michelle, Camille and Marcia for sharing 18 common mistakes to avoid when launching or growing your legal nurse consulting business.
P.S. Comment and share the mistakes you made and what you learned from them.