“You know a dream is like a river, ever changing as it flows, and the dreamer’s just a vessel that must follow where it goes.” This lyric in Garth Brooks’ song, The River, perfectly illustrates my nursing career beginning as a combat medic in the United States Army to advancing from certified nurse assistant (CNA) to certified medication aide (CMA), licensed vocational nurse (LVN) and registered nurse (RN).
When I look back over my career and many of the different opportunities and experiences that didn’t make sense at the time, I believe that the river of life I have been floating was destined for this expansive ocean known as legal nurse consulting.
After 14 years’ experience as an RN with an associate degree, I was completing my MSN degree in May of 2015 and working as the executive director for an assisted living company in Texas. My wife and I were planning to move to Oregon where the corporate office was located. When I posted our plans on LinkedIn, an attorney in Oregon contacted me and asked if I would consider becoming a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant and review cases for his law firm. I had never heard of legal nurse consulting.
We flew to Oregon to visit my wife’s family and I decided to visit the attorney who had contacted me. I learned that he had a successful firm in Oregon with multiple offices across the state. The meeting sparked a fire within me, and I decided to research legal nurse consulting options. That’s when I found Vickie Milazzo Institute and decided the CLNC Certification Program was the perfect fit for me. The Institute is accredited as a provider of nursing continuing professional development by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The Institute is also the pioneer of legal nurse consulting, and their CLNC Certification Program was the only one I found that offered business development assistance after certification through mentoring, membership in a professional association, and apprenticeship and exhibiting opportunities.
Once I made up my mind to pursue a career as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant I was all in. I believe if I could build a successful CLNC business, anyone can. When deciding to make this career change, I committed to building a successful business. Self-motivation, hard work, creativity, persuasion, vision, versatility, risk tolerance, flexibility, and, most importantly, faith in myself and my plan were personal traits that I relied on in pursuit of a successful CLNC business. I also knew I had the unwavering support of my wife and family, and that was critical because no one can do it all alone. My wife believed in my vision enough to not only support my crazy plan to quit my clinical RN job, but she also agreed to quit her job to partner with me in this endeavor. Looking back, I am amazed by her faith in me, especially since we had only been married for five months, and we both had highly successful careers when I became certified in May of 2015.
I attribute my success to Vickie Milazzo Institute’s CLNC Certification Program. Although I had extensive nursing education, training, and experience and my wife was a remarkably successful and experienced corporate marketer with more than 23 years’ experience, I know that the success of my CLNC business is a direct result of the training I received through the CLNC Certification Program. As I said, if I can build a successful CLNC business anyone can, and it is because of Vickie Milazzo Institute’s curriculum and training that I make this bold claim. I am a simple country boy that grew up on a farm in a small Texas town with a single blinking traffic light, but I had big dreams and parents that taught me that anything was possible with determination and hard work. I know that if this simple country boy can take what I learned from the Institute’s CLNC Certification Program and successfully apply it, any RN can do the same.
While waiting to move from Texas to Oregon, I developed my marketing plan by following the recommendations of the Institute. I was intentional in my efforts to ensure that every aspect of my CLNC business, from business development to marketing to my online presence, always remained professional.
After moving to Oregon in July 2015, I began implementing my marketing plan by putting together a marketing packet, including a business card, brochure, introductory letter and resume. I wanted to do something memorable during interviews and meetings with law firms, so my wife baked jalapeno cheese bread that we placed on black plates with our contact information attached and covered with gold cellophane that matched my company colors. Our business cards were placed on the top of the cellophane. I began visiting 20-25 law firms every week within a four-hour radius of our home and delivered my marketing packet to every attorney and paralegal in each firm and a loaf of bread to each of their breakrooms. I created a marketing follow-up report that allowed me to identify each attorney-prospect as a hot, warm, or cold lead with a color-coded scheme. The best advice I can give to new Certified Legal Nurse Consultants is to never take No for an answer and never remove any attorney-prospect from your marketing plan. I attribute the success of my CLNC business to strictly following my marketing plan and follow-up schedule.
By August 2015, I had my first four cases to review, and I was exhibiting for the first time at the Oregon Trial Lawyers’ Association (OTLA) Annual Conference. This was an extremely successful experience, and I went home with ten cases from six new attorney-clients. Based on this experience, I began contacting other state and national attorney organizations and planned to exhibit at their conferences as well. I signed up for many of the social events at the conferences, such as poker, golf and banquet night where I was able to have a much more personal, yet professional, conversation with potential clients. By December 2015, I was averaging $20,000 per month revenue as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant, and it was my goal to be the most successful CLNC consultant ever.
In the summer of 2017, I exhibited at the American Association of Justice (AAJ) Annual Convention in Los Angeles. Surprisingly, while setting up the booth, I saw that the Institute had a booth about 50 yards away. The Institute interviewed me, and I shared that my CLNC business was on schedule to earn more than $500,000 that year. Writing those words today still blows me away. Not bad for the small-town farm boy from Texas. It does not take much to motivate me, but after meeting the Institute staff, I wanted to build a million-dollar CLNC business. I stood in front of my table and spoke to every attorney that walked by, and at the end of the conference, I gave away four bottles of expensive scotch to four “winning” attorneys from our drawing. I continue to work with these attorneys today, and they have marketed for my CLNC business by referring me to other attorneys. Never underestimate the power of the first impression.
My CLNC business continued to grow to a point that I could not handle the workload alone, and I began hiring subcontractors who had obtained their certification through Vickie Milazzo Institute’s CLNC Certification Program. At one of the Institute’s advanced conferences the Institute invited me to become a CLNC Mentor. I accepted this offer as a great honor, and I enjoy giving back and helping other Certified Legal Nurse Consultants build successful businesses.
After reviewing a workers’ compensation case in which the client had been paralyzed from a concrete truck boom falling on his neck, the attorney-client informed me that he was going to share my report with a life care planner. CLNC consultants can obtain further certification as a nurse life care planner (CNLCP) and draft reports that identify a client’s future prognosis and probable medical costs for the duration of their life expectancy. I became a CNLCP and began a new marketing campaign. My CLNC business continued to grow exponentially.
After exhibiting at a criminal defense conference, I was hired to consult on a serial killer case. Based on my experience with this case and exposure to criminal defense cases, I obtained certifications as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE-A) and Forensic Nurse Specialist (FN-CSp.). I have come to enjoy the criminal cases, and based on my experiences, I have restructured my business model to allow my subcontractors to review the majority of the personal injury and medical malpractice cases, while I focus on life care plans and criminal cases.
This metaphorical river has not always been smooth, but despite struggling through the rapids, dodging many boulders, and avoiding the deadly falls, I have enjoyed every bend in the river and look forward to whatever life holds around the next bend. The first six months was the hardest, as I was implementing my marketing plan and overcoming the learning curve that comes with any new challenge and endeavor. I enjoyed meeting new attorneys, but I had a few setbacks that I used as learning opportunities. My first attorney-client conveyed that my report didn’t meet her expectations. After swallowing my pride, I rewrote the report. I continue to work for this attorney-client to this day, and she has become one of my most avid supporters and referral bases. I continue to seek new opportunities to expand my CLNC business and nurture my existing attorney-client relationships by implementing my follow-up schedule and by sending meaningful and thoughtful gifts throughout the year. Every relationship (personal and professional) requires effort to continue to grow, and business contacts are no exception.
I now own a CLNC business that generates a million dollars a year, but I do not consider the financial growth of my business to be the greatest asset. Becoming a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant through Vickie Milazzo Institute has completely changed my life. I make my own schedule, have time and energy to stay actively involved in my son’s life and activities, can travel and work from any place in the world and most importantly, I feel a sense of accomplishment and success that I never would have achieved in a clinical RN role. I continue to seek new opportunities to expand my CLNC business and nurture my existing attorney-client relationships. As Garth Brooks sings, “I will sail my vessel ‘til the river runs dry. Like a bird upon the wind, these waters are my sky. I’ll never reach my destination if I never try, so I will sail my vessel ’til the river runs dry.”
Owning my CLNC business has been the single most rewarding accomplishment of my professional nursing career. I do not know where this river will lead or what lies around the next bend, but I have learned to look to the future with hopeful anticipation and child-like excitement. For those of you that read these words, I encourage you to follow your dreams, take a chance, bet on yourself, and make the most of your life. Every time you consider quitting or fear threatens to crush your dreams, I encourage you to remember Garth’s words, “So don’t you sit upon the shoreline and say you’re satisfied. Choose to chance the rapids and dare to dance the tide.”
Guest Blogger Profile
Robert Malaer, RN, MSN, FN-CSp., SANE-A, CNLCP, CALM, CLNC owns Malaer Legal Nurse Consulting. Robert specializes in criminal, personal injury, products liability and workers’ compensation cases. He is an expert in medical record tampering and life care planning.
P.S. Comment here to congratulate Robert on his CLNC Success.