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Connecting Medical & Legal Matters

Why Hire a LNC?

AALNC Position Statement on the Role of the Legal Nurse Consultant as Distinct from the Role of the Paralegal and Legal Assistant

The American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC) has defined legal nurse consulting as a specialty practice of the nursing profession. AALNC does not recognize legal nurse consultants (LNCs) as a special category of paralegals.

Attorneys and others in the legal arena consult with psychologists and engineers, for example, because of their expertise in their respective professions; similarly, they consult with LNCs because of their expertise in nursing and healthcare. Many LNCs have bachelor’s and advanced degrees in nursing and other health-related fields. Some LNCs practice as independent consultants; others are employed by law firms, insurance companies, and other institutions in a wide variety of roles.

While many legal nurse consultants have acquired knowledge of the legal system through such experience as consulting with attorneys and attending seminars, legal education is not prerequisite to the practice of legal nurse consulting. (In contrast, legal education is frequently a requirement for paralegals.) Professional nursing education and healthcare experience make LNCs unique and valuable partners in legal processes.

The AALNC Code of Ethics and Conduct 1, Scope of Practice for the Legal Nurse Consultant 2, and Standards of Legal Nurse Consulting Practice and Professional Performance 3 describe the specialty of legal nurse consulting. The primary role of the legal nurse consultant is to evaluate, analyze, and render informed opinions on the delivery of health care and the resulting outcomes.

The following list of activities helps to distinguish the practice of legal nurse consulting:

  • Facilitating communications and thus strategizing with the legal professional for successful resolutions between parties involved in healthcare-related litigation or other medical-legal or healthcare-legal matters.
  • Educating attorneys and/or others involved in the legal process regarding the healthcare facts and issues of a case or a claim.
  • Researching and integrating healthcare and nursing literature, guidelines, standards, and regulations as related to the healthcare facts and issues of a case or claim.
  • Reviewing, summarizing, and analyzing medical records and other pertinent healthcare and legal documents and comparing and correlating them to the allegations.
  • Assessing issues of damages and causation relative to liability with the legal process.
  • Identifying, locating, evaluating, and conferring with expert witnesses.
  • Interviewing witnesses and parties pertinent to the healthcare issues in collaboration with legal professionals.
  • Drafting legal documents in medically-related cases under the supervision of an attorney.
  • Developing collaborative case strategies with those practicing within the legal system.
  • Providing support during discovery, depositions, trial, and other legal proceedings.
  • Testifying at depositions, hearings, arbitrations, or trials as expert health care witnesses.
  • Contacting and conferring with vendors to develop demonstrative evidence or to collect costs of healthcare services, supplies, or equipment.

Confusion about roles arises because in some settings LNCs do some of the same work that legal assistants and paralegals do, particularly in small law offices where they are the only staff available to assist the attorneys.

AALNC has defined legal nurse consulting as a specialty practice of nursing. AALNC’s position, therefore, is that legal nurse consulting education should be developed and presented as specialty nursing curricula by nurse educators in partnership with legal educators.

Source: American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants