Avoid financial landmines that will cost your legal nurse consulting business. You will gain both income and clients if you follow these practices. All of these lessons I learned the hard way to avoid legal nurse consulting billing mistakes.
1. Don’t set unreasonably low legal nurse consulting fees.
Some inexperienced legal nurse consultants believe that if they set their fees low, their services will be more attractive to attorneys and they will get more work. Low fees do attract some attorneys, but they are usually not the kind of clients you should seek. They often try to negotiate even lower fees. When you set your fees too low, you encounter these difficulties:
- You have trouble paying your bills.
- You broadcast your inexperience.
- You will have difficulty raising your rates to a more reasonable level later. Your clients will resist.
2. Don’t spend an unreasonable number of hours on a case.
An attorney expects you to be able to hone in on the important issues in a case. A phone call or meeting with the attorney before you start working on a case can save hours of misdirection. Recognize that you do not have to read every page of the medical record. There are some sections that are not germane to the case.
Legal nurse consultants complain that attorneys want them to be experienced, but they do not want to pay for their learning time. “Quite unfair”, you say. Yes, it looks that way. But if you are mentally prepared to be flexible in your billing practices, and write off hours in the beginning, you will find yourself less frustrated. Always ask the attorney for feedback on your work product and learn from his or her recommendations and reactions.
3. Keep good billing records.
Putting aside the issue of the learning curve, I recommend that legal nurse consultants keep meticulous billing records to avoid legal nurse consulting billing mistakes. You will earn far more money by keeping very good track of your time when you are billing on an hourly basis, than if you wait until partway through or the end of case to estimate how much time you spent. Although many legal nurse consultants bill in 6 minute or ten minute increments, I find this confusing and difficult (numbers are not my friend). If you bill in 15 minute increments and round up at the end of each the period spent on the case, you will make more money.
4. Get a retainer and ask for replenishing retainers.
It is possible to get a retainer from every attorney you work for, with the exception of a few defense attorneys who are backed by insurance companies that refuse to provide retainers. For all but very small cases, a 10 hour retainer is a reasonable amount to ask. When the retainer is 75% depleted, ask for another retainer. These practices will greatly reduce the need to spend a lot of your valuable time contacting attorneys about getting paid on your invoices, and will do wonders for your cash flow. This is a big legal nurse consulting billing mistake – to not get a retainer.
5. Get a retainer and your invoices paid up to date before testifying as an expert witness.
There are certain points in a case when you have leverage as a legal nurse consultant: when the attorney needs something quickly, when a report is due, and when you have to testify. Use your leverage opportunities to make sure your invoices are paid.
I learned this lesson the hard way early in my career as an expert witness. I went to court to testify on behalf of a plaintiff. After the jury came back with a defense verdict, the attorney’s client told him he did not do a good job and refused to pay my testifying fees. The attorney in turn refused to pay the fees himself, even though he was my client. I retained a lawyer to write a threatening letter, and eventually got paid, less the lawyer’s fees. As a result of this experience, I made a firm policy to not testify unless my invoices were paid and my testifying fee was in my hands ahead of time.
Follow these billing practices for your legal nurse consulting business to put more money in your pocket and to avoid legal nurse consulting billing mistakes.
Pat Iyer MSN RN LNCC built a large and successful LNC business. She sold it in 2015 and now coaches LNCs to get more clients, make more money and avoid expensive mistakes. Get details of her coaching here.
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