Are you so hungry for work as a legal nurse consultant that you would say yes to any attorney client who asked you to provide services?
Mr. Senior Partner slouched in his chair and glared at me. He was a prominent plaintiff attorney who had invited me to come to his office and to bring a sample of a report. I had never worked for him before, but knew he took significant cases.
When I arrived at his law firm, his receptionist escorted me to a conference room where I met two associates. Mr. Partner strolled into the room and said, “Okay, whatdayagot?” I showed him the sample report I brought and explained the role of the nurse to summarize medical records. He flipped through my report and saw an illustration that he did not like. “This is sophomoric”, he said as he dismissed the image. Then he got called out of the room for a few minutes.
His associates looked at me in sympathy; perhaps my discomfort showed on my face or perhaps they were embarrassed by Mr. Partner. “I don’t think it is sophomoric, Pat”, one of them said. “I think it is helpful”.
It gets worse
When Mr. Senior Partner returned to the room, I found my discomfort increasing. First he explained that he had worked with a legal nurse consultant in another state who gave him a lousy expert.
“I would have sued her but I found out the LNC had no assets.”
Then he slumped in his chair and said, “How much do you charge? Everyone wants to put their hand in my pocket.” I could think of many places I wanted to put my hand and his pocket was not one of them. I walked out with a pounding headache.
Research into Mr. Senior Partner
An prospective attorney client never treated me that way before. Did I want this man’s work? I called three people whose judgment I trusted. One person had worked for him and described his mood swings. One moment he was pleasant and the next moment he’d leave caustic messages on her voice mail and then have no memory of having done so.
A second person had worked for him and had trouble collecting on his invoices. The third person was a plaintiff attorney who knew him and had worked with me for years. He said, “Pat, you can choose who you work with. You don’t have to be treated like that.”
Rejecting Mr. Senior Partner
I wrote Mr. Senior Partner a polite letter telling him I was too busy to take on his case and if anything changed, I would let him know. A few weeks later one of the associates called me to ask me to work on a case. I told him about the letter, and turned down the work.
A few years later, Mr. Senior Partner’s partner called us about a case and we turned down that work too. Now one of our experts is working on a case that was transferred to Mr. Senior Partner’s firm. We are going to let her bill this case on her own, rather than to deal with the firm.
Lessons for LNCs:
1. I am sure my business has lost income by not working with this attorney and his firm. It was a turning point in my business when I realized I could choose the clients I’d work with. There are many more who appreciate your skills than behave like this guy acted. Today I probably would have handled it differently. I would have told him I believed we did not have a good match, and then turned down his work.
I have never regretted my decision to turn him down. I would have regretted my decision to take his cases.
2. Not all work is good work. Not all attorney clients are desirable ones.
3. Trust your instincts. If you are treated in a demeaning way at the beginning of a relationship, do you think it will be any better as time goes on?
4. If an attorney client is rude, unpleasant or a bully, set your boundaries and define the behavior you will tolerate and what you won’t. Most LNCs do not thrive on conflict. Most of us have seen bullying behavior within the healthcare walls. Most of us head in the opposite direction.
You have a choice. Don’t let hunger for work temper your judgment about the risks of working with unpleasant people.
Pat Iyer MSN RN LNCC was president of Med League, an indpendent LNC business when this happened. She sold Med league in 2015 and now mentors other LNCs so they avoid expensive mistakes with an attorney client, make more money and get more clients. See LNC Academy for how you can build your business on a sound foundation.