What advice would an experienced legal nurse consultant give a person starting up a business?
Setting up your legal nurse consulting business hours
Set your schedule. What hours you will work? Make sure your family (whether residing with you or not) is aware. Be accountable to your “job”. Would you take every morning off from your employer to run errands, play with kids, have appointments?
Personally, my goal is to work ten hours a day. Why? Because I know I will likely take a long lunch one day, have unscheduled interruptions, and I love it when all my “work” is done by Friday morning! The point here is to know your habits and tendencies and then schedule your days to fulfill the hours a week that you need to be productive. Home offices make you accessible to family and friends; this is a positive for me but it does require adaptations.
If possible, have your office (even if it’s a just a desk) away from the family/TV room unless your children are all grown and the family/TV room is now the office.
Software for legal nurse consultants who are setting up their business
For software, I use Microsoft Office Suite for my businesses. Between Word, Excel, Publisher (brochures, flyers) and Outlook (email) most of my needs are met. If you are a quick typist and get paper records this may be all you need besides your PC. For hardware, I used a $400 desktop for the first 4 years of my business. I like a second screen or one large one that you can split into two, even with paper records, because I can have my email or research up on one side and my Word document on the other.
If you are getting mainly electronic records, a second screen (or split) is an invaluable time saver with the records on one and the summary/chronology on the other. If you primarily receive electronic records, consider purchasing Abode Acrobat (not the Reader version you have that is free). It allows you to convert pdf file extensions to readable text so that you can cut and paste from long records. Adobe has a free 90-day trial.
Instead of paying $600 for the newest version, find the previous version, which Adobe usually sells for around $150.
Optional software would include Dragon Naturally Speaking which allows you to dictate to your PC (I am a slow typist, so it is worth it for me) and CaseMap which helps create summaries. Both are expensive and have typical new software learning curves, but are something to consider as your volume of cases increases.
The final essential LNC office tool would be a smart phone. Whether you are working at this part-time or full-time, you need to be able to stay in touch. It pays to stay connected as you build a business.
Pearls of wisdom for legal nurse consultants start up
Speaking of business, here are few things I would do differently given the opportunity and a few pearls to hopefully ease your journey. What would I do differently? Learn more in the beginning about writing reports focused on how attorneys look at a case. Their argument/merit-based focus is very different from the persuasive style taught in educational programs. I would have taken an LNC class sooner; I took mine two years after starting my LNC business.
I would market more consistently with the intent of building relationships, not just connecting to sell services. Finally, I might have kept an income source before jumping into small business ownership.
What would be my building business pearls? If you are still working full time, consider subcontracting or a working for a company that does data extraction to gain experience if you have never done chart review. That way, when you market to attorneys, you are confident in your skills for chart review.
Learn, learn and learn some more; take classes on marketing, effective writing and legal nurse consulting.
Legal nurse consulting is not a new field; some nurses have been involved in it for greater than 20 years. Read Pat Iyer’s book, “Principles and Practices of Legal Nurse Consulting” (Pat edited the second edition.) It is a great starting point even if you cannot get to a seminar.
Suzanne Rector contributed her wisdom to Path to Legal Nurse Consulting, Second Edition. Read the tips from 42 legal nurse consultants for guidance on growing your legal nurse consulting business. Order Path to Legal Nurse Consulting here.