Nurse Attorney Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a nurse attorney career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a nurse attorney is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Nurse Attorney

Nurse attorney's have expertise in both law and nursing. They deal with litigation that involves medical negligence or health insurance damages. Following is a list of pros and cons that can help you determine whether or not becoming a nurse attorney is right for you:

Pros of Becoming a Nurse Attorney
Opportunity to serve as expert medical witness*
Able to help companies resolve claims and disputes*
High earning potential (top 10% of attorneys earn about $187,000 or more as of May 2014)**

Cons of Becoming a Nurse Attorney
Job often involves working long hours**
Participating in courtroom trials can be stressful**
Must pass a state-board nursing and law licensing exam*
Must complete several years of schooling (typically seven years)**

Sources: *Job Postings for Dec 2012/Jan 2013, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Info

Nurse attorneys typically utilize their expertise in the medical field and their knowledge of the law to work on court cases, help resolve insurance company claims or lobby to make changes in healthcare policies. For a position that involves working in the courtroom, you may defend and cross examine medical professionals concerning malpractice lawsuits. You may also testify as a medical expert witness at arbitrations, depositions, hearings and trials.

If you work in the insurance field, you may be responsible for identifying and interviewing employees and other individuals who have knowledge of incidents relating to claims. Working on behalf of a health insurance company might also involve collecting and analyzing medical records, evaluating standard of care policies and recommending methods to resolve claims.

Job Outlook and Salary

Although there is not salary and outlook information available specific to nurse attorneys, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides information for attorneys in general. The BLS reported that attorneys are expected to see a ten percent increase in employment opportunities from 2012-2022. Some reasons for this average job growth included companies hiring accounting firms and paralegals to do tasks that can be done by attorneys and budget limitations within the federal, state and local governments. As of May 2014, the BLS found that the lowest-paid 10% of attorneys earned roughly $55,000 or lower, while the highest-paid 25% earned around $173,000 or more.

What Are the Education and Licensure Requirements?

To become a nurse attorney, you need to complete both a nursing degree and Juris Doctor (JD) law program. Typically, this starts with completing at least a bachelor's degree program in nursing. Afterwards, you would spend about three additional years in law school. Most job postings showed that nurse attorneys have a registered nurse (RN) license. To become licensed, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) for your state. You would also need to pass a state-specific bar exam administered by the American Bar Association (ABA). Additionally, you must be found to be of good character by an admitting board to become licensed to practice.

Job Postings from Real Employers

According to job postings, nurse attorneys typically need at least five years of experience. Some employers also look for candidates with experience in a particular healthcare specialty, such as emergency medicine and radiologic treatment. Below is list of postings that can help you understand what real employers were looking for during December of 2012 and January of 2013.

  • A medical malpractice firm in California was seeking a nurse attorney to assist with litigation processes, depositions and trials, meetings with expert witnesses and reviewing medical records. This employer preferred to hire a candidate with experience in emergency medicine and radiology.
  • A health insurance company in Syracuse, NY, was looking for a legal nurse consultant/nurse attorney to work in a risk management claims department. The candidate had to be a RN with 5-7 years of experience in acute or ambulatory healthcare, have a law degree or equivalent legal experience and an advanced knowledge of casualty claims.
  • A Tampa, FL, healthcare management company sought a nurse attorney for defense litigation cases. The candidate needed have a bachelor's degree in nursing, a law degree, 3-5 years of experience, a RN license and completion of a state bar licensing exam.
  • A health insurance company in Massachusetts wanted to hire a nurse attorney with more than five years of clinical healthcare experience. The candidate needed be a RN, have a law degree or equivalent legal experience. Job duties included preparing exhibits and other documents for trial and hearings, researching information on medical issues, cross examining medical professionals and providing expert medical opinion.

How to Stand Out in the Field

You can stand out in this field by becoming a member of a professional organization, such as The American Association of Nurse Attorneys (TAANA). The TAANA has local chapters in several states across the country. Some of the benefits you receive by becoming a member of this association include the opportunity to attend education conferences and social events, have your writing published in publications (such as the Journal of Nursing Law) and serve as a spokesperson at national and local association meetings.

You might also consider obtaining the Certified Legal Nurse Consultant designation from the American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board (ALNCCB). To become eligible for the certification exam, you must have a current RN license, five years of experience as a RN and proof of 2,000 hours of legal nurse consulting experience accrued within the last five years. To maintain this credential, you can either retake the certification exam or submit proof of at least 60 hours of continuing education points every five years.

Other Career Paths

Nurse Case Manager

If you would like a career that involves working on issues that impact healthcare delivery without earning a law degree, you might consider becoming a nurse case manager. In this role, you perform duties such as developing and reviewing case management plans, assessing patient care delivery procedures, overseeing discharge planning activities and managing treatment planning for patients. To become a nurse case manager, you must have a bachelor's degree in nursing and be a licensed RN. According to Payscale.com, nurse case managers earned a median wage of about $64,000, as of January 2013. The BLS reported that RNs were expected to see a 26% increase in jobs from 2010-2020.

Arbitrator

For a position that involves resolving disputes out of court, consider becoming an arbitrator. As an arbitrator, you can be a lawyer or business professional with expertise in a specialized area. In this role, you conduct mandated and voluntary private hearings, acting as an unbiased third party. If opposing parties agree to do a voluntary arbitration, you have the authority to make a final binding decision. There a several educational options you may pursue to become an arbitrator.

According to the BLS, you may complete a certificate or master's degree program in dispute resolution, or a doctoral program. However, many arbitrators have a law degree. As of May 2011, these professionals earned a median salary of about $60,000, according to the BLS. For the decade of 2010-2020, the BLS also noted that these professionals were expected to see a seven percent growth in employment.

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Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: Legal Studies
  • Undergraduate in Legal Studies
  • AAS in Legal Support and Services
  • Postbaccalaureate Certificate - Pathway to Paralegal

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Widener University

  • Dual Master of Jurisprudence in Corporate and Business Law / Master of Business Administration

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Grand Canyon University

  • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies
  • Master of Public Administration - Government and Policy

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Legal Studies
  • B.A. - Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts - Paralegal

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Corrections and Case Management
  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Generalist
  • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

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Penn Foster Career School

  • Career Diploma: Legal Secretary

What is your highest level of education?

Argosy University

  • Compliance (ML)
  • Bachelor - Business Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Criminal Justice Intelligence & Crime Analysis

What is your highest level of education completed?