Medical Legal Nurse Consultant – Interview

Interview/LNC: Mindy Cohen

© 2008 The Medical-Legal News

By Kate Darnell
for The Medical-Legal News

Mindy Cohen, RN, MSN, LNCC is the current national president of the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants, while also practicing legal nurse consulting at Mindy Cohen and Associates in Pennsylvania. She has 28 years of clinical nursing experience in peds, rehab, home care, OB, administration, psych and camp nursing. She resides in Villanova, Penn., with her husband and two children.

Legal Nurse Consultant Mindy Cohen on Personal Injury, Medical Malpractice, Toxic Torts & Legal Nursing.

Q: Do you testify as an expert in your clinical field of nursing specialty?
A: Only camp nursing and expert fact witness (pain and suffering).

Q: Are you presently working clinically?
A: As a camp nurse in the summer.

Q: How many years have you been in LNC practice?
A: 13.
Q: What are your LNC specialty areas?
A: General independent practice and expert fact witness.

Q: Are you a consulting expert and in what area?
A: Yes. My firm handles behind-the-scenes cases in all clinical specialties, med mal — personal injury primarily —products cases, toxic torts, workers comp and criminal cases.

Q: How did you become aware of legal nurse consulting as a specialty practice?
A: I received an educational brochure in the mail.

Q: What interested you most about legal nurse consulting?
A: I was always interested in law school but did not want to be a lawyer. I saw legal nurse consulting as a way of combining my interests in law and my passion for nursing.

Q: Describe your transition from clinical practice to LNC practice.
A: It was slow. I worked clinically for almost five years, part time. Then I worked clinically in the summer only.

Q: How hard was it for you to get started in LNC practice?
A: There was minimal competition when I started, so I would say it was moderately difficult. I joined AALNC and my local chapter immediately, which allowed me to find mentors and work opportunities from other members.

Q: What barriers did you face?
A: It was difficult to find clients and manage my time. I worked clinically and never knew when cases were coming. Therefore, I was often swamped with work (clinical and LNC) or had none. It was difficult to find time to locate potential clients and challenging to convince them of my value.

Q: Did you obtain any formal training? If so, where?
A: I took an initial course through Vicki Milazzo. Thereafter, I received training through AALNC chapter and national and regional programs. I also attend clinical nursing programs to maintain current clinical knowledge.

Q: Describe your first case.
A: Through various calls to attorneys, friends and acquaintances to investigate the idea of an LNC, one happened to have a peds case. I served as a plaintiff expert on a pediatric IV infiltration case. I was so excited but nervous because I had not done this before. It was prior to any training I received and I was 8-and-a-half months pregnant so I had other things on my mind. Since the case was so within my clinical expertise, I was confident in my opinions. I prepared a report with charts that outlined the deviations in care. The attorney could not believe this was my first case. I was so excited and proud. The case settled quickly for over half a million dollars. The attorney was thrilled and I was hooked.

Q: What is your most memorable case? Why?
A: My most memorable case was defending a personal injury motor vehicle case where I was involved in numerous aspects — identifying and working with multiple medical experts, preparing timelines and medical summaries, bringing in a life care planner, and analyzing pain and suffering issues. The demand was in the mid-eight figures and the settlement was in the mid-seven figures. I loved being involved in multiple facets of the case, the challenge and complexity of the case — and my firm’s contributions were huge in bringing the settlement in at a fair amount.

Q: What was your most difficult case? Why?
A: I had located several experts for a case. Five days before the statute ran, I received frantic and furious calls from the attorney because he had no opinions from the experts; he thought I was coordinating all of the expert opinions and he fully expected me to get this done immediately. Of course, I was away working as a camp nurse so this was no easy chore. Between my associate covering for me and me at camp, we got it done but not without some ugliness between me and the client, tremendous stress, ongoing communication and lost income. The lessons on clear expectations between the LNC and the client, ongoing communication, maintaining good relationships with experts whom you can count on in emergency situations, and understanding your client’s limitations and accommodating them made this the worst.

Q: Do you use or are you interested in subcontracting?
A: I use sub-contractors in my practice as consulting LNCs and testifying experts. I would consider providing expert fact witness services as a subcontractor.

Q: What are the top three things you like most about being an LNC?
A: I love: 1) the combination of nursing, medicine and the law; 2) the flexibility of an independent practice; and 3) that every case presents a new and different challenge.

Q: How often do you market?
A: Twice a year.

Q: What is your biggest marketing challenge?
A: Finding the time and spending the money.

Q: What marketing tools do you use?
A: Word-of mouth is most important. I have exhibited at two legal conventions and I utilize AALNC’s LNC Locator.

Q: Have you written any articles? Any chapters or books? How many and on what topics?
A: I have written or contributed to five professional journal articles and six book chapters on various pediatrics, psychiatric and LNC subjects, including contributing to the recent Legal Nurse Consulting: Scope and Standards of Practice.

Q: Have you given any presentations?
A: Yes, I have given presentations covering many different subjects for a wide variety of audiences, including LNCs, lawyers and nurses.

Q: Give three areas of interest other than legal nurse consulting.
A: Reading, biking and cooking.

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