Cliches of Independence

I have always heard that clichés were the conversational crutches of concrete people; that the truly bright and abstract among us do not think with the thoughts of others. But I have come to believe that behind every cliché is a solid foundation of truth, and the clichés surrounding independent employment are no exception.

It’s “feast or famine out there”. This is true, and truer still is the fact that independent work often results in famine and forgets to feast. For the newly independent legal nurse consultant, know this: never count on work that is promised to you, and never ever turn down work because you think you will be too busy to manage it. The attorney that calls you to check on your availability for a case may sound very sincere, and he may know that he needs your expertise. What he may not know is whether the adjustor that ultimately pays the bill will allow him to hire you. S/he may have miscalculated the tolling of a case, or the client may get cold feet, or simply go elsewhere for legal advice. I have congratulated many new LNC’s who are ecstatic that someone called them after seeing their brochure, email or marketing packet and said “I’ve got a case…”. The LNC will then turn down a job that paid half as much as their independent hourly fee because they want to remain available for this higher paying consult. Do not do this. Do not “count your chickens before they are hatched” for a very good reason; you cannot predict the hatch rate.

Attorneys know this lesson well. The very successful medmal attorney will only take a “case that has legs” (another cliché, although sometimes the legs take cases in the opposite direction). This is an attorney with “deep pockets”; it took me a while to learn all the nuances of that cliché. The majority of attorneys will take all but the most openly hopeless case in the knowledge that you “never know where your next meal is coming from”. They can juggle hundreds of cases if they have good support staff and strong organizational skills, but some will juggle those cases even without the requisite staff and skills, which is one of the reasons the retainer check, records or agreement never arrive as promised.

The other trap for a new LNC is the Friday afternoon call for an expert that is needed immediately. If I could recall the nurse who said it I would give her credit for the following: “Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” I really love that sentiment even though it is not a cliché. Fellow nurses, know that with rare exception, last minute requests are the result of poor planning. Poor planning goes hand-in-hand with failure to notify you that “Oh that case settled”. Do not be discouraged. The Declaration of Independence was the beginning of hard work, not the end of it. “Pick your battles wisely”, “Don’t get too big for your britches”, and “Don’t give up your day job” when you choose the route of independent LNC work. It really is a wonderful life.

As I write this, there are four projects that have been promised, three open cases I am working and two more that are in the pipeline. You will notice though, that I have time to write this blog. I have learned not to “put all my eggs in one basket” (clearly, poultry farmers have much wisdom to share). The projects were to be spaced so that one began as another ended, but I have no doubt they will hit in overlapping waves – less of a feast and more like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Oh well. I could eat.

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