What legal counsel and business advice can do for your IBCLC private practice
When I wrote my books and created my legal forms, I made sure to hire an attorney to carefully go over everything I was saying. I wanted to provide the most accurate, up-to-date, and ethical information possible. My lawyer Linda Strauss has been absolutely amazing--not only does she know the law, she also knows the birth world and was recommended to me by another IBCLC.
Common Legal Issues for IBCLCs
From being a part of the IBCLC community for so many years now, I've seen certain concerns arise time and time again:
How do I comply with the legal regulations in my country, state, or province?
What's informed consent?
Am I allowed to text with my clients?
What are social media best practices?
What happens if I get audited by an insurance company?
What do I do if I'm asked to testify as an expert in a custody case?
Legal resources for IBCLCs
First of all, we all need to know the IBLCE Professional Standards backwards and forwards, because it is our responsibility to comply with them fully.
In addition to reading my books, I highly urge every IBCLC to read Legal and Ethical Issues for the IBCLC by Elizabeth Brooks, JD IBCLC. Liz doesn't update her blog as frequently as we all wish she would, but the articles that are on there are absolute gems, including one of my favorite articles ever written: Step Away From the Mini-Consult.
I'm not an attorney like Liz, but my forms forms (Consent for Care, Secure Messaging Demystified, and Social Media Solutions), are all attorney-reviewed and cover online issues as well as standard informed consent. I've also got the legal language you need for your website, also attorney-reviewed. These forms are all bundled with a whole bunch of other goodies in my IBCLC Private Practice Essential Toolkit.
If you are in the US, definitely be aware of the great work being done by the National Women's Law Center. Their resource section Breastfeeding Benefits: Understanding Your Coverage Under the Affordable Care Act is a must-read for both IBCLCs and our clients.
Your business may need other legal forms not specific to lactation work, and for those I recommend you check out the products offered by attorney Robert Klinck. He offers a membership site with tons of resources that he constantly updates, but you can also buy his forms a la carte, including Website legal forms, an Independent Contractor Agreement, and an Employee Agreement Pack.
I'm a huge proponent of smart crowd-sourcing, like the conversations we have in my Facebook group and in the other wonderful FB group for IBCLCs. While they don't substitute for actual legal counsel, these conversations can help you parse out nuances and apply what you're learning from trusted resources to your private practice.
Common Business Issues for IBCLCs
In private practice, you're working for yourself, and that means being an entrepreneur. I grew up in an entrepreneur family (my dad Neil Young started in health insurance and moved into wealth management), and married an entrepreneur (my husband John Frisbie owns a lighting rental company). I haven't had a full-time job in almost 20 years, and while living by your wits can be a crazy and unpredictable life, I wouldn't have it any other way.
When it comes to IBCLC private practice, there are many basic questions that I cover in IBCLC Private Practice: From Start to Strong:
How do I structure my business?
What am I supposed to chart during a visit?
What is the best way to store client information?
Should I go paperless?
Where do I get liability insurance?
How do I decide what to charge for my services?
How do I keep my clients happy?
Business resources for IBCLCs
In addition to writing books, I love to provide business coaching 1:1 or virtually. I have a real passion for seeing IBCLCs develop sustainable business practices and have systems in place that don't require a lot of ongoing maintenance.
Galactablog has a few posts on getting started in private practice. And come to LCinPP if you haven't already--it's the most fun you'll ever have while talking about lactation.
The attorney I mentioned above, Robert Klinck, sells an LLC Operating Agreement a la carte or as part of his forms package.
Hiring your own attorney
I highly recommend having the name and contact number of an attorney who is licensed to practice in your state, and who has familiarity with small businesses and with healthcare applications. You really never know when you may need someone in your corner. An attorney can:
create and review legal forms
file articles of incorporation
answer questions about legal and business matters
advise on the appropriate business structure for your situation
represent you in legal matters
I'd love to hear from you in the Facebook group: what legal or business aspect of private practice do you find most challenging?
About the Author
Annie Frisbie, MA, IBCLC is the creator of the IBCLC Private Practice Essential Toolkit, a collection of books, resources, legal forms, training manuals, and workbooks aimed at helping private practice lactation consultants build a private practice that’s ethical, profitable, sustainable, and enjoyable.