Frequently Asked Questions
Can I hire Tara Muller for only limited projects, or to serve as co-counsel in a case?
Both. Tara Muller offers both 1) freelance work, primarily assisting with research, complex litigation, and appeals, and 2) co-counsel representation, which involves preparing and signing briefs and pleadings. In some instances, Tara Muller prepares briefs and pleadings to be signed and filed by the lawyer or law firm that hires her for that service, thus acting as a contractor to that lawyer or firm. In other instances, when more extensive assistance is necessary, Tara Muller represents the client along with the primary attorney.
Is it ethical for me to hire a freelance attorney to perform legal work needed for representation of my client?
Yes. Outsourcing of legal work to a freelance attorney is a growing trend to contain legal costs and to allow small firms to serve their clients as well as larger firms. ABA Opinion 08-451 states: "There is nothing unethical about a lawyer outsourcing legal and non-legal services, provided the outsourcing lawyer renders legal services to the client with the 'legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation,' as required by Rule 1.1."
How will I deliver all the documents and file materials necessary to do the job?
If on paper, the record on appeal or other pertinent material can be delivered via courier service, or by email if electronic files are available. If the files exceed email storage limits a file-sharing service such as Dropbox can be used. Briefs can be provided as either Word or .PDF documents. In a role of appellate counsel or co-counsel, Tara Muller can finalize, sign, file and serve the final documents. However, in a role of freelance attorney requiring oversight by the primary attorney, it is standard for a final edit and formatting or tables of contents and authorities to be the responsibility of the hiring attorney.
Do I have to tell my client or the court that I hired a third party to draft a brief or provide other services?
The ethics rules are a bit unclear on this point, so Tara Muller makes it a policy to require the attorney to notify the client of her involvement. Under ABA Opinion 08-451, if confidential client information must be provided to Tara Muller in order to perform the work requested, your client must agree in advance to the sharing of that information. Thus, in theory, if you only need a research memo prepared, you likely do not have to inform your client. Nevertheless, Tara Muller requests that all clients be notified and approve of her involvement before starting a job. As for notifying the court, according to the NC Rules of Professional Conduct, Tara Muller does not need to make an appearance in the case or otherwise inform the court of her involvement unless the rules of procedure require her to be the lawyer that signs the brief or pleading.
Will any confidential information provided be protected by the attorney-client privilege?
In a true freelance situation, Tara Muller does not form an attorney-client relationship with your client, so there is no direct attorney-client privilege regarding confidential information. However, because you are hiring Tara Muller as an agent whom you supervise, your attorney-client privilege should apply to any shared confidential information. In a co-counsel scenario, Tara Muller represents the client along with you, so the information is protected and fully privileged.
What is your policy regarding conflict of interests?
Tara Muller maintains a file of all contractual engagements for freelance legal services, including the names of all the parties in addition to the client of the hiring attorney or firm. She also recognizes actual conflicts of interest involving parties if actually engaged by the lawyer of a party in a matter.
Do I pay extra for any expenses, such as an internet-based legal research service?
Tara Muller has access to two major online research services and is located a short distance from a large law school library. She believes that the cost of legal research should be included up front in the cost agreed upon. Therefore, Tara Muller does not bill you for the cost of legal research unless the particular research project is unusually extensive, in which case she will notify you in advance of providing such research. Generally, all expenses are included in the cost agreed upon before beginning the project.
What about malpractice insurance coverage?
Although Tara Muller does not form an attorney-client relationship with any clients of the attorney or firm that hires her on a freelance basis to prepare a brief or engage in another task, she does maintain professional liability insurance.
Do I pay you, or does my client pay you directly?
In a freelance situation, the lawyer or law firm enters into a contract for the freelance legal work and pays Tara Muller directly for the services. Except in certain co-counsel situations, she does not accept payment from the contracting attorney's client. For income tax purposes, you must provide Tara Muller with a 1099 form for miscellaneous income.
How do I pass the cost of your work to my client?
The NC Rules of Professional Conduct permit you to bill the client directly for the legal services provided by Tara Muller. Further, the fees charged to the client may exceed the amount you pay to Tara Muller, provided the total fee is reasonable under the circumstances. Rule 1.5. Tara Muller will keep accurate records of time spent and will provide you with a detailed bill for legal services on her own billing software or directly on your billing software, whichever you prefer. Some billing software companies charge a fee for additional users, which Tara Muller sometimes includes in her costs depending on the nature and extent of the freelance project. When a project is limited in duration and scope, most attorneys find it relatively simple to transfer Tara Muller’s timesheet to their own billing software and pass it on to the client.
What North Carolina Attorneys are Saying:
Some representative appeals
Allgood v. Parsons Trucking Co. (2002 – appellee); Goolsby v. Yadkin Valley Motor Co. (2007 – appellant); Briggs v. Employment Plus (2017 - appellee); Harris v. Southeastern Installation (2017 - appellant); James v. Progress Energy (f/k/a CP&L) (2008 – appellant); Kelly v. Weyerhaeuser, (2002 – appellee) ; Kennedy v. Minuteman Powerboss (2012 – appellant) ; Lewis v. Transit Management (2016 -- appellant); McAdams v. Safety Kleen (2012 – appellant) ; McCarver v. Hunter Motors Inc. (2007 – appellant); McDevitt v. Stacy (2002 – appellant); Morrison v. Public Service Co. of NC (2007 – appellee) ; Ruffin v. Compass (2002 – appellant) ; Sanders v. Brad Farrah Pontiac (2005 – appellant); Sherrill v. Carolina Cable (2004 – appellant); Spivey v. Wright’s Roofing (2013 – appellant); Tunell v. Resource MFG (2012 – appellee); Weatherford v. American Nat’l Can (2005 – appellant) ; Workman v. Rutherford EMC (2005 – appellant)
Tara Muller - Legal Writer
Tara Muller regularly assists solo practitioners and small law firms across North Carolina by producing high-quality written product. In 2017 alone, she prepared for other law firms appellate briefs, federal and state motions, research memos, insurance coverage analyses, Industrial Commission contentions, records on appeal, continuing education seminar materials, law firm website and marketing articles, and ghost blog posts. She also serves as emergency substitute counsel for small firms in times of medical or maternity leave.
The field of appellate law is highly specialized and fraught with landmines and procedural traps. Tara Muller is very experienced in the field and has been recognized as a superb legal writer. Even as early as 1999 when still in law school, she began assisting attorneys with brief writing and appeals, and she continued in that role both litigating and appealing cases for nearly a decade. For several years thereafter, she led the appellate division of a North Carolina defense firm as "Of Counsel." Tara serves on the Appellate Rules Committee of the NC Bar Association and is active in the appellate section. Due to the focused nature of her practice, Ms. Muller stays abreast of appellate rules changes and consistently presents an outstanding written and oral argument.
Tara Muller regularly assists other attorneys by providing valuable marketing material at a much higher caliber and at less expense than material offered by large legal marketing companies. She produces case summaries of law firm victories, blog posts of pertinent specialized law developments, legal guidelines and "cheat sheets" for business clients, continuing education materials, and client newsletters.
If you are an attorney in need of top-notch written material, contact Tara Muller for any of the following documents:
Tara Muller is available to serve as co-counsel, rules compliance consultant, or outside appellate counsel. Contact her to see examples of her writing style or to request assistance with a project.