Tell me about this legal letter required for freelancer's insurance
September 15, 2006 7:45 AM   Subscribe

A friend has asked me to write a letter as her lawyer so she can get health insurance from Mediabistro. Does anyone know anything about this?

She's a freelancer and needs a letter from a lawyer stating that she really is a freelancer. She is planning on showing me her check stubs and the contracts I've gotten since she started freelancing, upon which I could certify that nobody is withholding taxes from her or paying her on payroll.

This is what the insurance company told her: "The note from the accountant or lawyer should say something like, 'to whom it may concern, [freelancer's name] became a full-time freelancer effective xx/xx/xx and going fwd from that point, the majority of her income is untaxed. She will file a Schedule C for 2006.' – Something along those lines, but there is no official wording, just explain how you are a full-time freelancer."

(1) Can someone tell me more about this type of letter? Is this unusual?

(2) Is there any way I could be subject to liability or vulnerable to malpractice as a result of it? For example, for not having been diligent in totally examiner her files, etc.? Is there some standard for examination?

posted by johnasdf to Law & Government (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The answer to this question largely hinges on whether or not you are a lawyer.
posted by ChasFile at 8:31 AM on September 15, 2006

If you are a lawyer, you have no business asking Metafilter about what to do.
If you're not a lawyer, you may be subject to civil or criminal penalties for impersonating one.
Either way you slice it, there's a Bad Idea afoot.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 8:38 AM on September 15, 2006

If you are a lawyer, you have no business asking Metafilter about what to do.

Why not? I'm sure he will ask other people too- but whats the harm of querying an online source? Surely some lawyers read metafilter..
posted by petsounds at 8:54 AM on September 15, 2006

Response by poster: I'm a lawyer. It's fairly common among lawyers, and humans generally, to ask other people for advice. Like everyone else, lawyers don't have absolute and total knowledge about everything in every field of law. If your speciality is, say, tax reform or civil liberties, I don't see why there's anything unethical or strange about asking for general advice about a fairly obscure matter regarding the health insurance offered by a single media company. (Obviously this is not something covered by the bar.) Additionally, a lot of lawyers are on Metafilter and this question may be useful to others in the future.
posted by johnasdf at 9:17 AM on September 15, 2006

I'm a lawyer (England) and I would never write a letter for anyone, friend or otherwise, attesting to something that wasn't within my own personal knowledge.

If it were me, if I knew from my own knowledge she'd been freelancing for XXX months or years, I would say so. If I was being asked to certify something as true on the basis of what she was telling me, without independent evidence to back it up, then I would decline. If I was provided with documents by her to support what she was saying, I would scrutinise them carefully and check them out if necessary before writing anything for her.
posted by essexjan at 9:38 AM on September 15, 2006

The general concept of people asking other people for advice is one thing; someone asking a friend to act in a professional legal capacity when the matter clearly doesn't fall within his purview is someone either looking for free legal advice and/or looking to buck the system. I suggest you refer her to an attorney who specializes in this type of thing. There are, perhaps, legal guidelines regarding what qualifies as "freelance". Is that a tax designation? This issue is a complex one that needs the review of someone more than vaguely familiar with the topic. If she is your friend, then this is what you should advise.
posted by Lockjaw at 10:07 AM on September 15, 2006

Personally, I would advise her to have her accountant write this letter. Obviously, this only works if she has an accountant, however, as a freelancer who does not have any organization withholding her taxes, she could probably use the services of an accountant anyway.

As for whether you can be held liable for this as malpractice, I'd say the answer is a solid, "Maybe." However, an accountant would not have that problem.

Of course, I'm just spitballing here. I don't have anything else to do while I'm waiting for the bar exam results.
posted by MrZero at 10:18 AM on September 15, 2006

I cannot imagine any particular liability or malpractice for attesting to what you have a reasonable belief to be true based on personal and professional knowledge. This is much different than writing a letter for a friend/client when you do not personally know it to be true. If you are acting in your capacity as a lawyer you should negotiate a fee (however modest) so that it is protected by your malpractice (although I can not image it is a problem). PS BTW, I do not see what's wrong in asking the question--you have to make the final decision research is research....
posted by rmhsinc at 11:33 AM on September 15, 2006

I am not a lawyer (yet), but I seem to recall that BARBRI taught that NY has the 'privity rule' for lawyer malpractice. Meaning that only a lawyer's client can bring a malpractice claim against the lawyer. I can't imagine a situation where the 'friend' here would bring a malpractice claim against you, because how could this letter possibly hurt the friend?
posted by reverendX at 12:56 PM on September 15, 2006

Check with your boss (if you are a lawyer employed by others) or with your malpractice carrier (if you are a solo or partner) before you lift a finger. If this is within the scope of your permitted activities, ask Mediabistro for a diligence check-list, and write a letter which is explicitly just a confirmation that you have gone through their check list to your satisfaction. This makes it very unlikely the insurer could sue you for fraud or conspiracy (unless you actually know, despite the diligence, that your friend is ineligible). Only your friend (client) could sue you for malpractice -- but she certainly could if you didn't fulfill your professional responsibilities (which include telling her not to apply and not writing the letter if you were to conlude she isn't eligible.)
posted by MattD at 2:05 PM on September 15, 2006

reverendX, Barbri here in Chicago also made a pretty large point of indicating that, although some states retain the 'privity rule' for lawyer malpractice, many states do not.
posted by MrZero at 2:49 PM on September 15, 2006

This document (pdf) from mediabistro's site has an example letter on pages 11 & 12.

It sounds like your friend is just starting out, and so doesn't yet have all the documentation they require to prove she's really a freelancer--hence the need for a letter from her lawyer or CPA certifying that she's such.
posted by neda at 4:24 PM on September 15, 2006

« Older What level of medical insurance should I get?   |   Is there a laser beam hidden in my dishwasher? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.