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Quarterbacking Success in a Challenging Field

Every team needs a quarterback, especially when that team is composed of attorneys, clients and support personnel operating in a complex and changing field. Someone must step out and take the leadership position to create and execute a successful strategy in the courtroom or across the negotiating table.
To extend the metaphor, Tara R. Burd, of T.Burd Law Group, APC takes that ball and runs with it. She is a solo practitioner with two attorneys as of counsel: David McCuaig, who runs Sona Legal APC, a transactional firm, and William (“Bill”) Markham, a leading anti-trust litigator. She also frequently hires contract attorneys on an as-needed basis, and has worked with more than 15 attorneys on that basis.
The association with McCuaig is an example of how legal firms are increasing depth of service without adding staff. “We are the perfect opposites: the same goals with complimentary skill sets. I’d rather write motions and draft pleadings, while he would rather draft e-commerce agreements and manage corporate governance. Together, we can offer more robust services to our clients; big firm services with small firm care,” Burd says.
The practice areas of T.Burd Law Group are estate planning, probate and litigation—areas where she has a specific advantage. Few probate practitioners have the strong litigation background Burd has. This gives her a significant advantage when probates or trust issues become litigious. She and her team are able to handle the entire process whereas other attorneys often need to hand off certain issues or bring in additional (and costly/time-consuming) counsel.
Burd says, “For example, consider damages arising from a person who gets injured, while performing a contract, for an individual who then becomes deceased. Such a matter could easily include aspects of personal injury, employment, breach of contract, and probate. I am able to quarterback this type of complex multi-forum action.”
Burd began her solo practice in 2011 and after a year on her own decided to continue the practice of law as a self-employed attorney. “The reality is, when you’re always pushing yourself, the practice of law—as well as the business of law—never really gets easier, it just becomes challenging in different ways. I discovered that I enjoy the business challenges just as much as I enjoyed actually practicing law. It’s a good balance,” she says.
Starting a new practice is challenging and time consuming and many attorneys find that it is easy to cut corners in the name of efficiency or when they’re overwhelmed. “My formula for success isn’t necessarily easy, but it is simple and straight-forward: Do things correctly from the very beginning, work hard, and don’t give up,” Burd says.

The Business of Life
Burd says, “As a young child, my dad always told me to put everything in writing. When we had a bet going—it didn’t matter how small the wager was—he would make sure we wrote down the terms even if it was on a napkin.” The lesson for Burd was that everyday people have business-like problems too.
Burd has represented a groom jilted by his fiancé who cleaned out their joint bank account; women ousted from their family home; and best friends investing in business together. She works closely and co-counsels with numerous law firms in litigation matters to ensure that her clients receive the best and most comprehensive representation possible.
What do Burd’s cases have in common? Broken promises.
Anyone who has suffered $100K-plus in damages due to a broken promise by a business partner, friend, or loved one needs an attorney experienced in pursuing and defending contractand fraud-related actions. This is particularly important when dealing with assets such as real property or shared bank accounts.
Burd is no stranger to high-profile verdicts. In 2016, Burd achieved a judgment after trial in the amount of $7.4 million in an estate-related breach of contract to make a will dispute, with co-counsel Stuart Furman and James Caputo of the Southern California Legal Center. A neighbor promised Burd’s client that the client would receive significant assets after the neighbor’s death. In exchange, the client helped her neighbor manage his multiple apartment complexes and cared for his many needs. Burd says, “This type of promise is not uncommon. Elderly persons often want to leave their home to someone after they die. The problems arise when they don’t properly plan.”
Like many cases, a trial is not the end of the road for Burd’s client. She and her co-counsel continue to pursue their client’s rights in the probate court in order to collect the full amount of the judgment. In fact, after the initial action, the prosecution of the single dispute resulted in no less than 20 separate legal actions— Burd was involved in half of them.
“Anyone who is promised money or property, whether during life or death, should consult an attorney to make sure their rights are protected,” says Burd. She believes her role as an attorney is to seize opportunities to problem solve, support, and advocate. She shares with her clients, colleagues and in continuing legal education courses: “A will is not enough. A handshake is not enough. Serious promises have legal implications and the best way for the parties to protect their rights is to consult with an attorney from the beginning ... but if that doesn’t happen, I am here to represent you in court.”

The Case of the Kidnapped Grandma
Some of the scenarios Burd has encountered shock the senses and demonstrate the important public purpose that advocates continue to play in modern society. For example, “The Case of the Kidnapped Granny” proved the importance of thorough estate planning to help clients protect families and futures from unnecessary emotional strain and legal costs.
T.Burd Law Group contracted with the lead attorney on the case to represent the granddaughter of an elderly woman (grandma) with rapidly declining dementia. The grandmother could answer questions with such apparent clarity that people believed she was competent, but the answers were far from accurate. Burd’s client was simultaneously consumed with the tragic loss of her mother to cancer.
Initially, the facts were shocking, but Burd learned that the pattern was all too common. In Burd’s case, an estranged sister of grandma and an unscrupulous neighbor isolated the grandmother and then convinced her to take a plane out of state. There, the grandma tried to run away. She was unsuccessful and was placed in a home that locked patients in with bungee cords and guarded them with dogs. She said she wanted to die and mentally deteriorated quickly.
Burd’s team sought to return grandma to her granddaughter in San Diego. Their client had rights under the terms of the estate planning documents, but those rights were usurped by the court and estranged sister. Because the client’s home was held in title by the grandma, the court sought to evict Burd’s client if she declined to pay market rent on her own childhood home. Burd says, “Family members often blur lines regarding homeownership and finances. Unfortunately, when something goes wrong, the courts look at the situation more like a business.”
Early in the case, Burd was tasked with taking statements from the immediate and extended family. “The stories they told and tears they shed wore heavily on me. They screamed out a truth, which was ignored by the local courts and denied by local law enforcement. Doctors’ letters and family testimonials were not enough to prove to a dispassionate justice system that the grandmother had not fled her home with legal intent.” Burd says.
Burd’s team tried tirelessly to return grandma to their client, her granddaughter. The case was litigated in probate court, civil court, federal court, and out of state. Burd’s team learned foreign state laws and flew across the country to prove that the grandmother belonged in San Diego. They won in an arduous ten-month case and succeeded in returning the grandmother to Southern California. Unfortunately, grandma died soon after her return. The death certificate identified “dementia” as her cause of death: a diagnosis her own attorney had been denying to the court. Burd’s client was grateful to have been reunited with her grandmother during her final days.
Burd says, “The legal challenges and harsh realities of this case were unprecedented in my career. The indelible impression left by the family’s heartache continues to motivate me to prevent other families from suffering the same agonizing loss. The irony is that the grandmother had a regularly updated estate plan that should have prevented the entire incident. Even the best laid plans can be led astray by those with ill intentions.”
The lesson for Burd was that attorneys need to help their clients plan better. “I’ve seen how things can go sideways after death or incompetency. I am committed to understanding my client’s wishes and specifically tailoring their estate plans so that their wishes can be fulfilled. That’s the value in hiring an attorney, and it’s the one time that I can help people before anyone is fighting,” she says.

Looking Ahead
Burd recognizes that law firms are not defined today as they were 20 or 30 years ago. She thought out and carefully executed a rebranding into T.Burd Law Group, APC with the goal of partnering with other attorneys to offer more well-rounded services. Today, small firms can associate together in order to offer diverse client services without the overhead associated with larger firms.
For example, in January 2017, she moved into adjacent office spaces with two colleagues, Eric LaGuardia and Omar Nassar, who also have their own firms. Later in the year, Daniel Gamez and David McCuaig moved their firms into an office building just across the street. The five attorneys regularly meet for lunch or coffee.
The comradeship benefits the attorneys and ultimately their respective clients. The breaks provide an opportunity to discuss daily challenges, new cases, new techniques and personal experiences. “We’ve been able to recreate some of the advantages of a bigger law firm experience without the law firm itself—engaging in big firm collaboration while retaining the benefits of being solo practitioners. Sometimes we have so much fun that it’s hard to imagine why anyone wouldn’t like going to work,” Burd says.
Clearly Burd’s approach is paying off. Not only is she having fun, but she has been recognized numerous times in the community and travels across the county sharing her knowledge and experience with her peers. The old road is rapidly aging, and Burd is clearing the new path forward.


  • San Diego Inn of Court – Graduate, Trial Advocacy Workshop, 2014
  • California Western SOL cum laude with Honors – Distinction in Criminal Prosecution & Defense Practice Concentration – Juris Doctor, 2010
  • San Diego State University – Criminal Justice Administration, Bachelor of Science, 2005


  • Super Lawyers – San Diego Rising Stars, 2017, 2018
  • Top 100 Finalist – San Diego Business Journal's Business Women of the Year Awards, 2017
  • Best of the Bar – San Diego Business Journal, 2016, 2017


  • State Bar of California Real Property Law Section, Executive Committee
  • Chair of the Southern California Real Estate Symposium
  • San Diego County Bar Association – Litigation Section, Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Law Section, Real Property Law Section
  • Irish-American Bar Association, Vice President
  • The Hon. J. Clifford Wallace American Inn of Court, Member
  • Lawyer's Club of San Diego, Member and Volunteer


  • State Bar of California
  • United States District Court for the Southern District of California
  • United States District Court for the Eastern District of California
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit


  • How to Pick and Talk to a Jury: Defense Perspective, American Bar Association's GPSOLO, Vol. 31 No. 5
  • Quoted and cited in: California Lawyer, San Diego Union Tribune, KPBS San Diego, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates
  • Featured in California Lawyer, Finding Their Place, April 2015, located at:
  • Amazon Best-seller

Tara R. Burd
T.Burd Law Group, APC
402 W. Broadway, Suite 800
San Diego, CA 92101

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