Ten Most Frequently Asked Questions
1. HOW MUCH ARE THE FEES?
Mr. Bell's charges vary, depending on the type of case. There are two major types of fee charges and payments, hourly rate and contingency payment. Mr. Bell's hourly rates are currently $385 per hour for family and juvenile law and related litigation, for which he is a specialist. Rates for other matters are variable. Contingency fees are not permitted for California family law matters.
2. HOW MUCH DO I HAVE TO PAY UP FRONT?
The minimum deposit, which is always refundable if the case terminates early or the attorney client relationship is terminated before the case is resolved, is $1,500. The minimum deposit in all family, juvenile and related matters is normally $5,000. Deposits in other types of cases are set on a case by case basis. A deposit is almost always required, even in contingency cases, for which the deposit is required to pay costs to third parties.
3. HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO COMPLETE MY CASE?
The time to complete a case also varies, depending on the nature of the case, the attitude of the opposing party(ies) and the other attorney(s). Some cases can be quickly resolved by alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods such as mediation, arbitration or negotiation. Other cases require court intervention for temporary or permanent orders. Some cases require a full trial of some or all issues, which can take years and cost many thousands of dollars. The minimum amount of time to obtain a final judgment dissolving the status of marriage is six months in California, for example. However, that does not mean that some, many or even all other issues cannot be settled or resolved in less time. When the facts of the case are clear, and the law is clear, the time for resolution is easier to estimate, and vice versa.
4. WHY SHOULD I RETAIN A SOLO PRACTITIONER INSTEAD OF A LARGER FIRM?
In some cases it might be better to hire a larger firm, which will usually mean a firm outside the Nevada City-Grass Valley area. For example, personal injury types of cases where the plaintiff does not have the funds to pay the costs of litigation are more easily handled by a large law firm which may have greater ability to "advance" (ie., loan) the costs, to be repaid from a settlement. On the other hand, where the matter is likely to go to a trial in a local court, it is usually advantageous to have an attorney who knows the court, opposing counsel, the type of juror likely to hear a case, and who is close at hand for meetings and conferences. The choice of lawyers should also take into consideration the amount of personal contact the client expects to have with the lawyer and the expectation that the same lawyer will handle the case from beginning to end.
5. WHAT ARE THE COURTS OR AREAS WHERE YOU TAKE CASES?
Mr. Bell's practice is primarily in the western Sierra Foothills, including Nevada County, Placer County and Sierra County. Mr. Bell occasionally appears in Yuba-Sutter counties. He rarely handles cases outside these counties due to the costs of travel, which must be charged to the client. Further, infrequent appearances in a county can be a disadvantage due to the local rules or procedures many courts have adopted, and which are not always known to visiting attorneys.
6. ARE THERE TYPES OF CASES WHICH YOU DO NOT TAKE?
Mr. Bell does not handle patent and copyright, bankruptcy, incorporation, tax law, criminal defense, probate, real estate transactions or litigation, or worker's compensation and social security administrative proceedings. His primary areas of practice involve civil litigation including family, juvenile, and partnership matters, land use and environmental law, personal injury including employment rights, landlord tenant law and non-profit organization law.
7. CAN I RELY ON YOU TO "FIGHT FOR ME" AND "WIN MY CASE?"
This question arises from the belief that the legal system really works like it is shown to in movies and on television. The reality of litigation is that it is seldom simple, usually very costly and highly unpredictable. Unfortunately, winning a case is usually accompanied by some kind of loss whether it is time, expense or emotional detriment. For that reason, consistent with the ethical rules, Mr. Bell always does his very best to disclose both the risks as well as the possible outcomes at each stage of representation, from first consultation to final resolution. He looks to his clients to guide his advocacy, after they have a clear understanding of their options. In some cases, aggressive advocacy is mandatory, while in others it might be counter-productive. In all cases, he strives to keep a cost-benefit analysis uppermost as a factor to guide litigation.
8. DO YOU KNOW THE JUDGES AND OTHER LAWYERS, AND WILL IT HELP?
Mr. Bell knows most of the judges and attorneys who litigate matters in Nevada, Placer and Sierra Counties, and to some extent in Yuba-Sutter Counties. Knowing the bench and bar can facilitate communication in some cases, but will not determine the outcome of a case. There are far too many other factors, most importantly the law, the facts of the case and the available and admissible evidence which determine outcome. Beyond that, unknown factors and chance play a role in outcome determination.
9. WHAT KIND OF EXPERIENCE DO YOU HAVE HANDLING MY TYPE OF CASE?
You can view Mr. Bell's resume online. You can also contact the office to discuss your particular type of case to determine specifically what experience we have in a certain type of litigation or legal concern.
10. DO YOU HAVE REFERENCES OR FORMER CLIENTS I CAN CONTACT?
Yes, at the time of a consultation, we will provide you with such references. Mr. Bell charges $300.00 for all consultations and does not have a set time limit for the consultation, though most are completed in about an hour. You should plan to schedule a consultation in advance and have all of your paperwork with you or previously delivered to the office for the consultation.
Certified Family Law Specialist
350 Crown Point Circle, Suite 250 - Grass Valley, California 95945
California State Bar Number 92093