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JOSEPH J. BELL
A California lawyer for more than 39 years, Joseph Bell's primary area of practice is family law of all types, including juvenile law. He began his career as the supervising attorney of Nevada County Legal Aid, Inc. He has litigated various general civil disputes and environmental land use issues in state and federal court. Mr. Bell has been certified as a Family Law Specialist by the State Bar of California, since March 18, 1995. He has handled hundreds of dissolution of marriage, dissolution of domestic partnership, custody, visitation and support matters, as well as juvenile dependency, guardianship and adoption matters. Though he is an experienced litigator, he emphasizes proactive family law dispute resolution services including:
living together, same sex marriage, domestic partnership and pre-marital agreements;
counseling and coaching to effect reconciliation or dispute resolution;
alternate dispute resolution, including mediation, private judging, arbitration and collaborative resolution of disputes.
He has served as mediator, arbitrator and as a pro tem judge of the Nevada County Superior Court in family law and civil matters. He has prior experience in personal injury/tort actions arising out of personal relations. He has also litigated employment disputes including wrongful termination and harassment claims, as well as land use/environmental (water) law issues.
As a former member of the Board of Trustees of the State Bar of California, and as a Board member and Past President of the Association of Certified Family Law Specialists (ACFLS) Mr. Bell has written articles on legal issues for the California Bar Journal, The Specialist (published by ACFLS) and other digital and legal media. He frequently speaks on legal topics to community and bar groups. He is a founder of non-profit organizations including the ACFLS Charitable Foundation, Inc., the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) and the Sierra Nevada Group, Sierra Club. He also held every office in the Nevada County Bar Association and presently serves as a Member at Large of its Executive Committee. He has regularly been a presenter at the annual Nevada County Superior Court Family Law Update, since 2004.
Mr. Bell was a former State Bar Vice-President and Chair of the Board Committee on Courts and Legislation. He served as liaison to the California Judges Association Family Law Committee and the State Bar Family Law Section, Executive Committee. He is an active member of the national Association of Family and Conciliation Courts as well as the Family Law Section of the American Bar Association. He received the ACFLS “Sterling Award” in 2014. From 2015 to 2018 he served as President of the ACFLS Charitable Foundation, Inc., which provides grants to local support services for family law litigants. Mr. Bell was a member of the Family and Juvenile Law Advisory Committee for the Judicial Council of California, a Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for children and he is an active volunteer member of Gold Country Kiwanis International service club. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Mr. Bell was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia and he continues to be an active member of Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Associations.
You can view a full version of Joe's Resume Here ...
Dee Murphy is Mr. Bell’s paralegal. She attended Nevada Union High School, Sierra College, and obtained her paralegal credential from Pacific College of Legal Careers in 1985. Dee assists Mr. Bell and the law firm’s clients with the family law process. Her work includes drafting legal documents and assisting clients with the completion of the discovery process. Dee has worked in the legal profession for over 30 years in Nevada County.
Linda Thorn, our part-time finance manager, performs all bookkeeping and accounting tasks for the Law Office of Joseph J. Bell. She manages the details of our client trust accounts and produces the monthly billing statements using Firm Central & Client Portal software.
Teri is a Legal Secretary with over twenty years of experience working in family law in Nevada County. Teri graduated from Texas Tech University in 1989, and went on to earn her paralegal credential in 2010. Teri provides valuable support in all functions of the office, and is most often the first point of contact for anyone contacting the office seeking a consultation.
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 $6,500. 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.
SOME USEFUL RESOURCES
LAW RESOURCES AND REFERENCE
Hieros Gamos's Internet Law Resources
Lectric Law Library
GSU Legal Meta Index
The Law News Network
The Cornell Law School Library
Washington Post's Congressional Site
Northern California Legal Libraries Organization
Cal Law - The Complete Daily Briefing on California Law and the Courts
Legislative News & Information -- The State Bar of California
CA Secretary of State - Declaration or Termination of Domestic Partnerships
California Divorce Guide: Divorce, Alimony, Child Support, Visitation, Custody, Legal Strategies and Tips.
Welcome to the California Code of Regulations
The American Bar Association's Law Link
COURT INFORMATION LINKS
California Courts: Court Admin: Judicial Council: Advisory Committees: Family and Juvenile Law
California Courts: Court Admin: Judicial Council: About
Center for Families Children and the Courts