Questions Potential Clients May Have

Family Law FAQ

Often potential clients have questions about my experience and practice of the law. This attempts to answer most of them.  

PRACTICE EXPERIENCE:

How long have you been in practice?
Since 1975 when I was sworn in. The last ten years have been almost exclusively family law.

Have you ever been disciplined by the state bar?
No, I have a clean record. In addition, I have never been sued by a client for malpractice, issues involving fees or for any other reason. I have never even had an arbitration hearing involving fees. 

Do you have trial experience?
Yes, However I usually try to avoid actual trial and seek settlement. Family law cases are centered around pleadings and pre-trial hearings. Doing excellent pleadings with points and authorities puts the other side in a position where they want to settle rather than going to trial. It also enlightens the judge and encourages the judge to make recommendations for settlement. Often we can get preliminary orders at an OSC or Mandatory Settlement Conference (MSC) that become permanent orders. There is a saying that “A stitch in time saves nine.” 

Doing the preliminary work,  sharp pleadings and perhaps an OSC it saves time and money for the client. If we can’t get a reasonable settlement from the other side then I do not hesitate about going to actual trial. See the below also. 

Do you try to settle cases before trial?
Yes, it is much less expensive than going to court. Keep in mind sometimes there is no alternative. The other side is just not reasonable. There may be motions and/or OSC hearings. Trial is more time intensive and I try to avoid that for the clients. If necessary I will take cases to final trial. Keep in mind that OSC (Order to Show Cause) hearings are far less time intensive than actual trial.

What percent of cases do you settle out of court?
Probably 85% of my family law cases are settled without trial. The 85% figure is typical in family law. Sometimes the parties have agreed to everything and there is no reason for even going to court. Often cases will settle after an OSC or Mandatory Settlement Conference.

Are you familiar with the Family Law Court bench officers and how they rule?
Yes I do. In downtown Riverside there are five family law court bench officers. Keep in mind they change from year to year. It takes a little time to get to know their styles. Talking to other attorneys is a help. Yes, I do consult with other attorneys. I also practice in most other courts. 

Do you have negotiation skills?
Yes, I have taken classes in negotiation and have a great deal of experience in this.

HOW WILL MY CASE BE HANDLED?

Do you have a “factory” law practice where you go to court with several cases?
No. Once in a while I will have two cases the same day but that is the exception. Regardless of the number of cases I have I bring extra work to do so that I am not billing for time just waiting for the court to hear our case. If you have ever been to court you know there may be a lot of waiting around time. I don’s burn up client time during this waiting time. I bring other work to do. 

Do you return phone calls?
Yes. The best time of day to contact me is between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. California time. If I am not there you can leave a message on the answer machine. Your call will usually be returned in 24 hours or less.

Will you the client receive copies of correspondence, communications and other documents?
Yes. We will usually mail them to you. They can also be faxed if they have special priority or importance.

Will we be working as a team in our case?
Yes. You will be kept current on all developments. You will be consulted on strategy and other issues.

WHAT ABOUT FEES AND COSTS?

Do you charge a consultation fee?
No. The first consultation is always free. You can learn a lot at the first consultation.

Do you charge for photocopies?
Not usually unless there are hundreds of documents to photocopy.

Do you charge for secretarial time?
No. There is not charge for secretarial time.

How much is your retainer fee?
My standard charge is $300 per hour for a set number of hours. If time goes over the set hours the fee may go up. I have a simple one page retainer agreement. No legal mumbo jumbo. Plain straight language. 

In the above retainer, why are costs separate from the attorney fee?
Costs are items that the attorney does not receive but must pay for. The costs money is kept in the trust account until incurred. The most common costs are the filing fee for court. Others might include cost of a process server and expert reports. An example of an expert report would be a psychologist to make recommendations on custody and visitation. Another example is a vocational consultant to make estimates on what the earnings of the other party should be.

Will I receive an itemized statement of time used?
Yes you will.

Will there be extra fees in case of court?
No. There are no extra fees for court. We also do not charge for travel time except in special circumstances. 

Will you let me know before the retainer money is spent?
Yes. Usually when you are within two hours of the retainer a notification is sent to you. Keep in mind you can always call in and ask what your time standing is.

Will we seek an order that the other side pay part of your attorney fee?
Yes. It is often one of the issues. Keep in mind if you make more than the other party you may not get an attorney fee award. Attorney fees ordered and paid to the office are subtracted from your bill.

Is your website basically an advertisement?
No. Take a look at it. There is a huge amount of information. This includes information on cases, the law, pleading forms and other helpful news. There is also a section on QDRO type retirement plans (QDRO orders are used to divide retirement plans in a divorce case). The “links” section has various other web sites that are helpful to a person with an interest in dissolution issues.

I have more questions. How can I find answers?
Please look at the web site of www.BlaisAtty.com, where there is a wealth of information and questions answered.