FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

Do I really need a Reno lawyer?

The legal field has its own language, and things that may sound familiar have a totally different legal meaning, and things that sound foreign have a totally relatable meaning but you just don’t know what it is.

For example, words like:

  • RULE 11
  • NRS

There is an entire culture surrounding the legal field and when you insert yourself into that culture, it can be as unsettling and inhospitable as visiting a foreign country where you don’t speak the language and everything you do offends someone.

I’ve literally had a client go in to represent himself on a traffic ticket and end up in jail for 7 days because the judge did not like what he had to say. This was a ticket that carried a fine of less than $500 and he never expected to end up in jail. Had an attorney gone with him, it would be a complete anomaly for that to have had happened.

Other clients have prepared what they thought was simple paperwork (like a joint petition for divorce that the court has fillable forms for), they did not know what was important to include which resulted in losing vast monetary rights. I’ve seen interests in houses lost, interests in retirement accounts, interests amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The court packet was free, an attorney would have cost less than $2,500, but now they have irretrievably lost much, much more.

People who later become my clients, who have represented themselves on simple child support matters or to defend themselves on emergency motions regarding custody (because they couldn’t afford or find an attorney) have irreparably ruined the course of their case. I’ve watched court recordings of these matters to try and figure out where it all went so wrong and was horrified to see the same judges that I practice in front of daily, acting like complete bullies and tyrants when no attorney is in the courtroom. These are judges that I thought were well reasoned, patient and thoughtful, who have never displayed such injustice in my presence – yelling at litigants on the stand, refusing to allow people to introduce evidence because they didn’t know the process, and even refusing to let them speak by threat of physical removal from the court room. I really never knew that this was the type of “justice” that people were getting until I started watching these recordings after clients hired me.

There are so many stories about how things go wrong in the legal system and it is a sad commentary on what needs to be fixed. But until there is true transparency and the courts are accessible to the people they serve, people usually need an attorney. When you go to court on your own, the judge is often as close in physical proximity as a cashier at the grocery store, but you’re an ocean away from them understanding your position. When an attorney is with you, usually the judge already knows the attorney, respects the position the attorney holds and therefore the groundwork is laid before the attorney starts speaking. The judge already knows that the attorney is going to relay the most relevant information to get your point across. This is invaluable and gives you the best chance at success.

Why choose a Reno lawyer instead of a Reno law firm?

Do you want personalized attention? Do you want to know who will be working on your case and who will be going to court with you? You’re looking to hire a lawyer, not an attorney staffing agency where you can’t be sure of what (or who) you’ll get. When law firms advertise their “team of lawyers” it is meant to be reassuring to the client who thinks that a group of lawyers are available just for them. What it really means is a work pool where the personal relationship is often lost, and efficiency is decreased by your case being passed around and you explaining your situation multiple times to multiple people (and usually charged each time). There are some situations where you would want to hire a law firm, such as complex litigation where sheer numbers of people working to crunch data and do research is necessary. For most everything else, you want a personal relationship with an attorney so there is not the confusion and misinformation that occurs when “too many cooks are in the kitchen.” Beware of law firms where a figurehead is selling you a line of hype, then passing you off to another lawyer. They make money on volume – a tale as old as time.

How much do you charge?

Generally, $300/hour, but flat fees may apply to your situation

Are consultations free?

Yes, the first consultation is free. Any secondary consult is charged at my normal hourly rate.

About the Legal Process

Can the other side be ordered to pay my attorney’s fees?

Yes, but you should not count on that, as the majority of family law cases end up with each side paying their own attorney’s fees. You will always have to pay for representation and then if you are awarded fees by the judge then you are responsible for collecting the fees awarded from the other party. This can be difficult and time consuming. That is why you should ultimately expect to be responsible for 100% of the cost.

How do I know if a case has been filed against me?

You will be served with a Complaint or Petition and a Summons. That starts the clock ticking for the 20 day deadline for you to file an Answer. If you live in a county where they have online access to cases (Washoe County District Court, but not Sparks Justice Court or Reno Justice Court), then you can use the court’s website to search for your name and see if a case has been opened.

What are the general deadlines I should be worried about?

If you have received a Complaint or Petition, then an Answer is due 20 days after you are served. A Complaint or Petition require personal service or your acknowledgment accepting service. If you have received a motion, then an opposition is due within 14 days of when the motion was mailed. A motion only requires that it be mailed and personal service is not required. This is why it is very important for you to keep your address updated in the Court’s system so that any notices are mailed to your correct address.

What if I miss a deadline?

Take action ASAP! Sometimes you can call the opposing party (or their attorney if they have one) and ask for an extension. A simple request and agreement can save the day. You can also file a Motion for extension of time to file your response and if you have a valid reason the judge may grant your request. You can also just hurry and file whatever it is that is delinquent, with the court. If the other party has not taken action to alert the court that you are in default, then you may still be in the clear. Do not just ignore the deadline! Take action to address the deadline.

Can I appeal a decision that a judge makes?

Most of the time. Certain kinds of orders are appealable, other kinds are not. Final orders and decrees are appealable. There are always deadlines that are usually 10 or 20 days from when the order was issued. That means you must act fast to even be able to appeal an issue. In rare circumstances, you can file an appeal outside of those short deadlines. Schedule a consult with an attorney as soon as you think you want to appeal a decision – even if it is before the order has been issued.