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Ask the Expert

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The Practice of Law: Reape-Rickett Law Firm

Q&A with Jim Reape, Senior Managing Partner

Posted: July 29, 2014 7:00 p.m.
Updated: July 29, 2014 7:00 p.m.

Reape-Rickett Law Firm / Courtesy photo.

 

Reape-Rickette Law Firm

Specialty: Family Law

Q&A with Jim Reape, Senior Managing Partner

 

1. What differentiates the practice of divorce law in California compared to other states?

In some ways the practice is not very different state-to-state, but in other ways the difference can be very significant. As a community property state, California was a forerunner no-fault divorce.

Our firm also handled one of the same-sex divorce cases – because one of the spouses had “transgendered.” It was such a unique case that when we tried it in downtown Los Angeles, we had a courtroom full of people.

The biggest hurdle in the state is making sure the cases are heard by highly qualified judges – those that are trained in family law because we usually get the most interesting cases in California.

There’s a shortage of these judges, in part, because it’s a very trying assignment, the courts are very busy and the burnout factor is high – which means a high turnover in judges. And when the turnover is high, there is always a learning curve.

Another problem is that the court system as a whole is continuously underfunded. A lot of us in this field “go private” by hiring private judges, mediators or arbitrators. We’ll hire a judge to hear the case.

It pays to hire because it actually minimizes the costs of going through the court system. The cost ratio is something like 5-to-1, or one-fifth of the cost of going to court. And, when we hire a private judge there’s no other business competing for the judge’s attention.

2. What would you change about the practicing law in the state?

Most distressing is the lack of funding. Filing fees have increased, creating basically a regressive tax, and it’s getting very expensive for people to resolve their problems through the court system.

It’s very difficult to provide the parties with an opportunity to be heard and affects all of us. But more so, it has a very heavy impact on lower incomes. Family law stats indicate that more than half of the parties in a divorce can’t afford an attorney.

3. In your practice, what are the common or repetitive issues you encounter when representing clients?

Clients not knowing how to pick and choose their battles; not knowing how to diffuse a situation rather than accelerate it; not understanding the costs; not listening; not taking advantage of free resources; needless fighting over kids; and game-playing or tit for tat.

“All that does is rather than their kids going to college, mine do.”

4. In your opinion, what pitfalls or mistakes might people avoid?

People should seek appropriate guidance. It’s also a good idea to check in with a therapist who is empathetic – particularly for men who don’t emote as well. Men face four-fold risk of suicide during these times. To be a good attorney, you have to be a good people person. You have to get a client to understand certain thoughts and approaches and get them to agree to them.

5. In addition to your specialty, what services does your firm offer?

Our services fall exclusively under the umbrella of family law – divorce, paternity, restraining orders, etc. We have a number of lawyers with divergent backgrounds so that when we focus on a case we can look at it from many different points of view.

6. How many offices do you have?

Two; one here in Valencia and the other in Calabasas.

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