Lynette Carrington 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Bellah & Associates, PLLC Where Helping People Applies to Clients, the Firm and to the Community If there is one all-encompassing thing that could be said about Bellah & Associates Law Firm it is that they have created a culture of compassion and a family-like atmosphere that starts at the top, permeates throughout the staff and presents itself to the client. Founder, Richard Bellah prides himself and his entire firm in the desire to truly help others in the time of need. Bellah & Associates understands that when a client seeks their assistance, a warm and friendly approach serves to make the whole legal process that much smoother. Fine Tuning a Career Richard Bellah’s journey into law was unique path. “I didn’t even know a lawyer,” mused Richard Bellah of his pre-law career. His father was chairman of Baptist Hospital and when Richard was a sophomore in college, he went to a Baptist Hospital retreat in Sedona and the corporate lawyers approached young Richard and began giving him a good-natured verbal shove in the direction of practicing law. The encounter made enough of an impression that Bellah hit the pavement looking for employment as a law clerk, clearly not recognizing that he did not yet have the proper schooling or qualifications for the job. Due to a referral from a firm that admired Bellah’s tenacity, he soon landed summer employment at Cunningham, Goodson & Tiffany law firm. He initially worked for free and fetched law books, took out trash, cleaned the storage room and eventually started getting paid and worked his way up to billing clerk. It was a hands-on look at the lowest rung of the law ladder as he was starting to make the climb to lawyerhood. “When I was a senior in college at ASU, there really weren’t too many jobs on the market. It was a bad economic time,” explained Richard Bellah. His father had been an accountant and he didn’t feel the love for that industry. Instead he applied to law school at the University of Arizona. His involvement in college sports (he lettered in football and track) taught him how to work hard for law school. “I loved law school and joined almost every club and organization there was in law school”. Bellah joined the Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity and ultimately wound up receiving an award for ‘National Law Fraternity President of the Year’ for his work at Phi Alpha Delta. (Bellah graduated from U of A Law School but also attended ASU Law School.) “I ran for office in the American Bar Association Law Student Division and was the first U of A student selected to the NCAA Athletic Committee. Law school was an awesome experience,” said Bellah. Somehow, in the midst of his law school education and stalwart dedication to various school clubs, he managed to also earn his pilot’s license. “My dad died and I inherited $2500. And for some reason I decided to get my pilot’s license,” said Bellah. When he finally took the bar exam, he thought he was doomed. “I was certain I flunked,” mused Bellah. He claims that he forgot that the test results were on the way in the mail, but when they finally showed up, he learned he had passed! Still not convinced of the good news, he had to get confirmation. “I called the bar to find out if that was true and they said it was true.” During his second year of law school, he worked in the Legislature as a legal intern for Arizona House Majority Leader, Burton Barr, and after graduation went on to clerk for the Arizona Supreme Court and then went to work for a couple of different law firms. Early in his career, he also made his presence known on television through the Arizona State Bar with weekly shows on Channels 10 and 3. “They were five minute snippets of different areas of the law and I did that for probably two or three years,” Bellah explained. Additionally, he contributed to the Glendale newspaper, writing a column about various areas of law. Richard Bellah founded his own practice in 1985. It was a leap of faith, since he did not have any money or clientele base. “I took everything that came through the door and was a general practitioner, which I still am today,” he said. He has attorneys in his firm and has other attorneys associated with Bellah & Associates that can take the fullest range of clients. The Perez Law Group is in Bellah’s building, offering expertise in bankruptcy. Bellah considers their relationship akin to “brother, sister” type law firms. “It feels like we are part of one firm,” Bellah explained. Grass Roots Although Richard Bellah was born in Texas, he moved to the Glendale area when he was about five years old and has loved the area ever since. He spent most of his life within one-half square mile going to church, going to school, doing business and living in that area (although he more recently moved to Central Phoenix). At the age of twenty-eight, he was elected to the Glendale City Council where he served for eight years and in the last years as the vice mayor. When he was elected, Justice of the Peace J.White, who was previously a policeman, had just been sworn in at the same time Bellah was elected. “… Because I was on the City Council they transferred all the cases my firm was associated with from City Court over to the Justice Court because of the conflict of interest. I got a call from J. one day and he asked, ‘What are you going to do about this problem?’” Bellah stated. He was not sure to what “problem” J. White was referring, but Bellah respected White’s position of authority and was ready to listen. It seems that the large case load was taxing on J. White’s resources. “So, we started night court and I was the night court judge. That’s how we were able to ‘solve’ the problem in the Justice Court,” noted Bellah, “I was able to handle a part of the case load…I think I was there two nights a week and I handled eight cases (each night), so sixteen cases a week less that J. White had to handle…so I did that for a few years.” As if being an attorney, city councilman and handling the duties of night court weren’t enough, Richard Bellah (much like his days in law school) saw a need to branch out and get involved in various organizations and philanthropic endeavors. “I’ve done a lot with Christian education, I’ve been on boards, I’ve been chairman of boards (and) I’ve helped start a school. I am chairman of an organization that funded a Christian school down in Hermosillo, Mexico,” cited the philanthropist attorney. With the assistance of two fellow attorneys, Steven B. Yarbrough and David Harowitz, Bellah helped found the organization, ‘The Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization’ (ACSTO). Each year the organization awards scholarships to students attending Christian schools in Arizona. “Earlier this year, we passed the $100 million mark in cash awards to students. By the end of this year, I think it will be over $110 million….which is substantial,” said Bellah. ACSTO is currently affiliated with more than 140 schools in the scholarship program. Almost immediately after inception, litigation was filed against ACSTO for Constitutional issues and theories of separation of Church and State. Litigation continued for many years and was defended until the matter reached the U.S. Supreme Court. In November 2010, Richard and David attended the U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments involving Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization (ACSTO) v. Winn. As one of the original founders of ACSTO, this was something near and dear to Bellah’s heart. It was a memorable time for Bellah and Harowitz to witness the U.S. Supreme Court in action. In April 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of ASCTO and the other plaintiffs involved in this landmark decision. They had won! This victory will allow the continuing efforts of ACSTO to assist students with their Christian education. ‘Wings of Glory’ is yet another organization co-founded by Richard Bellah. “We fly missionaries and supplies to remote areas of Arizona Indian Reservations,” he noted. Occasionally they will also shuttle supplies down to Mexico. Putting that hard-earned pilot’s license to work, Richard Bellah himself will fly his 182 Cessna on various missions for ‘Wings of Glory’. He and one other pilot share piloting duties for the organization. Bellah attended Phoenix Christian High School and it made an indelible impression on him. After law school, he served on the board for nearly sixteen years. “I really love that school and I’m still involved,” Bellah stated. Additionally, he served as chairman of the board and founding chairman of Phoenix Christian Unified Schools West Valley Christian School in Avondale and was coowner with Kelly Bruce and helped develop a chain of gyms in the north valley, Fitness One. A Higher Calling Richard Bellah recognizes that in more recent years, attorneys have become highly specialized. But he is happy being a general practitioner and with the variety of legal cases it brings. Plus, he feels that he is in a good place with his practice. “I like helping people. I feel that The Lord led me to be a lawyer and what a lawyer does in theory, is to help people... I get joy being with people and being able to give them a solution to their problem,” Bellah said. His track record speaks for itself and many of his referrals come from friends and former clients. “Being a general practitioner is in a way, rough because you know a lot about a lot of different areas of the law, but you’re not an expert in one particular area. So, that to one degree is kind of rough. But on the other hand, a lot of church pastors in the valley or other leaders will call me whenever there is a legal problem with people in their flock or their membership and I’m able to help,” Bellah explained. A lot of leaders in the community are familiar with Bellah, his faith (he’s an active member at Calvary Community Church) and his reputation. As such, he has a high volume practice. About eight years ago, Bellah and his wife, Erin moved to Central Phoenix. Their daughter, Alexandria is 22 and graduated from ASU with a psychology degree and currently works at a school teaching autistic children. A Firm Understanding In addition to a full range of family law, Bellah & Associates takes cases for estate planning, business law, bankruptcy, real estate, probate, personal injury and a large assortment of cases for litigation. The firm has had the phone number 602-A-LAWYER for quite some time and Bellah was quick to point out how large firms with catchy jingles can always attract mass attention. But, Bellah is proud that he has a memorable phone number that is backed by a firm that will support their clients, get them results and treat them as family. As an extension of the firm’s services, Richard Bellah will also make legal house calls. This especially comes in handy for seniors that do not want to leave their immediate neighborhood. Looking toward the future, he hopes to devote more time to this specific service. Bellah & Associates has created the ideal “community environment” in which to work. “If you talk to any of our staff in the firm, they would tell you that our firm is like a family. They love each other, they care for each other, they do stuff with each other, there is no conflict….I’m really blessed,” Bellah explained. “It’s not always been this way. Because if you have a firm that size, you‘ve got people that don’t like people, but I don’t have that in my firm. I’m so blessed that my firm is like that.” Bellah & Associates’ clients pick up on the family demeanor at the firm and it is their involvement and personal touch that account for such a high percentage of personal referrals. Often, their past clients also keep in touch year after year. “I think our clients enjoy working with us a lot,” said Bellah.
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