By BECKY GILLETTE
Most personal injury attorneys use large billboards and extensive television advertising to attract clients. Attorney Brehm Bell instead relies on his reputation garnered from 25 years of legal work in the Hancock County area.
“I’m very fortunate in that I don’t have to put up billboards or run ads on TV,” Bell said. “Most of my clients come from word of mouth. Having grown up in Hancock County and being friends with many people has provided me a great opportunity to help our own citizens. When it comes to trying a case in Hancock County, it is important to have someone who grew up here to understand how juries look at cases from our unique Hancock County perspective. I do think that is one of the benefits of my practice. I don’t think there are many personal injury attorneys who grew up here.”
Bell was attracted to the legal profession at an early age when his sixth-grade science teacher, Coach Spence, told Bell he argued about everything.
“The coach told me that I liked to argue about things and I liked to help people,” Bell said. “He explained lawyers get hired to help people do complicated things. I thought that sounded pretty good. It made life easier because I didn’t have to figure out what I wanted to be later. I started practicing law in 1989. This September it will be 29 years, 25 of those years in Bay St. Louis. I grew up in Pearlington and went to Bay High School, so this is my home.”
Bell, a graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Law, said it is personally satisfying to help people navigate through tough times. His practice is 100 percent focused on personal injury.
“When people are injured and have to navigate through insurance issues, it can get complicated,” Bell said. “They are dealing with a lot of financial and legal issues that they need help with while they are dealing with their injuries. I focus on the claim and law matters while they stay focused on getting well.”
Bell said the secret to success is to treat each client as an individual because every case is unique. “Obviously, there is a lot more to it than that, but that is the big thing,” he said.
Bell said it can be common to have trouble with insurance companies. Even when you are stopped at a stop sign and hit from behind, some insurance companies claim you are partly at fault.
“It is very frustrating to clients to be treated poorly by insurance companies and that generally drives a lot of clients to my office,” Bell said. “I don’t think all insurance companies are bad, but sometimes people get frustrated with the claims process and need help navigating their claim. Attorneys are easy targets for jokes. But, without them, I truly believe we would have very difficult times. I enjoy the practice of law and feel we do a great service to our community.”
One of the biggest challenges he sees in law today is affordability. The average lawyer in Mississippi charges $200 per hour and Mississippi has one of the lower rates in the country. The national average is $250 per hour for an attorney’s first year, $350 an hour for up to year 15 and $400 an hour from years 15 to 25.
“It has become very costly and the average person can’t afford to get to court to get their issues resolved,” Bell said. “Fortunately, in personal injury cases, we don’t take money up front. We get paid at the end only if we are successful. Access to an attorney in my field isn’t an issue. But in other fields where people have to hire an attorney, it is very expensive.”
Bell is very active in the community supporting public education and issues regarding children. He served as a youth court judge for 3.5 years and since then has hosted luncheons every four months for charitable organizations that focus on families.
“I host the luncheon so they can communicate with each other about helping families through difficult times,” Bell said. “It is tough to see families going through addiction and hardship and there is not much out there to help them. So, it is the children who suffer.”
In his free time, Bell enjoys spending time with his wife, Jennifer Bell, and their four children, Austin, Conner, Blake and Daley. He also likes to play golf and is very active in his church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He has served in many church callings dealing with adults and youth over the past 40 years, and currently is assisting young men in the Waveland\Bay St. Louis area.
He is a big fan of his hometown.
“I love Bay St. Louis and encourage everyone to come here and visit, and enjoy everything it has to offer,” he said. “I think it is a diamond in the rough. Business has been growing here and more and more people who come to visit express the desire to make Bay. St. Louis their home. We have excellent public and private schools and, more importantly, the people here are what makes the difference.”
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