About Us

About the Firm

The firm had its beginning September 1, 1969 when James Banks, Jr. and Joseph E. Johnston formed a partnership. About two years later J. Michael Welch joined the firm and shortly thereafter they adopted the firm name Banks, Johnston and Welch.  During the first six years of the firm James Banks did divorce, business law, probate and estate planning, and real estate law.  He dropped divorce work and in the late 1970’s was joined by Thomas B. Ritchie.  Tom left to establish his own practice in 1991 and was replaced by Matthew O. Strathman.  In 2006 Damian Garcia joined the firm, followed by Stephen P. Janis.  Matt left the firm and the private practice of law in March, 2007.

In January, 2008, with the arrival of the New Year came the arrival of new ownership of Banks, Garcia and Janis.  Until the end of 2007 James Banks was the sole owner.  At the end of 2007, Damian Garcia and Steve Janis became the owners. Jim will continue to be affiliated with the firm in the capacity of a consultant or, as expressed among attorneys, “of counsel”.  This status does not affect Jim’s ability to do legal work and he will continue to do so for the time being.

Due to a continuing decline in his vision, it is necessary for Jim to begin the process of retirement.  If you have questions about Jim’s eyesight, one of his friends has written an article called “This Dark World”.  You can access more information about Jim’s eyesight by clicking on “Attorneys & Staff” and then clicking on the links in Jim’s biography.  You should also feel free to ask Jim about it if you wish.

The firm further evolved on July 29, 2022 when Damian Garcia was appointed as a San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge, leaving Mr. Janis as the sole, full-time practicing attorney of the firm.  While this will affect the amount of work we can handle, it will in no way diminish the quality and attention paid to each client.

Our firm provides services in probate and estate planning, business and real estate. In each case the firm does both transactional and litigation work.   We have considerable experience with general civil litigation, particularly probate litigation including will contests and related matters.

During the past 35 years our problem solving philosophy has evolved into a much greater emphasis on alternative dispute resolution techniques and a concerted effort to settle cases when justified by the economics of the litigation and the opportunities for success.  The emphasis of the California legislature on passing cases more quickly through the courts has resulted in greater uncertainty of court results and requires more settlement effort.

The firm’s policies and goals have been and continue to be:

  • Work constructively to solve problems.
  • Never create problems.
  • Keep clients well informed through copies of correspondence and pleadings and with meaningful billing explanations.
  • Be straight with the client.  Do not sugar coat anything.  Give the most accurate assessments possible.
  • Let the service fit the situation.  Small problems need simple solutions.  Big problems need thorough attention.
  • Keep the quality of service above the 80th percentile.
  • Keep the cost of service below the 80th percentile.

The firm works primarily in four courts, San Bernardino, Riverside, Pomona and Downtown Los Angeles.  The firm tries to help its clients find attorneys in other areas when their cases must be litigated in other areas.

Most of the firm’s services are based on hourly billing. In such cases the client receives a monthly billing statement. Some cases are flat fee such as estate planning and other areas where the time consumption is predictable. Some cases are handled on the basis of statutorily controlled fees and a few are handled on a contingent fee basis. It is important to resolve the billing arrangement at the first conference. There is a charge for the first conference if it is a one time only conference. There is a charge for the first conference if it develops into an hourly fee arrangement. There is no charge for the first conference in situations where the fees are controlled by statute or a contingent fee arrangement is agreed upon. The firm can supply fee estimates for most estate planning services and many business formation services.