Business Profile: Charles Gravett Law Office

When one thinks of lawyers they often think of men and women wearing suits and ties, using sophisticated language, catching our attention and demonstrating the acquisition of knowledge that can only come from years of studying the laws that allow our society to flourish and maintain order in light of the chaos of current events.

When you are encountered with unfortunate circumstances in your life that can lead to civil or criminal accusations, knowing that, as a U.S. citizen, you are entitled to have a lawyer represent you, even if you are not financially able to do so, you can put to rest a portion of anxiety you have about the situation.

A public defender is the term given to lawyers assigned to those not at liberty to hire a lawyer of their choosing. Although well-trained, a public defender is assigned to defendants of different crimes and there exists a possibility that, despite efforts to establish a positive connection with a public defender, there can be apprehensions about getting things done if that connection is never established.

A lawyer is someone who fights for your freedom, fights for you to be proven innocent and has the power to impact the remainder of your life in a positive or negative way. Of course, the degree to which this happens depends on what you are accused of. Are you a suspect in a murder case or did you commit mail fraud? Or is it somewhere in between? Is the case a civil matter or highly criminal? Where you fall on the spectrum of accusation determines your sentencing, which can greatly impact your life.

Even a year in a federal or state prison can have adverse effects on the psychological state of an individual. Prisons in the United States are overcrowded and violent in nature. According to an essay by social psychologist Craig Haney, entitled “The Psychological Impact of Incarceration,” the U.S. rate of imprisonment dramatically increased between 1975 and 1995, primarily because of changes in policy and “not the result of increases in crime rates or the population in general.”

Haney continued to state that the number of incarcerations in the U.S. remained stable for the 50-year period between 1925 and 1975 where the amount was “just around 125 persons incarcerated in prisons and jails per 100,000 persons in the population.” After this time the number of incarcerated individuals soared to “an unprecedented 600 per 100,000.”

This increase, based mainly in policy changes over time, is a U.S. phenomenon. International statistics of the same nature have not had as drastic of an increase. Haney wrote that “by the early 1990s, the United States incarcerated more persons per capita than any other nation in the modern world, and it has retained that dubious distinction nearly every year since.”

With these staggering numbers, seeking out and finding a lawyer with whom you get along with, with whom you feel is competent in the ever-changing realm of law, and with whom you trust is vital because, even the most law-abiding citizen can find him or herself in a legal bind at some point in life.

Individuals struggling with cases of a civil nature can find refuge in the form of Charles L. Gravett, III. His law office, located in Napa, specializes in complex civil cases and commercial litigation. The areas of dispute which fall into this category are numerous and, although the negative outcomes are nowhere near as severe as those of criminal cases, it is still in one’s best interest to protect themselves against legal disputes of all calibers.

Gravett, who refers to himself as a general civil practitioner, handles a wide array of civil disputes for individuals and companies alike.

Gravett has been practicing law for about 35 years, after graduating from law school in Charlottesville, Virginia in 1975. Since 1987 he has lived and worked in the Napa area, first on his own in a solo practice for four years and then joining the late Alan Balcher to form the firm of Gravett & Balcher. In 2006 he formed a partnership with attorney Elisabeth Frater, who recently moved her practice to Los Angeles, resulting in Gravett starting work at his current practice as the principle lawyer.

One of the many areas of focus for his firm is bankruptcy. “I spend a lot of time on bankruptcies, helping people file bankruptcies,” Gravett said. “Bankruptcy is there for people to get a fresh financial start so I help people do that.”

According to a data from, in a 12-month period (ending on March 31, 2011) a total of 38,926 businesses and non-businesses filed for bankruptcy in northern California alone. Of this number, a total of 37,416 were individuals filing for bankruptcy.

There are different chapters of bankruptcy that you can file. Chapter 7 refers to individual liquidation, Chapter 9 is for municipality, Chapter 11 is for reorganization, mainly large corporations, Chapter 12 is for family farmers and Chapter 13 is for individual reorganization. These designations are put in place according to the chapters in the bankruptcy code where the type is found. With this variety of bankruptcy types, having a lawyer like Gravett assist you in filing the right one can yield the best outcome and create that “fresh financial start” that he spoke of.

Another thing Gravett helps clients with is the drafting and formation of wills and trusts. “I help people plan their estates for wills and trusts and powers of attorney and help them draft those so that if something happens, their family and friends can do what is necessary to be done with as little trouble and effort as possible,” Gravett said.

Gravett feels that having a Power of Attorney is particularly important. A Power of Attorney is someone who you give authorization to represent you, to make legal decisions for you if you are not able to do so. Gravett said, “it is so important to have somebody be able to make those decisions when you can’t make them for yourself and unless you plan for that, it just doesn’t happen.”

Among the other areas that Gravett helps clients with is business start-up by composing contracts and helping with employee problems. Similarly, Gravett has a lot of experience helping corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies (LLCs) in these matters.

Gravett has been practicing business law for a long time and most of what he does comes as second nature to him. However, what people may not realize is that law is constantly changing. The California Code of law takes up about thirty shelves in most libraries, each book containing current policy that Gravett must keep up with and refer to in his work.

Law is complex and it is difficult for most people to comprehend the training that goes into learning how to practice it. Gravett is still learning despite his 35 years in the business, and is constantly trying to incorporate ways to improve and expand his practice.

One of the ways he has chosen to do this is to add mediation to his practice. Gravett describes mediation in this way: “the mediator is neutral, he helps the people resolve the problem by coming up with their own solution to the problem, and if the people don’t come up with the solution it may not be solved.” Gravett has been taking classes on mediation and has been working on putting what he is learning into action for his clients.

With the increasing number of legal issues and incarcerations that can arise, it is more important than ever to take precautions no matter how law-abiding you feel you are.

In civil matters such as those discussed in this article, it is nice to know there are people like Gravett out there to help you.

“I think the thing that sets our office apart is that we have people, time and time again, [who] say this is the warmest most caring most concerned law office that they have ever experienced,” Gravett said. “And that’s something that we all try to do here.”

To learn more about Gravett and his law office visit

Sarah Dowling is a Journalism student and a recent graduate from Solano Community College. Growing up in Vallejo, she sets her sights on her Communications B.A. by moving to Rohnert Park to attend Sonoma State University.