The Turnaround Episode: How One Shift in Approach Can Dramatically Transform Your Results
Today, we’re going to be interviewing one of our provider attorneys, Ms. Sou Bounlutay who is an immigration and a family law attorney up in Seattle and it’s called a turnaround episode for a very good reason and that is that Sue, when she first got started was not doing so well with the leads, and she had a very critical turnaround moment about two to four weeks into the process where she made a significant shift in the way she was approaching the calls from a standpoint of seeing the clients as people that would meet her needs, make her money, pay her bills and so forth to a standpoint of service and how she could serve the needs of the client, and how she could help them overcome and make a difference in what they’re trying to accomplish, and to empathize with the fact that it’s quite scary for many folks to reach out to someone they don’t even know for help and to turn over the control of something to someone else.
We talk about that and that ends up playing out through the rest of the episode on how that new service based philosophy comes into play on not only before you even get on the phone to those initial first few minutes of the call to the questions you ask, to the script that will be provided in walking through, and the most important aspects of the script, and all the way through to the end of servicing the client when they come in the office. Really it’s a core principle or philosophy that she’s been able to integrate into her practice and discovered shortly after taking their initial leads.
This is a great episode especially if you’ve been struggling lately or not seeing the results you used to, or maybe you haven’t seen the results yet and you want to shift things, it really could be something along the lines of what it was for Sou that made the difference for her and has since turnaround the results to go from converting zero clients out of maybe 10 or so, to now having two or three out of every five that would like to hire her. There is really been a significant shift. With that, let’s get right into it. This episode with Ms. Sou Bounlutay, one of our provider attorneys in Seattle, Washington.
Dave Aarons: All right. Welcome to the Unbundled Attorney Mastermind Podcast. I am very pleased today because we have one of our newer attorneys, Ms. Sou. Can you give me the proper pronunciation of your last name?
Sou Bounlutay: It’s Bounlutay.
Dave Aarons: Bounlutay. We have Sou Bounlutay with us today who is very, very strong in the immigration area and that’s where we’re going to be focusing our chat today because she has a lot of experience there and we’re diving in on how she’s been doing and so far has been doing great with the … The immigration clients had been sending her in the Seattle area. Sou, welcome to the call. I’m looking forward to it.
Sou Bounlutay: Thank you.
Dave Aarons: All right. Maybe where we could start, Sou, is, first of all, maybe you could give a little bit of background on how you got started with your practice, where you’re from so that people can get to know a little bit more about who you are and what your practice is all about?
Sou Bounlutay: Okay. My practice is in the Seattle, Washington area and I started out 15 years ago wanting to basically focus on trial work doing PI, but somehow by chance, I couldn’t find any work and ended up working for a law firm that has immigration law. I worked for them for six months and then went out on my own. Ever since then, I’ve had what it’s called a mixed practice, primarily doing immigration as well as personal injury and that’s where I’ve been ever since.
Dave Aarons: Great. Okay. I think we’ve been together, let’s see, Sou, maybe about a couple of months now? You got started maybe just after the holiday. This is being recorded in the beginning of March, so you started just after the holiday, right?
Sou Bounlutay: I think so. Yeah. I think it was January because I remember setting my goals and say, “You know what? This coming year, I want to do something different,” and I think somehow it just happened. I think probably after January.
Dave Aarons: Okay. Then, to give a little bit of context since then … This is great because we have a lot of attorneys that had been working with us for a year or two, and so the fact that you’re brand new, and you’re still adapting and learning the ropes is wonderful because lead generation is its own model and so, it does take some adaptation, so I’m really looking forward to learning about what kind of adjustments you’ve made to be effective with the leads. Up until now, do you know roughly about how many leads you’ve taken and maybe you could share a little bit about either your conversion rate or how you’ve been doing so far?
Sou Bounlutay: Yeah. I think I’ve had probably 15 or so leads. Are you talking about for the last two months or each month?
Dave Aarons: Well, maybe just since you get started because we’re still only a couple of months in here. Yeah.
Sou Bounlutay: Oh, yeah. I think about for immigration itself, I think I have about maybe 20 leads or so. The first couple of weeks, I didn’t know what to do with it, so I don’t think I converted anybody but then after a couple of weeks, I think I had four or five.
Dave Aarons: Great. Okay. That’s a good point, so what-
Sou Bounlutay: The way I look at it, my first couple of weeks when I got it, I don’t think I would count. I wouldn’t count that just because it was such a new thing for me. I didn’t know what to do. I kind of was really learning how to swim, and so I don’t think it adequately indicate what I’ve been able to do with that, but I think if you look at it from February to now, which is basically when I got the momentum and figure it out, ever since then, every time I get a lead from you guys between if I get every five leads, from that, I usually can convert between two to three people out of every five or so. I feel like your-
Dave Aarons: Oh, that was excellent.
Sou Bounlutay: Because I’d feel like if you look at overall from when I start, your number will be skewed just because I didn’t know what to do with it the first couple of weeks.
Dave Aarons: Right.
Sou Bounlutay: Does that make sense?
Dave Aarons: I sensed that. It sounds like you really turnaround … Absolutely. Maybe what you could do is shine a light on what it was at the beginning that maybe you didn’t quite understand or what was missing in those early couple two or three weeks that once you kind of … Then, what you did to adapt it and adjust your approach, which turns things around for you?
Sou Bounlutay: Okay. I think part of it is there was an education portion of it. I didn’t really know Unbundle worked. I didn’t quite know, first of all, what that meant and the other part is I didn’t understand the clients you would be calling, I think for their service, what they were looking for, what their needs were? Then, there was also the application of how do I have a conversation with them that indicated that this is what I have available in order to meet their needs. I have to learn all of that from on the ground up, from very basic. Well, that took me a while trying to figure out, “Okay. What is it that this type of service is offering? Then, what is it that the clients really need and how do I give that to them?” Because it was a totally different way of looking and doing the practice altogether.
Dave Aarons: What was different for you, and what was it that the clients are looking for that you’ve learned and that you’ve been able to adapt to that you’ve learned as you gone along?
Sou Bounlutay: I think my attitude is probably pretty typical and most attorneys have been doing this for a while because before when clients contact me, it was because they really needed … I had the attitude, “Oh, they need me versus me needing them also.” I thought when I had that attitude, I was such a disconnect and once I switched and start thinking about Unbundle, then rather than looking at the situation from my perspective, I was then starting to look at the situation from the client’s perspective. Meaning I start thinking about myself as really my first priority as an attorney and what my office was is that not because they’re coming to me to meet my needs in terms of getting clients and making money, and I’m providing for my needs, but I did the switch up, “Okay. What is really my purpose here as an attorney? What is my office purpose here?”
I think the major shift for me was trying to figure out, “Okay. They called me not because I’m so good, or whatever.” I took out my ego and looked at … At the moment they called me, I looked at, “Okay. Great. They are giving me a portion of their time and they’re automatically trusting in me to provide their needs. How am I going to step up and meet their needs?” I think that that emotional and mental turnaround was the biggest shift for me.
Dave Aarons: How did that shift play into the way you were communicating with clients from the first call and forward from there?
Sou Bounlutay: Well, because then I started focusing on saying, “Okay. I’m glad to hear from you. Now, let’s figure out what is it? How can I help you? I know you have this issue and it’s really bothering and I’m sure it’s causing … There is some unresolved issue here. How can I make your life better? How can I team up with you and find a solution for you?” By having that attitude, it made me flexible and it allowed me to have creativity that I didn’t before because now, all of a sudden, the priority is not my office, and that I need to make money and need to bring in as many clients when I can. Now, the focus is about how are we going to make this happen? From the moment I pick up the phone, I have the attitude, “Here’s an opportunity to create a client-attorney relationship and it is my job to figure out how to make this work.”
Dave Aarons: Right. Right. That really is a big shift and it’s going to really affect the quality of communication. I think naturally, when you’re focused on creating a solution for someone and finding a way to overcome their hurdles and it’s almost like you’re in their corner now, you’re looking at it from their perspective and how do we saw, not only your legal situation, but overcome the financial challenge and find a way to get you from where you need to be to resolve this situation and now you’re on their team as opposed to [crosstalk 00:11:23]?
Sou Bounlutay: Absolutely. Absolutely. Before, there was a disconnect, meaning I was still thinking, “Here, I am an attorney, they’re clients.” We’re at two different level, right? I’m the one that has an education and they know how to do it, and they don’t. There was a little bit of a power play there. There was ego there, and I took all of that out and I made myself having a sincere interest to really serve a client and really figure out how to solve their problem. I look at myself as a tool for them to get where they need to be versus having them becoming a tool to serve my own need, which was to grow my practice, to meet my financial needs basically.
Dave Aarons: Right. What’s interesting is once that shift became about servicing the client, your needs, and your financial situation completely changed as well. I remember when I used-
Sou Bounlutay: Absolutely. Yeah. Absolutely. I think it’s a very difficult job to make that shift. It’s a whole idea of the moment you give, somehow the energy shift. By meeting the clients’ need, I’m also … Somehow they want to also please me. They also want to take care of me because that’s just how true relationships work, right? When you have somebody that cares for you and you really cares for them, they can’t help but turn around and want to care for you.
Dave Aarons: Right. That law or reciprocity. Yeah.
Sou Bounlutay: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Dave Aarons: Did you find that once you shifted your approach and mindset for working with the clients, that the way they responded to you started changing? In what way did you notice that?
Sou Bounlutay: Absolutely. I think, first of all, whatever barrier that prevented us from truly communicating because for clients, that’s really scary to pick up the phone and call somebody that they don’t know. To meet somebody at that level where … To then get to that mindset of, “Okay. I have to let go of control of a portion of my life that is so important and give it to somebody else.” The moment that they talked to me and realize that, “I get it. I get how important this is for you, and I get how scary it is for you to give up the control and trust to me. How do I help you overcome that, so that in the end, I can give you what you want and I can give you the assurance that you need to entrust me with a portion of your life?” I don’t know what happens once we’re able to communicate at that level.
Then when I tell them, “You have this problem. Here’s how we can solve it. Here are the options. We can do it this way, or we can do it that way, and I would suggest that you do it this way.” They’re more likely to allow me to help them in a way that I think is going to be best fitted for the situation that would give them the best result possible.
Dave Aarons: Right. Because I think they really can intuitively sense that you have the best interest at heart, and it’s not about what’s going to make you more money or anything like that. It’s more about, “Okay.” They can tell you’ve listened and have given them advises as if you’re in their shoes and because you have empathy for the situation, and are directing them accordingly.
Sou Bounlutay: Absolutely. I think that this is the thing that people, not just clients, but people are just really smart in general. We have different types of smart, whether, with us attorneys, we have the logic. We have the know how to do things, but when it comes to human interaction, we are innately very intelligent. I think people know when you’re being honest with them, and they will understand that. They may not understand that exact know how to get there, but I think people can feel and they are intelligent to figure out when you really sincerely want to help them, have their best interest at heart. I think it’s just-
Dave Aarons: Right. There are a-
Sou Bounlutay: Yeah. I don’t know how to explain it. I think it’s just … It just makes sense to me, right?
Dave Aarons: Yeah. It’s like people have an inherent truth meter where they know, in a sense, whether the advice you’re giving them is with their interest at heart, or if it’s for some ulterior purpose or if they’re being steered or convert. That’s one of the things that’s so important about taking the time to listen and ask questions and really, really figure out what’s really going on because until you take the time to really hear their situations, hear their pain, you can’t really direct them accordingly unless you fully understand them, right?
Sou Bounlutay: Yes.
Dave Aarons: That takes the time. How does that play into your process from the first call to then the first meeting? What’s your initial goal on the first call? Do you have come directly into the office, or are you taking some time to have that initial call and build a connection with them, and to what level of depths do you find yourself going into on the initial call and do you also make that first call in yourself?
Sou Bounlutay: Okay. There are two things at an initial call. There are two things that are at play. First of all, and I think most attorneys are in their situation, that they take the risk whenever they take the call that people just call because they want free advice. They want something for nothing, which is totally understandable. As an attorney, you have to be careful of that because, on the one hand, you want to get to your clients but you also want to establish a boundary, so that you don’t feel like you’re taking advantage of and that your timing, your knowledge is not being valued. There is that interest.
On the other hand, you have to understand that you should not always give your client, either way, everything that they want, simply because if you do that, it’s not good for them because it’s not the best way to protect them. For example, people with special form operation cases. People want to call my office and insist on calling me even though they’re not my client, wanting advice right away and my assistant, because she wants to help people, she is tempted to give them suggestions and I always tell her, “No. That is not acceptable because when you do that, you’re not protecting them.” That’s something that I always keep in mind is that I have to establish what the boundaries are. I have to protect myself and my knowledge and my interest, at the same time, protecting the client.
For my initial phone call, I want to always let them know that I get it. I get their problem. Then, I also let them know that “I cannot give you what you want right now because in order for you give you what you want, you have to follow my instruction and at least have the initial trust to do what I tell you so that I can best protect you. That means that I cannot give you legal advice on a first initial call because one, I don’t know your full story and two because I’m not your attorney. This is for your protection.” Then, I will tell them, “I know what your problem is and why you hesitate with just a cost,” which is anybody’s factor. I tell them, “In our office, we are very well aware of that and I can give you options in how to go about this so that you can get what you want both legally and financially. We can work with you.” That’s where the legal and vendor option comes in. I give the example.
For example, “If all you can afford and you were comfortable with is to fill out forms, I’m open to that. Come and talk to me so we can see if that’s the best option for you,” or if you want me to tell you if I’m going for an interview, what should I expect? Advise me what I should expect? What are the positive and the pros and cons in each situation? I tell them, “I would be more than happy to do that for you. Just come in and let’s look at it together so we can see if this is the correct route for you to go.”
Dave Aarons: Right. That’s so important that people just know … I like that you don’t necessarily get in the specific … What I’m hearing, and correct me if I’m wrong, is that you don’t necessarily get into specifics on what it’s going to cost or exactly what it’s going to …
Sou Bounlutay: No.
Dave Aarons: What is the best approach for the case until they get a chance to come into you. Again I think for you, this just goes back to what we talked about before where you really need to make sure you really understand and fully get what the client’s needing. There is one level where you’re getting them as far as what they’re describing to you on the phone, but then it sounds like you really also want to get even more clear by meeting with them to really understand all the [inaudible 00:20:38] that maybe can’t be done over the phone.
Sou Bounlutay: Absolutely. Because people come in and they think they have one issue or a certain problem that can be solved this way. When you sit down with them as an attorney, you realize, “No, no, no.” That’s totally not what the options are. For them, because remember they don’t have the knowledge that we do. They don’t have the experience and the nuances because one fact can change the whole strategy of how their case should be … How you should work their case. It is really important to communicate that to them in such a way, but at the same time, don’t overwhelm them with information.
I think the first initial call is to establish that, “I hear you. I get what you want to accomplish here. Thank you for sharing that. Secondly, I have the skills to help you. Thirdly, I have many options that we can look to, that we can go about this. What is your area of concern? Are you concern about the legal aspect or are you concern about the money? Either way, we can work this out. We can be creative and just figure out on how to solve it together. We’re open.” I think is the main message.
Dave Aarons: Right, exactly. Those, “I get you. I have the skills and the knowledge to assist you, and when it comes to the legal or the finances, we can work with you.” You get those three really, really important yeses and nos. That’s a really great thing to keep in mind for all the attorneys that are listening in terms for you. That’s really our purpose is building that trust, that relationship and knowing for that person to get off the phone, and go, “Wow. They got what I’m needing assistance with. She sounds like she’s really experienced and they said they can work with us.” That’s enough. Different attorneys had different styles, as far as how upfront they want to be, but that’s really the most important part of that first call is making sure you hit those pain points.
Sou Bounlutay: Yes, exactly. Yeah. Usually, the first call last about between 10 to 12 minutes. It’s not that much time, right? I don’t think it’s that much time.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. No, that isn’t very much time and other attorneys take longer. Some attorneys, I think that would be on the shorter side, but it sounds like because we’re not getting into the specifics and you’re being very clear about them, that for them to be served by you, you really need to fully understand what is it they’re working on and really for them, they just need to know, “This person has experience, they understand what I’m dealing with and they’re going to work with me.” That to me seems like it’s enough for them to be confident to come in and take the next step.
Sou Bounlutay: Exactly.
Dave Aarons: On the next step, do you have a fee for them to meet with you, or what’s the next steps there?
Sou Bounlutay: Yeah. I have a consultation fee for them to meet with me. Again, I’m flexible with how they do it. For example, my consultation fee is usually 150 depending on the situation. If they want to put half down right away to secure their spot, I’d say, “Do you want to put $75 down? You can pay it over the credit card right now, then we know for sure that this is a spot that you’ve been reserved to talk with me. You can do that and then you can pay me the other 75 when you get to the office, or you can pay it at that time.” The 150, the whole point of that, the fee, I think it flips in the idea that, “I am as committed to you as you are to me, and here’s the rule that you have to pay with a little bit. I’m flexible in working with you that there are certain things that you need to do and that starts with having the ability … Not the ability, the willingness to pay for my time even if it’s just a little bit.”
Dave Aarons: Right. It really establishes that give and a take, that take or tact relationship.
Sou Bounlutay: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Dave Aarons: Right. How often do you find folks doing the initial deposit over the phone, booking that consultation fee? I would assume if they do that, that makes a pretty significant impact on the amount of folks that would not show up. Correct?
Sou Bounlutay: Absolutely. The people that are willing to do the deposit right away show up 100% of the time. Then the other one, I’m getting about 75%. If they don’t, then I’m okay with it because my attitude is there is a reason why I couldn’t make the connection right away. For me, I want to work with people who are meant to be my client, and I’m okay if they don’t show, somebody didn’t show up or I’m not able to schedule them in because for me, that only leaves room for other people to come in that are better served by my service and that are meant to have a relationship with my office and me. I think it filters itself out, so that the people that I do end up serving, we really have a relationship.
Dave Aarons: Your level of acceptance there, I think is really great and I think that the fact that you do accept that also plays into how you communicate setting up appointments, because there isn’t an attachment of, “Are you going to show up? Okay. Are you sure you’re going to come in?” There is none of that. That’s just like, “Hey if this person is going to come in, it’s because I was supposed to work with them.”
Sou Bounlutay: Absolutely. Right. I think this is where … Because it’s not based on any neediness, right? I am secure in what I do and who I’m supposed to serve. I’m secure. I’m secure in what I do and who I am and how I do my work, and so I’m not coming from this space of neediness and scarcity, and I think that’s key is that I truly believe that whatever I’m meant to do, whoever is meant to be my client are going to be my client. My only responsibility is for me to be true in my profession, I need to train myself and educate myself so that the people that come in my office are best served, that I can give them the best that they can. Everything else is none of my business, and if they come to me, if we connect, it’s a truly authentic connection and that’s what I want and that’s how I want my practice to be. I think your intention as an attorney really sets the tone of the relationship, and I think that’s really important.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. I think there was even another piece there. By the way, it’s really powerful and I think that is a really important philosophy, the approach, that level of acceptance and almost like trust to that. The people that I’m working with, it’s because we have … I am the person for them. Right?
Sou Bounlutay: Yes.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Then, the other piece of it was the way you phrased it that the reason why they didn’t come in is, “I couldn’t make the connection with them,” and so there is also a piece that you take responsibility for looking back and go, “Well, maybe I didn’t make a strong enough connection.” Then, that opens up a possibility for you to reflect and think about, “How did that call go? What was it about that call where I could have made them a stronger connection as well?” There is an acceptance, there is a faith, but also because you take responsibility, “Well then, I didn’t make the connection, how could I [crosstalk 00:28:13]?”
Sou Bounlutay: Yes. Yes, that’s right. My failure. Right. It’s my failure as an attorney, too, right? It’s my failure when somebody calls me somehow, and if I really look back at it and be honest with myself, maybe I didn’t give them enough time. Maybe I was too distracted by whatever is going on, and I didn’t make the connection, or maybe there was just something about the client that I didn’t want. There is a whole area. That’s exactly … You’re right. Because somehow, if I really wanted that client and I didn’t make it happen, then I need to be stronger in how I communicate. I need to be better in how I communicate what their needs are and take care of them. I wasn’t able to take care of them initially. Absolutely.
Dave Aarons: Right. I can only assume that it’s because of the fact that you have that level of personal responsibility and that willingness to look at what you’re doing and see what could have been improved or what you could have done differently that allowed you to make the shift that you have from those initial two to four weeks to the results you’ve been seeing most recently.
Sou Bounlutay: Yes. That’s why Grant’s been getting text for me or else I’ll go, “Oh, Grant. I’m trying this out and it didn’t work. What am I doing wrong?” Exactly. Exactly. That’s when I reach out to one of you guys and say, “I’m trying this out. Somehow I’m not connecting. Help me out. What are some of your ideas? What is the people’s experience? How can I improve? How do I make the connection? Where is the missing link here?” Absolutely. That’s right.
Dave Aarons: What were some of the things that Mr. Scott or our team shared with you that have the biggest impact or that were new perspectives for you?
Sou Bounlutay: There was a script. Grant presented me the script of how I should do this initial consult. When I first started using it, I didn’t get the purpose of why I need me to talk about this in this section. What is the purpose of the second section, and what is the purpose of the third section? Once I get what each conversation piece and what it was trying to do and how it impacted the client or the potential client, then I was able to make sure that I followed those series of steps in all my conversation. I adapt how I talked, but I needed to make sure that those steps are being followed. The script, the initial phone consult script is really important, and it’s worth a time to figure out why those steps are there and what the purpose is.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Maybe we can dive into that a little bit, and so maybe you can give your insight into what … You came to realize the purpose behind each section of the script, and then you and I can chat about it, because I was certainly involved in writing it, but I would love to hear your perspective on what you’ve come to realize about each section of the script and what each purpose is because every attorney we work with will get a copy of that script.
Sou Bounlutay: Okay. You have the first portion of introducing yourself.
Dave Aarons: Yes.
Sou Bounlutay: I realized that I really … Just for that connection to happen, I have to really slow it down and calm myself because they need to know who I am, and so that’s really an important piece is to introduce yourself properly. That’s an indication for them, “Tell me, what is it that made you reach out to us or to the service?” I listen. I listen for about 15 seconds or a minute. This is the part where I really hear them, and then I give it back to them. Then, I expand on it with the information that they have based on this is where the experience of the attorney, filtering out what the issue is, going to the core of the issue that the client is coming what is really important right here.
The third part is, “What would you like to see happen??” That’s an opportunity for me, as an attorney, to really again explain to them, “I hear you. Let me give it back to you. Am I hearing you correctly? This is what you want to happen. Is that right?” “Yes.” “Is there anything else?” If you’re having a conversation, “Is there anything else?” That’s where they’re like, “Oh, yeah. Now that you ask me, I want this to happen and I want that to happen.” That gave me a clue that their case is not simply about what they originally contacted us about, but there might be a whole area that needs to be addressed at a later time.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. This is such an important component as well, because of a lot of times, when you first look at the lead, it says, “The father just took my 13-year old and I haven’t seen them for two days. Can I just go take the child?” It’s just a question, right?
Sou Bounlutay: Right.
Dave Aarons: They go, “Oh well, this person just wants me to ask him a question. They just want to give me really good advice.” This is not a good lead, right?
Sou Bounlutay: Right.
Dave Aarons: At the surface, you might think that, but if you just take it one step deeper and go, “Okay. Bring me up to see with what’s going on?” Then, they give you the story and then you hear the whole context of the fact that they are now separated, and there is no custody order in place, and this has been a common problem. You can look at it and go, “Oh, this person needs to get a visitation order established.” Right?
Sou Bounlutay: Yes. Yes.
Dave Aarons: Then, it’s a whole situation underlying because people don’t know any better than just to ask a question because they think that they need to do something now, but really there is this whole context of underlying story that once you open up to it, you start to see all the different issues and the ways in which you can serve that person.
Sou Bounlutay: Exactly. This question right here is really important because when you get to this point and ask them, “Is there something else?” It’s an open-ended question. This is where … Depending on where the clients are at emotionally or mentally, you don’t know what’s going to come out, right? This is also where you can not only get an idea of their logical intention, meaning what is the practical thing that they won’t solve but then you also get their emotional state, meaning at the end of this, what is the greatest purpose of that that they’re trying to achieve? Because there is always a bigger picture. They come to us in attorney with one issue. It’s really small, right? At this point, this is where you get. In the bigger picture of the client’s life, what is the end result that they’re hoping? That they’re trying to create? You just ask them, “Yes, this is one thing that you want me to do, but at the end of it all, if I can help you, how can I make a difference in your life, whatever it is. Where do you see this?”
This is an opportunity for them to really open their heart out and say, “Oh, you really want to know? Sure. If I can have any way I want, this is how my life should look.” Then as an attorney, you go, “Oh, okay. Let’s see if we can make it happen. At least get one step closer. How about that?”
Dave Aarons: Right. Also not only do the clients feel heard in the sense that, “Wow. This person really wants to know what’s most important to me?” But it also allows them to get clear on, “What really do I want to call to share? I want to make sure that the mother or the father can’t come between, just because we’re having disagreement or just because we don’t get along that that now is going to come between my ability to be a parent to my child.” Now that comes through, and then they get clear on that, that it’s a bigger, larger issue that they want to have clarity and know that they can be there for their child even if they’re having challenges in their relationship [inaudible 00:36:31].
Sou Bounlutay: Right. You’re talking about family law right here, right? Here’s the other issue, what I’ve discovered is with family law, you can also get a sense at this point of why they are in the situation in the first place? You can say, “Oh, it sounds like what’s happening is there is a little bit of power play here. You have a parenting plan that’s currently in place, and it seems like they’re maneuvering in such a way where it’s very difficult for you to implement this. It seems to me like you feel there is a lack of power here. Let’s see if we can put you in a place where you feel a little more control with what’s going on so that the other parent will follow the parenting plan that’s in place. Then, let’s see if we can rework it and look at the current plan that you have so that maybe we can change it and put it in the different wording that will eliminate this.”
Dave Aarons: Right. Because once you get a clear picture of their goal and what they want to see happen and then with your legal knowledge, you can speak directly to an [inaudible 00:37:34], but just the pathway and so they can see the door that there is a path and that they can do something, and all of a sudden, it helps them see that, “Wow. This person really might be able to help me,” because you know what they need help with, what they’re trying to accomplish now, and so you can then paint a picture to how to go about it.
Sou Bounlutay: Right here is when I can get a sense of what their fears behind with the process that they’re trying to do, and sometimes they come back here, they think, “Oh, this is a way to do it, right?” Because they’ve been talking to other people on the phone. They’ve been googling it. They’ve been listening to the news, and when they come and talk to me, once I notice here, I can say, “Yeah. You can do it that route, but I think here’s a better solution for you that will not only get you what you want, but it will maintain the integrity and it will set you in a way it will crater a stronger path for you, for your future, for you and your family’s future. There are all other options out there, but I think I have a better one, and you get to choose which one you want to do and I will help you achieve it. It’s all up to you.”
Dave Aarons: Right. Maybe we can speak to that a little bit. Once you’ve gotten clear on their goal and maybe you’ve spoken to the pathway that can be made there, do you also continue into the next three or four questions where you continue to ask …
Sou Bounlutay: Yes.
Dave Aarons: “Is this something you really just feel you have to do now? Have you talked to some attorneys?”
Sou Bounlutay: Yeah. I do that. This is probably the briefest portion of my conversation with them because most people, especially immigration, by the time they contact me or I contact them, they’re not doing this blindly. They’re really smart, they’ve done their homework. The fact that you bring this up reminds them, “Oh, okay. Yeah. This is going to cost. Here’s the financial burn that we have to do it. We’re more than happy …” Most people are more than happy to do that as long as we get the assurance that this is going to go towards the end result that they want, that it will give them a better opportunity and it will solve their problem, and they’re not going to be taken for a ride basically.
Dave Aarons: Right. Right, exactly. It also clarifies because you’re asking them, you’re not saying, “This is something you need to do. You need to do this now.” You’re asking them, “Is this something you’re just looking into or is this something that you feel you have to do now?” They say to you, “No, I have to do this. I really need to get this done. I’m tired of wondering if I’m going to get kicked out. I want to know that I have the right to live in this country and to be a citizen and to be a working citizen and contribute.” They start telling you and reminding themselves about what it is that they really want to accomplish and they say, “A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.” Instead of you telling them, they’re now sharing with you why they have to move forward. That for them is really a powerful drive as a reminder to take the next step and actually take action.
Sou Bounlutay: Absolutely. Because this is where … Exactly. This is where you empower them, right? How do they want to do this? Do they want to do it now or later? This is all up to you. Nobody can make this decision for you. You’re not as disempower as you think you are. No, this is yours. You can make this shift. You can take the next step. What do you want to do with it?
Dave Aarons: Right. Okay. Then towards the very end there, do you ask them where they’re at financially or do you go straight into talking about the fact that you’re flexible? How do you approach that ending part there? Then, the transition to the call station there?
Sou Bounlutay: Yeah. I would ask them at the end, I will say, “Here are some of the options. We can do this here or that way.” I would ask them, “For your situation, why would you be comfortable? How would you be comfortable starting this out? What would you like? Do you want me to do a full representation for you or would you like to break it into pieces? What kind of financial obligations would be comfortable for you and we can start wherever you are.” That’s how I do it.
Dave Aarons: Right. In place that it’s solely on their hands to decide, and it also goes back to, “I’m here to serve you, so you tell me how it’s going to work best for you? How it can work so that you’re comfortable and this is something that you know you can do and accomplish.” Right?
Sou Bounlutay: Yes, absolutely.
Dave Aarons: Right. Okay. Then, let’s fast forward a bit. You then schedule them in for an appointment where they pay the fee or not, and they come in, maybe you can talk a little bit about because you shared earlier that of four or five people, two or three are retaining, which means that the most people that come in the office are taking the first steps. Talk a little bit about your process for when they come in the office, and how you drill down into the way in which you’re going to be able to serve them both legally and financially.
Sou Bounlutay: They come in, they have an intake. Their initial intake, which is basically their information, vital information that I need to start on opening my file. Then, I go in and sit down and really start documenting the information that I need to figure out what their options are. It usually takes me an hour, an hour and a half to filter everything out, and then usually a lot of times, some of the options and the legal remedy that’s available to them, solution that’s available to them, they’ve been in the middle that it was available to them. So much of my immigration client is about educating them about more opportunities than they’ve realized, more options than they realized, so I look at my initial consultation as an opportunity to educate them so that they can have all the information that they need to make a good choice for their life.
Dave Aarons: Right. Okay. For a lot of folks, so that they’re clear that they’ve made … That they have a pathway to move forward, how do you work around and what kind of options have you been working on putting together to find ways to match people’s budget financially?
Sou Bounlutay: I usually have a flat fee, a flat rate of a certain service. Then, for example, if I wanted … Let’s take the fiance visa that we were talking about. For example, if I say that process, the overall cost is 1,550. I say, “In order for me to start that process, I would require a half down of that amount. You take it down to maybe 750 or whatever. Is that something that you can do in order for me to start the process immediately for you?” Most of the time, they go, “Yeah. That’s no problem,” because they’ve been doing their research and homework, they know that it could potentially cost some more between 2,500 to 5,000.
Dave Aarons: Right.
Sou Bounlutay: I usually have them … I break it down one step at a time. I would tell them, “For a fiance visa, there is usually series of two steps here. The first one is for you to get approved, meaning if you get an okay from the US government, that you can file this. The second is to have … There is a consulate processing. In order for us to get to step two, we have to be successful at step one and I suggest, let’s focus all our energy on getting step one done and accomplished first. That first step is going to cost this much. Can you put half down, so that I can get it going on it for you right away?
Dave Aarons: Yeah. I think that’s one of the advantages of immigration, is it really is step by step? It sounds like you really can do a pay as you go because even if the whole thing cost 1,600, let’s focus on step one. It’s going to take this amount of time or whatever. This is the way to do step one and they work on each step at a time and that gives them the time to be able to come up with the funds on each step and get through the process.
Sou Bounlutay: Absolutely. Absolutely. You have to realize that the clients, they know what’s ahead of them legally. Most of the time, they have been saving up for months, if not, a year or so to do this process. They have the funds available. It’s a matter of finding somebody that they trust to do this for them.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. That’s really one of the biggest differences, I think of family law and immigration especially when this comes to working leans is that when people have a pathway to becoming a permanent resident in the United States or getting rights to live in the United States, a lot of times they’ve known well in advance what the timeline is going to be for them to do it?.They’ve researched it. When that timeline is up, they’ve planned for so long. They have the resources together. They have a good idea of how it’s going to get done whereas the family law, a lot of times, “Well, they’re not letting me see my kids. I need to get something established or I just got served paperwork, I need to take action.” Sometimes it’s a lot less unexpected and so, the approach has to be a lot different whereas, in immigration, that seems like people … It sounds like people have a lot more mental preparation about having their finances together and then being ready to move forward when the timing is right.
Sou Bounlutay: Yes. That is, too, but my limited experience with working with family law also, you have to remember that people don’t exist in an isolation. They have families and community supporting them no matter how little they have. With the family law cases that I’ve been able to retain, what happened is the person who contacted me may not have the resource but if you communicate with them and talk with them, what ended up happening was they were getting their parents to pay for me. They were getting their aunts or uncles. It’s a family event. That’s why it’s called family law, right? Nobody is going to … When there is an emergency, they realize and they pull together all the resources that they have. The [inaudible 00:48:05] money is different, but you just have to figure out how to encourage them and tell them how to do it. Does that make sense?
Dave Aarons: Absolutely. I think it’s another reason why you can never pre-judge who it is you’re talking to on the phone. You may go, “Oh, this person is working. There is no way I can help this person. Goodbye.” When in reality, especially in family law, you just said a perfect example that that person may have … Many of those people may have some type of a support system so that if their child was sick or dying in a hospital across the country and the plane ticket was $1,000 to get there as a last minute ticket, they can get it together.
Sou Bounlutay: They make it happen. They make it happen, right?
Dave Aarons: Most people can make it happen.
Sou Bounlutay: Absolutely. They make it happen because that’s the thing. We don’t exist in isolation. It may take us a little more time to figure out, “Oh, we have all this report,” but that’s the thing. I can’t emphasize that enough, but as an attorney, we’re just one of the many supports that they have and we may be the last person that they ever want to get in touch with because nobody likes to call the attorney, right? I think it’s just a matter of connecting and helping them to the emotional trauma and crisis that they’re dealing with.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. It’s a perfect example of that because you just never know who each person is, what the support resources are, so you just go about serving each person in the most positive way. Making them … There was another mastermind call we did. I’m blanking on who I was with, but his philosophy was, “Look, every person I talked to is going to be better off when the call is over or they’re done meeting with me. It doesn’t matter if I’m going to just help them with the next step or they end up retaining me for just one part of it or do the whole case. They’re going to be better off because I talked to them.”
Sou Bounlutay: Absolutely.
Dave Aarons: That’s his focus, and people get that. Even if they can’t move forward right then, they remember that. They remember how you treated them and they come back and get the resources together. It just starts to make a difference over time that’s supposed to add up.
Sou Bounlutay: Absolutely. Yeah. I think that said, we’re all connected somehow. I just have to do my job and make every connection count and give whenever I can.
Dave Aarons: Right. Yeah. I’m not surprised that that’s really making … Once you made that shift, it really just plays into every aspect of the first call, the second call, when you meet with them, them getting the resources together and knowing that you’re on the side. It’s really been the kind of theme of our call today but it’s so true and especially when folks who are working … An internet lead generation type of service where they don’t know you yet, they don’t know who you are, they found you online, they’re scared. They don’t know whether they could trust you or not, and especially I would assume people are afraid especially in the immigration matters that maybe they don’t even know if you were some kind of a trap, or if you can be trusted.
Sou Bounlutay: Absolutely. Absolutely. I tell that all the time. Exactly. That was one of my first conversation with them when I sit them down is whose side am I on? I make that clear for them right away because there is that misconception. You have to understand your client and where their fear is and eliminate that as soon as you can so that they can have the comfort to meet with you and reveal themselves to you so that you can have the privilege of serving them and helping them.
Dave Aarons: Right.
Sou Bounlutay: That is very, very important, I think.
Dave Aarons: Right. Well Sou, this has been just a really enjoyable call. I appreciate your willingness to openly share and also just your willingness to serve and just be there for people, find out what it is they need. Then, see whatever it takes to get them through the process, make them feel comfortable and confident that you can get the job done. It sounds like so far, it’s been working really, really well. We’re certainly looking forward to continuing working with you through going forward and continue. Some of the clients couldn’t be happier with the feedback we’re getting so far, so thank you for taking the time today and certainly going to look forward to continuing to work with you going forward as well.
Sou Bounlutay: Thank you.
Dave Aarons: For everyone else who is listening, thanks so much for participating in the call and we will see you all on the next episode. Thanks again, Sou.
Sou Bounlutay: Thank you.
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