How to Instill Confidence, Trust and Loyalty With Your Immigration Clients in a Political Climate Characterized by Fear and Uncertainty
Welcome to the Unbundled Attorney Mastermind Podcast. Below is the transcription of this episode from our Unbundled Attorney Mastermind Podcast. You can listen to the entire episode by clicking here.
Dave Aarons: Welcome everyone to Unbundled Attorney Mastermind podcast. This is also going to be a video podcast, so if you like to watch the video you can join our, come on the YouTube channel by searching by Unbundled Attorney on YouTube or the link to the YouTube channel and this episode will be in the podcast notes at www.unbundledattorney.com/podcast. Just look for this episode with my man here, Charles Lee, who is one of our Unbundled Attorneys in Los Angeles, practicing in immigration law. We’re really excited to have him join us today because it’s been quite a good last few months working together so far. There’s obviously a lot of things going on in the immigration world, lot of changes and so looking forward to just chatting with you about what you’ve seen in the industry and how you’ve also been finding ways to serve so many of these clients
Charles Lee: Thank you thank you for having me. Thank you for the opportunity.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Great man. So what might be helpful is just to give a bit of background on how you got you to start in the practice of law, why for you you’ve focused in on immigration.
Charles Lee: Out of law school I had a job as a clerk at an immigration firm under an immigration and nationality law specialist. So in California, you take the bar exam, you can take another exam specializing in certain fields, for example, and immigration is one of them. I was lucky and that I worked under a really good attorney and I got some immigration experience there. That helped build my resume to land a job serving unions and they had a prepaid legal plan where I had the opportunity to do some immigration, some family law, some bankruptcy, a little bit of multiple areas of law and what helps in that is it helps you decide, “I don’t like this one, I don’t like that one,” and consistently with immigration law the joy and the feeling of fulfillment that you receive when you help someone get a green card or citizenship, it’s a lot more rewarding, at least for myself, than it is for cases where I say, “Congratulations, your divorce is finalized.” Although sometimes that’s great, other times there’s a “Congratulations you’re now bankrupt.” Those versus the: “Congratulations, you’re a green card holder or citizen.”
Dave Aarons: “Welcome to the United States.”
Charles Lee: Yeah, right. Those, much better feeling at the end of the day. So that helped me focus on immigration. After leaving that firm where I served the union I worked under a couple more immigration specialists here in Los Angeles and learned more of the intricate parts of the law and more of the intricate parts of the practice and it’s a sense of purpose.
My parents came here as immigrants. I was privileged to be born here, but having seen my parents live the immigrant life leaves a little something more on my heart and I’ve always wanted to be a good attorney and at first I thought that meant making tons of money, but when my father told me to be a good attorney the first time, what he meant was be a good person that is also an attorney. When I help the immigrant community I feel like a good person I guess, so that is my reason for choosing immigration law and I’ve made it my purpose and my higher purpose to help as many people as I can.
Dave Aarons: Wow, I really appreciate that.
Charles Lee: Thank you.
Dave Aarons: I definitely get that sense of purpose that you bring to it. I mean just in the times that we’ve worked together and worked with Graham as well, and certainly with the way you’ve been working with the clients we send you it’s very apparent, so I know it’s that.
Charles Lee: Cool. Thank you.
Dave Aarons: One of the things we haven’t talked about on any of the previous podcasts is the legal plan, that you actually worked as a legal plan provider. A lot of attorneys aren’t aware of how that works. Would you just share a little bit about how you used to work as a legal access plan provider, what were some of the benefits you would provide?
Charles Lee: Sure. As anybody knows there aren’t many unions anymore in our country unfortunately, but there is still a union, at least here in Los Angeles for the employees that work at Staple Center, Dodger Stadium. Those are all actually one union called Unite Here, Local 11 and together they have representation with a firm and each of the employees. I think it’s like $50 out of every monthly paycheck, is reserved for legal services.
So if they have questions about immigration matters or if they have questions about bankruptcy or divorce, consumer protection things, some minor landlord-tenant things, they would just direct those questions towards the law firm. So I as a starting attorney had to know a little bit about a lot of different areas of law and I was very fortunate to get that opportunity because in that initial position, the people have already paid the dues, so they don’t owe anything, so the monetary aspect is taken out of the equation. So it’s pure, let me help you as best as I can situation.
Dave Aarons: It’s a unique experience.
Charles Lee: Absolutely.
Dave Aarons: Usually, the initial consultation, especially if it’s a free consultation, that always threads and it’s like, “Okay, let me help you and I need to convert you into a client,” right?
Charles Lee: Absolutely.
Dave Aarons: You get paid, whereas if you’re able to just come from a standpoint of pure service … how does that impact nowadays … you’re obviously doing free consultations with clients, but does that same spirit of help and service come, is it related to that in some way?
Charles Lee: Absolutely. I tell my clients all the leads that I talk to on the phone, the ones that I get to have the privilege of meeting in person, I tell them I don’t like wasting their time and of course I don’t like wasting my time because I need to focus on the people who have put their faith in me to help them.
So I try to do everything I can. Even on the phone calls, I try to give them a miniature consultation just so they see that I have understood and care about their problem and as soon as I get them on the phone I’m right into solution mode saying, “Okay, let’s see what we can do. If it’s something I can help you with I’ll tell you directly. If it’s something that I cannot help you with, I will try my best to maybe refer you to a different attorney that might.”
Honestly, in the immigration field there are times where it might be best not to do anything and I say that carefully, but there are times when people have been “living under the radar” for a while and sometimes jumping in and raising their hand up and letting the government know that they are here might not serve them in their best interest, so I try to be open and honest. If I’m like that people generally respond well and they can sense that I care, they can sense that I’m not in it just for the money.
I want to make sure that I get the results that they want and that I’m … ’cause at the end of the day, people try to immigration to pursue dreams or reconnect with family or just make a better life for themselves and if my getting involved is gonna cause some problem for them, I tell them honestly that these are the risks and it might not be worth your time taking that risk right now. As long as you’re honest, I think people can sense that.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. It reminds me a bit about what Sue talked about on her podcast, being really honest and also a lot of immigrant people, especially they’re going online and searching, don’t necessarily know whether you’re on their side or not, right?
Charles Lee: Correct.
Dave Aarons: Like are you the government, are you my attorney, are you a shadow? [inaudible 00:09:19] so being honest and being able to make clear that you’re someone that is protecting them and you’re gonna give them straight advice I would assume really helps people, makes them feel a lot more comfortable knowing that they have someone that’s on their side.
Charles Lee: Absolutely. They actually remind me, before I became familiar with unbundled attorney services and legal services I was doing my own Google AdWords and such and there was some success. I was using less money to get some people to call in or click on my links, but the quality wasn’t there. People would call and it’s surprising how many people would call and say, “I have a neighbor I need to deport,” or “This guy, he lives across the street from me and I don’t like him and I think he’s illegal,” and I ask them honestly like, “What did you Google to get my number to think that I’m gonna help you with this?”
Dave Aarons: Yeah, how to deport neighbors.
Charles Lee: They just said, “Immigration,” and that’s one of my keywords of Google AdWords and it pops up and they just call the first number they see and they think it’s the government.
Dave Aarons: Yes.
Charles Lee: So you’re right, there is definitely confusion there.
Dave Aarons: Well, there’s fear.
Charles Lee: Yeah. Even with citizens, they’re looking for the government for example, but if they type in immigration and my Google AdWords populates it’s not effective.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, there is a science to the AdWords.
Charles Lee: Yeah.
Dave Aarons: Obviously there’s been a lot of changes in immigration in the environment, politically and that’s basically caused a cascade of impacts and effects on the way you have to practice as an immigration lawyer, just as far as keeping track of things.
Charles Lee: Absolutely.
Dave Aarons: Also, from the client’s side, all the fears. You mentioned a lot of people being concerned about securing citizenship and [inaudible 00:11:14] that otherwise couldn’t. Can you just share a bit about how this landscape has changed either since the new administration or just recently, both for the clients and for you as a practitioner?
Charles Lee: Absolutely it has absolutely changed and I think that fear is the word that comes to mind. There has been an increased fear in the immigrant population, of the undocumented immigrant population especially. These are individuals and you see it and they’ll never show it, but you can sense it after many years of doing this, they have a burden on their shoulders that they carry the day in and day out. They’ve had children here and the children are going through school and have graduated high school and such. You don’t truly see that burden lifted from these individuals’ shoulders until the green card is in their hand and then you can almost physically see them stand up taller and stand up straighter.
Dave Aarons: Wow. They feel like they’re almost hiding, right?
Charles Lee: Yeah, exactly.
Dave Aarons: Wow.
Charles Lee: So there is more of that. There are more people hiding and there is an elevated fear and what I tell my clients when they have the wherewithal and the courage to look for the answers, I commend for that. That’s one of the first things I say, like, “I honor you for taking a chance and looking for help and knowing that you need help,” but I warn them. I warn them against people who aren’t fully licensed as attorneys trying to take advantage of their fear and I always tell them, “Don’t let anybody scare you into giving away a lot of money to solve a problem that they might not actually be able to solve.”
Dave Aarons: Yeah.
Charles Lee: So that’s been helpful and that goes onto showing care. That yes, I understand you’re afraid and I understand you might even be panicking right now. My job is to calm you down rather than take advantage of that panic and say, “Okay, give me $5,000,” for example, “and I’ll take care of it.”
Dave Aarons: Otherwise you know-
Charles Lee: Yeah, “Otherwise they’re knocking at your door,” or something. That’s simply not true. I try to walk them back from the cliff and talk them down from the ledge and when they see that and when they sense that, they appreciate that and that’s what I strive for. Those are the people who, for example, even if I can’t help them, they are more inclined to refer me to somebody else that might need immigration help.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, you’re appealing more towards what they’re looking to see happen or what they’re trying to accomplish instead of feeding the fear.
Charles Lee: Right. I’m trying to feed hope instead of the fear.
Dave Aarons: That’s right, yes, exactly. Can you talk just briefly ’cause you were talking about notarios and different types of things as immigration lawyers or even people that are looking into coming into the immigration field and Los Angeles is a unique market, so you can speak directly about Los Angeles and different markets are gonna have more or less of these types of groups existing. What are the types of things that some immigrants or clients that are trying to get legal assistance are gonna be exposed to, some of the things they need to watch out for, and how do you help them communicate and understand the differences between what that is and what is it you do?
Charles Lee: That’s a good question. At it’s most pure I think it’s a language difference. So whereas in a country like Mexico a notario or notaria might be very well a licensed attorney, abogado, and they might use those terms interchangeably, but there are individuals that use that term here in the states, especially in Los Angeles that very well know that people expect the notario/notaria to be held to the standard of an attorney, maybe in Mexico, but that that word notario/notaria is not the same as abogado/abogada here.
This isn’t just in the Spanish speaking community. I see it in the Filipino, Indian, Chinese, even Korean and Russian communities, they have people who maybe speak English better than the client looking for help and that person, because of their English, understanding they can help with things like taxes and all the forms, for example, for USCIS immigration services, it’s all online for free. So anyone can pull up the forms, but what people need to be aware of is if they are not licensed attorneys or accredited representatives, those individuals will not be allowed to come with them to interviews. It’s similar to the effort done by the government to prevent unlicensed tax preparers. If they don’t sign, then they’re not licensed for example.
Dave Aarons: Right.
Charles Lee: Often times I’ll get clients that come in here and they show me a bunch of paperwork filed by somebody and it has been filed in a way where it shows that she or he filed it themselves without the help of anybody.
Dave Aarons: Without a preparer.
Charles Lee: Right. So they need to be aware of that and immigration law is federal so the person might not be licensed here in California, but they have to be licensed somewhere. So don’t be afraid, clients, to ask for license numbers and licensure ’cause that stuff is important. We’re held to a higher standard for a reason, because we are entrusted with, in my case, people’s lives, family’s lives. So make sure you do your due diligence, check to find out which state they’re licensed in and what their number is and each of those states has a website where you can check to make sure that the individual is who they say they are and make sure you prepare and protect yourself that way. I guess it’s one of those things where if it sounds too good to be true if the number that they’re quoting you for a certain thing sounds too good to be true, it very well might be.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Immigration strikes me a field of law in which there’s an extraordinary amount of vulnerability. So because of that vulnerability and because of that fear, it almost seems like immigration lawyers have to have a greater sense of responsibility, a greater sense of integrity because it would be, not easy, but like these people are in a very vulnerable position, right.
Charles Lee: That’s the right word.
Dave Aarons: So you have to have that same sensitivity to their circumstance and their situation and be that beacon or that person of truth and trust.
Charles Lee: I see some of my clients come in here and they remind of a spinning compass. Like they are just in it and them don’t which way to go and I tell them from the start, “I’m glad you’re here. My job is to point you in the direction,” and that’s the first step, and when they leave and they feel a sense of relief, understanding what’s the next step, I’ve stopped their spinning compass and I feel much better about that and they do too.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, absolutely. Well it’d be really helpful I think, especially for a lot of attorneys that are listening, is just to … for a while you were servicing clients from quite a wide set of regions, serving clients here in Los Angeles, I think you were getting leads from Orange County, Riverside, Ventura, Los Angeles … San Bernardino as well?
Charles Lee: No, not yet.
Dave Aarons: Okay, so there were some things that you were implementing in order to help secure those appointments and get them to come in and [inaudible 00:19:27] and so forth. Can you talk a little bit about just serving the geographic region and from there I’d love to just unpack in general some of the ways in which you’ve been helping folks more affordable and just working within their budget and stuff too?
Charles Lee: Things are fluid and I’ve been trying different things. What I was doing with clients out in Riverside is I was trying to put them on a particular day of the week, for example like a Friday, choose a time where traffic is least crazy and try to get out there and back to back, stack the appointments and that was helpful.
I’ve also made available things like Skype or FaceTime and if they want to take that they can do that, otherwise one of the very first questions I’ll ask if these individuals are outside of my county or Los Angeles area, I’ll ask if they are coming to LA for any other thing, are you coming for an event or to meet with somebody else? Often times, yeah, they make their trek in at least a couple times a month and if I can line up with that it’s more convenient for them and they appreciate that.
The other thing that I was doing, if I am gonna be driving a couple of hours out to meet them, I try to do what one of the other attorneys had recommended and secure a credit card and tell them that I’m only taking this credit card as a security against you not showing up and then charge $50. If I explain that and I’m honest and tell them my office is located in LA for example, but I’m gonna be taking the time to drive out there, they understand and they are willing to give their credit card.
It’s something that I’m trying to implement here and the LA location as well, but I guess I’m just nice. It’s convenient, my location here is not too far from where I live, so even if they miss appointments I guess I’ve been a little bit more lenient with my Los Angeles clientele than further out. It is a good tactic to get some skin in the game, I think is what it is, get a number down and then they know that they have to make it.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, and for those of you that are … that podcast interview is with Tara Lee. I think it’s called Proven Sales Strategies To Convert More Leads And Eliminate No-shows. We really do unpack a process you can use that he implemented east of San Bernardino and Riverside that would just ask the clients to put a card on file. He doesn’t charge them anything, but they put a card on file and in the event that they don’t show up, he charges them a fee.
Just the act of clients just putting a card on file virtually eliminated all no-shows. He didn’t even have to charge them. Just knowing that if they don’t show up they’re gonna pay ensured the people were committed to coming in and probably, on some level, if they’re not willing to put a card on file and put the skin in the game, then why are you putting your skin in the game and scheduling aside that time or making that effort, right?
Charles Lee: Absolutely.
Dave Aarons: So in a way it’s a nice way to take their temperature and make sure that they’re serious.
Charles Lee: Yes.
Dave Aarons: Cool. So maybe a good place to dive in is obviously you’re someone that’s very passionate about immigration, passionate about helping people. Can you just take us through the basic process from whether you receive a lead or a call, somebody comes in … you’re a sole practitioner too, right?
Charles Lee: Correct.
Dave Aarons: So at this point, no staff, no paralegals or anything else. So you’re handling things from start to finish, so can you take us through from when you talk to the lead, how that consultation goes, what’s your initial goal is on that consultation … obviously, I think it’s to come in?
Charles Lee: Right.
Dave Aarons: Then from there, just talk about the different models or options you may be able to offer people to make things also a little more affordable.
Charles Lee: Of course immigration, there’s a full range. I get leads that are typed out in all caps and says, “My brother has been picked up at the border.” That’s a completely different phone call than, “I’m a citizen and I want to petition my wife.” Those are less panicky and happier.
Ultimately I believe that the sooner you get them on the phone the better and I’ve realized that as well. So what I do is on my phone I have a separate tone and every time an email comes in from Unbundled, the leads, it rings a specific tone so I know immediately that it is another lead and I’m on the clock.
Dave Aarons: That’s something I found too. It just says if an email comes from this address, then play this tone.
Charles Lee: So I’ve dedicated one of my emails addresses specifically to Unbundled.
Dave Aarons: Okay, so you’ve basically created a separate email account where you receive Unbundled leads and then when an email comes into that account, you have it play a different notification sound?
Charles Lee: Correct. It’s the only notification that’s on. All my other emails would be blowing up all day, so that’s the only email box that I allow a sound notification to come out on.
Dave Aarons: It’s an important point because a lot of attorneys will have notifications going for all their emails-
Charles Lee: Absolutely.
Dave Aarons: Just to make sure it’s not a lead, make sure it’s not a lead, make sure it’s not a lead or a new client hitting them up, whereas if you can separate that, which is one of the things we do is with the text message, you get the notifications, but if you don’t have that feature, then having something that would make that delineated from everything else, so you’re not constantly having to check your email.
Charles Lee: The text messages help because as you said in one of our first calls I think, the redundancy is security and I always believe that with things like my calendar as well, redundancy is security. So email, texts, calls, the more times I’m reached out to, the better the chance is I’m not gonna miss it.
So once I get the initial lead in, I try to call within the first five minutes. Of course, if it’s in the middle of the night, I try to at least send an email or a text and you and I were talking offline about automating that process, which is gonna help. Once I get them on the phone, I try to keep calls within 15 minutes, just give them a sense of who I am, my level of care, my level of understanding and experience in the issue that they’re dealing with.
I’ve been fortunate that the vast majority of the leads that I’ve been receiving there’s some that I can do for them or it’s a situation that I’ve seen before. There are some outliers and I just become a better attorney learning about those situations, so I’m appreciative of that.
After I get them on the phone I try to give the time to talk and I try to show them that I’m empathetic and I’m giving them attention and respect, but I don’t let them railroad me into this whole long story because time is valuable. I try to keep it to 15 minutes, assess whether or not it’s somebody I want to bring in. There are times when I can just tell off the bat there’s nothing that we can do that will help them and I tell them, “Hey, I don’t want to waste your time and I’m gonna be open and honest with you, it might be best for you to not do anything right now.” When they hear that and they hear the sincerity in my voice, they are ecstatic and those are those individuals that as soon as something in their situation changes or as soon as they get this one police clearance or this one missing document, I’m gonna be the first person they call.
If I can bring them in and I can help them, I try to schedule something immediately. Often I ask if they can come in that day and a couple do, a couple has said, “I’m so scared about this matter that I couldn’t work today and I just jumped online, I started pounding in searches, your name came up, you’re talking to me now. I would love to meet you today,” and those are great because it shows that all they had to do was take the first step to look for help and bam, here I am. So that’s my objective.
Then once they come in I like to express to them that I’m human too. I know I’m an attorney and people expect attorneys to make tons of money and I’ve seen often in other firms where they don’t bat an eye at quoting somebody an initial down payment of $2,000 or something. What I’ve seen working with the union members and working with my clients over the years, is that’s really difficult, that’s more than rent sometimes.
Dave Aarons: Yes, especially in LA
Charles Lee: Absolutely. So for an attorney to flippantly throw a number like that out, I’ve realized scares a lot of clients. I don’t try to hide the final number. I do say, “You’re looking at a case in this range, but I want to help you each step of the way and if I try to do this for you and it doesn’t work, there’s no point in you paying me for the things they’re after. So let’s take this one step at a time.” I try to give them an honest evaluation of what the timeframe looks like. So, “This is gonna take me a couple weeks. I would appreciate payment in the form of every week, in smaller amounts.” Ultimately it might be the same big amount, but it gives them faith that I’m only charging them for what I’m doing for them, and they appreciate that honestly, they appreciate me understanding that it is hard to just drop $2,000 on a dime. So that’s what I’ve been trying to do.
Fortunately, a lot of the cases in like immigration court, you can just take it one step at a time, but it is a little different from some of the other areas that you service, the other areas of law in that in immigration court, if you enter your appearance once, until the judge says you’re off the hook, you are the attorney. I tell the clients honestly that it’s not as simple as just making one appearance. If I make one then I’m expected to be there for all of them.
Again, everything is just open communication and as long as I help the individual understand why I’m charging what I’m charging and I am open and honest about what I normally charge for hourly rate versus the reduction of fees that I give if they choose to do a flat fee agreement, they appreciate that. They appreciate that I’m telling them, I’m expecting to work so and so a number of hours on this case, normally I charge $400 an hour, but if you want to go flat fee, I pretty much double my time for you and I give you my hourly rate at half the rate.
My job, of course, behind the scenes is to try to be as efficient as possible. Get the work done, but be as efficient as possible. As long as they see that and they understand why the number is coming out to what it is, I think they appreciate that.
Dave Aarons: So you do flat rates or is it hour by hour?
Charles Lee: I do a flat rate.
Dave Aarons: Maybe what we could just do is just give an example of a typical case. Let’s say it’s an adjustment of status or whatever it might be. What’s the total cost what you would think and then how would you write that up?
Charles Lee: So the typical adjustment meaning no problems, there has been no unlawful entry or no unauthorized stay, no unauthorized employment and such, I’m looking in the $2,400 range right now and I know that that’s a little bit low compared to some of the other attorneys in Los Angeles, but I do use some software that helps expedite the process. I explain that to the clients, that I can offer a lower rate because they’re gonna help me help them. They’re gonna do some of the data entry, such as address history or employment history, things that they know how to answer, and I tell them that the reason I work with a company like Unbundled Legal Services is because the individuals can type in the information on a web query can very well help me help them by utilizing things like Borderwise … I think they just changed their name to Docketwise.
Dave Aarons: That’s the software that you [crosstalk 00:31:58]
Charles Lee: Yeah, that’s the software. So all I have to do is type in their email address and it sends out a questionnaire and they can answer certain forms and such like that.
Dave Aarons: The client is doing some legwork to save money, right?
Charles Lee: Yeah, absolutely.
Dave Aarons: Like handling some parts on their own, getting you the information so you’re not spending that time and those efficiencies, offloading some of that work to the client, having them help out by doing some of that, makes it more affordable and you communicate that to them.
Charles Lee: Absolutely, and I tell them that ideally, I want my fee paid before I file, mainly because I’m pretty much done with my work at that time. I have to show up for the interview of course and they understand that and they understand that I give them a timeframe, “If we do this quickly, I can do this in a week, but in that case, you need to pay me accordingly.” I don’t intend or I don’t want to hold any cases longer than I need to, but in my normal timeframe I say like a month, it’s gonna take me a month to get all the documents and I tell them, “The faster you work with me, the faster we can get this done.” Normally people understand that and if I tell them it’s gonna take four weeks and I can cut up the payments into four, they’re more than happy to do that.
Dave Aarons: Right, so they might pay some like two, three, four, five-hundred dollars down to get started and then do you have like a payment schedule laid out with them? Do you use Lawpay to [inaudible 00:33:19].
Charles Lee: I do.
Dave Aarons: Can you share a bit about how that works.
Charles Lee: I start using LawPay to accept credit card payments. I was trying PayPal before but that one wasn’t as efficient and the software with LawPay and just being able to send a quick bill has been really beneficial and I think there’s more trust when they receive a request from something like LawPay.
Dave Aarons: And they have like an automated recurring billing feature.
Charles Lee: Yeah.
Dave Aarons: So let’s say, for example, let’s just say $1,000 and it’s gonna take four weeks. You would say, okay, so $250 a week every Friday, so you put the date, the interval, every week and the amount for a period, right?
Charles Lee: So I make sure I put that in my retainer agreement as well so that they understand on this date this is going out and that’s what I charge. Again, open and honest communication. As long as they’re not surprised by it then we’re good.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, that’s huge. It’s hugely impactful that someone doesn’t have to come up with $2,000, $3,000 up front and the fees are the same, it’s gonna take a period of time, maybe a month, two months, whatever is the amount of time. It gives people that amount of time to come up with the money and they don’t have this massive tripwire they have to try to jump over before you get started, right?
Charles Lee: Right, absolutely
Dave Aarons: I can see that would be really, really helpful for a lot of people. Okay, cool. So you got the pay as you go and you mentioned that you have some streamlined, some software built in on the backend that helps to make things a little bit more efficient?
Charles Lee: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dave Aarons: Can you talk just a little bit about what you’ve used in the past. We’ve had some other attorneys that have come on in the podcast and shared INS Zoom and some other different software that are working. You also mentioned that there have been some challenges with this because the forms are changing so much, so maybe just how is it helping and then some of the things that you’ve had to do to make sure it continues to work well.
Charles Lee: Ultimately, it’s my name and my license number and my signature on these documents at the end of the day, so I have learned some hard lessons previously where I fully trusted a program like Inszoom or Immigration Pro or even my [Docketwise 00:35:37] that I’m using now and what it comes down to is there’s always room for human error. There’s room for human error when they’re creating the form through USCIS and there’s room for error when one of these third-party companies takes one of these PDFS from USCIS and then begins to decide which fields need to be populated on their own.
As an attorney, especially as an immigration attorney on these forms, it has to be perfect, it has to be precise and you can’t afford mistakes. So it might help in the initial intake of the client information to get all that stuff, but at the end of the day, you still need to check everything, every box, and that’s where the times goes in and I tell that to the clients too, that just because the information they’re putting in might not be fully accurate doesn’t mean I’m just gonna hit send or print it out and send it off as soon as they send it to me. I reassure them that my job is still to look over everything and make sure that all the information is correct and perfect.
Dave Aarons: Right, yeah, absolutely and obviously part of this is because there are so many changes in the policies of immigration.
Charles Lee: Right.
Dave Aarons: And a lot of the different forms are needing to be updated or changed or half of them that did exist don’t anymore. Can you give us some examples of some stuff that’s been updated since maybe Trump’s presidency that you’ve had to manage?
Charles Lee: Yeah, it’s a timing thing. So previous administrations, things would change maybe once a year if that, and often times these forms have been around for many years with no problem, but the administration if they want to ask one more question on these forms they’ve gotta update the form. There are forms like the I45, which is the green card application and of course the petition that is linked to that, those forms have changed. The requirements have changed and unfortunately in the transitions, there are times when I’ll do the entire form or entire forms with the client and then I have to call them back in to do a new form because, by the time the client has got me the final filing fee or the support documents, the form has expired.
I don’t know if it’s an administrative thing or the administration thing just trying to trip up immigrants and immigration attorneys, but I’m sure all the other immigration attorneys know out there that we all have to be on our toes. Especially now, you gotta be extra careful and make sure all the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed.
Dave Aarons: Do you have any perspectives on a broader sense of what is happening in the United States from an immigration standpoint and from the standpoint of an immigration lawyer and where things are headed and maybe some of the things we have to watch out for or be aware of? I’m just curious of your perspective of what’s unfolded and where things are headed.
Charles Lee: Let’s not cloud the issue. President Obama was deporting and removing tons of people too, but there’s a different culture out there now in that … and I still tell my clients, there are still good people on that side. There are still good people on the government that try to do things the correct way and tries to help out in any way that they can.
For example, a lot of immigration judges in, at least Los Angeles, have previously been immigration attorneys, so they understand the challenges, some of them still have the best interests of immigrants in mind, which is great. The problem is the government attorneys are under the Attorney General and whatever Trump wants them to do and if they want to take a hard-line stance they do.
So whereas before the government attorneys would be more willing and likely to join, for example, in a motion to terminate a case that can obviously be taken care of by USCIS instead of immigration court, that used to be almost done as a courtesy for the judge’s docket. Just to clear up the docket, the government attorney used to agree to close something so USCIS could adjudicate it, but now they’re simply not allowed to. So even if it takes more time and resources and energy and effort, they’re still told that they have to take a hard-line stance. So even these attorneys that don’t want to waste their time or waste my time or waste the judge’s time, they’re still required to. So that’s change.
Something that should cost almost nothing at all to simply send the request the have them join in a motion, now takes extra money and extra time and I have to explain it to the clients, like this is what’s going on and this is the direct impact of this administration on these people’s lives. It trickles all the way down and it trickles down quickly.
I guess what I’ve seen that there are those that are good, but there are those that are not so good and that they love the fact that the administration is the way it is right now. They love being able to flex their muscles a little bit more than they did under the Obama administration. For example, a de-naturalization committee where Trump has assigned people to double check the naturalization application that were filed during the Obama administration just to … that’s crazy. Sometimes I wonder is it just because the guy’s skin was black that everything under him has to be double checked, triple checked and undone if possible.
We see it now with DACA for example, that’s the hot-button issue with the dreamers and the children and I have multiple clients who are DOCA recipients and literally two years old at the time of entry. They had no options at all but they’re being told that they are foreigners and that they must leave the country and temporarily protected statuses are being dropped. So times are changing, but we just have to look out for each other and again, my job is to instill hope and lead in that way instead of feeding on fear and feeding fear.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, absolutely. I’m also immigrant as well. I’m from Canada, my family is from Canada, and even in my own family, my mother, for example, is a permanent resident, she’s having the thought like, “Well, maybe I should file for citizenship.” So it’s very clear there’s an enormous amount more fear amongst the clients, but just even as an attorney, it’s been a lot more challenging for you to manage those emotions of the clients, manage those fears, and also deal with the administrative challenges of all of that.
So it’s really helpful to hear your perspective on it because it’s not just the people themselves, it’s the attorneys like yourself have to step up to be able to serve people through these times.
Charles Lee: Yes, we have to step up, we have to resist, we have to fight back and as heavy of a burden as it might be for me, I have to understand that for these clients it’s that much heavier because I mess up and I lose a case and I’m sad and if I did it right hopefully I don’t lose my license, but if I mess up and I lose a case, they lose a father, they lose a husband, they lose a mother or a child and that should be unacceptable. That’s how I feel about that.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, no it’s a great deal of responsibility, a great deal of commitment that all lawyers are being tested with that work in the immigration field, specifically right now, that goes well beyond affordability and accessibility and it’s really being accountable and being their advocate and it’s a time that’s very uncertain for many people in this industry.
All right, listen to Charles, this has been really helpful to hear your perspective. As I said before, I really appreciate all the work you’re doing for clients we’re sending you in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. We’ve gotten some really amazing feedback and obviously, it’s having a good, positive impact on your practice as well.
Charles Lee: Very much so.
Dave Aarons: I appreciate your commitment to serving clients in times that they really do need someone on their side that’s committed to their success and is willing, to be honest and fight for them.
Charles Lee: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Dave Aarons: That’s really needed right now.
Charles Lee: Yeah, I agree.
Dave Aarons: So with that, we’ll wrap it up. Thanks to everyone that’s joining us on the podcast every couple weeks. We’re obviously really excited about the fact that we’re now doing a video podcast with amazing lawyers like Charles here, so thank you for coming on-
Charles Lee: Thank you for having me.
Dave Aarons: And for this new effort to be a little more personal and really share some of the experiences of what it takes to make services more affordable in this country and also serve people in the immigration arena, family law and other areas of law as well. So thank you for participating and thank for applying these strategies into your practice as well.
To connect with us, obviously, we have the YouTube channel now. We’re gonna be serving up new video podcasts regularly, probably once a month is what we’re looking at and of course, you can follow us on Facebook if you just search for Unbundled Attorney on Facebook, we post there as well all of our new episodes and anything we’re doing as a company. Lots of great things in the works, but we appreciate you participating and we’ll certainly see you all in the next episode.
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Episode 53: How to Instill Confidence, Trust and Loyalty With Your Immigration Clients in a Political Climate Characterized by Fear and Uncertainty
When you hear Charles Lee discuss his immigration practice, it becomes abundantly clear that he takes his role as an attorney and advocate for his immigration clients very seriously. Recent changes in our immigration laws and the political climate created by a new administration have introduced a great deal of fear and uncertainty in the hearts and minds of immigrants in the United States. Today Charles joins the show and talks about how he has successfully adapted his practice to overcome these challenges. He also shares some of the beliefs and values that have become the foundation of his practice, and how he communicates them to his clients to win their confidence and trust. We also discuss the legal technology and flexible payment options that enable him to make his services more affordable and profitable.
To read a complete transcript of this interview, click here
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- What Pre-Paid legal plans are and what Charles learned from his experience as a plan-provider attorney
- The importance of being completely honest and transparent with clients, especially in immigration law
- The increased amount of fear and uncertainty that immigrants in the United States have as a result of the new administration and how Charles communicates with clients to alleviate these fears and build their confidence and trust
- How to advise your clients about unlicensed legal service providers to prevent them from being taken advantage of
- Charles’ thoughts about how vulnerable many immigration clients are and why immigration lawyers have a greater responsibility to be rigorously honest and thorough
- How to serve clients in regions that are more distant from your office by “batching” appointments and using other creative and adaptive scheduling strategies
- The process Charles implemented to prevent clients from flaking on appointments
- The email setup he uses so he is notified in real time and in multiple ways whenever he receives a new lead, because as Charles says, “redundancy is security”
- How to find a balance between letting clients talk and be heard while at the same time keeping the conversation relevant and pertinent during the initial consultation
- A breakdown of the flat rate and flexible payment options he offers clients
- The legal technology Charles uses that enables the client to handle some of the data entry work themselves, which helps him lower costs and increase his profitability
- How he leverages an automated payment solution to reduce the administrative time involved in processing credit card payments
- Some cautionary advice about relying too heavily on legal tech software, and the importance of always double checking and reviewing your work
- Changes in forms, laws and procedures because of the new presidency, and how Charles has adapted his practice accordingly
- Why he believes immigration attorneys must be strong advocates for their clients during this ever changing and uncertain political climate
- And much more…
Resources Mentioned in This Episode
- Unbundled Attorney YouTube Channel
- Unbundled Attorney Mastermind Podcast Episode 16 with Tera Lee: Proven Sales Strategies to Convert More Leads and Eliminate No-Shows
- INS Zoom
- Immigration Pro
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For more information about Unbundled Attorney and how our exclusive, unbundled leads can help grow your practice, visit: https://www.unbundledattorney.com