Need to learn more about our three steps to better credit? See these resources, listen to Orson share more about the process, or read the full audio transcript.
Listen to Orson discuss the three steps:
Tish: Today, we will conclude our three part interview with Mr. Orson Woodall, attorney, owner and founder of Woodall & Woodall, with more than 34 years of bankruptcy experience helping Georgians find relief from debt through bankruptcy.
Tish: In this third podcast, we look at some very simple and easy steps to take in finding relief from debt. I begin this podcast by identifying the apprehension and fear that many people often feel when considering approaching an attorney to file bankruptcy.
Tish: And I think a lot of people feel like, "I can't pay my bills. How am I going to pay an attorney to help me file Chapter 13 or file bankruptcy?" What would you say to that?
Orson Woodall: Filing a Chapter 13 is very inexpensive. It doesn't take but ... In Georgia, now, I'm talking Georgia, the filing and the credit counseling fee is not but $345. Chapter 7 is a different situation because the minute an attorney files for the Chapter 7 client, any money owed to the attorney is discharged also, so most attorneys try to get their cash upfront. We figured out some ways around that, where if they have some friends that can promise to pay us, I can accept money from a third party. I just can't accept money from a client that I file for, so there are ways to make it easier to file. Generally, we can get somebody filed under Chapter 7 if they got good friends or mom and dad for as little as $500 upfront. So we're not talking big bucks.
Tish: So it is affordable. People could genuinely find an alternative and it's not the end of the world by going to an attorney and filing for bankruptcy?
Orson Woodall: Not only us, but any attorney I know is not going to charge you for a consultation. They all do them free. We do. It's nothing magic. I probably shouldn't be saying that other attorneys do it free too but I know they do. Somebody may hear this that's not close to Valdosta or south Georgia and they may be in Alabama or Florida or North Carolina. Go see an attorney. It doesn't cost a dime. And if you don't like what he said, look, go see another one. I talk very frankly with my clients and sometime, when I talk to them, they just frankly don't want to hear it and don't like what I say and they may go talk to someone else then they come back because I was shooting straight to them the whole time. But talk to somebody. It doesn't cost a dime.
Tish: See, that's news. And people, I bet, don't even know that that's something they could do and it makes a very simple. And people can take that very simple step to get the help that they need. And like you're saying, a consultation doesn't cost anything, so why not at least go in and ask. And you mentioned that earlier. Just go and get someone that you can talk to and you can talk to someone, such as yourself, and get the help they need. That will make all the difference. It can be the beginning of a new beginning.
Orson Woodall: That's absolutely true. And one thing I want to urge people to do, is when they make decision to talk, pay a visit to the attorney's office. Set up an appointment and go in so that you can look across the desk and decide whether you like him or not, or her. I've always felt that I get a much better rapport when I'm looking at someone and I can give better advice when I'm looking at someone because when I'm asking questions I'm seeing the expression on their face. And if they make kind of an odd expression, it leads me to ask another question and then another question and another question. One of the things we don't want to do is create more problems for our client.
Orson Woodall: I had someone in my office the other day and we started talking, I told them what we could do and I asked them some more questions, they were all excited and then they mentioned that their mom and dad had died. And I said, "Did they have any land?" They said, "Yeah, they owed a 500 acre farm." I said, "Is any debt on that farm?" They said, "No." I said, "Well, are you the only heir?" They said, "Yes." I said, "Well, you can't file a bankruptcy. If you do, they'll sell the farm." So we sat down and worked out a different plan, of not filing a bankruptcy and a way she could go arrange loans to pay the debt back and keep the family farm.
Orson Woodall: So, the trick is don't make a problem worse. Make it better. And if you're sitting down talking to the attorney, it's just a lot easier for that attorney to gauge your reactions. I do consultation on the phone but it is so much better if they come into the office.
Tish: I'm writing that quote down. I think that's very powerful. Don't make a problem worse, make a problem better. That is a great solution and I can see people latching onto that because [crosstalk 00:05:13]. You're a treasure digger. You're looking for those places where they can, in a productive way, resolve the conflict.
Orson Woodall: That is correct. And it's a process and we work them through it.
Tish: Well, you don't make the problem worse by just hiding it and living in your shame. You're making the problem better by taking some action. Go ahead.
Orson Woodall: Another good thing for a client to ask is ask the attorney's experience. I remember when I first started practicing law by myself, I had been out of law school about a year, and people would ask me a bankruptcy question and if I didn't know the answer to it, my stock answer was, "You know I think the court just had a decision on that that may have changed the outcome a little bit. Let me research it tonight and call you tomorrow."
Tish: There you go.
Orson Woodall: So, it's real important to try to find somebody that does have experience. And we like to think at our firm we do. We've got some guys, Will has been practicing, I think, 14 years now and I've been practicing ... We've got 30 or 40 years of experience here in the office.
Tish: Between the two of you. Is it just the two of you or do you have other people in your practice?
Orson Woodall: No, we have a third attorney too that's been with us for three years. He's three years out of law school.
Tish: And all of them are focusing on bankruptcy or Chapter 13?
Orson Woodall: Bankruptcy, Chapter 7, 11, 12 and 13 work is the only thing we do. We don't do any other kind of law.
Tish: How is debt relief different than bankruptcy? Or is it the same?
Orson Woodall: Well, it's just a term we use. People kind of respond to that a little more favorably than the word bankruptcy. People truly don't want to file a bankruptcy if they don't have to and I don't blame them. Truthfully, I turn down as many clients as I accept. And I tell a lot of people, "Look, you don't need to file a bankruptcy. You need to this and this and this. And it will solve your problem. And it's no point in paying me money if you can do it without paying me."
Tish: So, that's good. That's important to know. Because, yeah, some things can be managed very differently but that's the benefit of the skill that you have, the expertise, and that's why, back to the, get that consultation because that way it just brings everything to the light. It puts it all on the table and then you know what you're working with and how to move forward.
Tish: I know a lot of people think that once you file bankruptcy you can't buy a house or reestablish credit for, what is it, five to seven years after a bankruptcy. Is that true?
Orson Woodall: Well, a Chapter 13 is on your credit history for seven years. A Chapter 7 is on your credit history for 10 years. However, those dates start from the date you file, not the date that it ends. However it doesn't mean that you can't get credit. We help people by signing them up with 720 Credit Score. It's an online course that a friend of mine has that's pretty good. We also have a book that we put together, here in the office, that we give to people that teaches them how to reestablish credit.
Orson Woodall: Look, I went totally broke. I know how to reestablish credit. I did it myself. I had banks loaning me money that they discharged debt on me after I got out of law school. They were coming to me wanting to loan me money. I wasn't going to them.
Tish: Wow. That's just wild.
Orson Woodall: It's not that difficult to reestablish debt. It's a system you have to put in place and stick to it and not be foolish and move forward.
Tish: Well, this is excellent. I have one more question to ask and then we'll close out the podcast. What is the biggest thing you're looking forward to in the future?
Orson Woodall: My grandchildren. They are 11, 10 and seven. Tomorrow, I leave ... Let me tell you a short story, one more story. About two years ago, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. At Mayo Clinic, they did a Whipple procedure on me where they do an operation. They take out our duodenum. They took out about 40% of my pancreas. They rerouted my intensives. Pretty brutal operation. But when I woke up from the operation, the tumor on my pancreas turned out to be benign. It only happens in about one half of 1% of all the cases in the country. And I got a second lease on life. I might cry. Just a minute.
Elizabeth: Tish, you're lucky. I haven't even heard this story yet.
Tish: This is so powerful.
Elizabeth: I know.
Orson Woodall: After I got out of the hospital, I told my wife, I said, "Every summer, we're going to take our grandchildren on a trip." And this will be our fourth trip to somewhere in the USA. Last year, we went to Washington, Mt. Vernon, Monticello and some of the Civil War battle sites. I wanted them to learn some American history. The summer before that, we went to Utah. They saw dinosaur tracks. They rode down 200 foot pink sand dunes. We spent some days in the wilderness with a guide. It was just a wonderful experience. We saw Grand Canyon. They loved Las Vegas, by the way. One of them, we were riding down the Strip going to dinner and we went by Caesar's Palace and the 9 year old, at that time, said, "Look, William, [nuded 00:10:43] statues."
Tish: All those lights, I mean, their heads must have been spinning.
Orson Woodall: They were. They were impressed. Tomorrow, we leave for Jackson Hole and Yellowstone.
Tish: Ooh, you're going to have fun there.
Orson Woodall: Yeah, it'll be great. It'll be my third trip. My dad would take us on one month summer vacation. By the time I was 16, I had been to 49 states. Now, I'm trying to do that for my grandchildren. So, looking forward to things. I'll keep practicing till I die, but I'm taking a little more time off to do things like that.
Tish: That is amazing. Gosh, this is just scratching the surface. I can tell a wealth. One of my big passions is thinking more generational. We think so existentially in our culture as a whole and we don't think about the long term ramifications. In Asian cultures, they'll think more generationally. And so, it's a rare thing to have someone talking about the long term effects and impact of finances and the decisions we make today and how it effects our children and children's children to come. Because, I mean, we didn't even get into the subject of inheriting debt and what that does to the next generation. So, talk about stress and the load and how to live your life well.
Tish: The word that comes to my mind in considering your story is you're a treasure digger. You've learned to tap into people's strengths and then you've been able to bring that to the forefront. And you even talked about earlier the creativity. As an attorney, you've got to be creative and begin to find creative solutions to begin to solve these problems. And that is a heritage and that is a legacy that is priceless. And I think the younger generation, in particular, needs to hear the older generation speak and invest in them, relationally, and to give that kind of wisdom and insight that you've just given. So, I can hear Elizabeth's excitement and she's your biggest advocate. You've got a great gatekeeper there, Orson.
Orson Woodall: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate you taking the time to speak to us today.
Tish: Oh, absolutely. It's been my pleasure to be able to speak to you. Let me just hear from both of you, either one of you, any closing comments and then where should they go if they want to get help?
Elizabeth: Through all of this, the word that keeps coming into my mind is redemption and how important it is. It's almost a conscious thought. You don't realize how in need you are of some kind of redemption when you're in a financial crisis. But once your redemptive qualities are brought out and you're able to regain your footing and you put one foot in front of the other and just start forward again, you kind of realize, in most respects, the thing you needed was someone to believe if you so that your redemption could come through. And I think, honestly, at the end of the day, that's probably why I'm one of Orson's biggest fans. It's because that is such a huge thing to him. I don't even know if he realizes he does that for people.
Tish: I think the testimony of someone else on behalf of you ... It's what others say about you that validates who you are and that's what keeps reverberating back, Orson, is this testimony that you believe in people and you draw it out. And people remember it. That's a very testimony, but it's also a very powerful legacy.
Orson Woodall: Well, one of the gratifying things is to go to Google and you search attorneys in south Georgia, we have more reviews than everybody else combined and they're all five stars. If you go to Yelp, they're all five star. If you go to Yellow Pages, they're all five star. If you go to Avvo, which is an attorney ranking service, I'm the highest ranked bankruptcy attorney in south Georgia. It's really gratifying that people take the time to contact people like Google and Yellow Pages and Yelp and do a review and like it. It stuns me when I read them.
Tish: It is true. Just a bit of information that, there are four billion people making buying decision daily based on reviews. And the way we communicate and how we communicate has changed dramatically with social media and people choosing to hear how they're receiving information because of the credibility issues of a lot of the media networks, all of that has just radically changed the way we're deciphering who we're going to listen to and who has the credibility that's going to earn my time and interest online.
Tish: So to have those reviews and to have people initiating that kind of support, that's really wealth, character is wealth, is true wealth and what you have there is a lot of people validating not just who you are but what you represent. I just want to say thank you. I just really consider it a privilege today to be able to talk with both of you and to have your story, to hear your legacy. We believe you have a story to tell and we help you tell it. And we love telling people's story because it strengths and, like Elizabeth said, the message of redemption is so tremendous and people need hope today. People need courage and need answers. And I think you guys provide that. And to get your hearts and your personality and coupled with the legal expertise, that's a winning combination.
Tish: And I just want to thank you again for joining me on this podcast.
Orson Woodall: Well, thank you so much for having us.
Elizabeth: Thank you, Tish.
Tish: You're welcome. You're welcome, both of you. And for those of you who would like to learn more about filing bankruptcy or Chapter 7, Chapter 13, Chapter 12, 11 or to get some kind of debt relief, go in and get a consultation. It doesn't cost anything to reach out and ask for help. And you just heard from Mr. Woodall himself the power of asking, the power of seeking to discover and the power of learning that you can find another way out and he has his own testimony of how he has done that. And for those of you who would like to learn more about bankruptcy and these services, go to www.orsonwoodall.com or call, 229-247-1211. And be sure to ask for a free copy of Orson Woodall's book called Bankruptcy In Georgia: The Truth.