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Tish: Today we have the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Orson Woodall. He is the owner and founder of Woodall and Woodall, a 28 year veteran attorney helping Georgians break free of stress and difficulty of overwhelming debt to bankruptcy. And I just know that from the testimonies of people that have been affected your practice, Mr. Woodall, I know that people have attested to how you've gotten, not just given them a way out through bankruptcy, but you have actually walked them through a process.
Tish: And so we wanted to touch on that today in our interview. So we are fortunate to have him in our interview today, and along with Elizabeth, who has also worked with Mr. Woodall for quite a while. So welcome to the podcast today.
Orson Woodall: Thank you, Tish. I appreciate that comment.
Tish: Very good. Let me ask you, Elizabeth, tell me why you feel Mr. Orson Woodall's story needs to be told.
Elizabeth: First, I'm Elizabeth, and I'm the scheduling coordinator. So what I do is I bring people through the door to Orson. And one thing that captured my attention very early on was the fact that when our clients come through the door, there's such a lasting impression on the client, that you can literally see the weight being lifted from their shoulders.
Tish: Wouldn't you say that people feel that they need to have a person they can turn to and establish trust?
Elizabeth: Absolutely. On a personal level, it's more important that they know that there is someone who has been in their shoes, not just read about it in a law book, not just someone who heard about it in school, but someone who'd actually been there.
Tish: Yes, that's really important. People need to know that someone can identify with the pain that they're in and give them a way out. And that's what I hear you saying. What would you say the crux of his legacy is? I would love to hear you repeat that.
Elizabeth: When I was thinking about the crux of his legacy, what curated him through the last 28 years and what is going to curate him through the next, you can always tell when someone goes into see Orson, when they walk out of his office, they just feel better.
Elizabeth: If you were to walk by his office while he's having a consultation, you're going to hear some laughing, you're going to hear some stories being shared, and you're going to hear Orson, at some point, tell his famous bankruptcy story. You're going to hear all of this, just some kind of relatability story. And they're going to leave knowing that someone with pure kindness is behind in representing them in bankruptcy.
Tish: You know, that is such an important part of relating to the people. I love that you're sharing that because people could easily be intimidated by an attorney and feel ashamed. There would be a lot of struggle with that. But to be met with the kind of person that has a character that shows genuine compassion and kindness, that is incredible.
Elizabeth: You know that they're already coming in with shame. So the better approach would be from a position of understanding. That's the only way that they're going to get out of the situation.
Tish: Yes, absolutely. People need that. People need that extra assurance. And they need to know that they're going into a relationship that's going to help them face those fears and concerns with real assurance and with real confidence. And it sounds like that's what Orson does.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Every day.
Tish: See, Orson, that is amazing that you have people working around you that can testify to just how you interface with people. You genuinely care for people, and that comes through. And I notice you have a book of Bankruptcy in Georgia: The Truth. And the testimonies in there, too, it's just reiterating everything that Elizabeth just shared. People go in and they feel like they have this assurance that they can begin this, not just get a solution, but to enter into a process and even a journey of restitution. So let's just here from you, Mr. Woodall. What would you say your journey is, or what caused you to move into the bankruptcy practice in helping people?
Orson Woodall: Tish, it was a process. But let me start off initially by telling you how I got to law school. I was in the radio business. My family'd been in that business all my life. I got my first job in a radio station was when I was six-years-old, taking the trash out.
Orson Woodall: The last radio station I sold, the last thing I did was take the trash out, and I thought to myself, "Well, I've come full circle." But in the mid-'80s, I made a rather large purchase of a radio station, big FM 100,000 watt station in Lake Charles, Louisiana. And I bet the farm on that radio station.
Orson Woodall: The month I took it over, the Arabs opened the oil spigots, and oil went to $5.00 a barrel in Louisiana. Well, that created a depression in Louisiana. And you could not give radio advertising away. Nobody was buying anything. It was just horrible. And I lost everything I had in about a six month period. I lost my cars, my home, anything that I had that I [inaudible 00:05:42] was gone.
Orson Woodall: My wife and I moved in with her mom and dad. And we were sitting around one evening, trying to decide what to do. I kept thinking people would be calling me to come run a radio station somewhere because of all my experience. But the telephone wasn't ringing. So it was kind of a stressful situation, to say the least.
Orson Woodall: Carol and I were sitting around one night, and she said, "If you could do anything, what would you like to do?" I said, "You know, I think I would've been a good attorney." And I was 39-years-old at the time. She said, "Well, you go apply to law school. I'll go back to teaching school. We'll continue to live with my momma and daddy. And you go to law school." And that's what happened.
Orson Woodall: So for three years, I commuted to law school in Macon, Georgia. I had a small apartment up there. Carol taught school. She raised Will pretty much by herself. She'd call me when he was about 15-years-old every night, crying, because raising a 15-year-old boy is very difficult. And he's practicing law with me today. And he's a great source of pride and joy to us. He practices with me.
Orson Woodall: But, anyway, after I got out of law school, I was looking around. They had various areas that I could practice in. And I thought, "I understand what it's like to be in a horrible situation." When I was in a financial strait, I would wake up every night at 3:00 in the morning, staring at the ceiling, thinking, "What am I going to do to get out of this problem?" It was like an alarm clock would go off every night. And I would stay awake until dawn, get up and take a shower and go to work, and try to dig my way out of the hole that I was in.
Orson Woodall: So I understand what it's like when somebody has that pressure put to them. It's all you can think about. I think one of the great stories I heard riding down the road right after I got out of law school, I was listening to a talk radio show, and Tammy Faye Bakker was on that show. This was after she and Jim Bakker had lost everything they had, and had divorced. And the announcer asked her, he said, "Miss Bakker, when you were making all that money as a revivalist, did you ever think about it?" And she said, "You know, money is kind of a funny thing." Said, "When you got it, you never think about it at all. But when you don't have it, it's all you think about." And that was one of the lessons I took away when I got out of my problem.
Orson Woodall: When I started creating some law, I wanted to help people. I truly like people. I just enjoy talking to folks. I'd get on an elevator in New York City, and I'll know everybody on that elevator by the time we get to the bottom floor. It drives my wife crazy because she's kind of shy. But, anyway, I enjoy talking to people.
Orson Woodall: And one of the greatest things about this practice ... In most practices of the law, people just don't like you a lot because you're charging outrageous money. And sometimes you're cutting that baby in half when you're resolving the problem for them. In bankruptcy, all my clients go away happy because we're taking a load off of their shoulders and giving them a fresh start in life.
Orson Woodall: So that's basically how I got practice, how I got to the bankruptcy practice. And it's been very good to me. And we like to think we're very good for our clients. We truly love our clients, and we want the best for them.
Tish: You know what? And that is really at the core, for you to be able to get to know someone when you're in the elevator, and relating to them and getting their story, if people know you care about them, then they'll begin to care about what you can do to help them get out. And it sounds like that's been your story. That's been your journey. That is a powerful story.
Tish: And I think that statement "Money is a funny thing," is a perfect analogy, because it's true. When you're in that place and you're vulnerable, that is one of the things you're thinking. And you're just consumed with concern for money. And it sounds like your son, too, Will is in the practice as well, right? Is that true?
Orson Woodall: Yes, that is correct. He was about 14, 15, and 16 when we were going through all this. So he understands, also, what it's like to have your family in a tough situation. So the legacy flows right on down to him. He's a very compassionate, I say, young man. He's 42-years-old now. And he does just a wonderful job.
Tish: That's a generational mindset, too. It sounds like there's a generational mindset toward ... Not only did you model with something that you had lived with with your own son and your own family, but now your son is adopting the same practices. Would you say that's true?
Orson Woodall: That is very true. One of the things I noticed when I used to use lawyers, most attorneys I ever used thought that I worked for them. They didn't understand who paid the bill. We understand who pays the bill. It is a coin of pride that we return telephone calls.
Orson Woodall: Think about the last time you may have called an attorney and they took days or weeks to get back to you or avoided your call altogether. We've got three attorneys here. And if we don't answer the call immediately, we call you back quickly. And that's very important when you're dealing with people.
Tish: Very much so. People care that you're responding immediately to them, especially when you're in a crisis. This is like coming alongside almost like a nurse, in a sense, but a legal nurse. You've got the best bedside manner that is making them feel like, "Okay, we're going to take this leap together." Would you say, at what point did you realize there was light at the end your tunnel, and that you knew this wouldn't always be so tough?
Orson Woodall: I found that no matter what your current condition is, as soon as you start working and start making a little bit of money, then things start to turn around for you. And I realized that I was going to be okay is about six months after I started practicing law. We started being fairly successful. And I told my wife, "When all I have to do is file x number of bankruptcies a month and we'll be okay."
Orson Woodall: I hit that number. And then I doubled that number. Then I doubled that number again and doubled it again. And since then, as soon as I started getting a regular paycheck, and was able to start concentrating on paying the bills that I was generating at the present time, I knew I was going to be fine, and everything would work out okay.
Tish: That's good. Was this kind of financial rut something that you never wanted Will, your son, to go through, or your grandkids? I would like to touch a little bit more, too, on just the generational aspect from a bigger scope, because it sounds like when you've made these decisions, you've been very intentional about the steps and stages you've created for your family. And that model has been something that has carried over into your practice.
Orson Woodall: It has. I'll say that not only do I not want Will to ever be in this position, and he's a very conservative individual when it comes to his finances, I wouldn't want it for my grandchildren. But, ultimately, they're going to have to make their own way in life, and you can't protect people from bad things happening to them.
Orson Woodall: You know, the rain falls on the just and the unjust equally. And good things happen to bad people, and good things happen good people. And bad things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. So you never can know exactly. But I want them to be able to move forward in life and value a dollar, work hard.
Orson Woodall: I told Will and his graduating class in high school, I gave a little speech to them way back in the day. And the advice I gave them was, "All you got to do to be successful in the United States of America is show up on time and do the work. If you do that, you will be successful." It's a pretty simple formula. Just be there on time, and do the job that's been assigned to you. And do it well. And when you do that job well, they'll give you more important jobs to do. And when you do those jobs well, you'll keep going up the chain, and you'll be successful.
Orson Woodall: But not only do I want good things for Will and my grandkids, I want good things for my clients. The greatest thing that I have happen to me is if I'm walking through ... About two months ago, I pulled up to a service station. Was filling my car up with gas with [inaudible 00:14:28]. And the guy on the other side of the pump was filling up. It was a middle-aged guy, his wife and three kids.
Orson Woodall: And he said, "Hello, Mr. Woodall. How you doing?" I said, "I'm fine." And I couldn't remember his name. But he said, "You represented me 14 years ago, and got me out of a horrible situation. And we're just doing great now." He said, "I've got a kid in his third year of college, the first child in my family to ever go to college. The other two kids are in high school making straight As. I've got a good job. My wife has a good job. And we have really done well since we got our life straightened out."
Orson Woodall: Well, you cannot imagine how good I felt for that guy. You pull for your clients. You want them to do well. I can't walk through Walmart without somebody stopping me and saying hello, and tell me how much better they're doing now than they were before. It's very gratifying.
Tish: Wow. I love that. That's an amazing story. I think that what you're describing, too, it's not this pretty packaged life, where I think all of us and our best intentions try really hard to do good. And some things we just, like you said, we don't plan for these things, but sometimes bad things happen to good people. And how do you get out of that? And where do you turn? And what are some questions that you would ask? Like in your case, you became proactive in finding a solution to your problem and wanted to create a path for others.
Tish: And to those of you who would like to find that path out of a very difficult situation financially, we encourage you to reach out to Orson Woodall, by going 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.