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Episode 27: Calgary Lawyer Samerah Borhot: Helping Clients From Beginning to End

Podcast posted on by Evelyn Ackah in Podcast and Calgary and Alberta Immigration

Episode 27: Calgary Lawyer Samerah Borhot: Helping Clients From Beginning to End

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Samareh Borhot, founder of Borhot Law in Calgary, provides legal services that our immigration clients will need after moving to Canada. Borhot Law provides corporate, commercial, real estate, family law, probate, wills and estate services. Ackah Law is excited to announce we are working with Borhot Law to address our clients' legal needs after they arrive in Canada.

Today Samerah will share her entrepreneurial background and why she became a lawyer, and we'll discuss how Borhot Law can help with the legal issues and needs of Ackah Law's clients.

About Evelyn Ackah

Evelyn Ackah is the Founder and Managing Lawyer at Ackah Business Immigration Law. We work with individuals and business owners from all over the world. For more information to immigration to Canada or the United States, Ask Evelyn Ackah at Ackah Business Immigration today at (403) 452‑9515 or email us directly at contact@ackahlaw.com.

Transcript

Evelyn Ackah:
Good day, this is Evelyn Ackah from Ackah Business Immigration Law and the Evelyn Ackah Ask Canada Immigration Lawyer podcast. I am so excited today because I get to have on our podcast the lovely Samerah Borhot, who's the founder and managing lawyer of Borhot Law here in Calgary, Alberta. Welcome, Samerah.

Samerah Borhot:
Hi, Evelyn. Thank you. I'm glad to be here.

Evelyn Ackah:
Thank you so much for doing this, and one of the reasons I really wanted to have you on our podcast is because you do very different practice areas from me at Ackah Law. And I wanted a chance to highlight your expertise. For those who may not know yet, we're really looking forward to working more closely with Borhot Law because they provide services that our clients will also need. So at Borhot Law they provide corporate, commercial, real estate, and wills and estate services, which for us are the aftermath after most of our clients arrive in Canada. So, Samerah, tell me a little bit about yourself and why you got into law and how you became a law firm owner?

Samerah Borhot:
Well, Evelyn I'm a native-born Calgarian. So I was born and raised in Calgary, got married, had my children, and-

Evelyn Ackah:
Five children, I can't believe you have five children.

Samerah Borhot:
Five children. So law perhaps is my third career, I worked and operated a, get this, pizza delivery and takeout business. Retired from that, was a little bit bored and decided to go to law school. I didn't aspire ever in my youth to become a lawyer, but that's how it went. I got admitted to the bar in 2012. I articled with a gentleman in Inglewood where my current office is, and he ran a general practice, but I was drawn mostly to the wills and estates area. So my practice is wills and estates, I have a small residential real estate practice. I really enjoy and it's growing my corporate commercial practice. So I help clients incorporate their new businesses, set out their plans, do shareholder agreements, perhaps.

Evelyn Ackah:
That's great.

Samerah Borhot:
And I find it as an honor to be part of a new business initiative-

Evelyn Ackah:
You understand the process, you understand what it's like to be an entrepreneur, right? Just like I do. How long have you had your own practice, Samerah?

Samerah Borhot:
Since 2016.

Evelyn Ackah:
Wow. That's fabulous. Well, good for you. I always love to support women in business, and I think it's really a challenge when you have children I know yours are older than mine, but even raising kids and doing all of that and going back to law school, that's just incredible. I don't think I could have done it, if I was more mature I wouldn't have been able to. So the reason I think that our practices are really nice alignment is when we bring in people a lot of times we'll need incorporation. So I love knowing that you can also assist with that. And then the shareholder partnership agreements, all of those things for new immigrants are very important.

Evelyn Ackah:
But once they're here and settled, we always want to be able to give them full service. And so being able to say, you bought a house in Canada, do you have a will? You have children that are now Canadian-born, do you have a will? Who helps you buy your house? So what I want for us is to be able to have those kinds of relationships where clients feel like they're supported from beginning to the end. And I think the wills and estates piece is a wonderful addition as well to the services you provide. Can you tell me a little bit, Samerah, about how you work with clients? So for instance, if we were to send you a referral, I know we just recently had a call with a potential client, how do you launch that relationship with your clients?

Samerah Borhot:
So whether the referral is from you or anywhere else, it usually begins with a telephone consultation. I outline the services that I provide get an understanding of what the client needs and if I can help them, we follow up with an email. And in my email, I send my retainer letter, I go over our conversation. We schedule an appointment. I am taking in-person appointments through COVID, we practice all safety measures. I feel it's so important to meet a client face-to-face. There are things that you can understand from a person that you can't over the telephone or even over Zoom, perhaps.

Evelyn Ackah:
Yeah. That's a good point. I know that in some provinces people have been finding ways to get around in-person because of COVID. Are they able to... For you, you meet if you're doing the final signings, right?

Samerah Borhot:
Yes we do. Wills are signed in the original as our land title documents.

Evelyn Ackah:
Oh, wow. So for closings as well you're doing that. Excellent.

Samerah Borhot:
Yes, I'm.

Evelyn Ackah:
That's so interesting. How has COVID changed your practice if you just don't mind me asking? Because everyone has a different experience of it. Some people are busier, some people are slower, but also what has it made you realize about being a lawyer during COVID?

Samerah Borhot:
What I just suggested that at the beginning of COVID there was this fear and I was not seeing clients. I resorted to Zoom meetings or FaceTime or whatever I missed the in-person interaction. Business-wise we were slower at the beginning maybe for the first two months or so. We were back on track. Yeah, everything's good. What about you?

Evelyn Ackah:
Yes. For us what changed is we were home for a couple of months, everybody but me. I mean, I have young kids, so working from home and I live 10 minutes away so I literally stayed in the office. But everybody wanted to come back. It became I think isolating for people and we were worrying about mental health and all those things. And so everybody came back and we socially distanced. So we wear masks, we all have our own offices we close the door and we're not seeing clients right now. So the thing though for immigration, Samerah is most of our clients aren't even in the country, right?

Evelyn Ackah:
So I have a very different practice that's not based on physicality. If they're in Calgary, great. If I go to Toronto or Vancouver and we have virtual office and if they want to meet me? Great, but I never really met my clients anyway. So it hasn't changed the relationships but if anything, it's made me do more of this and I don't like to do Zoom consultations. But now I'm doing them because people are asking, they want to feel like they know their lawyer. So the fact that they can meet you in-person with masks and be safe and get what their needs are and get a sense of you I think also helps them feel more comfortable with who they're working with?

Samerah Borhot:
It does and you know, Evelyn, I find the business part of my meetings are for real estate, 15 minutes to 30 minutes, but I'm in the office for an hour or 90 minutes because the people and their stories, what they're doing is I'm curious for that. And through those stories I can find ways where maybe they need help somewhere else.

Evelyn Ackah:
Exactly. I love that. It's the probing and it's just even getting to know them. Like today, I did a consult this morning with a young couple and they have a baby coming and they've got all these moving parts. And so for me, it was the ability to give them the immigration advice. But then to say, "You have your American you need to register the birth. Don't forget to register the American child even though you're sitting in Edmonton." And all these other... And then the will. So you start thinking about other things once you're sharing your life stories with them a little bit, you know? So yeah, tell me, this is me probing where are you originally from? Does your family have a cultural background outside of Canada?

Samerah Borhot:
They do, Lebanon. My dad immigrated to Canada about 1964.

Evelyn Ackah:
Oh, my goodness. So you know your dad experienced the immigration experience. And then you had the pleasure of being born in Canada. Wow.

Samerah Borhot:
And my mother, they didn't know each other they were married 1965 or so. And they had all their kids here. And so we're all here close, we have a close family, and yeah, that's where they're from.

Evelyn Ackah:
That's so great. I think whenever I talk about immigration people think, well, only people who look like say me or they consider us immigrants. But I have many friends like you who were born here that... And my sister for instance, was born in Canada and yet she keeps getting asked. She's also a lawyer in Vancouver. "So where are you from? Where are you from?" "I'm from downtown Vancouver that's where I was born." And it's just an interesting thing about the world that I practice because while I always say that nobody is an original Canadian except for the First Nations people, everybody came from somewhere. Tell me about the housing market right now, because I'm hearing it's booming in Calgary. Are you seeing that too, lots of houses?

Samerah Borhot:
It's crazy, Evelyn.

Evelyn Ackah:
Yay for you.

Samerah Borhot:
And I don't know where these people are coming from, who's buying all this property. So we're really busy both in purchases and sales. Yeah. It's very good and I'm getting deals that are short closed like two weeks or three weeks.

Evelyn Ackah:
Yeah. I was talking to a girlfriend who's a realtor yesterday. And so sometimes we help our clients if they need that temporary housing before they... We have clients coming from South Africa with four kids and the mother-in-law and they need a place. So one of my girlfriends is helping and she said, "Even finding rental houses are just... Nothing is on the market." So she's dealing with deals like you where people are short closings and it's like Toronto, and Vancouver, again. It's like they're paying more, more and more than asking. So I'm glad for you because it's a good time when you have a niche in real estate or a niche in wills when people are having babies. I've heard, Samerah, it's because of COVID everybody that lived in smaller accommodations wants bigger accommodations. They need more space, I feel the same in my house let me tell you. Coming to work is like a vacation.

Samerah Borhot:
And it's not a good thing but I've heard too because of space again, family law lawyers are really busy.

Evelyn Ackah:
I heard it's true. Yeah. Lots is going on for sure. But I'm really excited for us to be able to market your services through you. And I think one, I always love to support women in business and especially women who own their own law firms. You know they're not a lot of us who jump into it and actually have an office because you're in beautiful Inglewood and that it's a beautiful heritage neighborhood. It'll be really nice for people to come and see you. A lot of women, I think work at home even, which is another way of... But I like that separation. What about you? Do you find that you'd like to have a place to go to, or you can work from home? I mean you're just you and your assistant right now, right?

Samerah Borhot:
It's me and I have two assistants.

Evelyn Ackah:
Oh, great.

Samerah Borhot:
I enjoy coming to the office and because I do wills and estates I deal with elderly people, sometimes I will go to the hospital or to the seniors' facility for clients. And let's go back a few minutes you were probing and asking about my background, I do speak Arabic.

Evelyn Ackah:
Wow. Fabulous.

Samerah Borhot:
So that can be helpful for some clients, but I do enjoy coming to the office and we did. I've been to the office every day since COVID started.

Evelyn Ackah:
Me too. I prefer it. And it's just a mental shift, I think when I'm home, I'm home. But when I'm here I'm working and even people joke me because I still dress up. And I say, "Because I have to do these darn videos or, you know I have to take a picture for social media." But I even wear heels and now my feet are killing me so I'm wearing runners all day long now. So it's been no one can see me so. But is there anything else in here you want to share about your practice? And I was just thinking when you told me about going into old folks homes and hospitals like during COVID, how was that for you? Were you very busy during the height of that crisis?

Samerah Borhot:
In that area, wills and estates? No, I have not been in a nursing or seniors home. I got in trouble once from an older client she was in her 80s and I referred to the facility as a nursing home and she said, "It's not a nursing home." It's a seniors' facility I have not been in one, but I've been in residences and masked.

Evelyn Ackah:
Yes, of course. It's a great service I think being able to know that if they needed you, you would show there as needed. One thing I'm finding just from a law practice management perspective is people are like, "Well, I can get a will on LegalZoom or I could do my own closing or whatever." Tell me about maybe if you've seen some horror stories, because for me I think those things don't cover in a will the nuances, the complexities, all those variables that affect after the fact when the person is gone. And I don't think you and I, we don't compete in that. We're not looking to be the cheapest we're looking to be cost-effective, but we want to bring the expertise. So tell me what your thoughts are on that?

Samerah Borhot:
Yeah. It's really quite unfortunate, people call me, they've got the will off the internet or LogicCo and it just doesn't do the trick. And I'm not sure what they're spending and for a few extra $100 they can ensure that their affairs are governed after their death. You can't talk them out of it, Evelyn that's the way they want to go. I was appalled sometimes where they've done this will and want to bring it to me to notarize. I won't do it. I can't put my name on something I didn't draft, right?

Evelyn Ackah:
Exactly. Yeah. Good. I agree. I feel the same way when people will say, "I can just get the forms." And I was like, it's so much more than forms when you're working with a professional like yourself it's so much more than just fill in the blanks. It's as you said, asking all those questions, what are the variables? What are the family dynamics? What do you think is a potential conflicts? Like in your case, you want to know all of that because you draft accordingly. Do you flat fee, Samerah, or do you hourly generally speaking?

Samerah Borhot:
For my wills it's a flat fee as a base, but it does go up by the hour depending on complexity. I draft guardianships for dependent children on AISH or something for minor children and it will go up.

Evelyn Ackah:
Yep. Good. And for real estate the same flat fee?

Samerah Borhot:
Flat fee and it will go up if we're faced with an unforeseen circumstance.

Evelyn Ackah:
Exactly. Yeah. That's how we practice too. I think clients love to know that, okay, this is a certainty piece, but then based on all these other things could happen, we need to prepare for that. And I think when you're in a smaller firm, we can offer more efficiencies than if we were at a big, big, big firm where you're paying for downtown space and you know what I mean. So I think that helps the client and they don't see that sometimes, but the ideal client will see the value in the work that we do. So, that's what we want. Yeah for sure.

Samerah Borhot:
That's what I want and I agree with you and I don't like to do it sometimes. And when I do, I'm cognizant of the fact that I did quote a flat fee, but this came up and we charge accordingly.

Evelyn Ackah:
Absolutely. Our retainer indicates like if unforeseen or we find out that there's complexities for us in immigration criminality or medical inadmissibility that they didn't tell us about, of course, it makes everything more challenging, right? And so we have that conversation, but it's in there too. Well, I really appreciate your time, Samerah. This has been great. I want to make sure everybody knows that they can find Samerah Borhot at Borhot Law, they're in Inglewood and Calgary and online. And we'll be posting this podcast and video all over social media, because Evelyn Ackah and Ackah Law want to make sure that we can also promote that we have great partnerships and affiliations and friendships with other small boutique firms that focus on excellent service and efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Thank you so much, Samerah.

Samerah Borhot:
Thank you, Evelyn very much.


Evelyn L. Ackah, BA, LL.B.

Founder/Managing Lawyer

Ms. Ackah is passionate about immigration law because it focuses on people and relationships, which are at the core of her personal values. Starting her legal career as a corporate/commercial ...

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