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May/June 2020

Future Proofing

Creating Client-Service Tools and Selling Them to Other Firms

Dan Pinnington and Reid Trautz

Large firms have been developing client-service tools for several years, but we are now seeing smaller firms get into the act. They are building custom tools to serve their clients, but also selling those tools to other firms to create a whole new stream of income. We asked Greg Siskind of Siskind Susser, PC, in Memphis, Tennessee, to share insights into his firm’s recent development of new client-service tools and a marketplace to sell them.

You’ve always been at the forefront of technology, having started the third law firm website ever in the ’90s. Why invest your time in innovative technology?

There’s always a value in being an early actor when it comes to emerging technologies. I was personally fascinated by the internet when I first started learning about it nearly three decades ago, and the timing was critical. I was practicing corporate law at a large law firm in Nashville in the early ’90s and wanted to strike out on my own as an immigration lawyer. In 1994, I was able to turn my interest in “cyberspace” into the backbone of a law practice, and I got a lot of free press for being an early adopter. A few months after launching the site, I started the world’s first law firm e-newsletter. I wrote a book about internet marketing two years later for the ABA and started a lawyer blog in 1998. So within a few years, I had a pretty well-known brand and a growing law practice. The technology pioneer brand impresses clients and other members of the bar, who are a client referral source for us. Beyond these benefits, our investments in technology have made us more profitable by allowing us to do our work more efficiently.

You received the 2019 InnovAction Award from the College of Law Practice Management. What are your most recent innovations?

These days, we’re spending a lot of energy developing immigration-related software through our initiative. Most of it is aimed at other lawyers and is designed to address pain points in their practices. Some is aimed at better servicing our clients, and since we’ll be white labeling the products for other law firms, the clients of other firms as well. The software is generally web-based, and we label them under the category “expert systems.” They include eligibility advisors, which help figure out whether a particular immigration benefit is available to a client. Some are document assembly tools where, after an online interview, a document or a set of documents is produced reflecting the legal analysis we’ve programmed into the system. We’re about to start turning some of these tools into plug-ins for case management products too.

We’re also excited about a “consultation advisor” bot we’re close to completing that will have an individual who has scheduled an appointment with one of our lawyers be interviewed by our software (either via texting or on a website) before their consultation. The interviews will draw from hundreds of questions and be different for each client, with the goal that an interview will take no more than 10 to 20 minutes. The bot will then build out a report for the lawyer that will review potential strategies available and also identify red flags about the case. The hope is that this will speed up the consultation, help the lawyer see strategies that might be overlooked and also avoid missteps because necessary questions weren’t asked early on.

Explain more about the physician recruiting tool and why you built it.

While some of our tools are simple, this is one that took more than two years and hundreds of hours to build. Physician immigration law is one of the most complex areas in my field, and that’s largely due to the fact that Congress has delegated the ability to customize sponsorship rules to the 50 states’ health departments. Hospitals in rural areas are desperate for doctors, but they also often pass on considering international candidates because they perceive the process of determining whether a physician they’re considering recruiting will qualify to be too costly and daunting. So we’ve built a 50-state physician J-1 waiver tool that takes a hospital’s physician recruiter through an interview, checks databases, assesses the likelihood of the petition succeeding and advises on what documents and information will be needed to proceed. All in a fraction of the time to have a person do it. We think this tool will be a game-changer and could actually help reduce the chronic physician shortage in rural America.

You’ve also launched a website in November 2019 to sell your latest apps to others. Why not keep them exclusively for your firm?

Our firm has built a solid brand over the past 25 years with not just clients but within the immigration bar. We’re known both for being technologically ahead of the curve and for being thought leaders in the field. We think there’s a promising market within the immigration bar for expert systems, and we’re better positioned than most to deliver those products. It’s my hope that within the next five years, we’ll make as much money selling content—both software and books—as we are selling legal services. It is a second stream of income that larger firms are starting to develop too.

Do you foresee other firms building and selling apps in a common marketplace with you?

Absolutely. In fact, we’re interested in facilitating this by recruiting lawyers outside our firm to contribute content to We see to be a publishing house for apps, and we are already working with several lawyers who are creating the logic for immigration law expert apps while we handle the technical aspects such as building the software and managing the e-commerce piece. We’ll share the revenue these apps generate and hopefully build out a richer array of content offerings more quickly than we could on our own.

Is your app development a law firm venture, and if so, how did you persuade your partners to invest the time and money?

My law firm has been both an investor in and the primary lab for testing the product and generating ideas. And many of the firm’s lawyers and paralegals have been involved with creating the apps available (nearly two dozen to date). I’m fortunate to have colleagues who have seen the potential for what we could be achieving in this space, and it’s helped in terms of getting buy-in to invest the time and money needed. The willingness to invest in technology has also been a valuable retention tool as members of our team see us as being focused on the firm’s future.

What have been the biggest impediments to getting these apps built and launched in your firm?

Bandwidth is always an issue. We’re a firm with just under 50 people, and while we’ve been able to accelerate our product development and implementation, we still are challenged in moving as fast as we would like on our rollout. We’re self-financing this endeavor, but we also have more control over the project’s direction. Another challenge has been figuring out how to move our systems from development to the marketplace. Solving the e-commerce question was one that took considerable time.

Where do you see the use of other expert system apps in law practice over the next five years?

In my own field of immigration law, I anticipate the proliferation of expert systems to cover most aspects of our practice area. And I expect to see the integration of expert systems with case management systems. Clients and lawyers will use the systems at the outset to develop a case strategy, then the systems will intelligently gather the needed information from clients, which will populate the case management system. Additional expert systems will access the data to produce documents and forms and assemble filings and petitions as well as access government and court data and report on the progress of cases. The systems will aid lawyers in a variety of practice management tasks as well as helping to automate HR, finance and marketing activities.

Thanks for sharing your story with us, Greg. It is amazing to see the client-service tools that can be created by emerging technologies, and selling those tools to your competitors definitely introduces a new dimension to the legal services equation.

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Dan Pinnington

President & CEO

Dan Pinnington is the president and CEO of Lawyers’ Professional Indemnity Co. and was the driving force behind the innovative practice-PRO claim prevention initiative. He is past editor-in-chief of Law Practice and was chair of ABA TECHSHOW 2007.

Reid Trautz


Reid Trautz is the director of the Practice and Professionalism Center of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. He is a long-standing member of the ABA Law Practice Division, serving as chair of ABA TECHSHOW 2012, and currently he serves as co-chair of the Futures Initiative.