What a Difference a Database Makes

Published in 2010 Texas Rising Stars — April 2010

At Berry Appleman & Leiden, technology isn’t just a luxury; it’s a central part of their service. They’ve used it to create a Web-accessible database that’s changed the practice of corporate immigration law.

Paige Taylor and Jeremy Fudge, two partners at the firm, are instrumental in the continuing development of the database. Other law firms have similar software, but Fudge says their database is unique in that it centralizes immigration data for every country around the world in one database, is fully customizable on the fly, and combines immigration and human resources data. Additionally, he says, “it has an internal side for us and an external side for the clients. They can go in and see in real time where any of their employees are in the world.” Work visas, immigration documents and citizenship status are just a few of the things the database keeps track of. “And we’re not just talking about U.S. immigration [foreign nationals coming to the U.S.],” says Taylor. “We handle the data processing for people going from the U.K. to Angola or [from] Iraq to Brazil.”

Neither Taylor nor Fudge was around when the database was launched in 1997, but they’ve added valuable updates in response to clients’ needs or wants. When a client asked for a better way to send sensitive documents, they created a secure messaging service. “They can upload any type of sensitive documents straight to the database and don’t have to submit them by e-mail,” says Taylor.

The efficiency of the database streamlines their work so they can respond with lightning speed to a crisis. After 9/11, people from certain countries were required to check in and provide personal information to the U.S. government. “We had the ability to create a report from the database of everybody in there, which is tens of thousand of people,” says Fudge. “Then, we could notify our clients which employees had to take care of this obligation or they could be deported.”

This swift action has attracted Fortune 500 companies to the firm, but Fudge and Taylor say it isn’t the main reason they are able to get, and keep, their clients. “At the end of the day what we’ve found is most important,” says Fudge, “is just good old-fashioned customer service.” 

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