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Firm: Gibney, Anthony & Flaherty Locations: New York, London, Geneva Size: 35 attorneys Senior partner: John F. Flaherty Do you view your Web site primarily as a marketing tool? If so, you’re behind the times, because firms are increasingly finding ways to provide services over the Internet. It’s the newest way to give clients instant answers to their questions while reducing the cost of service. A firm applying this to the exploding area of corporate immigration is New York’s Gibney, Anthony & Flaherty. While redesigning its Web site, the firm spent an extra 25 percent to develop what it calls the GAF Outside Web Link, or OWL. The OWL allows clients to log on, check the status of their cases, update their files and check upcoming deadlines. The site is set up to allow several levels of access. Foreign nationals working for client companies can access a portion of the site to fill out questionnaires used to build their case files, and then later they can use it to check the status of their cases. Another level allows human resources personnel to check the status of all of a company’s cases, and a higher level of access lets approved managers make changes to files. “The entire system becomes so much more efficient,” says partner Stephen J.O. Maltby, who heads the firm’s seven-lawyer immigration practice. Now, the firm can gather information directly from employees rather than having to go through human resources. “Rather than getting information piecemeal, we get all the information in one place,” he says. In addition, access to the system provides clients and workers with more peace of mind. “Since it’s available to them 24 hours, seven days a week, and when they go in they can see exactly where their case is … it really cuts down on the phone calls, the number of inquiries,” Maltby says. That’s good for the firm, too, because immigration lawyers don’t bill by the hour for much of their work. “It’s a practice that historically has had a lot of paperwork, a lot of telephone calls,” says Maltby. “We were able to find a real good application for managing our caseload on this Web site.” The system also has an alarm system that is programmed to highlight cases in red that have looming deadlines. This system not only alerts clients to urgent cases, it helps the firm to monitor cases better, Maltby says. “We have a full-time paralegal who is staffed to only search blinking red lights. We have warning lights so far in advance that we’re never rushing now,” he says. The fear of missing immigration deadlines means that large clients are increasingly asking law firms to provide an onsite paralegal to manage their immigration programs, Maltby says. “The primary benefit [of the OWL] to them is it provides them with a virtual paralegal,” he says. Several of the clients using the OWL so far are large financial institutions, although Maltby declined to name them. But, he says, the extranet not only helps with client interaction, it also has made coordinating cases with the firm’s London office easier. The OWL is the brainchild of firm Marketing Director Nancy H. Joyce. “She felt we needed to have a better strategy for actually using [our Web site] than just having [one] that was frankly another way of expressing our firm brochure,” notes Maltby. Although the firm hired a programmer, Joyce and Maltby designed the OWL. The basic service is free, but the firm charges to add bells and whistles, Maltby says. For example, several clients have requested that the firm design unique search functions.

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