Evening view of Pittsburgh from the top of the Duquesne Incline in Mount Washington, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Evening view of Pittsburgh from the top of the Duquesne Incline in Mount Washington, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (ESB Professional/shutterstock)

International immigration services firm Fragomen has chosen Pittsburgh as the location for its newest facility, an immigration technology innovation lab.

The firm’s chief information officer, Scott Angelo, will lead the lab. Angelo was the chief information officer at K&L Gates for more than five years, until he departed for Fragomen in January.

The office will include 40 to 50 professionals once it is fully staffed, Angelo said, but none of them will be lawyers. They will mostly consist of engineers and developers, as the firm looks to bring its software development and cybersecurity in-house. Angelo said Fragomen is looking to be a technology leader within the legal industry, beginning with this office.

“As far as law firms are concerned, [such a facility] just doesn’t exist,” he said. “It’s more like a software development firm.”

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, for example, has had an insourcing center since 2002, based in Wheeling, West Virginia, that handles all of its back-office functions including information technology. Many other firms have followed suit. But Angelo said the Fragomen facility differs, as it is focused on developing new technology to be used for client-facing services, rather than handling traditional IT and other operational functions.

Scott Angelo of Fragomen

When Angelo joined the firm, plans for the Pittsburgh facility were not set in stone, he said. But as he discussed the innovation lab with firm leadership, it soon became clear that Pittsburgh was an ideal location. The firm had not previously had an office in the city.

“We think about the other major high-tech corporations that are opening or have opened facilities in Pittsburgh,” Angelo said. “Pittsburgh has already established itself as a leader in artificial intelligence and machine-based learning.”

In addition, he said, the city has a large talent pool, with more than two dozen colleges and universities in the area. The “hub” of that talent pool, he said, is Carnegie Mellon University.

The main focus of the new facility will be application development and security, Angelo said. The firm is moving away from its outsourced software system, and creating new programs to meet client demand.

“Security is on everyone’s minds,” he said. “When you think of the type of services we are providing to clients with respect to immigration and the type of information we exchange, security is very important.”

The firm will also look to provide customers with better analytics, Angelo said, using the “tremendous” amount of data it has gathered as the largest immigration practice.

Marcie Borgal Shunk, founder of the Tilt Institute, said Fragomen’s new location shows that it is anticipating changes in the legal industry that have already begun in other industries.

“Every company is going to become a tech company in some capacity,” she said. “That ultimately is going to be true of professional service firms and law firms as well.”

Some firms have been developing tailored technology for their clients’ benefit for a decade, Borgal Shunk said, but it has been “ad hoc” and under the radar. Being an immigration boutique, she said, Fragomen can create specific platforms firmwide and be seen as more innovative by clients.

“Our firm was an early innovator in the use of technology to facilitate our corporate clients’ hiring and transfer of personnel worldwide,” said firm chairman Austin Fragomen Jr. in a statement. This new facility takes the firm’s commitment to technological solutions to the next level, he said.

Fragomen has 40 locations in 20 different countries, and provides immigration services in more than 170 countries. The firm has more than 2,500 professionals, including more than 500 who are lawyers, solicitors or a similar role. Its U.S. law firm entity is Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy.