Gregory Siskind, '90: Immigration and the World Wide Web
Following Law School, Gregory Siskind, ’90, went to work for a large corporate firm in Nashville; at the time, he was a junior associate with not much of a nest egg and lots of student loans. Siskind shared a secretary with a senior partner, who dominated the secretary’s time. “Nobody had computers back then except the senior partners, which was ridiculous because they didn’t know how to type,” Siskind said. “So I bought my own computer.” This early embrace of emerging technologies would have a profound influence on his practice.
Siskind’s new computer afforded him the opportunity to participate in newsgroup discussions. His firm had received an immigration law case and, due to his background in International Law and his interest in politics, he seemed the right associate to figure it out. As he worked on the case, he noticed that bad information was being posted to immigration law newsgroups, so he posted the correct facts. This was the beginning—business from across the country flooded in.
In April of 1994, Siskind made the leap and opened his own practice. At the same time, a friend from Vanderbilt was starting an internet company when “no one knew what the internet was,” according to Siskind. His friend set up shop in the condominium below Siskind’s office. “I literally had wires running up the stairs to my computer,” he said. Inspired in part by a New York Times article about a website for Graceland, Siskind launched his award-winning immigration practice website in 1994. At first it was what Siskind describes as a “glorified brochure” for his solo practice. Today, the Siskind Susser site gets between one and three million hits a month from every country with internet access in the world except North Korea. The immigration newsletter Siskind began in 1994 now has 40,000 subscribers on an email listserv. The site, www.visalaw.com, provides multiple services for clients and people who work with immigration issues. The main advantage to using videoconferencing, email, a blog, and other technological amenities, according to Siskind, is the convenience such tools provide for clients. “It can be intimidating to hire a lawyer, so sending an email or chatting in a chat room is a way to break the ice when clients might not want to go through the process of scheduling an in-person consultation.”
Siskind, originally from the immigrant city of Miami, enjoys immigration law because it is what he calls the “most political” area of law. He also likes that it is a helping profession. “It’s adversarial in that you’re up against the government, but if your philosophy is for immigration, which mine is, then you never feel conflicted about what you do.”
In addition to running his practice, Siskind writes prolifically and gives talks on a variety of topics. He’s penned hundreds of articles in addition to helping to writing the best-selling book The Lawyer’s Guide to Marketing on the Internet, as well as a book on physician immigration published annually by Lexis-Nexis. “My role in the firm these days is business development,” he said. “The writing I did gave me a national reputation, which was critical to putting us on the map.”