I spoke with Doug Geller, the founder and president of GDSI, a software company that specializes in solving challenges in the legal industry by developing custom tools and augmenting existing applications for law firms, legal departments, and legal software vendors focused on document and records management, case management, and practice management.

We discussed the genesis of GDSI, the benefits of writing custom software, and where the market for custom software is headed.


AI Transcript below:

Introduction: Welcome to reinventing professionals, a podcast hosted by industry analyst, Ari Kaplan, which shares ideas, guidance, and perspectives from market leaders shaping the next generation of legal and professional services.

Ari Kaplan: This is Ari Kaplan and I’m speaking today with Doug Geller, the founder and president of GDSI, a software company that specializes in solving challenges in the legal industry by developing custom tools and augmenting existing applications for law firms, legal departments and legal software vendors, primarily focused on document and records management, case management and practice management. Hi Doug. How are you?

Doug Geller: Good, how are you? Thank you so much for inviting me.

Ari Kaplan: It’s a privilege. So tell us about your background and the genesis of GDSI.

Doug Geller: I started in the legal software industry in the early nineties and immediately got actively involved in the document management and records management space from a consulting perspective, but later on started getting more into the development side of legal software. In about 2006, there was this big trend, of course, of implementing iManage in the document management world, as many law firms were moving off of DocsOpen and we saw a trend which law firms needed software solutions that went beyond your average integrated application. They were more integrated at a much higher business level and interest in taking different applications and making them play together and just taking development for these standard legal applications to a whole new level is what started GDSI.

Ari Kaplan: For what types of projects do law firms, law departments, or legal software vendors typically engage GDSI?

Doug Geller: GDSI concentrates on custom development for, as you mentioned, law firms and legal departments and even legal software companies. So small law tends to reach out to us to build templates and macros and even desktop databases like Microsoft access databases while medium to large firms want more integration with document management, financial products, or workflow solutions. But the larger firms want to take it to the next step, which is creating standalone custom case products or custom practice management suites. We’ve even had law firms ask us for a custom document management system that’s very specific to how they work and so we’ll work with them building these products regardless of the size of the firm to tackle whatever challenges they’re facing that need to be addressed.

Ari Kaplan: How is GDSI’s approach different from an internal development team or one that’s based overseas?

Doug Geller: This has been a problem that we noticed for quite some time. There was that whole big rush to utilize overseas development teams in other countries for a while and one of the problems that we noticed is you have to deal directly with the developers themselves or maybe a very technical project manager and it was always a timing issue of because they are so many hours ahead and budgets go out of whack, or you’re not on the same page and your expectations are never met. Then, there’s the whole scope creep problem. When we built GDSI, we planned to remove the complexity from the development and deal with the problem of developers and budgets and timelines. We deal with that behind the scenes, but we’ve introduced product management and the product managers who sit down with our clients and truly understand what needs to be tackled, and the real problems that they are trying to solve. We concentrate on legal and we can concentrate on product management, which is really understanding what needs to get done, what are some of the benefits of writing custom software as opposed to buying a product off the shelf and customizing that. So when we’re dealing with custom software, it doesn’t have to be a big expensive project that needs to be written. Typically, an organization will ask us to build a solution because they cannot find it. Some firms come to us requesting specific features and others want a solution that ties various items together in one screen. We are often building custom software to create something with a single interface. It’s capturing exactly what needs to get done as opposed to all the many features that these other products have and we’re solving a very specific need.

Ari Kaplan: Does GDSI also sell its own software?

Doug Geller: We don’t. We make it a point that that GDSI is dedicated to custom development, augmenting existing development teams. We work with many legal software companies and help out their development teams with new versions and new products and getting products out the door, but every now and then we come across a pretty cool concept or a pretty cool idea. Maybe what I’ll do is I’ll set up a separate company. We just did this with a company that we created called Red Rock for contract management software. We had a law firm who came to us with a pretty big problem and we built a contract management application to handle it to solve their problem. It solved that challenge and we felt that many law firms throughout the world can take advantage of this, so we created a separate company for that. That happens time to time, but really GDSI is dedicated just to creating software for our clients and then we hand over all intellectual property and we do not keep anything.

Ari Kaplan: Where do you see the market for custom software headed?

Doug Geller: You’re always going to have the situation of CIOs, IT directors, and application managers who are just dead set against any form of custom work and I get it, but I think a lot of that has changed. The more larger firms that we speak to, the more we realize that their clients are actually demanding custom solutions. I think firms are realizing that in order to stay up to date, they need some form of custom solution. And I also feel, again, firms do not have to spend a lot of money to build some form of a custom solution. They can certainly just take advantage of solving very specific niches with very specific web apps or mobile solutions or databases of some sort of where they need to go and we see more and more of that every day than ever before. It’s more common. As Microsoft puts more and more into making their Sequel Express or Visual Studio available and free, it just becomes more common and it becomes easier to write. So there’s always going to be that need for custom solutions.

Ari Kaplan: This is Ari Kaplan speaking with Doug Geller, the founder and president of GDSI, a software company that specializes in solving challenges in the legal industry by developing custom tools and augmenting existing applications for law firms, legal departments, and legal software vendors. Doug, thank you very much.

Doug Geller: Thank you. I really appreciate it.

Closing: Thank you for listening to the Reinventing Professionals podcast. Visit ReinventingProfessionals.com or AriKaplanAdvisors.com to learn more.