Technology Changing the Game
Digitization continues to sweep across the legal sector, driven by ongoing pressure to reduce manual effort, increase efficiency, and offer cutting-edge, differentiated services. That's creating opportunities for investors who can identify spots in the legal services value chain where technology is changing the game.
Harris Williams recently advised three leading legal technology firms that reflect this transformation and the opportunities it's creating for financial and strategic buyers. While the fundamental drivers are the same, each of the deals reflects a different application of technology: in real-time litigation and arbitration, in practice management, and in trademark clearance and brand protection.
Here, senior bankers from the Harris Williams Technology and Business Services Groups share their views on value creation in the legal technology sector.
Opus 2: Real-time Litigation
Opus 2's unique combination of value-added services and cloud-based software solutions helps legal professionals streamline preparation for hearings, manage critical documents and transcripts, share notes and craft arguments, build chronologies, and organize essential facts of a case. Its integrated software and services allow legal professionals to manage documents, present evidence, and collaborate more efficiently.
"Opus 2 has become the category leader in dispute management solutions," says Monjauze. "Its real-time technology enables legal teams to share access and collaborate securely in virtual workspaces that mirror how lawyers work."
Monjauze notes that technology is increasingly proliferating across small and medium-sized cases, and the volume of documents and evidence continues to grow exponentially. Opus 2 has made a name for itself as the go-to platform to help lawyers and other stakeholders manage these trends.
"Opus 2 has a strong reputation in the litigation space in the U.K. and increasingly in international and U.S. markets," says Tsui. "Its software and services are highly advocated by legal professionals."
"Because of its reputation, user-friendliness, and functionality, Opus 2 has been able to grow organically without having to devote significant sales resources to the effort," adds Oussadon. "The company has significant runway for growth, including increasing the penetration of core solutions in small and medium-sized cases, transitioning into immediate adjacencies along the value chain, and expanding its footprint in other markets and geographies."
Eclipse: Practice Management Technology
Eclipse is a leading provider of mid-market practice and process management software that automates workflow in small and medium-sized firms. It is positioned to capitalize on the impending technology revolution across the legal IT sector with solutions that help legal firms address competitive, compliance, and efficiency pressures.
Because their clients operate in areas where there is a high volume of cases, the flexibility of the software to accommodate workflow preferences is critical. "Its ability to tailor the software to specific client needs has secured Eclipse a loyal customer base, with the product deeply embedded within client operations," notes Tsui. "It's a solution with high customer ROI on a single, easily updated platform scalable for any size."
Oussadon adds Eclipse's leadership position was important as well: "It's one of the only solutions for the mid-market segment, hitting that sweet spot of being agile, having a high level of functionality, and not charging an exorbitant price for it."
Corsearch: Trademark Clearance and Brand Protection
The pressure for brands to differentiate themselves in an increasingly digital world has made trademark and intellectual property protection more important than ever before. In an environment where counterfeiting popular consumer brands is an industry in itself, Corsearch has become the "go-to" provider of comprehensive online protection.
According to Lewis, its leading position within a highly fragmented market derives from its focus on modern strategic solutions versus commoditized or administrative services. "Corsearch offers the only integrated solution across the brand risk and performance continuum, deep capability and AI automation, a laser focus on value-creation and protection, and long-term entrenched relationships with customers."
Walker adds: "The combination of framework with technology and execution is resonating very well with customers. That's been behind all of the momentum."
While Opus 2, Eclipse, and Corsearch have each benefited from natural evolutions in their respective domains, they are part of a larger legal technology revolution.
"Legal businesses are not going back in time," says Oussadon. "Technology providers like Opus 2, Eclipse, Corsearch, and others have proven the significant advantages to be gained from thoughtful technology adoption. The global legal industry is large and fragmented, and as it continues to modernize, the opportunities for legal technology should continue to increase."
What should buyers be looking for in this growing, cycle-agnostic industry? Lewis sees a competitive advantage for those companies that are already serving legal businesses in some capacity. As the technology needs of law firms and corporate legal departments expand, they are in an advantageous position to provide additional products and services because they have a trusted relationship over an unknown competitor. More broadly, legal technology companies with a differentiated value proposition, a reliable and scalable technology platform, and, in the case of Opus 2, a proven ability to grow via M&A should be on the list.
"We see a bright future for legal technology companies," says Monjauze. "As the practice of law grows increasingly complex, law firms and corporate general counsels' offices are forced to become more efficient. Technology will be essential to helping practitioners make better decisions and operate in more streamlined ways."
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