Updated – Breaking: Aderant acquires Handshake Software

Aderant has acquired Atlanta-based search and knowledge management solutions provider Handshake Software, in a surprise move intended to further extend Aderant’s analytics and matter management capability and help accelerate Handshake’s expansion into markets such as the UK and Australia.
Handshake’s SharePoint-based platforms and portals connect all of an organisation’s knowledge together in one location, helping fee-earners to easily access and interpret different data sources. Additionally, the data then becomes searchable through Handshake’s Universal Search, a rapidly growing enterprise search product in the legal market.
Speaking to Legal IT Insider, Aderant’s executive vice president Chris Cartrett (pictured) said that Handshake will continue to be vendor neutral and amalgamate all data, regardless of source.
He told Legal IT Insider: “Nothing will change the way Handshake operates and one of the main reasons we wanted it as part of the Aderant family is that it expands across all the financial systems and other products we have. We had already started moving our core Aderant products to becoming vendor neutral so they can be consumed by the likes of Elite or SAP clients and we have no desire to take a protectionist approach.”
Aderant, which is also headquartered in Atlanta, acquired Handshake over the weekend, with all circa 40 employees offered employment. Handshake’s chief strategy officer Glenn LaForce will become vice president of knowledge management for Aderant, responsible for managing all third party relationships in that space.
In terms of why Aderant has bought rather than simply partnered with Handshake, Cartrett said: “Law firms are choking with data and don’t know how to handle it and Handshake is a key cog to help them manage their data better. Aderant is a small part of the things that Handshake brings together but we’ve always said analytics and matter management are a core part of our focus and when you look at what Handshake is building it’s outstanding.”
A key factor for Handshake in the acquisition is leveraging Aderant’s presence outside the US, where it will help Handshake to expand into markets such as the UK and Australia. LaForce said: “It’s very important from the Handshake point of view to have people on the ground in the UK. I’ve been going back and forth and we’ve had great success with firms such as Lewis Silkin and Watson Farley but it’s important to firms to have local support and with Aderant we can achieve that.”
Reactions from the market:
“While wrestling mentally with imaginary Venn diagrams covering PMS, expertise management, enterprise search, SharePoint integration etc; and competitors like TRE and LN, as well as Foundation, Recommind, RAVN and others, I struggle to see how this makes combinatory brilliance – especially as Handshake’s USP is connecting stuff from 3rd party vendors. Other than that, it seems an expensive way to get a great Portal. I may be proved wrong, but I won’t hold my breath…”. Neil Cameron, Neil Cameron Consulting Group
“I think the combination of Aderant and Handshake is good for the market and Handshake customers.
“I had not heard of Roper Technologies prior to its 2015 acquisition of Aderant. Since then, my impression is that Aderant has thrived and it’s certainly increased it’s thought leadership. So I take at face value the press release that more development and support resources will flow to Handshake, which will be good for the company and its customers.
“Fireman & Company is a Handshake partner. We regularly work with the company and use its product in Intranet projects. It is essential to integrate and display information from multiple sources, including financial systems, in law firm Intranets. We find matter and client financial data to be increasingly front and center in Intranets. From that perspective, I think that Handshake having direct access to a financial systems provider resources is great. Over time, that access will enable it to take an even more sophisticated approach to dealing with financial data in ways that will help law firms better manage clients and matters.
“I recognize that some in the market might be concerned about what this means. I spoke to Glenn LaForce, formerly Chief Strategy Officer of Handshake and now VP of Knowledge Management for Aderant, late Monday. He said “Our offerings will stay intact and agnostic to the different combination of data sources law firms have (including Elite Enterprise and 3E).  This is one of the fundamental things that has always been an attraction to our clients.   We look forward to continuing to innovate and add new data sources.” Ron Friedmann, partner and leading market commentator, Fireman & Company
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