Exclusive interview: Pinnacle, Opes and Athenian agree to merge

Three of the leading names in legal software consultancy are to merge, with Pinnacle International Consulting, Opes Consulting and Athenian IT Developments combining forces as POA International Consulting, in a move that clients are welcoming for bringing far greater strength in depth.
POA, which will consist of 30 practice management system specialists, is set to build on its core partnerships with Elite and Intapp while also expanding out to a fuller service offering. Athenian brings to the mix software development applied across the POA offering, with the ambition to build tools to make conversions easier.
There will be six directors at POA. Neil Renfrew, co-founder of Athenian, has been appointed as chairman, while Mike Bailey, founder and director of professional services at Pinnacle, is chief executive. Giles Coates, co-founder and currently finance director at Athenian is finance director at POA. Kevin Smith (pictured), co-founder and managing director at Opes, is the new POA operations director, while his fellow co-founder Sue Emirali is s clients services director/head of customer success. Christopher Young, head of new business intake and risk management at Pinnacle is to hold an equivalent director role at POA.
The companies will continue to operate out of their respective offices in London and Southend (Pinnacle), Hampshire (Athenian) and Guildford (Opes) although much of the work the consultants do is on site.
Between them POA have a track record of fifty 3E implementations, many of which are migrations from Enterprise. The Intapp practice group has a current strength of 16 and is engaged across the Magic Circle and Top 100 firms. POA will also continue its support for iManage DMS integrations, with a five strong technical group from Athenian.
Speaking to Legal IT Insider about the merger – which Young has announced on LinkedIn – Bailey says that it was at the Elite user conference in Orlando in the summer that the concept of merger raised its head. “We got chatting about what we were coming up against and we were solving the same problems twice,” he said.
Much of the thinking behind the merger revolves round scalability and Bailey said: “It would be lovely if all projects came when we wanted them to and to suit us, but it doesn’t happen like that, so being able to load balance becomes much easier if you have a bigger team.”
The three announced the merger to staff on Tuesday 5 December.
Between the three consultancies there are only four firms in the top 25 that more than one of them work with.
Young told us: “For me the most interesting thing is how positive people have been. I spoke to Don Coleman [COO] at Intapp and he was really positive about how we can continue to grow and a number of clients have said ‘this is perfect timing for us.’ People see it as a real positive and that’s encouraging.
Smith added: “The feedback I’ve had from our big clients in the top 15 is that this gives us a different scale in terms of using POA rather than Opes: it opens up a new set of doors.”
The hope is that the new depth will mean that POA is viewed more as a strategic partner than a transactional one.
Smith said: “Where a client has three different ideas on how to go forward in the past we might have been involved in one of them but now we’re a key player.”
Patrick Hurley, VP of customer advocacy at Elite told us: “We’re thrilled for all three companies, all three of whom have been greater partners of ours for many years.  We see this as great news for our clients and for the market overall.
“The combined organisation should be able to be much more scalable and build even greater depth of knowledge and skillsets amongst their already deeply skilled consultants, providing the market with more and better options from our partner ecosystem.”
Reacting to Young’s announcement on LinkedIn, Chris Turk, regional vice president EMEA at Intapp said: “Terrific to see three great partners joining forces..looking forward to many more years together.”