Breaking news: Harbor acquires Pinnacle

  • The senior leaders of Pinnacle join the Harbor leadership team
  • The acquisition will enable both companies to focus on transatlantic growth
  • Harbor in the UK will focus on building the corporate legal and iManage practices it has in the United States

In a fairly extraordinary announcement from the legal technology services space today (1 February), fast growing Chicago-headquartered consultancy and managed services provider Harbor is buying Pinnacle, which has staff in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific but is largely based in the UK.  

Harbor also has a presence in the UK, Europe, and APAC but the vast majority of its staff are in the US. The acquisition enables both companies to accelerate their transatlantic growth in particular. 

In the UK, 110+ employees from Pinnacle and around 25 employees from Harbor will combine, and Pinnacle employees in the US and Canada will join the respective Harbor teams in those countries. All will operate under the Harbor brand. 

The former directors of Pinnacle join Harbor in senior leadership roles with responsibility for Harbor’s business and operations outside North America: Pinnacle’s CSO Mike Bailey becomes regional COO overseeing service delivery and alliances; CEO David Lumsden becomes regional head of operations and integration; and chief information officer Kevin Smith is now regional head of technology. 

Owned by private equity firm Renovus, Harbor was formed from the merger of companies including HBR Consulting, LAC Group and Wilson Allen, and rebranded as one company in the summer of last year. It also includes earlier acquisitions such as Aurora North, Younts Consulting, and KP Labs. In October last year it acquired the legal management consulting business of investment and advisory firm Stout. 

Pinnacle, meanwhile, which focuses heavily on its Elite and Intapp partnerships, as well as Microsoft more recently, was formed from the 2017 merger of Pinnacle International Consulting, Opes Consulting and Athenian IT Developments, initially trading as POA International Consulting. In 2021, by then just known as Pinnacle, it acquired Enable Business Solutions. It focuses on managing law firms’ data migration, implementations, integrations and upgrades as well as selling Enable’s proposal automation solution PitchPerfect. 

Speaking to Legal IT Insider about the acquisition, Harbor’s CEO Matt Sunderman said that the companies have worked or even collaborated where Pinnacle is doing the ‘non-American’ work and Harbor is doing the North American work, either in the same type of technology and systems implementations, or working on different components of the technology stack.  

Talks about combining materially picked up over the past six months. “That’s when we meaningfully leaned into our collective leadership teams and felt like this was the obvious and right path for both of our companies as well as the folks on each of the respective teams,” Sunderman said. 

As to why they think it’s the right thing, Sunderman said: “When we look out at the market, both of us focus on the largest, most complex organisations – Harbor on corporate law departments and law firms, Pinnacle more on law firms. And as you look at what’s going on in that landscape, if you think about A&O and Shearman as an example, you know there is more and more global complexity, more and more global reach of our clients and our technology partners, and both of those constituencies who are key to us are asking each of the organisations to deliver at scale, on a global basis, which bringing our companies together allows us to do in North America, in EMEA predominantly the UK, and then in AsiaPac as well.   

“We serve large law and the tech partners that serve that constituency, and we’re matching what they’re trying to do as part of their strategies in parallel.” 

Lumsden added that Harbor and Pinnacle typically do not compete, commenting: “I can only speak for the UK, but I can count the number of times we have competed against Harbor on one hand.”

Pinnacle has in recent years been growing its US business, including in 2022 hiring Val Reece (now US chief operating officer). Its earlier hire of Robert Beach as US CEO was shortlived, after Beach left for Peppermint Technology at the start of 2022. While Pinnacle has been servicing more work than previously on the continent, Lumsden said candidly: “Recruiting and building a business, even though we’ve got a bit of a foothold, is incredibly challenging. And so coming together with Harbor really just fulfills our ambition of being able to service, as Matt said, clients across the globe, not just in one country.”  

One area to watch will be whether Harbor can grow its legal technology consulting for corporate law departments in the UK. Sunderman said: “That wasn’t something that Pinnacle focused on, but it is a big part of Harbor’s business and we’re very bullish on our ability to grow that in the UK.”  

He adds: “Another example is iManage – it’s not something that historically Pinnacle focused as much on, though obviously David has a lot of experience there. We’ve got a lot of resources as Harbor, we’re going to be making meaningful intentional efforts of growing our iManage business in the UK, so us coming together allows us to accelerate some of those pieces outside of what Pinnacle was focused on and what we were able to successfully do in the UK market.” 

In terms of how the news has or will be received by clients, Sunderman says that the companies have approach a number of key clients, with around 15 clients aware of the acquisition: “We’ve talked to a number of our stakeholders at those clients, who have been positive even as far as to say, “Wow, this makes your value to us go up a fair amount as one organisation versus two.”   

According to chief revenue officer Kaye Sycamore, the majority of the Pinnacle teams will fit within Harbor’s legal tech and operations practice. She says: “But there are some special things that David and Mike’s teams have been doing in the products area with PitchPerfect and some of those technology solutions that might sit better within our strategy and transformation practice, or within Harbor Labs, but all of our teams work together and are globally integrated.” 

The combined company will now sit at around 800 people and the focus is on organic growth, and acquisition of ‘top talent’ versus more M&A. You know we’ll keep you posted.