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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.

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

Send us your comments and we’ll add them here and use them for further market analysis of the acquisition. 

2 replies on “Updated – Breaking: Aderant acquires Handshake Software”

Sure, Handshake can be just a simple portal…

But I think one of my proudest moments in Legal IT was when Gowling WLG UK LLP (then Wragge and Co) won the Legal Business’ Most Enterprising Law Firm of the Year award, for an integrated client centric dashboard system. This was done with data from Aderant… plus DMS, CRM, internal directory/expertise and Knowledge systems, all seamlessly combined together. And remember that this was way back in 2006; the realisation of a Derek Southall vision which only became easily possible by utilising Handshake Software, made easier by leveraging some very sensible decisions made by Nigel Blackwood in the late 1990’s.

Knowing Aderant pretty well, it’s true to say they are certainly becoming more agnostic and less protectionist in recent years (for example, MatterWorks running against TRE systems), so the addition of Handshake Software at this time is a good one. Should Aderant decide to enable Handshake technology in the back-end of newly released, and free/core, Expert Assistant Pro suite – easily done as the Handshake data web service is not restricted to Sharepoint or any other delivery method – then the synergies become clear, both within and outside the Aderant core products. And of course it doesn’t hurt that the two companies are geographically close due to their histories together.

Some people may say I am biased towards this combination, but having spent the best part of two decades deep in the guts of both systems then I can honestly say that such a favourable viewpoint is based solidly on experience and an understanding of what is possible…

I say ‘possible’, because product alone will not deliver. Many firms talk of innovation in Legal IT, but for these types of things to come to fruition, it is only with a great vision, a great data architect and buy in from the business that such things become a reality. Without these things then, yes, perhaps all you’ll get is a simple ‘portal’.

I think Neil may have missed the point and should read what Andy Stokes has commented. I for one, believe the addition of Handshake Software at this time is great for both organisations and a wise strategic move. Handshake will benefit from Aderant/Roper Technologies backing to grow and expand into new markets. Whereas Aderant (as a minimum), benefit from a ready-made Portal application which will complement and extend Aderant’s own Expert Software portfolio, as this omission has previously been viewed as a major gap in their overall solution. Enabling Handshake technology in the back-end of Expert will be easy, due to Handshake data web service not being restricted to SharePoint or any other delivery method – as previously commented “…the synergies become clear, both within and outside the Aderant core products.” So a welcome return to the fold of the original authors of the then CMS OPEN toolkits for customisations and reporting and a Win Win in my book!

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