Aderant had a spring in its step at its Momentum conference in July, where chief executive Chris Giglio and senior vice president of sales, Chris Cartrett spoke to Legal IT Insider about growth, investment, ‘firm 2020’ and what Aderant’s acquisition by Roper Technologies has meant so far.
This was the first London Momentum since Aderant was acquired by Roper in October 2015 from private equity firm Madison Dearborn, giving it its first permanent home in a decade for a cool $675m.
At the time of the Roper acquisition, UK client reaction was mixed, given that the S&P 500 company only rebranded from Roper Industries in 2015 and the fear was that the Aderant stable would become diluted.
The hope expressed by some UK clients was that Roper would allow its Atlanta-headquartered legal software addition to stick to the knitting while increasing investment in its client-facing services in Europe.
So far, that hope has come to pass, surpassing the expectations of Aderant’s executive team. Cartrett told Legal IT Insider: “The advantage is they are interested in long term growth. We don’t have debt any longer and we can invest in the longer term. Roper never sells so we are allowed to be very aggressive.
“You would expect from an acquisition of that size that there would be more involvement but they know they don’t need to add value. They are a great partner.”
Roper has also helped Aderant to open new doors, including in Switzerland, where it has a presence and in January acquired diagnostics intelligence company CliniSys.* In July this year, Aderant won top-tier Swiss law firm Niederer Kraft & Frey as a client. Cartrett says: “They had legal entities already set up and a reach we didn’t have.”
Investing in the business
To be fair, it was a door that was already ajar, following Aderant’s win of its first Swiss client lecocqassociate in September 2015. Giglio said: “We’ve invested in the Expert framework and used it to enter new markets. We’ve done a good job and earned a reputation as a safe partner.”
It certainly has invested: Aderant has increased its spend by 25% over the past two years, according to Giglio (pictured on the home page). Aderant’s pre-Roper acquisition of long-time Benelux partner Timesoft in April 2015 had also already gone some way to increasing its support and services arm in EMEA.
But while Roper has made it clear that its door is well and truly open for further investment, Aderant’s focus is on building on its reengineered Expert framework rather than dramatic growth in people.
The work done under former executive VP of strategy and product, Mike Barry – who moved Aderant Expert’s existing base code to Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 4 – means Aderant can increase developer productivity and reduce time to market, as well as the cost of development and support.
Giglio said: “Our acquisition of Timesoft helped capacity but headcount is not the answer; it’s about efficiency and being able to shrink implementation time and footprint by increasing throughput and being more efficient.”
Alabama firm Cooper Maynard is a poster child for this strategy, having gone live on Aderant Expert in June, 12 months from the date it signed the contract.
Other big recent wins include top 30 global law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell and leading Am Law firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan.
The new win stats are good – over 30 new clients since 2015. Although, having seen similar stats from Thomson Reuters Elite, the claim that Aderant has doubled the wins of its closest competitors looks to be unfounded. Eleven firms have gone live on 3E so far in 2016 with another 19 scheduled to go live this year. This compares with 11 Aderant Expert go lives in H1, and a further 12 scheduled for H2. However, globally 478 clients use Expert – a figure that will come as a surprise to many.
Aderant is rightly proud of the fact that its Expert 8.1 tech stack means that clients can deploy the new framework in parallel with their legacy system, potentially making for an easier transition. Cartrett says: “It’s harder than throwing away the old system but it’s a better way for the client.”
The focus now is now “Firm 2020’, which brings together Aderant’s three core areas of focus: mobility; automation and collaboration. Speaking during the Momentum keynote Cartrett said: “The idea of the mobile firm is very real. Deloitte has turned everything into a hotel; you choose where you are going to work that day. The idea of mobility and helping you not be locked into your terminal is key to success in 2020. But we will see it happen today.”
Cloud and WIP to cash
Aderant’s architecture has been developed so it can run private cloud but both Cartrett and Giglio stress that the focus is doing cloud in the right way and in truth Aderant’s cloud solution is some way off. It’s cloud-based Practice Manager solution for smaller firms – something of an experiment for Aderant – is still being used but Giglio says: “To have a Citrix-driven cloud was a hollow victory. We want to do it the right way in the private cloud.”
Automation, meanwhile, focuses on improving the workflow and task flow, while collaboration is around improving everything from ‘WIP to cash’.
As part of the WIP to cash drive, Cartrett says that clients are “ecstatic” about its soon to-be-released integrated case management solution and next gen Expert Billing solution.
Aderant has been playing catch up in terms of an integrated CMS since Thomson Reuters Elite acquired FWBS – now MatterSphere – which until TRE’s acquisition was an integrated part of Aderant’s practice management solution.
There’s much that Aderant is excited about and speaking during the keynote session, Cartrett said: “Any time you go through a merger, you have to ask ‘What do we want to be when we grow up?’ “It’s a big question. When we look our clients, what is the greatest enabler? We are looking at law firms and professional services firms as a vendor and helping them to do what they need to do to drive growth and have success.”
*(FYI: If you Google ‘Roper’ and ‘Switzerland’ don’t be surprised if you find out more about BBC and AMC blockbuster television series The Night Manager than anything tech related. We’ve persevered and are down to a review by The Hollywood Reporter on page 4 of Google.)
This article first appeared in the July/August Legal IT Insider Newsletter