BigHand has acquired resource management specialists Mason & Cook, we can reveal, in a move that adds fee-earner resource management technology and consultancy to a stable of products that already includes back office support workflow solution BigHand Now and pricing and BI tools Quantum and Evaluate (formerly DW Reporting.)

The acquisition, which is the first under BigHand’s new ownership, will see the London-headquartered company help firms to sew up their back office and lawyer delegation, and James Kippenberger, chief product officer at BigHand, said: “For customers building a budget in a pricing tool and adding fee earners to that budget, resource managers currently have to do it ‘blind’; they don’t know who is free, they don’t know who is the most suitable resource, nor do they know who has the optimum skills or experience. Having access to that information will significantly improve the robustness of any resulting budget.

“Equally, our current workflow solution focuses on task delegation from lawyers to support teams but we are frequently asked by customers who implement it about lawyer-to-lawyer delegation which is a roadmap item currently in detailed research phase. Our vision is that by having a legal resource management platform integrated with an extended workflow tool, customers will have a truly unique end-to-end solution. In addition, as we continue to broaden our legal business intelligence solution well beyond offering historical financial insight, being able to layer in future-looking capacity management data will be a very welcome addition for clients.”

Mason & Cook was founded in 2013 and focusses entirely on law firm resource management. Speaking to Legal IT Insider, CEO and founder Dave Cook said: “We were the business that brought resource management to the legal sector and that has been our core focus ever since.”

While Mason & Cook has always focussed on process, they realised, Cook says, that “the data and technology part was missing,” so they built global resource management system Vantage from the ground up. Vantage is a web-based SQL database with open APIs so it can connect with other systems. Cook said: “We’ve kept the architecture simple and modern.”

BigHand is buying, in effect, both people (there are 10 staff who are all joining BigHand) and technology. Vantage was formally launched at the beginning of this year and already counts as clients HFW and Stephenson Harwood. In 2019 Gordon McAlpine, who co-founded BigHand, became a non-executive director to oversee the growth strategy for Vantage.

Predictably, COVID19 has accelerated the need for a resource management tool and Cook says: “We’ve seen a huge surge over the summer, which while positive, we’re still a small business and joining the BigHand family means we will have the scale and global reach to meet the demand.” Demand is coming from the UK but increasingly the US too.

Vantage will be available as a standalone product but also as an integral part of the BigHand suite, which now includes reporting, and BI. Kippenberger said: “Dave and the team have a big understanding of resource management to drive successful projects, whether that be through consultancy or Vantage or a combination of both.” He adds: “Obviously we are a technology business, but both the technology and that domain knowledge are critical.”

He adds: “Our strategy when it comes to technology is that over time we want to have an integrated suite suite but I don’t think we’re trying to get to a single product – law firms talk about consolidating suppliers but they don’t want to relinquish control and with a single product that can be difficult.”

As noted by legal technology consultant Neil Cameron as long as three years ago, resource management is an underserved area in the legal sector, and often that has come down to a resistant culture. However, COVID means that law firms are unable to maintain traditional (and often ineffective) ways of distributing and planning work.

Cook said: “Anyone else looks at the past but this is about planning, not using historical data to base forward-looking decisions on.” He adds: “The key areas we have focussed on is understanding detailed information of each lawyer’s capability; their sector and industry background; what they want to get involved in; and coupled with a forecast view of everything you need for work allocation.”

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed and Mason & Cook as a small company, is exempt from filing full accounts at Companies House.