Axiom To Go Public in USA – But What Difference Will It Make?

Global legal services business, Axiom, has announced today (9AM EST) that it will be listing in the USA.

Precious little is known yet about values or strategy, aside from the obvious that they want lots of lovely capital to help grow the business and reward those owners who have helped build the company over recent years.

The short SEC announcement is below:

‘Axiom Global Inc. today announced it has confidentially submitted a draft registration statement on Form S-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) relating to the proposed initial public offering of its common stock. The number of shares to be offered and the price range for the proposed offering have not yet been determined. The proposed offering is subject to, among other things, completion of the SEC review process and market conditions.’

But….to the bigger question: what does it mean?

Axiom has raised a total of $28M in funding according to Crunchbase, back in 2013. The group has been going since 2000 and grew from a lawyers on demand business to something far greater and more complex.

So, the shareholders are going to get rich. But, what of the strategy? Ah…well……To complicate matters they have also made the company into three companies:

  • Axiom, on-demand corporate legal talent;
  • Knowable, enterprise contracts intelligence;
  • and Axiom Managed Solutions, next-generation solutions for complex legal work at scale – i.e. a managed legal services arm or MLS.

So….this seems to suggest that the lawyers on demand bit – i.e. Axiom is what will get the massive injection of $$$…which, if that’s the case won’t really make a big impact on things, as it’s not systemic enough to change how law firms/clients work. It just builds scale.

However, if Knowable and the MLS bits were also involved in the IPO, that’s another story…and would be an interesting foil to the growth of Elevate.

…right, just heard back from their spokesperson: it’s just the Axiom – lawyers on demand bit that will do the IPO.

OK, so now we have a more clear picture. And much as it would be great to say this will change the world, it probably won’t. Having a far larger service to provide lawyers as and when needed to corporates and also law firms may create competition for the other on demand services out there, including that of Elevate, and those of some law firms in the market. But, on demand lawyers alone won’t change the means of legal production.

It won’t mean more use of tech, it won’t mean better use of tech either. So…much as AL wanted to get really excited about this one, at least for the legal tech community it may not change things very much.

Not unless they also plan to do IPOs for the contract intelligence and MLS groups at some point in the future.

Also, was just wondering if various US State Bar rules on non-lawyer ownership may have played a part in this decision to split things out? Does the MLS business – given that it could be seen to be providing legal services directly, as opposed to acting just as a provider of lawyers – create sufficient regulatory issues as to make it necessary to spin off this group from the main IPO?

Of course, if the MLS work was a problem in relation to non-lawyer ownership then that presumably would have come up in the past? So, perhaps it wasn’t really an issue.

That said, AL still doesn’t really get why this super-scalable business is not part of the IPO.

Perhaps one solution will be that the funds that go into the Axiom on demand IPO can later be fed into the two other divisions to help them grow?

And, last thought: what if the creation of the three divisions is not just about the IPO, but a precursor to the sale of Knowable and the MLS team? Maybe on demand was making the most money and the other two simply had too much competition? Hence…list the one that makes the most $$$ and then prepare to sell the other bits?

Hmmm, I guess we’ll know soon enough. But, unless there are some major economic or regulatory reasons for the divided IPO, it’s hard to see why that was seen as the best approach. It’s not as if MLS work isn’t super scalable, especially at the moment. And when has there ever been more demand for contract review work that its Knowable team could help with?

Further update: Axiom just got back to say much as they’d like to they can’t answer any of the above questions on strategy, valuations or anything else. This is because of the regulatory code on ‘quiet periods’ set by the SEC in the US. They added:

Unfortunately Axiom is now in a quiet period as per SEC regulations so cannot comment on anything further related to the IPO. As more information becomes publicly available, we’ll share it with you.’

3 Comments

  1. Great points, but I submit that it is in fact a major event. A legal services business, one that was pioneering, nothing like it at the time, is now going to IPO.

    That is a statement of the market of legal services. Tech side. No. But as we all know, it is not about the tech !

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