Dispute management and collaboration platform, Opus2, is to move into the deal management space following growing demand from its client base on both sides of the Atlantic.
Founder, Graham Smith-Bernal told Artificial Lawyer: ‘We make tools that the bridge of the ship uses.’ I.e. for the lawyers running a litigation or an arbitration, helping them to co-ordinate the process, build chronologies, share and manage the document sets involved, and generally to help stay on top of a complex, data-heavy process.
This management level approach also lends itself well to transactional work, where similar pressures exist around the co-ordination of large and complex M&A deals, and the huge amount of documents, and multiple steps, involved in preparing a transaction.
He noted that clients who had used Opus2 had asked if they could do more for them with the same approach and hence, Smith-Bernal explained, there would be new products coming to market in Q2 2021, covering areas such as M&A. Although, as with litigation, the focus is not on producing the NLP tech to do doc reviews, but rather on helping law firms and clients to manage at a senior level the overall process and co-ordination of the matter. I.e. going back to Smith-Bernal’s comment about making tech for the ‘bridge of the ship’.
Is this a big deal? Yes; there has been explosive growth in interest for deal management tools in the last couple of years, and a well-established legal tech player such as Opus2 coming into this space would be significant.
The move comes as Smith-Bernal leaves the CEO role to be Executive Chairman at the company, and with Martin Coen taking on that position in order to help grow the business. Coen was CEO of the FinTech firm Dovetail for more than a decade until its 2017 acquisition by Fiserv. He more recently joined the board of Opus2. While he was at Dovetail he grew revenues with a 30% CAGR over 10 years.
Artificial Lawyer asked if the CEO change could also be a precursor to Opus2 selling the business, as sometimes happens when there are changes like this in management? But, Smith-Bernal said that was not the strategy and he added he was not a great fan of consolidating companies together as it could have a negative impact on their constituents’ culture.
Coen said: ‘When Graham approached me about working with him as CEO, I didn’t hesitate. Having worked on the board for 18 months, it was obvious to me that Opus 2 is a very strong, profitable business with a clear vision for the future of legal technology and a vital, customer-focused culture. Graham and I have very similar perspectives on innovation in the legal space, which we view as a journey that must remain focused on people and mindsets.’
Overall it’s been a very good time for Opus2, with the move to online courts helping to drive uptake of their platform. The company, which generally has worked with larger firms on complex disputes, noted that the lockdown had opened up new parts of the market, with more medium-size law firms coming to Opus2 for help with online litigation.
This has meant the company’s revenues and profits are between 20% and 30% higher than where they had expected them to be, even with some larger pieces of litigation having stalled earlier last year.
Smith-Bernal concluded: ‘Martin brings a set of skills and experience that complement my own. We are growing fast, with more than 180 full-time employees worldwide, and the legal market is increasingly global. In the midst of dramatic, technology-focused changes in the practice of law, Martin understands that it’s crucial to stay close to the communities we serve, to partner closely with our clients, and to scale in a way that ensures we continue to deliver market leading services.’
(Main photo: Left, Smith-Bernal, and Coen on the Right.)