Opus 2, the pioneer of cloud-based collaboration software for disputes, has acquired Bar Squared, the leading provider of management software for barristers’ chambers, in what is a rare M&A deal in the relatively niche ‘Barrister Tech’ market segment.
Bar Squared is one of a small number of tech companies focused primarily on the UK’s barristers, and currently has more than 240 chambers and 11,000 barristers and clerks worldwide using the system. It also has a base in Australia.
The move will provide Opus 2 with a much more joined up platform for professionals in the disputes field, uniting their collaboration software for handling court hearings and arbitrations with one of the most well-known practice management systems for the Bar.
[ Note for US readers: in England & Wales the profession is split, and barristers are regulated separately from solicitors. The majority operate in ‘chambers’, which are collectives of individual lawyers who share some operating costs, e.g. for their building, but are not in partnership with each other. They are usually instructed by the law firms conducting the litigation or arbitration for a client. Barristers’ clerks (who are not lawyers) usually run these chambers and act as a mix of CFO, marketing chief, and diary manager, for the barristers who are usually self-employed. ]
As for Bar Squared, its key product is LEX, where a lot of recent development has been focused on Microsoft Office 365 integration, such as incorporating secure Multi Factor Authentication, bi-directional Exchange calendar synchronization and the planned delivery of a SharePoint-based document management system. This product and the work around it will continue under the Opus 2 umbrella and will be built upon even further.
The move also brings together two revenue streams: one from the law firms that have Opus 2 licences, and also from the Bar, whose members are using Bar Squared.
Opus 2’s new CEO, Martin Coen, and founder, Graham Smith-Bernal, spoke to Artificial Lawyer about the deal which has just been signed.
Coen and Smith-Bernal explained that they had known the team at Bar Squared for some time and often talked about ways to work more closely together and form links between the businesses. However, the talks more recently moved to full-scale merger and now the deal has been done. Coen took over as CEO a few weeks ago after sitting on the board for about 18 months.
They explained: ‘The deal makes it easier for matters to be managed. We can make the whole process [of managing a dispute] joined up now.’
They noted that both companies had started to overlap a little with some of their features, and it made more sense to come together.
‘This is not a roll-up type of deal, it’s 1 + 1 = 3 scenario,’ they stressed, and added that Bar Squared had not been ‘for sale’, but the deal had just made sense, and that they shared very similar cultures so it was a great fit.
The deal also helps to widen Opus 2’s client base, as Smith-Bernal explained, although barristers really benefited from Opus 2’s use by the instructing law firms, this deal will bring them closer to a very large number of barristers far more directly. It would also help to expand the client base beyond just the commercial disputes area.
Meanwhile, David Connolly, Sales Director at Bar Squared, said: ‘From the beginning, our focus at Bar Squared has been on developing simple, highly functional, intuitive and feature-rich tools for progressive barristers’ chambers.’
And to conclude, Helen Ford, Managing Director of Bar Squared, said: ‘Joining Opus 2 is an exciting opportunity, strengthening our ability to deliver the best services to barristers and clerks globally.’
Is this a big deal? Yes, for both companies, naturally, but more specifically for the Bar in the UK, which has far fewer legal tech companies serving it directly than law firms, which have dozens.
It’s also further proof that the consolidation wave is still going, and the news this afternoon follows on from this morning’s news of another M&A deal in the legal tech and adjacent space involving AffiniPay.