HotDocs Owner AbacusNext Buys Zola Suite As M&A Continues

AbacusNext, the legal tech conglomerate and owner of HotDocs, has acquired Zola Suite, a practice management platform, in what is the second notable M&A deal in two days.

Yesterday, this site covered Litera’s acquisition of Objective Manager. Now AbacusNext, which bought HotDocs back in 2017 and is perhaps best known for its own practice management software, has combined with the far smaller Zola Suite. Both companies are based in the US, although Abacus has offices in Canada and also the UK. It had around 340 staff before the latest deal.

Also, the company is a veteran of the legal tech scene, having launched back in 1983. Zola Suite is more recent, and launched in 2015.

The conglomerate will now offer its customers: Zola Suite, AbacusLaw, Amicus Attorney, Office Tools, HotDocs and Abacus Payment Exchange.

Scott Johnson, CEO of AbacusNext, said in a statement: ‘We are thrilled to bring together two industry leaders to deliver cutting-edge software solutions to our customers. Together, we will create many opportunities to better serve our customers with fully integrated, modern SaaS solutions, while accelerating growth for the combined business.’

The company stated that Zola’s customers will in particular benefit from AbacusNext’s digital payments and document automation capabilities.

Meanwhile, Fred Cohen, Founder and CEO of Zola, concluded: ‘This partnership with AbacusNext will allow us to supercharge our pace of innovation and leverage the collective expertise across the AbacusNext ecosystem to deliver unrivalled tools for law firms around the world.’

And in a short blog post published on Zola’s website about the deal, the company said: ‘Over the past six years, we’ve helped thousands of attorneys achieve greater productivity and have enabled countless firms around the country to scale their operations.

‘And while we relish these accomplishments, we have always been on a mission to bring the power of Zola Suite to firms around the country and indeed the world. With this singular goal in mind, Zola Suite has merged with AbacusNext, a long-time leader in developing innovative solutions for law firms, including HotDocs, the industry’s leading document automation platform.

‘With greater resources and over 40 years of combined experience, we will accelerate our pace of innovation and deliver a better user experience, empowering more firms to streamline workflows and supercharge profitability. In the coming months, Zola users will be able to leverage a number of AbacusNext’s powerful tools including advanced digital payments capabilities and robust document automation from HotDocs. We couldn’t be more excited about this combination and what it means for our customers and industry. Stay tuned for incredible things to come.’

Is this a big deal? In the grand scheme of things it’s just part of a wider and continuing trend toward consolidation in the legal tech market. Zola was a lot smaller and younger than Abacus and such a deal made a lot of sense, especially when other practice management systems, such as Clio, have such great scale now, and/or have built out extensive platforms packed with multiple features.

That this week we have seen two legal tech companies list their shares on the stock market and two more legal tech M&A deals, just underlines how supercharged the sector is right now.

Moreover, every major strategic step in the market in turn will trigger responses from competitors, and also inspire adjacent companies to consider similar moves. In which case, we can expect 2021 to see a lot more M&A activity, and no doubt more IPOs, and a lot more growth funding as well.

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