On May 17 2016, Abacus Data Systems announced the acquisition of Gavel & Gown Software, Inc., makers of the popular practice management, time, billing and accounting suite Amicus Attorney. The move came as a surprise to many users of the Amicus platform leaving some firms to wonder whether their primary tool for running their business will continue to be an option in the years to come.
No need to worry says the Alessandra Lezama, CEO of Abacus Data Systems, Inc. “Both companies will continue to offer all products and services with no changes made to either company’s staff or management team,” explained Lezama in a joint press release. “The joint strengths and values of both our companies equal a superior breed of service provider and will benefit our customers, partners, and employees across the board. We are proud to welcome Amicus’ talented team into the Abacus family,” Lezama concluded.
While no one doubts the authenticity of these comments, history isn’t on their side. Mergers between software companies rarely achieve the synergies expected when the deals are first announced.
The legal industry is well aware of technology consolidations that prove this theory.
LexisNexis acquired Time Matters in 2004, PCLaw in 2006 and Juris in 2007 as part of a plan to expand its offerings well beyond the research services it was most known for. In June of 2010, AccessData Corporation and CT Summation announced an agreement to join forces and merge into a single company, AccessData Group, LLC. The new company was slated to deliver an end-to-end eDiscovery software solution capable of addressing all phases of the litigation workflow.
Users of the LexisNexis owned systems will tell you that the expectations of streamlined integration, improved R&D, better support and a clear product roadmap have never truly materialized. The Lexis systems still maintain a relatively dated user interface with limited new features and enhancements. Summation, amidst a sea of feature rich eDiscovery solutions including many cloud based systems such as iPro, is no longer even supported.
Does the same fate await users of Abacus and Amicus?
It’s simply too early to tell. The Amicus acquisition comes on the heels of Abacus themselves being acquired by Providence Equity in December of 2015. A quick glance at the Providence Equity website shows a wide range of successful investments including Asurion, CDW and Hulu. They clearly have a track record for success.
How has Abacus faired since the acquisition? The most notable change to the Abacus solution suite since their acquisition is the significant focus on hosted desktops services otherwise known as Desktop as a Service (Daas). Abacus offers Abacus Private Cloud, a Desktop as a Service Solution that delivers a virtual workspace (desktops) to users anywhere with an Internet connection. Abacus now includes Amicus and Abacus Law licensing with their DaaS offering along with Office365.
At a time when hosted desktop services are becoming more and more available for smaller firms, having the ability to include practice management, accounting and Exchange email within your DaaS offering is strong advantage Abacus over other more generic, non-industry specific hosted solutions. It certainly seems like a winning proposition.
But will it translate to a better product suite for Abacus Law and Amicus Attorney users? Odds are one will ultimately become the secondary product while R&D, support and professional services focuses on the other. Merging separate system architectures is no small feat with limited upside benefits in the long run.
Plus, with several promising on-line solutions such as Clio and ActionStep competing for attention, Abacus will need to stay relevant and this acquisition appears to be a good start. With Providence Equity’s track record for success – maybe this time there’s reason for hope.