LexisNexis has announced the acquisition of Axxia, which it describes as ‘a leading provider of back-office and integrated solutions in the mid-law segment in the UK’. The news was something of a surprise to the legal technology community but, apparently discussions were taking place for six or seven months before the deal was completed. The price paid has not been revealed, although back in December 2007 (when the issue must have been much in his mind) Axxia MD Stuart Holden was quoted as saying that Axxia was worth more than £10 million – mind you, in the same interview, he is quoted as saying that Axxia is not for sale!
This might be a seismic shift for the world of software suppliers but it is more likely the latest manifestation of a shift that has occurred already. LNUK acquired Visualfiles in 2006 and Axxia’s acquisition means that it is a really big player in the market. Thomson already has Elite. Although IRIS has a big market share at lower levels through its series of acquisitions, it is still a professional services software company and not part of a truly big group – Elite, Visualfiles and Axxia are all now part of very large companies. Big companies are different. Their approach is not likely to be recognisable – the philosophy will change as the management and management structure changes. It may be significant that the founder of Visualfiles, Neil Ewin, announced that he was to leave at virtually the time the deal was done; Mark Woodward, the other main Visualfiles player, left it long since; Doug McClachlan is to leave Axxia in six months. The only high-level, old-school legal software supplier will be Stuart Holden. You may think that he will call the shots because he will be the only person who knows the technology and the market – if you think that, you have never worked for a really large organisation.
I am not suggesting that the Axxia and Visualfiles products will wither and die under ignorant management – far from it. It will be different though. Kate Holden is to be the new Senior Vice President of Global Practice Management Solutions, with the job of overseeing ‘the development of solutions to meet local and global customer needs’. Contrary to the wilder rumours, she is not related to Axxia’s Stuart Holden. Her brief is wide – she has responsibility for all LexisNexis Practice Management businesses worldwide including Examen, HotDocs, Juris, PC Law, and Time Matters in North America, Visualfiles and Axxia in the UK, Infolib in France and Locus in Australia with a revenue in excess of $152+m. That is a lot of revenue and, especially given Kate Holden’s international background (she has lived and worked in the UK, US, France, Italy and Cyprus and is fluent in English, French, Italian and Greek), everything will be seen with an international perspective. As Josh Bottomley, Managing Director of LexisNexis UK stated: ‘LexisNexis already offers a Practice Management Total Solution in the US and we are keen to bring this successful approach to the UK’.
The LNUK press release included the following:
The acquisition of Axxia enables LexisNexis to offer a full suite of practice management solutions to the UK mid-law sector. Medium sized law firms can now rely on LexisNexis for both content and complementary IT infrastructure enhanced with workflow solutions.
The Axxia acquisition is a further step towards LexisNexis’ goal to be a comprehensive solutions business by combining local and global strategic acquisitions with existing content products. This move also complements the acquisition of Visualfiles in 2006 that provided a market leading case management front-end solution for the mid-law market. The addition of Axxia enables LexisNexis to offer fully integrated workflow-based solutions enhanced with relevant content for the mid-law market in the UK, building on the heritage of LexisNexis Butterworths publishing and understanding of the information used within law firms.
For more on the original acquisition, including the full press release, further information from LexisNexis, a statement from SOS, the long-term partner of Visualfiles, and biographical details of the people with responsibility at LexisNexis, see the SCL Web site.