Legal Anywhere Goes Nowhere
Just 18 months ago, Oregon's Legal Anywhere, Inc., seemed poised for stardom. Its "out-of the box" Extranet application for law firms was white hot; clients included Kelley Drye & Warren and Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker.
But in Feb. 2000, C.E.O. Robert Wiggins and founder Peter Ozolin made a decision that would doom their product: They sold the company to Silicon Valley's Niku Corp.
Niku, founded in May 1999, started operations by creating Extranets and Intranets for "vertical markets" and even operated a Web swap meet for professional services.
A month after buying Legal Anywhere, Niku went public, and quickly amassed a market capitalization of more than $3 billion.
Then came the crash. By the summer of 2000, Niku stock skydived from more than $100 a share to under $30. So Niku rewrote its mission statement. It stopped selling "turn-key" Web products and developed a larger Intranet product, designed to streamline companies' internal workings (accounting, personnel, etc.)
Niku targeted big and brawny companies, and stopped courting smaller niches, like the legal industry. So it stopped paying attention to Legal Anywhere. Wiggins and Ozolin departed; and Niku officially buried Legal Anywhere in April 2001, when it pink-slipped remaining staffers.
It will support the product only through March 2002.
"Buying Legal Anywhere was definitely not a mistake," says Robert Visini, Niku's senior director of marketing. "At the time, we thought it was the best legal Extranet out there, and we really had plans to expand it."
So now what does Niku do with Legal Anywhere? Ozolin rejected a bid to buy back the product; Visini claims the company is negotiating with former staffers to license the code, but no deal has been consummated. Niku Corp. stock, at press time, was less than $1 a share.
But as for Ozolin, he plans to phoenix. With a handful of Legal Anywhere cronies, he's launched AchieveOne Inc., and expects to roll out a law firm Intranet that will look a lot like Niku's new "professional services automation" product.
Through a secure Web site, clients and lawyers will be able to collaborate and create documents out of sets of pre-designed document templates. At the outset, he's targeted transactional lawyers, but Ozolin hopes he'll find a way to make it useful to litigators too.
Already, Paul Hastings, San Francisco's Pillsbury Winthrop, and the Los Angeles office of Chicago's Seyfarth Shaw have signed on to beta test AchieveOne's debut offering.