Jeroen Plink is CEO of Clifford Chance Applied Solutions, a subsidiary of Clifford Chance. Jeroen is responsible for product development and go-to-market strategy for all products of Clifford Chance Applied Solutions, including CC Dr@ft.
Jeroen started his career at Clifford Chance's Amsterdam office as a private equity associate. Upon leaving the firm in 2000, he co-founded a company that developed software for due diligence in M&A transactions. Having built this company, it was successfully sold to Practical Law Company, for whom he led application development in London.
In 2007, he moved to the United States to set up Practical Law Company US. Within five years, he successfully grew this business from 2 employees in 2007 to 250 employees in 2013 with 80% of the AmLaw 200 and thousands of in-house departments subscribing to Practical Law US. In 2013 Practical Law Company was acquired by Thomson Reuters.
He has extensive experience as an entrepreneur and board member/senior advisor to a variety of companies in the legal, legal technology and information industries.
OPL: What made you want to become a lawyer originally?
Jeroen: I didn’t start out looking to become a lawyer. I found myself on an internship with a Dutch law firm many years ago and was drawn to the people. I liked the intellectual aspect of the law and working with bright talented people is what drove me to pursue this further as a career.
OPL: You moved from a law firm to start up a tech business in 2000 what prompted you to make the change?
Jeroen: My last transaction within private practice was a billion euro buy out. There were around 40 -50 associates involved in looking at the documentation, I just felt there had to be a smarter way to do this and that technology was the answer; In 2000 I left with my then business partner to start up a brand-new business addressing just these types of problems.
OPL: What was the move like for you personally?
Jeroen: Whilst I still miss the adrenaline of doing a deal, I loved the freedom of working for myself. It is an amazing feeling a journey that has been fantastic for me personally and professionally. Although the troughs are deeper, the peaks are so much higher.
OPL: Since 2000 you have been an entrepreneur was there ever a point where you considered going back to a legal role?
Jeroen: I am really happy as an entrepreneur, since making the move, I haven’t looked back and am keen to continue in this space.
OPL: You are now working for Clifford Chance Applied Solutions as their CEO, what made this proposition appealing for you?
Jeroen: I really believe in the mission of CC Applied solutions and in Clifford Chance’s Innovation and Best delivery Strategy.
The ability to be associated with a brand as strong as Clifford Chance and building exciting products for clients is a fantastic opportunity. One great thing about working here is that the Clifford Chance name opens doors in a way few other brands can claim and it has helped me to attract a really first-rate team.
OPL: What are the key areas you focus on now in your role?
Jeroen: At the moment it is introducing our products to customers and growing the client base. 6 months ago, I would have said product development. We have products for all types of clients large and small so the clients I am interacting with are really varied which is great.
OPL: How have you found combining technology with the typically quite traditional legal sector?
Jeroen: It can be tough to get some lawyers to accept new technology. Some of the old guard both in private practice as well in-house are classical late adopters. Fortunately, there are a great crop of young lawyers coming through in particular that are really embracing these developments in the industry.
Part of the onus is on the tech industry as well to produce better and more user-friendly tools for lawyers to use.
OPL: What types of challenges do you anticipate facing as a business over the next few months?
Jeroen: How do we stand out in a crowded space?
The legal tech market is very fragmented and that’s a problem not just for us but for the end user too. I would like to see more consolidation within the market so that customers don’t have to keep swapping from one different system to the next and will enjoy a more seamless experience.
OPL: What has been a career highlight for you?
Jeroen: Setting up Practical Law in the US and seeing it through to exit was a real highlight. I also really enjoy working with other entrepreneurs and mentoring those coming through the ranks.
OPL: What is the most rewarding thing about your role?
Jeroen: Working with my first-rate team. I have been lucky enough to bring some of the band back together from past projects, so it is great to work with such talented people.
There are also a number of partners within CC that have fantastic ideas and have contributed a lot to what we are doing, lawyers like Paul Landless in Singapore who generates so many great ideas and is a pleasure to work with.
OPL: If you could go back to the start of your career and give yourself any advice what would it be and why?
Jeroen: Choose your mentors wisely. Having a great mentor really helps make sure you are growing and developing in the best way for you long term and I have been fortunate enough to receive advice from some truly talented mentors over the years.
OPL: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Jeroen: I spend a lot of time with my family, I have a wife and 2 daughters, and we love going skiing together on the weekends over the winter.