Pieter van der Hoeven, a former M&A lawyer at DLA Piper, believes the lack of transparency in the way lawyers communicate fees harms the lawyer-client relationship and that regular, detailed updates will become the norm. Last year he founded Clocktimizer, a business intelligence tool that enables lawyers to be monitor and manage budgets and to estimate fees. Clocktimizer recently won the Legal Tech Startup Award 2015 at PLEIT, the biggest IT event for lawyers in the Netherlands.
How has the market responded? Is there a reluctancy among lawyers to try out and invest in new types of tools?
- So far, the market is very interested in our product offering. So, most of the firms are enthusiastic about what we do. They are lawyers, so they want evidence that it works. On the other hand, we need firms that say, 'ok, let's prove this together'. Luckily there are firms that are at the forefront of innovation, that are willing to have their data analysed by us.
How does Clocktimizer work? What’s the tech behind it?
- Clocktimizer pulls the data from the existing time-tracking system. It then analyses the time-tracking data and in particular the narratives of the time-tracking records. Clocktimizer can then report the narratives based on deliverables and activities described in the narratives, rather than on time- or task-codes.
Is lack of transparency and predictability a big problem?
- Absolutely. Surprises - or unpredictability - in the billing process are the number one frustration between lawyers and clients. Legal counsel loses face towards their managers or the CFO. Clients make cash-flow projections, they hate it when the surprise of an unexpected lawyer invoice forces them to adjust those projections, says van der Hoeven.
- To solve this, it is absolutely necessary to be completely transparent when it comes to the development of the fees. Regular updates an overview on how the time was spent will become a standard requirement in the near future.
In what other ways do you think lawyers can use their data to deliver better services?
- Lawyers should leverage their knowledge of outcomes and circumstances of legal procedures or M&A trajectories to improve the predictability of the outcome of procedures or negotiations, says Pieter van der Hoeven, who has written several blog posts on the subject.
Clocktimizer won the award after a pitching round before 600 lawyers. The Legal Tech Startup of the year contest was founded by Jelle van Veenen and Jeroen Zweers to give startups some much needed visibility.
- Jeroen Zweers and I started a meetup group for Legal Tech enthusiasts in December 2014, which quickly gained over 400 members. We noticed that the tech startups in this group had some difficulty reaching their market and initiated the awards to provide them with a podium, says Jelle van Veenen.
"Interest in legal tech is booming"
How is the legaltech sector coming along in the Netherlands?
- At the Dutch Legal Tech meetup group we have seen a growing interest in legal tech and legal innovation. Our members include startups, publishers, developers and investors. Law firms, both large and small, are always well represented. It is safe to say that the interest in legal tech is booming. At the same time, however, only a limited number of innovative law firms is actively developing business models based on new technology.
What do you expect will be the biggest changes we'll see the next five years?
- I believe that modern communication technology will force law firms to provide more client-focused services. Also datamining, smart document generation and A.I. will allow them to provide knowledge and documentation faster and at a lower price. The biggest change will be in the role that the lawyer will play in the delivery of legal services, says van Veenen.
The two other finalists were Fastportal and Smashdocs. Fastportal automates recurring tasks such as document organisation, client management and billing. Smashdocs is a collaboration tool that aims to reduce hassle with different document versions. It tracks and visualizes changes and contains communication tools to help avoid unnecessary e-mails and post-it notes.