Clifford Chance hires former Thomson Reuters Practical Law CEO to head digital services business

Following Clifford Chance’s launch in July of its Applied Solutions digital services business, the magic circle firm has hired former Thomson Reuters Practical Law Company US chief executive and legal tech entrepreneur Jeroen Plink (pictured) as CEO. Plink will help drive the business forward globally but notably will be based in New York and focusing on tapping into new opportunities in that market.
Clifford Chance this year approved a change of structure to facilitate the launch of Applied Solutions, which is a separate corporate entity and the home for all of its subscription-based digital products including document automation product CCDr@ft and a Neota Logic-backed MiFID II tool.
Plink will work closely with the firm’s clients, technology partners and lawyers across the world to develop and bring to market new technology-led solutions to major client challenges.
The initial focus will be on the regulatory and compliance space, where the demands on organisations globally are growing at pace and the need for automated and smart solutions, informed by deep legal expertise, is increasingly important.
Plink will also take on the leadership of CCDr@ft, which in the 2016/7 financial year – its first year of operation – generated over €1m. He will work closely with Bas Boris Visser, Clifford Chance’s global head of innovation and business change, who said: “I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Jeroen to the firm. His impressive track record in setting up and building successful ventures in the international legal technology arena, and his experience as a senior advisor, board member and investor make him a perfect fit for the leadership of Clifford Chance Applied Solutions as we seek to expand our product suite and grow the business geographically.
“While Jeroen will operate across our global network, being based in our New York office means he will be perfectly positioned to tap into the significant opportunities that legaltech presents for us in that market. We see huge potential for Clifford Chance Applied Solutions to complement our high-quality practice in the US, delivering a differentiated service that will be of considerable value to our clients.”
Visser, who will chair the Applied Solutions board as a non-executive director, told Legal IT Insider: “The US is a key priority for us and a major potential customer market for Clifford Chance Applied Solutions. Having someone with so much experience and expertise as legal tech entrepreneur in that market is fantastic. His team will initially be mainly in London where he will be on a very regular basis. Over time we expand the team to other global financial centres. This is a very exciting next step!”
Plink, a former Clifford Chance associate who headed Practical Law Company in the US between 2007 and 2013, having co-founded consultancy and software company Legistics Limited, which was acquired by PLC (see below for a full list of his roles), said: “It is clear to me that Clifford Chance is dedicated to the development of technology-based solutions that will help clients to address large scale challenges that they face, and that will enhance, improve and streamline the client experience. I think the growth potential is enormous.”
The launch of Applied Solutions represents a fundamental rethink by Clifford Chance of the way it provides services and the way those services are priced. Other firms that have created a separate venture for digital solutions include magic circle firm Allen & Overy, which has long had an online derivatives subscription service led by Marc-Henri Chamay and has continued to build that out, including offering clients a number of Neota-based reg tech apps.
Until the launch of Applied Solutions, Clifford Chance developed and sold its growing stable of digital products from within the body of the firm but, speaking to Legal IT Insider this summer, Visser said: “That is not an ideal set up because it’s a business model that is completely different to what we do in the core Clifford Chance business. You come across many stumbling blocks if you want to successfully scale this business within Clifford Chance. The great thing is that over the last few years we’ve learned about risk and liability around selling software and before we can scale up we need to act on the lessons learned by setting up a new infrastructure and getting the right set of skills and expertise.”
He added: “We have fantastic skills in Clifford Chance but we’re not necessarily familiar with SaaS or how to sell software lines: it’s not fair to ask a partner to sell a software product. But the tools we’ve developed are really good and deal with serious issues in client organisations, so we’re hiring people to help us set up and run Clifford Chance Applied Solutions so that we can combine the best of legal that Clifford Chance supplies and work with the best technology companies to develop the right solutions for our clients.”
Matthew Layton, Clifford Chance’s global managing partner said in a statement regarding this latest development: “The hire of Jeroen Plink is testament to the firm’s commitment to innovation and the advancement of our strategy. We continually challenge ourselves to be more innovative in how we deliver our service to clients; capitalising on the power of technology is an increasingly important element of this. For in-house teams, the pressures are immense and growing. Digitisation and automation – combined with our deep market expertise – creates opportunities for us to help them in completely new ways, whether that is in implementing regulatory or other changes, improving accountability and audit trails, increasing speed and efficiency or lowering cost. Clifford Chance Applied Solutions is our response to that demand. I look forward to working with Jeroen to position ourselves as a key partner to our clients in this space.”
Experience (from LinkedIn):
Board Member
Dates Employed: Mar 2017 – Present
Location: United States
Leopard Solutions
Dates Employed: Jul 2016 – Present
Location: Greater New York City Area
Corpman Global Compliance, Inc.
Co-founder and chairman
Dates Employed: Jan 2017 – Aug 2018
Location: Greater New York City Area
Economy of One
CEO and Founder
Dates Employed: May 2013 – Aug 2018
Location: Greater New York City Area
ShiftCentral – Market Intelligence Agency
Executive Advisor
Dates Employed: Apr 2016 – Jul 2018
Location: United States
Board member
Dates Employed: Aug 2015 – Apr 2018
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Kira Inc.
Board Member
Dates Employed: Jan 2015 – Jul 2017
Location: Toronto, Canada
Glasswall Solutions Limited
Dates Employed: Jan 2015 – Aug 2015
Location: Greater New York City Area
Effacts Legal Management Software
Dates Employed: Jun 2014 – Jul 2015
Location: Palo Alto, CA
Company NameFullbridge
Dates Employed: May 2013 – Sep 2013
Location: Greater Boston Area
Practical Law Company
Dates Employed: July 2007 – Feb 2013
Title: CEO Practical Law US (Now part of Thomson Reuters Legal)
Location: Greater New York City Area
Practical Law Company
Title: Director of Business Development
Dates Employed: Oct 2002 – Jun 2007
Location: London, United Kingdom
Board member, responsible for development and marketing of software applications aimed at legal community. Also responsible for global strategy.
Legistics Limited (sold to Practical Law Company)
Owner and Co-Founder
Dates Employed: 2000 – 2002
Location: London, United Kingdom
Clifford Chance
Dates Employed: 1996 – 2000
Location: Amsterdam Area, Netherlands
Mergers & Acquisitions and private equity.
Clients included GE Capital, CVC Capital Partners, Apax and Reuters
Latham & Watkins
Attorney on secondment
Dates EmployedMar 1998 – Sep 1998 Employment Duration7 mos
Location: Greater Los Angeles Area