Interview with Pieter van der Hoeven, founder of Clocktimizer

Pieter van der Hoeven is the CEO of Clocktimizer, a very interesting legal tech company founded in 2014 in Utrecht, Netherlands. Clocktimizer provides a business intelligence tool that enables lawyers to monitor and manage budgets and to estimate fees. Clocktimizer tries to help its customers to make data driven decisions because gut-feeling is as many studies show a bad business advisor. Clocktimizer’s motto is therefore suitable: don’t guess. Clocktimizer offers a wide range of products and solution to help law firms to unlock the full value of their timetracking data including the narratives. Clocktimizer’s insights enable law firms to improve their pricing, to control budget and scope and to increase customer satisfaction with full transparency on fees. And Clocktimizer is successful: it recently won the Legal Tech Startup Award 2015.

Pieter worked as M&A lawyer for DLA Piper between 2007 and 2013. In 2013, Pieter earned an MBA at the Rotterdam School of Management and IE Business School in Madrid before he started his own business. We are glad that he joined us for an interview:

Dear Pieter, thanks joining me for this interview. How would a describe yourself? As a “entrepreneur with a law background” or as a “entrepreneurial lawyer”? And why?

Hi Micha, thanks for this interview. I would define an entrepreneurial lawyer as a lawyer who is still practising, but who is very creative with its offering, pricing and client communication. While we like to help those entrepreneurial lawyers at Clocktimizer, I would not describe myself as one anymore. 

I am not practising law these days (unless it is for contract negotiations for Clocktimizer of course…). Therefore, I would describe myself as an entrepreneur with a law background.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur and leave the legal profession? What was the motivation behind starting your own company?

Initially, I left the legal profession to do an MBA. I had the intention to move from legal to finance and business management. 

In the course of the MBA I came up with the idea to solve an actual problem for lawyers. I knew from my experience that lawyers do not have enough information to analyse their own business in sufficient detail. Mixing statistics, big data and visualizations we provide a deep level of detail on a law firm’s business. 

For me personally, the great thing about Clocktimizer is that I can combine my knowledge of the legal profession, my views on the profession and a passion for technology. That keeps me motivated every day.

So which service does Clocktimizer provide in “mixing statistics, big data and visualizations”? And why did you choose this particular service to enter the market?

Clocktimizer analyses the timetracking (big) data of law firms and law firm invoices received by inhouse legal departments. Clocktimizer can read the language bits of a time record (the narrative) to explain what task that time record relates to.

This enables Clocktimizer to provide detailed breakdown of a matter as pictured below. Clocktimizer can identify these building blocks of a matter and the associated price tag.

Once you know the building blocks, you can start comparing similar matters and identify what the common building blocks are. This is particularly useful information for pitches and fee estimates.

Visualizing the occurrence of activities in a project can help law firms and counsel build project maps and eliminate inefficiencies. On a more strategic level, knowing what the main types of work the firm works on, helps identify how vulnerable for disruption the business is.

We chose this particular service because it is not bound to a jurisdiction, so Clocktimizer can easily work across borders.

So what Clocktimizer does, at least in my understanding, is to reduce the intransparency and unpredictability in the billing process. Right? I can imagine that no everyone in the legal market was/is happy with this approach. What was the market reaction when you introduced Clocktimizer?

That is right. We help remove the friction between lawyer and client on fees by making the fee structure entirely transparent.

As with many innovations, some people just like to stick to the old ways. If everyone thinks your innovation is great, then you may want to ask yourself how innovative you really are. 

We’ve received many positive reactions from lawyers, but we have also heard that the level of transparency Clocktimizer provides may be painful for some.

Clients we speak with are clear. They say that if a firm does not want to be this transparent, they will lose work to firms that do strive to be transparent and predictable.

Clocktimizer was called a “Forbes Disruptor” and was featured on Forbes as one of the four campanies that could make it big in the legal services industry in December 2015. Asked as a disruptor, how will the legal industry look like in 5 years and where will Clocktimizer stand by then?

In the industry, I believe that the use of contract reviewing software will have taken a flight and it becomes much more important for law firms to focus on how to make their work value adding and efficient at the same time. I think lawyers will be much more technology-savvy in 5 years. 

In 5 years time, Clocktimizer’s role may well have extended beyond what we currently do. I can imagine that there will be other metrics available as well other than just price, such as client satisfaction as a proxy for quality. 

Unfortunately, I do not have a crystal ball and we learn everyday and adjust our course along the way. Having said that, I can imagine that Clocktimizer will be a broad integrated platform enabling transparency and communication between client and firm.

Thank you very much!