August 15, 2018
Sanna Häikiö knows how a company’s contracts and intellectual property are harnessed for business growth. As a lawyer at Kolster, she also develops new kinds of legal services.
The customer comes first
At the time when I graduated, law firms were far removed from clients. The base assumption was that clients would reach out once they had a need for legal services. Today, the client’s needs are the most important starting point for my work, and it is my task to consider how I am best able to help them in drafting contracts, obtaining licences, commercialising technologies and other matters related to corporate law.
Everyday legal design
I originally applied to study industrial design, but a career in law later became the more intriguing prospect. Even still, my daily work involves design in the form of legal design, which sets out to make legal matters as easily approachable as possible. At its best, legal design is the application of service design, technology and a customer-oriented approach to legal services. I am not interested in legal trickery. What is essential is to always go over matters with the client to make sure that we see eye to eye on the issue. In order for my work to be truly helpful, I must also understand the client’s business and strategy and explain unambiguously what kinds of rights and obligations a certain contract entails, for example. Solid partnerships and long-term cooperation cannot be built on any other foundation.
Well-versed in technology
I joined as a lawyer at Kolster in August 2017 from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. I worked at VTT for a decade on a wide range of IP matters and corporate and contract law, particularly on the commercialisation and licensing of technologies. Working for a large, international organisation gave me the chance to see the latest global developments across different fields of technology. I gained broad experience both in the development and commercialisation of innovations as well as international cooperation. All that experience is valuable now more than ever. My work is delightfully varied, as clients range from various fields of technology to other sectors entirely. I learn something new each day.
I assist companies in drafting contracts and commercialising inventions. This requires extensive discussions on the aspects that can be influenced by contracts and various protections for products and services. The negotiations and workshops combine law, business and the company’s industry. A well-drafted contract requires that all background issues that may affect its content have been meticulously investigated. I draw a great deal of energy from my work and the fact that each task is different!
Putting the potential of companies to use
Companies could be able to gain much more profit from their intellectual property than presently. This massive, untapped potential is in part the result of excessive caution. What companies therefore need is more information on how business can be advanced by well-made contracts and protections – and correspondingly, how poorly written contracts can cause harm and incur unnecessary costs. The presence or omission of just a single word may have great impact for a contract. This is of crucial importance particularly during the founding of a company. For example, if the shareholders of a limited company have a falling out down the road, a poorly drafted shareholders’ agreement can have costly effects.
Lawyer with a monthly rate
Legal services are currently undergoing reform, not least because of digitalisation. The contents of contracts must be intelligible to anyone, so that us lawyers are not needed to serve as interpreters. New services must also be created, and searching for them is very interesting work. An example of such new solutions is the Kolster monthly package service. For a fixed monthly rate, clients can purchase their needed amount of hours of legal consultation, after which we are available to provide services for a wide range of legal matters.
From startups to industry leaders
My cases are always highly varied in their content. Right now, for example, I am working on contractual arrangements concerning partnerships and confidentiality for a few startups. Such contracts must be in order well before actual business operations begin. Another open case is a contract on the terms and conditions for an agent of a Finnish company to sell products in China. Meanwhile, a company looking to enter the US market wants to set matters concerning product liability in order, while the Finnish subsidiary of a US company needs a policy on intellectual property rights. For instance, if an employee of the Finnish subsidiary makes an invention that is patentable in Finland, they must receive a compensation under the Finnish Act on the Right in Employee Inventions.
Combined means of protection
A company’s business model cannot always be protected by just one form of protection. In such cases, identifying and securing sufficiently extensive protection requires strong expertise to assess all options. To this effect, we customise a protection model for each client on a case-by-case basis to combine methods such as trademarks, patents and design rights. It may sometimes be the case that none of these are suitable, and the appropriate means of protection is to simply keep the ideas as business secrets.
Podcasts on the move
I follow the latest developments in my field in many different ways. Social media platforms offer new and exciting perspectives on my work. My commute is 15 kilometres by bike, and I listen to podcasts and other interesting content related to my field while cycling. For example, last spring my “playlist” often included background material and details of the new EU General Data Protection Regulation.