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News and blog

Eight rules of thumb for data protection

Posted 10/10/2017

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the most important change in data privacy regulation in 20 years. It goes live in less than 227 days, on May 25, 2018. Here are my eight rules of thumb to assist you with your GDPR compliance project . 

1) Check what you collect and why you process personal data

Only collect information that you need for a specific and explicit purpose and do not use it for any other purposes without new consent from the data subject. Remember that employee data is also personal data.

2) Ensure that you are entitled to process personal data

Unless processing is necessary for the performance of a contract to which the data subject is party, remember to ask for specific consent. Follow the rules for sensitive personal data, direct marketing and usage of cookies. Data relating to children requires special considerations.

3) Be transparent

Identify yourself and inform data subjects in plain and simple language on your processing. Draft descriptions of personal data files and allow access to them on request, complement them with clear privacy policy. Provide data subject an opportunity to verify and correct his/her information himself/herself or be prepared to provide that information to the data subject upon request.

4) Take care of security and access rights

Ensure appropriate security of the personal data, including protection against unauthorised or unlawful processing and against accidental loss, destruction or damage, using appropriate technical or organisational measures.  Maintain log files for processing.

5) Minimise and maintain personal data

Ensure that personal data is minimised, accurate and kept up to date. Use pseudonymes and anonymise data, when possible. Only hold as much as you need, and only for as long as you need it.

6) Be careful with processors and transfers

Be careful when using third parties to process personal information. Make clear written agreements with them on personal data processing. Ensure that you have the right to transfer data across borders (especially outside EEA).

7) Plan and document personal data processing and provide training

Plan and document your personal data processing and processes and review them regularly. Conduct impact assessment and appoint data protection officer, if required. Appoint somebody to be responsible for data protection issues even if you would not need to appoint a data protection officer. Train your people (and partners) on your policies, processes and regulations relating to data protection.

8) Be prepared for personal data breaches

Notify the supervisory authority without undue delay of any personal data breach after becoming aware of it. Inform data subjects when required.

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Innovation and law - what's up?

Posted 10/5/2017

I just spent two days at the legal innovation event Lexpo'17 in Amstedam this week. What a collection of speakers and good discussion. Ron Friedmann, Jordan Furlong, Rohit Talwar, Adam Billing, Daniel Katz and Katie Atkinson, among others, shared their ideas and thinking with us. Below you will find some observations from the session.

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LegalWorks and Laissa to provide seamless services in the Nordics

Posted 3/5/2016

We are happy to inform that LegalWorks Nordic AB and Laissa Oy have entered into a strategic collaboration agreement with the purpose of enabling seamless services to customers in Sweden and Finland.

“Our expertise and how we see the future legal services complement each other. Together with LegalWorks Nordic we can support our customers seamlessly. I am confident that our combined service and offering will be very competitive in Nordic market.”, says Jorma Vartia.

“We want to support clients on a pan-Nordic basis. This is service we know many multinational companies are looking for”, says Leif Frykman, COO and co-founder of LegalWorks. “With the collaboration with Laissa we can now help our clients with support in Finland. And we are happy to have met a new team of senior business lawyers with in-house experience that shares our values and views on modern legal services.”

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Some intellectual property tips for start ups

Posted 16/11/2015

Slush 2015 finished in Helsinki last week. What a great event it was, once again. Thanks organisers and volunteers and congratulations to CareMonkey for winning the pitching competition this year. During Slush I discussed intellectual property related issues with many entrepreneurs and thought that it could be useful to share some of my observations and recommendations for technology start ups here as well. Even if you are not interested in intellectual property rights you may still want to continue reading as not taking care of these topics will definitely impact your valuation.

1) Remember to safeguard your name and logo

You need to do some background work before selecting your name and logo so that you can use those in the markets that you intend to conquer. Obtain the required domain names and seek for trademark protection for the relevant name and marks in the key markets. Once you are successful somebody has most probably taken your domain names and getting them will cost a lot more.

2) Ensure that you own those rights that you think you own

Ideas, innovations and development work have often already been generated and carried out well before the time when the legal entity is established. These rights won’t transfer to your legal vehicle automatically when it is established but they need to be transferred to it. Contractors, employees and founders may all own some rights that need to be transferred. You need to also include relevant provisions to your employment and contracting agreements so that future work will also belong to your start up.

3) Protect your competitive advantage with trademarks, patents, design rights and confidentiality.

Think what can and should be protected, what can and should be public and what should be secret. Confidentiality is sometimes very good protection for items that cannot be safeguarded with patents. Patents are also somewhat costly to obtain but may be valuable. Copyright protects your software. Remember handle your source code with care.

4) Open source is a useful tool

Open source is a wonderful asset but even that should be used wisely. Remember to check the applicable licensing terms and obey them. You should also ensure that the terms work for your product or service and enable you to achieve your business goals.

5) Respect other parties’ property

Other people may have invented and protected your product or service or some of its components already. You may need to license some of that or do things differently. Ensure that the licensed rights are appropriate for your current use and that you can scale your business without needing to renegotiate them unnecessarily.

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Six observations on values and way of working for legal teams

Posted 7/9/2015

Do lawyers have emotions? Do feelings impact performance? Does openness and transparency improve performance of legal teams? Yes. Yes. Yes. Values and ways of working are as important for legal teams as for any other teams. Below you will six questions and recommendations for your consideration.

1) Are your values understandable, understood, shared and actionable?

It is of utmost importance for companies (and teams) to have values that the members believe in and share. Values need to be discussed and people need to know and understand what kind of behavior is aligned with values and what is not. Something is not really a value if you are not enforcing it rigorously.

2) Values need to apply to everyone

Values are not something that you keep your employees satisfied with and that you do not need to bother about. They must apply to everyone, the board and owners included. Law firm partners and management need to be the ambassadors of values of their firm. Otherwise values may become just a lip service and having them documented just makes things worse.

3) How are the values visible in your daily activities and processes?

You need to live your values. They are not something that you document and then it’s over and done with. Are your values visible within your company? And I do not mean posters on the walls. Can your employees, customers and partners feel and experience them? Do you assess new employees and partners against your values? Shared values beat strict contractual relationship hands down.

4) Take care of your values

Values erode fast. Even when they are shared, some promotion, policing and maintenance will be required. You need to act promptly with non-compliance and set the example. Remember to look in the mirror as well. The following quote from Edith Wharton is worth a thought “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”

5) Sharing, caring and crowdsourcing are important

Teams beat individuals. Two is more than one. Teamwork needs to be encouraged, promoted and required. To cope with the increasing competition and cost pressures you need to create a culture of sharing and tap into the wisdom and knowledge of all. Crowdsourcing brings great results. Openness, transparency and culture of sharing really rock. It is not just for efficiency and better productivity alone, it is more fun as well.

6) Measure and incentivize the right things

Do not underestimate the power of incentives. If you only incentivize productivity and monetary results you get those, sometimes at the cost of many other things that should be measured and incentivized. Remember to have balanced metrics and reward and recognize achievements more broadly.

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Eight-point list of legal and contractual topics for start-ups

Posted 14/11/2014

Next week Helsinki will be buzzling with start-ups, investors and other interested parties. Here is my eight-point list of legal and contractual topics for start-ups in the Slush spirit.

 

1)   Protect your competitive advantage with intellectual property rights and confidentiality when possible.

2)   Do not reveal your secrets without proper confidentiality agreements and even then be careful in what you disclose.

3)   Agree your goals, roles, funding, decision-making and other important topics in a shareholder’s agreement.

4)   Sign proper employment agreements.

5)   Consultancy services need to be documented and rights to work results need to be clearly agreed.

6)   Read your agreements and get professional help when required. Do not sign documents you do not understand.

7)   Plan and document your personal data collection, storage and processing early.

8)   Store your agreements and other important documents in a safe place so that you can find and share them when needed, e.g. when investors come in.

See you next Tuesday and Wednesday in the different Slush events. Jorma

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Importance of targets and metrics for legal teams

Posted 10/11/2014

One of my favourite topics in managing, leading and developing legal teams is target setting and metrics.

Setting targets for a company’s legal team is not simple, it might actually be extremely complex. However, measuring qualitative, quantitative and other results of lawyers is not impossible. You learn by doing. By taking the trouble of setting targets, following them up and improving them for the follow-up period you will gradually get better and better in selecting your targets and metrics, and your team’s performance will improve dramatically.

Before setting the targets your big picture needs to be clear so that your targets are aligned with your vision, mission, strategy or other high level targets.

It is important not to get overwhelmed by the difficulty or perceived impossibility of agreeing and setting the targets and metrics for legal services. Some lawyers and legal heads give it up or settle with the obvious metrics rather than invest time in really driving the team performance improvements through clear and challenging targets. Remember, that you tend to get what you measure. Setting wrong targets is harmful and can lead to unwanted performance and wrong prioritisation of matters and time.

One way to categorise the different metrics is to divide them to Financial, People, Customer, Partner, Process and Tools as well as to Quality related metrics. All these can and should be measured so that your targets are balanced and your team will develop in all necessary fronts. I give you some examples of metrics for different areas:

  • Customer and internal customer satisfaction.
  • Team satisfaction and other team member feedback (e.g. 360°–type measurements)
  • On financial side e.g. company revenue per lawyer, legal cost/company revenue, internal legal cost/external legal cost
  • Response time, time to conclude different contracts, quality of contracts (tracking certain clauses and deviations from standard approach etc.)
  • Activity based metrics; number of different types of contracts, number or size of lawsuits, consumer claims etc.
  • Law firm performance metrics
  • Usage of tools and processes, function’s own as well as e.g. visits to Intranet or similar service where information and tools are available to business people
  • Competence development metrics
  • Number and quality of sharing/contributions
  • Training sessions performed (or people trained)

Some of the information may not be available immediately and may require a bit of work but if the information is really critical for your team’s improvement you will certainly find a way to obtain the relevant data. RiverView Law is a good example of how data mining, metrics and reporting can help businesses and legal teams understand their risk level, define their service level and focus on issues that they deem relevant for the business. Information systems that are readily available and the reduced cost of modifying, developing and deploying them are enabling even smaller teams to get their own systems.

Remember that the questions you include in different surveys are critical. But in addition to what you ask also what you leave out is of importance. Remember to customise the surveys to really measure your progress against the set targets and priorities. Questions should be very concrete and understandable to the people answering the surveys. Consistency is good.  If you change the metrics too much, you will lose the trend data and comparison. Still, I would rather scarify that than have a measurement that does not correspond to your current priorities. Remember to include an open feedback opportunity.

Comparison with your competitors or other companies is really useful. Try to get information on results and metrics of comparative companies. Different industries required different amount and type of legal support. Business-to-business is different from consumer business and the number of countries that a given company operates has a big impact on complexity of legal support.  

Finally, average may not give you the correct result. You need to dig deeper than that. I just recently got a reminder of the danger of averages when I played a round of golf with a friend. I hit my drive pretty badly left and he hit the ball nearly as badly right of the fairway. Neither of us was happy with our shots. The average shot would have been pretty close to the middle of the fairway. Still, there was no ball there. - Jorma

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On dreams and on becoming entrepreneurs

Posted 2/6/2014

We have received many questions and comments after we announced that we wanted to start our own company. Now that we are starting the activities we wanted to summarize some of those questions and our own thinking.

 

How do you dare you become entrepreneurs? Isn't that risky?

Taking control of your own future and employment is naturally risky business. Unless you really have customers and perform billable work there is no money coming in, but normally there is some money going out, at least on personal level. There is no guarantee of success, even if you try hard and believe that you have what it should take. Then again, as Wayne Gretzky put it "You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take." We feel comfortable with the risk and will do our best to succeed.  

You need to have some courage to make the final move. Ultimately it was still not that hard. You need to dare to leave something behind in order to start something new. Jorma already made a pretty courageous move when he left from a senior legal position in Nokia legal and joined Blyk, a start up company in early 2008. Leea has made some courageous moves in her past as well. She left legal business and studied aesthetics and arts and then re-joined legal business again after few years. She also quit het job and moved to Singapore with Jorma's work and studied a legal degree in Singapore and worked at a big international law firm there. It is as Christopher Columbus put it "You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore." Well, we are sailing again, finally. 

 

Is this a good time to become an entrepreneur? Why now? Why not now?

There is no best time or maybe best time is always. Chinese proverb puts it all quite nicely "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now." There is some truth in it although twenty years ago Jorma had just started extremely interesting challenges with Nokia and Leea had a very interesting job with Nordea. Even if we could have started our own company earlier we would not like to give up the roles, tasks, learning and different working environments that we have been lucky to experience in the past 20 years. We would definitely not give up the four and half years in Singapore. All the experiences gained and the new dynamics in the (Finnish) legal market gave us the boost. We feel that the best time to start our own company and business is now!

 

What if you fail? 

What if we succeed? Bill Cosby put it nicely "In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure." this is definitely the case with us. We are also prepared to face the challenges that will lay ahead. It is up to us to make this happen. We cannot blame anybody else if we fail. 

 
This is our dream
We are feeling great, and it seems to get better all the time. Naturally, we have made calculations and plans but ultimately this kind of decision is a gut feeling decision. Not doing this would be something that we could regret. It is good to get going and building our dream company. Farrah Gray once said "Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs." During the next few months we will continue to work on our dreams and the company's longer term plans. It will be interesting to see where this move will take us in the coming years.
 
Big thanks to friends 
Warmest thanks for all the encouragement, feedback and support you have given. We have received so many positive messages, advise and comments. We are grateful for your support.
 
Leea and Jorma