Spotlight on Paula Aura – Advocate for legal innovation and continuous learning

In our Spotlight series, we introduce interesting individuals from the legal profession. This time the spotlight is on Paula Aura, Director of Knowledge Management & Innovation at Castrén & Snellman Attorneys.

How many hats or roles can a single person successfully have as part of their professional profile? When it comes to Paula Aura, the answer is, well, many.

Paula’s current job title, Director of Knowledge Management & Innovation, covers a fairly wide range of responsibilities in itself.

In addition to innovating new services, however, she also drives forward the firm’s strategy as part of the management team, runs various internal projects, leads a legal technology team, facilitates legal tech and design learning within the organization, champions the company values and supervises new legal tech trainees – the list goes on.

“I never wanted to place myself in a strictly defined box – I’m interested in so many things. However, when I meet new employees, I introduce myself as a business developer for short.”

“My early dream was becoming a teacher – I wanted to interact with people in my daily work.”

Despite being drawn to teaching, Paula decided to pursue a career in law and started her Master of Law degree at the University of Helsinki. During her studies, she focused on contract law – a topic she considered useful in many different areas within the legal profession.

As her first job in law, Paula started as an information service trainee in one of the leading law firms in Finland. Looking back, that trainee position turned out to pave the path for Paula’s future career.

“To be completely honest, I didn’t really know too much about the traineeship I was applying for back then. But, I really hit it off with the recruitment team – I wanted to work with these people! And, as I came to realize, the job was also great experience-wise.”

Working in information services allowed Paula to take a deep dive in legal research. While compiling memos and reports, she both learned a lot from a variety of fields and made an important realization about herself: she felt really content when she managed to help others do their work as well as possible.

“Helping other people shine and do their best is where I add the most value.”

After five years, Paula was recruited to lead the Information Services team at Castrén & Snellman – the law firm where she still today works after 16 eventful years.

At first, Paula focused on optimizing the information services processes, which led to running her first IT development project as the firm wanted to update its document management system.

Soon, Paula found herself running more and more technology-focused development projects, ranging from knowledge management solutions to individual tools. In 2015, Castrén & Snellman established its Legal Tech team.

“I’ve always had one foot in various development projects, partly because there’s a need from the organization’s side, partly because I’m personally passionate about it. From early on, I’ve seen the value of technology and information management in helping legal professionals do their best work.”

“Talking to people, interacting and working together is what I love about my job. Having a law degree has helped me immensely over the years – however, I feel that I would not make a good in-depth legal expert; others are so much better at that.”

“I also get to work on one of the most important aspects of our company – our values.”

Today, Paula runs, facilitates and implements a wide range of legal tech development activities at Castrén & Snellman. Together with the company’s practice groups and other professionals, Paula’s work focuses on keeping the firm’s legal services offering and working methods up to date and relevant in the future, too.

As a member of the firm’s management team, she participates in long-term strategic planning and anticipating how the business evolves.

“To balance all the development work, I’m happy that I also get to work on one of the most important aspects of any company – our values: the Spark, Respect, Courage and Responsibility. Value work is a meaningful and dear part of my job. The inductions for new colleagues and the discussions about the importance of values for our company and for each employee are always inspiring.”

“After all these years, I’ve become a teacher after all – I get to work with people and support them in learning new things.”

One of Paula’s interests is following new trends, discovering insights and analyzing how they affect the teams at Castrén & Snellman. To be useful, this information has to be shared and communicated within the organization.

There are many ways to do this: company-wide communications, team-specific training, and one-on-one sparring sessions. The company even has its internal Cassu College for information and knowledge sharing.

“One of the best ways to get new ideas across is using practical, peer-level examples. Let’s say that one lawyer has been successfully experimenting with ChatGPT – sharing her practical experiences with others makes the case more relevant and relatable for colleagues, too.”

“To remain relevant in a changing world, remember to stay curious and have the courage to step outside your comfort zone.”

Peering into her crystal ball, Paula sees many changes for the legal profession looming in the future. Technology will definitely be one of them, but not the only one.

“Technology, such as automation and AI, will be a huge enabler – and a disruptor. The change will span much wider than the tools we daily use: it will impact the people around us and the entire legal market.”

For example, Paula anticipates that going forward, law firms will acquire talent from outside the traditional pool of legal professionals. Project managers, process experts, data analysts, designers and developers will join companies to contribute to legal services.

On the business side, ALSP companies will, at least partly, disrupt the traditional legal services business. Alternative legal service providers employ advanced technology to offer lower costs and efficiency.

“At the same time, the world is becoming increasingly complex and the pace of change is accelerating. To keep adding value, legal professionals need to deeply understand the clients’ business and the environment in which the clients operate.”

Yet another important trend is corporate responsibility. ESG, environmental, social and corporate governance, is on the agenda of every forward-looking company.

“For legal professionals, my advice is to keep an open mind, learn new things and be open to change. The more versatile you are, the more relevant you will remain in the future, too.”

“Legal education must evolve and take steps to meet today’s needs.”

A part of preparing for the change lies in the education provided to new legal professionals. According to Paula, universities are currently missing some of the essential elements needed by new law graduates.

“For example, students would benefit from learning adaptability, how to utilize legal technologies, legal design skills, as well as presentation and interaction and influencing skills. In general, training should be focusing more on practical skills.”

To drive this change in education, Paula participates in the Association of Finnish Lawyer’s future committee. She hopes that this will be one way of influencing the education of future lawyers.

Paula Aura

Paula at Tallinn, 2023. Photo: Home album

New law professionals and young people have been close to Paula’s heart for years. At Castrén & Snellman, Paula is responsible for supervising new legal tech trainees.

Meeting new talent gives Paula both insight into the challenges they are today facing and fresh ideas from these future professionals.

“It’s been my humble privilege to help more than 100 graduates at the beginning of their careers.”

“Among all the roles and responsibilities I’ve had over the years, working with future talent has perhaps been the one I take most pride in. It’s a privilege to help these individuals rise, shine and take their place in the industry.”

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