In our Spotlight series, we introduce interesting individuals from the legal profession. This time the spotlight is on Teemu Oksanen, General Counsel at Futurice.
How does one become a self-proclaimed legal geek, running all-things-legal for a booming international technology company?
For Teemu Oksanen, the path ahead started to take shape during the Finnish upper secondary school. He had an idea about building a career in either business, law or political sciences. The profession of a court lawyer attracted the young man – although the fast-paced American law series on TV eventually proved to be quite far from reality.
“According to my parents, I was the kind of kid who always read the rulebook for a board game from start to finish. You could say that I’ve always had an eye for detail.”
As an avid reader, thinker and doer, he decided to apply to law school – and failed. Not disheartened, he moved to Turku, Finland, applied again, and finally got accepted to University of Turku to work on his Master of Laws degree, eventually writing his thesis on environmental law.
“Instead of giving advice to others, I wanted to be the one making the decisions.”
Following his graduation, Teemu worked in various legal positions and eventually as an Associate for a prestigious Finnish law firm, advising Finnish and foreign businesses in demanding legal matters. It was a good position – challenging work for big clients and a potential partner track in the firm.
However, a single phone call threw an unexpected curveball.
Teemu was approached by Futurice, a fast-growing Finnish technology service company, regarding an in-house Legal Counsel position. Teemu got fascinated by the opportunity, interviewed with the company and accepted the position.
“Working in a law firm was interesting, but at the end of the day, as a consultant you give advice and recommendations – you don’t get to make the decisions to execute them. I felt I wanted to take on that responsibility; the in-house position at Futurice presented that opportunity.”
At the time, while Futurice was on a fast-moving growth track, the company was not in a position to hire a large legal team. This suited Teemu just fine – instead of being a small piece in a large machine, he preferred a small lean team that gets things done quickly.
“I’m the general handyman for company governance, looking at the big picture and talking to everyone.”
Fast forward to today: Teemu is working as the General Counsel for the Futurice Group that currently employs 850 technology professionals in Finland, Germany, Sweden and the UK. The company structure has gotten more complex with a total of 11 subsidiary companies in Finland and abroad.
Thanks to his small but brilliant team, Teemu’s daily grind no longer consists of hands-on legal work, although he strives to keep his skills up to date. Instead, he’s now focused on the big picture, enabling the work of the legal function and looking after things on the group level.
“You could say that I’m the company handyman – my job is to talk to people, know the ins and outs of the firm and try to think ahead to prevent problems before they emerge.”
“For a legal geek like me, it’s great to be in a company where we can try out new stuff, fail fast but also innovate and push things forward.”
One of the things that originally pulled Teemu to Futurice was the company’s focus on innovating with technology. From an early age, Teemu was interested in software development. He also holds a Bachelor’s degree and has ongoing Master’s studies in Computer Sciences.
“The intersection of technology, law and even design is becoming more and more important. You have to have people who understand both worlds, talk with each other and do new things together. With a splash of startup attitude, Futurice is a great place to have these conversations.”
At Futurice, Teemu also leads the company’s legal technology adoption. Thanks to modern legal tech tools, Futurice has been able to keep the legal team small yet productive. Thanks to automation, the team’s daily work has less manual routines and bureaucracy – which is something that the legal professionals really appreciate.
“Technology will not make lawyers obsolete – it will help us to focus on what we do best.”
Technological advances – including breakthroughs in generative AI solutions such as ChatGPT – are now rapidly shaping the world. According to Teemu, the legal profession has so far been fairly untouched by the digital revolution, but a change is coming.
“To some extent, we’ve been sitting in an ivory tower but a major change is ahead – sooner rather than later. If you embrace it, it will never make you and your work obsolete: instead, it will help us focus on the things we do best.”
According to Teemu, legal work is today very much about personal interaction, negotiation skills and having the emotional intelligence to creatively find mutually beneficial solutions.
In addition, the future will introduce new people, roles and expertise to the legal profession. The work in law, design and development cannot be done separately – future professionals will have to share their expertise and work together.
For further reading: How Futurice is managing their contracts with Zefort
Connect with Teemu Oksanen at LinkedIn
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