fivehundred magazine > > Interview with… Maria Carlsson

Interview with… Maria Carlsson

How is the Finnish market uniquely placed to support the development of new digital services and technologies?

Finland – as well as the other Nordic countries – is a country well known for its highly educated workforce and long-term investment into innovation and entrepreneurship. The Nordic region has provided a fruitful platform for many international success stories, especially in the field of technological solutions and digital services. The Nordic countries are amongst the best in the EU in which to start a business or find a target for investments.

In terms of innovation, Finland has been identified as one of the biggest contributors to global innovation and ranks among the world’s top 10 countries in terms of patented inventions per capita (Invest in Finland 2020). Finland is also among the top performers in the world in innovation collaboration (Global Innovation Index 2019). In terms of foreign direct investment, the regulatory threshold is low to enter the market and innovation aid is freely available.

All in all, I see that Bird & Bird’s focus on businesses and organisations being changed by technology and the digital world makes us a very good fit for clients looking to capitalize on what the Finnish tech ecosystem has to offer.

A number of international firms are present in Finland. What impact has this had on the Finnish legal market?

Finland has a long history of national law firms, and to this date, only a handful of international firms are active on the Finnish market. Out of these, only two are fully integrated firms like Bird & Bird.

Having an international presence obviously offers an advantage in attracting international clients used to interacting with global law firms. Being able to trust the quality and efficient cross-border teamwork that an international concept provides, is vital for many of our clients. We also like to think that we are able to provide our clients with additional added value through best practices in our core sectors that we gather from our international work.

In addition to international clients, many of our clients are Finnish-based international corporations or Finnish corporates looking to expand e.g. by cross-border acquisitions, which makes our integrated offering a very compelling one. I strongly believe that being able to offer the client a seamless service across country borders is the way of the future.

The firm and its broader M&A team has increased its market share over the last few years. How has this been achieved?

We have indeed worked hard on raising the firm’s profile in the Finnish as well as the broader Nordic market during the last few years. Our success is a product of many efforts, including targeted recruitment and business development efforts. The results can be seen from our rise e.g. in renowned Finnish financial magazine Talouselämä’s rankings.

In addition to the advantages our integrated international nature brings, we believe that Bird & Bird has much to offer both to clients and potential lawyer hires in light of our strong sector focus, which enables us to really “speak the same language” as our clients. By taking an active interest in our focus sectors, we can provide our clients with a smoother, more efficient process as well as regulatory insights across the markets in which we are active. An example of this is our Brussels office sending us information about upcoming European legislation in our focus sectors, as well as insights on differing interpretations, which we can then relay to our clients. Another example is being able to provide our clients with concrete examples of how regulators in different jurisdictions are implementing new European-level regulation.

I am also very proud of the firm’s increase of market share in M&A. This is the result of consistent efforts across many areas. The more complicated an assignment, the more important it is to be able to safely debate the best way forward. This requires the freedom to express opinions – also dissenting ones. In addition to the firm’s low hierarchy and inclusive culture, which have been core enablers of this approach, we have worked hard on recruiting the best lawyers, shaping our processes and listening to clients on what they need – and would like to see – from us in this field.

Have you implemented technological changes at your firm to assist with handling large transactions or large-scale litigation?

We are constantly researching and testing best-in-class solutions to assist in our work especially in the field of M&A but also large scale projects and litigation.

On the M&A side, we currently use machine learning technology to make due diligence processes more efficient, which makes a difference especially in larger transactions where the amount of documentation to review is considerable. We also use a key client platform to provide our clients with transparent access to everything from drafted documents, regulatory deadlines to billing transparency.

As to the future of project management, I believe there is still some way to go before we will see the big benefits of AI and transparent project solutions, but my belief is that there definitely will be more synergies to be had for clients when moving into integrated project management thinking. As a well-known pioneer of legal work in the innovation sector, we are looking closely at all developments in this area.

The firm is renowned as a leader in the tech sector, a key industry in Finland. How is the firm uniquely placed to assist clients in this space?

Our renowned expertise and market know-how in the technology sector gives us a unique position when interacting with clients active in this market. Many of our lawyers working in this field are ranked as leading individuals in their fields, and we continuously train our lawyers to understand the newest developments and trends in this sector in order to be able to provide our clients with tactical legal advice e.g. on the increasingly complex regulation in this sector.

The benefits to our concept are proven by our many key clients in this sector who trust us to provide them with market leading insight. We can also boast about having some of the market’s best [ ] indicator results, which means our clients are happy to recommend the

work that we do. Bird & Bird is known for providing knowledgeable advice in the sector globally, some of which has shaped the technology and communications landscape itself.

As to tech transactions and M&A more broadly (as we know, most deals that industrials do nowadays, can be considered “tech transactions”), our culture makes interacting with us easy, which is facilitated by our lawyers sharing our clients’ passion for the sector and understanding our clients’ business and goals.

What does the firm do to promote D&I?

Bird & Bird is well known for its unique law firm culture: We are proud of our low hierarchy and are consistently ranked highly on indicators such as diversity and work life balance. We believe in giving our employees the space and flexibility to work in whatever way is the most efficient for them, leading to better results for our clients. This ‘safe space’, which encourages collaboration and innovation, is a core tenet of Bird & Bird’s firm culture. In Finland and the Nordic countries, diversity and inclusion is a key hygiene factor for clients, and is treated accordingly, i.e. as a business priority.

Building on this culture, we are proud of being one of the first international law firms to take high level action to ensure that D&I is more than just pretty words in a compliance policy. Bird & Bird is renowned for being an equal opportunities employer, committed to promoting diversity, preventing discrimination and providing a supportive and inclusive working environment for everyone. D&I remains one of the foremost items on our global corporate social responsibility agenda, and we actively engage and train our staff on D&I, and take decisive action in this area where needed.

In its annual article in the ambit of business law, Finnish financial newspaper Talouselämä noted that 30% of Bird & Bird’s partners in Sweden and Finland combined are female, being the second-best percentage among all business law firms in the region. Results like this show that we are serious about creating an inclusive environment for our lawyers and staff. This work is important not only for ethical reasons, but due to the fact that independent research shows that diverse companies deliver better results.

What sets your firm apart from others in Finland?

In Finland, the firm uses the slogan ‘lawyers for a smarter world’, which reflects our underlying mission to help our clients harness the opportunities of the digital world.

We are passionate about making a difference. It is our privilege to bring our insight and experience to the table when clients are out to make an impact, regardless of the sector in which they operate. We take pride in standing next to them when important things are at stake, be it an individual strategic M&A project or a complete change of business direction.

What also sets us apart in the Finnish legal market is that we are a truly international firm, making it possible for us to form seamless cross-jurisdictional teams governed from one point of contact whenever useful for the client. The high quality of our legal services is based not only on the top-notch expertise of our lawyers in different sectors and practices, but also on the fact that our global presence offers our clients a unique market vantage position.

After all, what keeps us in business, is the client’s needs and perspective: We like to see ourselves as trusted partners to our clients in navigating an increasingly complex legal world.


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