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Fondia – Legal services marked out by start-up-like innovation

General Counsel
Business Legal Agreements

Fondia offers legal and tax-based consultation services. In Baltics Fondia has offices in Estonia and Lithuania, but it helps companies to succeed in Baltics and Nordics with its strong footprint and an extensive partner network. Its services are primarily offered on an ongoing basis, giving clients the opportunity to make use of broad-ranging knowledge and experience – from corporate and labour law through trademark disputes to the buying and selling of companies – instead of hiring and relying on just one lawyer.

“We offer all of the legal and tax-based advice an organisation needs to operate,” says Eneli Perolainen, who joined Fondia in mid-August as the company’s new managing director for the Baltics. She says that what drew her to the company was the start-up-like thinking of its owners, its contribution to new digital solutions and its pleasant working environment. “You definitely wouldn’t call us a traditional legal service provider,” she adds. “We value innovation, open communication and the human touch. Our clients have to be comfortable talking to us.”

The Fondia concept is to offer clients consultation services on an ongoing basis for an agreed monthly fee. This comes with a number of advantages: companies don´t need to keep lawyers on staff, since they may not be needed on a daily basis; and faced with more complex and serious issues it is best to use a specialist in that particular area, since no one can be an expert in all fields, with knowledge of everything from labour and copyright law to data protection and international law. For many years now it has been popular in Finland and Sweden to outsource legal services, and for a single monthly fee a company can make use of precisely the services they need at that time.

The convenient MyFondia platform keeps your documents in order

“One thing that makes Fondia unique is that it’s a listed company, which isn’t the case with most consultation companies,” says Perolainen. “We develop our services as a start-up would in order to pro-actively offer our clients IT solutions. Take our platform, MyFondia – it can only be accessed by our clients and our lawyers, and all communication and exchange of documents takes place there. On the one hand this means that clients can always access their documents, while on the other it means that the platform makes it possible to bring all of your documents together in one place, rather than keeping them in separate folders on your computer.”

This spares companies the pain associated with document management and simplifies communication with Fondia’s lawyers, since legal matters typically involve the exchanging of hundreds of e-mails and endless rifling through inboxes for the right documents. On the MyFondia platform, everything can be searched for very easily. Documents can be amended and added to throughout by anyone involved. In the case of larger companies, access to different information can be assigned to different positions – sales-related information all in one place, sensitive HR-related information accessible only by certain people and so on. Moreover, Fondia’s lawyers save the templates for all client contracts and documents on the platform, making them easy to find.

Perolainen adds that Fondia naturally also offers project-based consultation, such as when buying or selling a company. “It makes sense to bring legal advisers on board in the planning and preparation stages, when you’ve only just decided to sell or if it’s a family-run company and one generation is passing the baton on to the next,” she explains. “Also, one of the things we offer is the automated preparation of contracts, which makes our work a lot more efficient. We’re constantly developing new digital solutions with our partners to make our services even more effective and better to use for both our staff and our clients.”

Fondia offers legal assistance in Finland, Sweden and the Baltics

It is very important to international clients that Fondia’s services cover not just the Finnish and Swedish markets but also Baltics. The company has a large number of offices in Finland, where it is among the 10 leading law offices and employs more than 100 people. In Sweden it has two offices: one in Stockholm and the other in Gothenburg.

“Our clients like the fact that we’re an international company, because although the laws in the European Union have been harmonised quite a lot, they still differ from one country to another,” Perolainen explains. “That makes having access to cross-border competence in one place all more convenient. Clients want – and indeed many expect – the people advising them to have as broad view of a situation as possible and are grateful if they can get tax and business advice on top of legal assistance. Our portfolio includes construction, trade, industrial, production, media, property, medicine and investment companies. There are lots of companies that have branches or subsidiaries in Estonia but whose parent companies are based elsewhere, so being an international helps the companies to make legal decisions more quickly with the confidence that everything has been considered. We also get construction companies coming to us who want to take part in procurements in other countries. We are their support in all things law- and tax-related.”

In Lithuania, where Fondia has only just entered the market, the company is already securing a foothold – but it is clear that it will have its hands full in the country. “When Finns tend to look to Estonia, then Swedish investors are more interested of the Lithuanian market” says Perolainen.

Why wait for a problem to occur when getting a lawyer involved at the right time can prevent it?

Perolainen says that legal firms in Estonia are also moving towards outsourcing lawyers. “Thanks to which their cash flows are better managed,” she remarks. “It’s still quite common these days for a company’s legal expenses to go through the roof even if it’s just a single problem that pops up, because the lawyer has to spend days studying the facts of the case and looking into the company’s background before they can even begin to come up with a solution. It’s much quicker, much more efficient and much more affordable to deal with these things if you have someone who’s up to speed on what’s happening in your company rather than responding to them on a case-by-case basis, because there’s always someone there keeping an eye on your documents and contracts. Laws change, and companies would be better off taking a smarter approach to problems if they want to get more value out of things. Which doesn’t mean that in-house lawyers are redundant – you can make use of our services while you’re working on a critical project, for example, or if there’s a seasonal increase in your workload.”

Fondia also offers for bigger clients a VIP service, in which an experienced legal adviser attends and contributes to all strategic meetings with management. “Business operators tend to be afraid of the ongoing cost of that sort of service, but it isn’t necessarily all that expensive,” Perolainen says. “And the gain from it in the longer term pays off. Why wait for a problem to occur when getting an adviser in at the right time can prevent it?” Finnish companies are keen users of this service, inviting Fondia’s lawyers to attend on-site days, in the course of which they deal with whatever issues the company happens to be facing at that particular time. All employees and departments have the opportunity to discuss things face to face.

A key aspect of this service is how promptly consultation is provided. Clients often avoid calling their lawyer about every little thing, because they’re worried, they’ll be on the clock from the moment the lawyer answers the phone – but for Fondia´s clients, brief calls (lasting up to 10 minutes) are part of the package. For the lawyer, giving answers to most questions is quick and easy, meaning the client can get back to work straight away. They simply need someone they trust to share their concerns with.

You don’t need a star lawyer to deal with every problem

Perolainen says that most legal issues are easy enough for experienced lawyers to deal with and that you don’t need to hire a prominent (and therefore expensive) lawyer to solve every single problem. “Every day legal advice, labour law, data protection and business law issues, company restructuring, divisions and mergers, the Commercial Register, power of attorney, drawing up contracts – business operators mightn’t know much about any of this, but they’re bread and butter to a lawyer.”

The aim for Fondia’s Estonian office is to grow its business and bring together people with the same mindset. “Our values aren’t just words on paper,” Perolainen says. “We live by them in our work. The environment we work in has to be comfortable and flexible for our lawyers, IT systems mustn’t get in the way of work and the atmosphere in the place has to be friendly, because what we do can be stressful and you sometimes have to put in some overtime. But what’s most important to us, needless to say, is our team!”