June 12, 2017

Dottir is not your ordinary law firm

Dottir wants to make it simple for startups to get going and cross borders.
Dottir wants to make it simple for startups to get going and cross borders.
Istock.com/Deagreez

What used to be a shipyard in Helsinki is now a hotspot for all things hip – and potentially one of the coolest and most startup-minded law firms in town.

Thinking about a generic law firm office springs to mind certain images. Located in a wealthy area, perhaps it’s equipped with a butler? Maybe suits, ties and pencil skirts abound? How about flawless piles of paper and wall art that could never possibly manage to provoke anyone?

Something you probably were not thinking was a skateboard ramp in the kitchen. Or a witty Steve Jobs painting in the meeting room where, instead of bisquits and breadrolls, there are smoothies, nuts and cherry tomatoes waiting for guests.

Yes, managing partner Antti Innanen and partner Jukka Pello are wearing suits, but pretty much nothing else about Dottir Attorneys is like in your ordinary law firm. The skateboard ramp is the icing on the cake.

“It’s not really used in the daytime,” Innanen reveals. “But in the evenings it can get noisy.”

Dottir, founded in its current form in 2016, comes across very startup-like – and it’s no accident. Dottir targets startups and growth companies, particularly in the field of technology, and helps them with whatever comes their way from shareholder’s agreements to trademark registration and intellectual property rights. For bigger companies, Dottir sticks to the firm’s niche areas, such as intellectual property, IT and data protection.

Jukka Pello and Antti Innanen.

Jukka Pello and Antti Innanen.

Dottir

“We weren’t creating an office that would appeal to absolutely everyone but one that pleases us,” Pello explains. “We’re confident that like-minded people will find it cool as well.”

There’s a level of symbolism in the office space, too. The building, just by the Baltic Sea, used to be a shipyard. Now it’s packed with enthusiasm for modern, digital and design.

“Traditional industries are giving way to new things,” Innanen notes. “We believe our customers have plenty of international potential, and it’s only growing.”

Yes, it’s free

Dottir initially started as a two-man band in 2014. Last year, the concept changed and new people stepped into the game. Now Dottir is run by six partners, all equal.

On top of the hip Helsinki office, the company has a base in Berlin and another in San Francisco. The team totals 19 people, with further recruitments and expanding US operations in its immediate plans.

Although Dottir has been successful in its endeavours, it hasn’t forgotten where it came from. The company offers various free, no-strings-attached services to support budding entrepreneurs, such as a shareholder’s agreement template. Just a while ago, Dottir launched a search engine, Searchabrand, which informs people if their planned brand name has already been registered or used on e.g. social media.

Such services don’t tend to be highly profitable for law firms, so giving a free hand isn’t a huge hit on Dottir’s wallet. However, later the startups might be in need of more sophisticated assistance, and then they’ll remember who was there to support them early on.

“If companies choose to go elsewhere, it’s fine, we’re not jealous,” Innanen says laughingly. “Those who share our values are likely to come back to us.”

Currently there’s no intent or aim to monetise the website. Even if it doesn’t bring about direct sales leads or contacts, at least it’s spreading Dottir’s name. Everything else is a bonus.

Letter of law can be put simply

Dottir’s selling point is being top-notch in its specialities and understanding of the startup ecosystem. The international offices serve not only local customers, but also Finnish companies wanting to test the foreign waters with their products, services and innovations. There might be new offices popping up in new areas at some stage, if suitable candidates make themselves known.

Dottir is also at the forefront of a new kind of service known as legal design. This is a combination of law and service design.

“Legal documents are often poorly designed and not very customer-friendly,” Innanen explains. “This is an issue particularly with big corporations.”

Pello points out that especially when the target audience includes all sorts of demographics, it’s essential to convey the core message understandably.

“Legal texts don’t need to be complicated. Legal design weaves together the letter of the law but in a form designed to be understood.”

In general, Dottir is fond of and believes in new ideas. Innanen notes that Dottir can only grow if its customers do – and he’s optimistic.

“We’ve got a small country with an abundance of tech expertise,” he says.

“Some see digitalisation as threatening, but we want to believe it creates prosperity and wellbeing,” Pello adds.

A law firm office with a view, and not the most generic one.

A law firm office with a view, and not the most generic one.

Dottir

Text: Anne Salomäki

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