Career Stories | Taija Niku, Legal Tech Manager, Helsinki
23 May 2023
Taija Niku works as a legal tech manager in the IT Team at Hannes Snellman’s Helsinki office. Previously, she worked as a project manager in Hannes's Tech & Innovation Team. Taija holds a master’s degree in engineering, and before joining Hannes in September 2020, she worked in IT consulting and project management.
What is included in your role as a legal tech manager?
As a legal tech manager, I pursue to find the most appropriate legal tech solutions for our legal experts and work together with our teams to find best ways to utilise them. Working closely with my legal tech and IT colleagues, we scan the wide-spread market of legal tech solutions to find those that work best for our practice, region, and client co-operation. I love it when we find a solution that makes our processes not only more efficient but also more user-friendly and reliable.
What should all lawyers know about legal tech?
All lawyers should simply be aware of legal tech and the opportunities it brings. Legal tech has emerged from the needs of legal work and continues to develop at an increasing pace. Lawyers should remember that when working with repetitive processes, large data masses, eSignatures, co-authoring, document drafting, etc., legal tech can most often provide a solution that makes their work much easier.
There is a vast amount of solutions, which means that it is quite impossible to know each of them. The magnitude of legal tech solutions and the hype surrounding them can be overwhelming, and I blame no one who sometimes feels that legal tech may bring nothing but more demands to lawyers and add extra icons to our desktops. However, the core purpose of legal tech is exactly the same as the core purpose of our lawyers' work: bring outstanding legal solutions to our clients. When in doubt, it is legal tech professionals like our team who can help with choosing and adopting the correct solution.
You also have a lot of experience in project management. What would be your top three tips for successful project management?
My first tip is to plan your actions. This may sound like a no-brainer, but especially at the beginning of a project (or a new year) we often get excited and carried away and end up doing before thinking and planning. Have a plan in place, and make sure it can be implemented. It is not enough to know what will happen and when, but also how and by whom. Get on a concrete level and make sure that everyone knows what is expected of them. Follow up on the actions and be prepared to amend your plan if necessary.
Also, there can never be too much emphasis on communication. This does not mean informing people as much and as often as possible but rather having the right communication channels in place, agreeing on communication methods in the project, and pursuing openness. Often, many issues could be solved by more effective communication.
Third, do not try to do everything alone. Being responsible for project management may lead people into thinking that they alone are also responsible for delivering everything. However, a project manager is just one part of a team with know-how and experience to successfully reach the project goals. Make sure your team comprises people with the right competence and work together with them to plan and deliver the desired outcomes.
If a project is managed well, it will bring value to everybody involved. However, sometimes project management fails. What are the main reasons behind unsuccessful project management from your point of view?
It is good to remember that sometimes projects fail and sometimes project management fails, and these can be two different things. A project can be successful in achieving its goals even when project management has been unsuccessful, and usually this requires flexibility and extra work from the project team. Signs of project management falling short can include uncertainty within the project team, overlapping work done by multiple project team members, an unclear and ever-changing schedule, and inadequate resources. Unsuccessful project management can also lead to delays in schedule or budget overruns.
Often, the reason behind unsuccessful project management is as simple as a lack of time or difficulties in prioritisation. When things get hectic, we often take on tasks that seem most critical and focus our energy on completing them. If the project manager is responsible for both project management and several project tasks, it is very easy to overlook the project management duties while focusing on delivering outputs. Therefore, it is critical to make sure that project management tasks are allocated enough time and prioritised accordingly in a project.
Another common issue with project management is the inability to adapt to change. There are always going to be changes and surprises, and project management is responsible for having the structures in place to be able to manage the changes. It is good to make a risk assessment with defined actions if risks are realised, define a clear decision structure, and make sure there is some room in the project plan for unexpected events.
What has been the most memorable moment during your Hannes career so far?
One of the most memorable moments was Hannes Day held in 2022. Having joined the company during remote working conditions, it was incredible to gather together as one firm from both of our offices and truly feel like we are together in this. Meeting colleagues face to face after seeing them only on a computer screen, having great discussions, and — obviously — partying late into the night was something all of us truly needed.
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