Greetings from Alumni: Ilona Tulokas, Legal Counsel at SOK Corporation
23 February 2022
In this part of our Greetings from Alumni series, we interview Ilona Tulokas, who works as a legal counsel at SOK Corporation. Ilona works mainly with questions related to contract law, intellectual property law, consumer law, and general commercial law. Prior to her career at SOK, Ilona worked in Hannes’s IP & Technology Practice in Helsinki and Stockholm for over a decade.
Hi Ilona, how has the year of 2022 started for you?
Hello! The year has started well, thank you. At work, it has been quite busy and at home as well, as we just got a puppy! Hope that the year at Hannes has started well too!
You work as a legal counsel at SOK Corporation. Can you tell us about your daily work and what is included in your main responsibilities?
Since the S Group operates in quite many fields of business (the S Group has hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, department stores, service stations, and much more) my work is quite versatile business-wise. My days consist of what I assume is quite normal lawyer work; I write, negotiate, and interpret agreements, try to solve legal issues that we run into, and do my best to keep up with new legislation. The IPR questions of the group are also on my table.
SOK, which is owned by the cooperatives of the S Group, serves as the central company for the cooperatives. During your career, you have also worked for another large Finnish company, Fazer. Are there any differences in the work of an in-house lawyer between a privately owned family company and a cooperatively owned company?
Fazer and the S Group have much in common. Both are very present in the everyday life of Finns, and for an IP and consumer lawyer like me, they are very interesting employers. The mindset is similar in both companies with a focus on doing things well.
What differentiates SOK and the S Group from most employers in Finland is that the group is literally owned by its customers, i.e. roughly 2.5 million Finns. As all companies, the S Group’s aim is to bring benefits to its owners, but in our case the owners are almost half of the Finnish population.
Since the S Group is owned by such a big part of Finns, we feel a responsibility to act fairly and in accordance with good values. During my time as an attorney, my job was to come up with clever legal decisions that give the best possible outcome for the client in all situations. At SOK, my role is a bit different. For example, when drafting agreements, I now feel that my mandate is to write agreements that are fair and that I could sign regardless of which party I represent.
During your time at Hannes, you worked as an associate and senior associate in our IP & Technology Team. What was the most valuable learning you took with you when you moved forward from Hannes?
This one is easy: to learn from the best.
I am lucky that I was surrounded by the greatest assistants, CR, HR, and IT personnel, as well as lawyers at the beginning of my legal path. I learned enormously and I still set my own work ethics and aims high thanks to those years.
What career advice would you now give to yourself if this were your first day at law school?
I would emphasise the importance of trying different things, travelling, and focusing on what seems fun. Normally you become good at what you enjoy.
During my early days at Hannes, I did a lot of media law. One of my older colleagues at the time (a great lawyer who took the time and taught me very much) gave me the most appreciated advice: she told me to watch more reality TV, to improve my media law skills. I loved it!
What is your favourite memory from your time at Hannes?
Funnily, my best memories are related to projects that I was, at the time, quite tired of. I especially remember a big patent litigation where our team became very sleep deprived and an M&A deal in Stockholm that took place within a few days from the opening of the Stockholm office. What made these projects and many other projects especially memorable was the great team that we had. Wonderful to work with friends who are excellent at what they do!
One theme which currently stands out in working life discussions is purpose at work. To conclude this interview, we would like to ask what the things are that keep you going and motivated at work – what is your purpose?
Hahaha, I appreciate the very “light” question at the end!
I try to work at places where work is mostly fun. I am lucky to be a bit of a legal nerd, meaning that I actually often like my job and find it interesting. Working in-house means that I get to help non-lawyer colleagues who aren’t that passionate about law. Being able to help them by using my legal nerd skills is nice.
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