Greetings from Alumni: Tom Jansson, Legal Counsel at IOTA Foundation
22 March 2022
In this part of our Greetings from Alumni series, we interview Tom Jansson, who works as a legal counsel at the IOTA Foundation, which is a non-profit foundation in the DLT and cryptocurrency industry. Prior to his career abroad, Tom worked in Hannes’s IP & Technology Practice in Helsinki and Stockholm for four years.
Hi Tom, how are you? How has the spring been so far?
I’m very well, thank you. Like so many others, I have of course been following the developments in Ukraine very closely and hoping that it would end soon. It is also something that we are paying close attention to at work, as it impacts our work as well. But apart from the situation in Ukraine, spring has been very good. We have had a busy start to the year and there are a lot of interesting projects going on.
You have been working in London for several years. First as a legal counsel at Kindred Group and now as a legal counsel at the IOTA Foundation. Can you tell us a little bit about your current work and daily tasks?
Yes, time has gone by so fast. The IOTA Foundation operates in the distributed ledger technology (DLT) and cryptocurrency industry. We develop technology to transfer data and value in a permissionless, distributed network. My normal work focuses on contracts and general legal issues that come up. I also work with IP matters, like trademark registrations and enforcement. The part that I have really come to enjoy is our public affairs work and our close collaboration with industry organisations regarding upcoming laws and regulations. This is a very versatile industry that is constantly evolving, and there is often uncertainty about how to approach new developments from a legal perspective. For example, how to structure decentralised autonomous organisations in an efficient and compliant way. Most jurisdictions don't even recognise them as legal entities yet. The rules and regulations are still being developed, so it is a very interesting environment to work in, and there is a lot of work for lawyers in the industry!
What would you say are the biggest differences between working as an in-house lawyer in London and working as a lawyer in a law firm in Helsinki? Has the law firm background helped you in your current job?
Actually, I think they are quite similar in some ways. Every day reveals surprises, and there are a lot of things going on at the same time! I think working at Hannes Snellman provided a really good basis for developing professionally in a fast-paced environment. Of course, in any legal role, you need to stay up to date with the developments in your field and you need to be able to translate the legal requirements into concrete advice. I think that regardless of the location or the role, you need to be pragmatic and communicate well with your clients. In an in-house environment, you might not have the same kind of resources and experts at your disposal as in a law firm, and it can be difficult to find time for the same kind of academic research and learning as in a law firm. But on the other hand, working in-house gives you the opportunity to get to know the business better and to learn about the developments in a specific industry. At the same time, you have to identify risks and be able to make judgment calls. This can be quite challenging at times, but it also makes the job very rewarding.
You originally started at Hannes Snellman as an office support trainee when you were a first-year law student, and then later you returned to work as an associate lawyer in our IP & Tech Team. What advice would you give yourself on your first day of law school and on your first day working at a law firm?
I would definitely recommend exploring different legal fields, travelling, and having fun as well. Be open-minded and absorb anything that seems interesting. Don't be afraid to reach out to people to learn more. If something seems interesting, try to ask someone to tell you more about it. People are usually very happy to help. That is one thing that I really liked about working at Hannes Snellman. There was a real focus on sharing knowledge and developing professionally.
Many law students and graduated lawyers alike dream about working abroad. What tips would you give to lawyers who would like to work abroad?
Oh, that is a good question. Perhaps the best way is to study abroad, if you have the chance. It can be a good way to get into the market. Overall, I would say that working with commercial law, especially contracts and IP, provides a good basis for working in an international business environment. I had the opportunity to work at Hannes Snellman’s Stockholm office before moving to London, and I think that experience was very helpful for my career. One thing that is important everywhere is drafting and reviewing contracts. I think a lot of in-house roles also require you to manage multiple markets, so language skills and general knowledge of different markets is important. It is also useful to have a good network abroad and experience of cross-border assignments. And make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date! A lot of job offers come through LinkedIn. One thing can lead to another, and suddenly you might find yourself somewhere that you could not have imagined a year ago.
What is your favourite memory from your time at Hannes?
Hah, there are so many! The office events, intense M&A projects, and court cases. I have a lot of fun memories from my time as an office support trainee. We really had a great team! Of course, working as an associate on various big projects and IP litigation was also very exciting. I especially remember a few IP disputes where we worked very long hours. Although it was very busy at times, I think the team spirit was great and I learned so much in those projects.
One theme that currently stands out in working life discussions is purpose at work. To conclude this interview, we would like to know what the things are that keep you going and motivated at work — what is your purpose?
That is a challenging question. I think you have to find something that you really enjoy doing from a professional perspective. On the best days, I think work can be like a good book that you just don’t want to put down. Not everything can be fun of course, but there are definitely things that are interesting and that help you develop professionally. Those are the things that I look forward to and that keep me motivated.
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