Date: Tuesday, September 24th, 2019 by Michaela Hickson.
This week we interviewed Justus Könkkölä, Managing Partner of GILC’s newest member, Socrates Attorneys Ltd based in Finland
I am a third-generation lawyer, so my career is not surprising. However, my path into insurance law was unusual. I started work with a small law firm in Finland, then went back to university to do an academic thesis. Almost by accident, liability insurance became my topic. Writing my thesis gave me more and more connections in this area, and so when I moved to a larger law firm, it seemed natural to specialise in insurance. I set up my own firm ten years ago, and now work nearly only in insurance law, including liability matters.
I am a partner at Socrates. Most of my time is spent on client work, and particularly liability matters – professional liability, product liability and D&O are all busy areas for us. I also act as an arbitrator. I consider it a privilege to handle cases and assignments and be very close to the work of my clients.
We are a small firm, with just two partners and a dozen staff. We share a joint skill in handling dispute resolution, but my partner has a background in construction, so our cases tend to be split across insurance or construction themes.
I have had a cynical approach towards legal networks in the past. But I quite soon realised that GILC might be something different, because of the level of specialisation among members. I also began to realise that this network is more than just a badge and is genuinely active with clients.
As a result, I gradually got more and more excited about this opportunity and made the decision to join in spring this year. The network brings a whole new dimension for a small local firm like ours, and I am keen to meet more colleagues who work in the same field internationally.
It is very rare that I spend a day without working on client cases, even though I am the managing partner. I regularly go to court, and when I am in the office I am constantly in communication with clients. Because of our location and our international client base, most of my meetings are by telephone or via email, and it is becoming more and more rare to meet clients face to face.
A lot of my work relates to adjusting global insurance products into our local legal environment. Typically, this would mean working to develop foreign insurance products that are being delivered via a local provider.
Our office is in the centre of Helsinki, and from my window I see the courtyard of our traditional Art Nouveau style building. These historic courtyard blocks are typical of downtown Helsinki, so many businesses are in old buildings. We need larger premises and will soon be moving, but I suspect the view will remain very similar!
Even if various details of law diverge between the UK and Finland, the main features appear to be the same. Finnish Insurance Contract law has historically had very close ties to this area of law in the other Nordic countries. The countries have modified their legislation during the past years and decades which has brought a few new differences but the main principles remain pretty close to each other. It is notable that many questions relating to interpretation of insurance policies, especially in b to b insurances, remain unregulated in all countries. These questions are typically universal in nature, which increases the importance of also knowing how they have been dealt with in the legal practise of other jurisdictions. I trust that GILC will add value in that respect to its members and clients.
I have three teenage sons and most of my free time is spent with family. Football is my passion, I follow it closely, so being connected by work to the UK is not a bad thing for me!
My latest hobby is the Italian language, which I study once a week. Ultimately, my dream is to spend some of the year living in Italy and have the freedom to spend my days discussing football with the guys in the local bar.
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