With the help of legal technologies, the Sorainen law firm increases the productivity of its offices in the Baltic States and Belarus. That helps with high inflation, says senior partner Aku Sorainen (57). In addition, a law firm’s IT spin-off company will soon bring its law practice management system to market.

JUVE: What motivates you to rely more on technological solutions to provide legal services at Sorainen?

Aku Sorainen: The development of new systems, whether related to offices or processes, is an integral part of the culture of our law firm. In 1997, with the help of an IT-savvy partner, we began building a legal practice management system that spanned what were using at the time across two jurisdictions. This way, we implemented one system for all and increasingly standardized the operational processes.

At that time, your law firm had only been in business for two years…

Yes. In my master’s thesis, which I wrote in Finland, I examined the business law of the three newly independent Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The interest of Finnish companies was huge, so they supported my work for a year and a half. In 1993 I moved to Tallinn to open a medium-sized office of a Finnish law firm there, and in 1995 I set up my office. Even then, I dreamed of expanding the law firm to all Baltic countries.

You are now a senior partner and focus on the further development of the law firm. What motivates you to do this?

In addition to development projects, it is very important for me to take advantage of economies of scale, i.e. to work effectively. I constantly observe what other firms are doing in Western Europe and the USA. And then learning from others and doing things differently, which we think we can improve, as  many large law firms use old legacy systems and processes and have a long-established culture. It wouldn’t be a good idea to just copy them all.

Sorainen Law Firm has its Estonian office in Rotermann City in Tallinn. Photo: Grigory Bruev / stock.adobe.com

Your law firm’s team consists of 44 partners and 250 lawyers. How do you manage to convince employees to apply technological solutions in their daily activities?

Our markets are small, so our customers are, on average, much smaller than in the large Western markets. Each lawyer simultaneously works on many cases, and each partner has to manage a large client portfolio of tens of clients. Therefore, everyone understands the need for efficient  processes.

In addition, we implemented unified Quality Management System, which was ISO 9001 certified already 20 years ago. As a result, we were able to standardize all our processes. And only in this way is it possible to choose technologies which would suit the whole firm.

We also pilot many different legal technology systems. As a result, we are devoting more capacity to IT and knowledge management resources. Before enroling new technology throughout the whole firm, we must ensure it will undoubtedly succeed. Often we must conclude that the pilot was not successful and we stop and try something else…

Technological solutions require high-quality, properly managed data. So how do you involve your partners and employees to furnish this?

The unified processes have enabled us to develop a unified legal practice management system over the past 25 years. We’ve been investing a lot of money to turn it into a state-of-the-art, cloud-based system for six years.

In addition, we provide extensive training to our staff for our three most important systems: MS Office products, practice management system, and iManage. We then measure how they use the system and what kind of data they enter the system. We don’t measure anything just for the sake of measuring, but with the aim of strengthening such behaviours and attitudes, which make the firm successful. This is what makes our law firm successful.

We don’t measure anything just for the sake of measuring, but with the aim of strengthening such behaviours and attitudes, which make the firm successful. This is what makes our law firm successful.

At the same time, you continue to improve the legal practice management system. What are you planning?

We have launched a spin-off technology company called Crespect and are looking to bring our legal practice management system to market in early Fall. For this, we now have to fundamentally revise the internal processes. We are also looking for law firms that would like to test with us whether our way of managing the legal practice is the best in the market. After all, we want to offer a product that can be used universally.

Partners’ performance is evaluated in your law firm according to 40 different performance indicators. Which ones are the most important?

It’s hard to say because it depends on the partner and their personal strengths and weaknesses. Thus, we rely not on strict requirements but on a flexible system that focuses on individual aspects.

Of course, generated profit is important, but it is rather a hygiene thing; one must always generate more profit than one takes home,. Profit can be very volatile, a very successful year can be followed by a bad one, so we pay more attention to the long-term contribution of our partners to our firm.

Such a long-term perspective is not easy to measure with just a few KPIs. This requires a more comprehensive picture. For example, how does the partner develop important client relationships? How does she lead and engage our people? How does a partner collaborate with others and help others to succeed? How does she contribute to the firm’s success beyond her immediate team? Finally, does she represent our culture and behave like a role-model for others? After all, you get what you measure, and our law firm now has sufficient experience and discipline in managing data, information and knowhow..

How important is the income generated by different partners?

The partner must earn income. Otherwise, he will not become a specialist and will be able to engage in consulting activities. However, far more important is the revenue generated by the partner team.

According to your law firm’s sustainability report, more than 7.5 per cent of revenue, you have invested in IT, learning and knowledge management. Why do you invest to such a high degree?

It is important that we stay at the top of the market and it requires best people, best training, best processes which are being adhered to, best systems which are being used properly and we want to scale everything which is reasonably possible.


  • Revenue (million euros) – 33,7
  • Investments (million euros) – 2,56

Of it

  • to IT and security management – 1,70
  • to qualification improvement – 0,50
  • to knowledge management – 0,36

Part of the income was used for investments – 7,6 %

(Source: Sorainen Sustainability Report 2022; reporting period: 2021 January 1 – 2022 June 30)

These investments reduce potential payouts to partners. So how do you convince them?

We aim to pay best salaries to our people and best dividends to  our partners, , but beyond that we want to keep our firm very liquid and maintain our ability to invest in everything, which we believe gives us a good return. I’m often surprised by how many law firms drain the cash out of the firm each year! That limits their possibilities to invest.

It is also important we can show our partners that our investments bring sustainable success and enables us to work smarter not harder. That also is important for young lawyers and such technological developments make them more engaged and reduce the personnel rotation.

Leda Iržikevičienė worked for a long time as the administrative manager of Sorainen, although she does not have a legal education. How important is this position to your law firm’s strategy?

We have found that a highly qualified manager, a COO, is very helpful. Leda helped us to become even better organised and made significant progress in developing our business services because she knew what a great business services team should look like. We, the partners, often have little knowledge of these aspects as we are experts in law. Having a great COO also helped us implement our strategy faster and increase lawyers’ satisfaction on the business services. It is very unfortunate that she left us and moved to become a CEO of a Nprdic Bank’s branch here.. She left big shoes to fulfil.

In addition to offices in the three Baltic countries, Sorainen also has an office in Belarus. What is its current situation there?

With a staff of 40, we are one of the largest law firms operating locally. In March, the question arose for us: move out or stay We chose the latter option and focused on advising foreign and private companies operating in Belarus. Finally, the situation is not the same as in Russia and it is in the EU’s interest to help Belarus stay closer to Europe. However, Belarus is not part of the European Union, so we must restrict access to data.

Inflation in Estonia is currently around 20%, the indicators are similar in Latvia and Lithuania. What does your law firm do in these circumstances?

These countries have not experienced this level of inflation since the last decade of the last century. But when the law firm was established, the situation was familiar: inflation has a negative impact on wages, taxes, and productivity. So, in this case, the essential question is – how could we further increase our work efficiency?


Interview conducted by Raphael Arnold for “Juve”.

Original interview in German: https://www.juve.de/oesterreich/sorainen-setzt-auf-effizenz-und-legal-tech/