Jani Kaulo, the founder of Kaulo & Partners, is a pragmatic, commercially oriented lawyer with a strong sense of justice. For him the law itself is not important, it is just a tool to support business and remove barriers to trade.

When asked how Jani Kaulo once ended up studying law, the answer is as pragmatic as his approach to law.

- Before university studies, I was still more interested in natural sciences and therefore attended a natural science -focused upper secondary school. However, I didn’t want to be a researcher or a teacher, so I reasoned that law studies would provide better and broader professional opportunities to earn a living. My parents, who were not lawyers, also recommended law studies, Jani Kaulo recalls.

He feels that he stands out from other lawyers working in law firms and in the field of intellectual property in that he is interested in law, above all, as a means of supporting the business of companies.

- I have always been very interested in business and business development. I don’t love law as law, for me it has no value as such. I by no means enjoy in-depth academic legal reflections or discussions. More relevant for me is what practical business problems can be solved with the help of law, or what kind of business risks can be anticipated and managed with the help of legal agreements, for example.

Vietnam as a gateway to entrepreneurship

The desire to understand business more deeply was also the motivation for Jani Kaulo to make a bold decision in 2010 to put his attorney-at-law career on a break for the time being. He decided to go on to study international business in the MBA program at the University of Bolton, through which he began studies in Vietnam. At the same time, he realized his long-lived dream of the possibility to stay a longer period in Asia and getting to know the East Asian business environment.

The first six years of his career as an attorney-at-law at various law firms in Finland had already familiarized Jani Kaulo with contract and corporate law, dispute resolution, trademark assignments and anti-counterfeiting. Years in Vietnam trained him as an entrepreneur.

- At that time, I founded my first company, with the business idea to help Finnish companies enter the Vietnamese market and promote business between the countries. I have been acting as a part-time entrepreneur for over eleven years now and have been involved as both a founder and a legal advisor in two other start-ups as well, before founding Kaulo & Partners in August 2021 and starting as a full-time entrepreneur.

The business idea of better service for brand owners matured

The three years he spent in Vietnam, the following ten years as a trademark lawyer in one of the leading IPR expert companies in Finland, as well as his previous entrepreneurial background, have all played a big role in maturing Kaulo & Partners' business idea.

- Business orientation in my thinking has further increased. In my opinion the responsibility of a lawyer is to provide practical advice, solve client’s business problems, and even do it as cost-effectively as possible. Every company must assess what is the real added value it gets from the legal service it buys in proportion to how much the company has to invest in this service, Kaulo explains.

On the other hand, added value is not created very easily without a strategic partnership, where the client’s business is the starting point for all planning and doing.

- In Finland, there has not previously existed a law firm specializing in brand rights, which would act as a real strategic partner for brand owners in long-term cooperation, Kaulo says.

This observation led to the establishment of Kaulo & Partners. The business idea is based on a desire to provide a better service to companies who see brand rights as a strategic part of their business, and who want to invest in increasing the value of their IP assets and brands.

Practical advice and service instead of self-service

According to Kaulo, the strategic partnership includes a proactive service, practical advice, and correctly dimensioned recommendations for action.

Good service also includes both responsibility and freedom to select and identify the right kind of clients. The decisive factor is not the size of the company, but whether the company has a strategic approach to protecting and defending its brand, as an investment in the future.

- Through client selection, we aim to ensure that we can provide quality service instead of quantity. We follow our clients on our own initiative and react if we see something that needs to be responded to from a legal point of view, Kaulo describes the proactive service model.

In his view, many law firms are still burdened by the traditional operating model, where the client is served on individual assignments and only when there is an acute need. As a result, strategic advice, proactive service and tackling business risks already in advance through the right measures and agreements are not being implemented.

- As cliché as it is, most problems and disputes could be avoided in advance: by ensuring that your brand is protected as early as possible, by collecting documentation on the use of the trademark to avoid competitors’ attempts to cancel your registration, and by ensuring that important business issues do not solely rely on verbal agreements or imprecise emails.

To achieve billing and profit goals, the client may also be offered measures that are excessive in relation to the company’s resources or given over-optimistic recommendations to go to court in situations where the client has a poor chance of success. 

- According to my principles, the client's interest must always take precedence over the law firm's profit motive. I think that’s the only right way to make a profitable business in the long run and gain the trust of our clients in the future. Kaulo & Partners wants to stand out with this principle. We want to be a leader in this new way of thinking and working.

Asia-marinated market stall seller and zoo entrepreneur from Turku

Important places for Jani Kaulo to charge the batteries of an entrepreneur are the beloved cities of Turku in Finland and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam. The emotional bond to Turku, the hometown of his childhood and youth, has remained strong, although a piece of his heart has also remained in Asia.

- Even if I would live anywhere in the world, my roots with Turku do not disappear. As they say, a man can leave Turku, but Turku does not leave a man. Another important city in my life is Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, as quite many still call this city. It has given me not only valuable entrepreneurial and life experiences, but also a family. My long-time travel favourites also include Shanghai and especially Hong Kong, which is a completely unique combination of a modern city with high population density, jungle nature and fishing villages. I got to know these cities already during my university years, and later through studies of Chinese language.

As a result of the pandemic, travelling as an enjoyable and important hobby has for long been on a break. It has made life simpler.

- I have started to appreciate just being at home, heating my home sauna and outdoor tub in Espoo. I’ve realized that you don’t have to travel far to recharge your batteries, relax and enjoy your free time.

While heating the sauna, Jani Kaulo may think about, for example, the Buddhist wisdoms of life, or recall why he became a lawyer and an entrepreneur.

- My career as an entrepreneur started already at the age of 10. I started to sell berries and apples from our home garden at the Turku Market Square, and the first business I established was a summer zoo in our backyard. The turnover came from the entrance fee and the kiosk, where I sold candies to my own friends and family friends.

A lawyer defending justice and fairness and a free-running Buddhist horse

Jani Kaulo believes that the date of birth determines, at least partly, the personal characteristics. According to the Chinese horoscope, he is a horse. There is also a connection to entrepreneurship.

- My character includes a strong longing for freedom, which is typical for horses. I also have a strong commitment to justice and fairness. I can be strict when needed and I’m happy to solve problems. Those qualities, in turn, are well suited to a lawyer. 

- As an entrepreneur and a private person, I also try to remember the wisdom I heard from a Buddhist monk: When you enjoy a good drink from a glass, remember to fill it as well. If you greedily take all the good for yourself and don’t help others, the glass will soon be empty. Even in business, balance and good deeds are needed. You must be ready to help other entrepreneurs and advise other people, in certain situations, also free of charge.

In order not to empty the “glass”, Jani Kaulo is also active in various positions of trust, such as chairing the board of the Finland-South East Asia Business Association, and often hosting Asian delegations visiting Finland. In the photo is the delegation from the Ministry of Justice of Vietnam as guests of the Finnish Bar Association.