LOGOS - Women in Law

Fréttablaðið newspaper published an interview in a special FKA (the Association of Businesswomen in Iceland) edition were Áslaug Björgvinsdóttir, Guðbjörg Helga Hjartardóttir, Helga Melkorka Óttarsdóttir, and Hjördís Halldórsdóttir, partners at LOGOS, discuss the path they have taken in law and the importance of gender equality and diversity in the business world.

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LOGOS legal services can trace its history back to 1907, when Sveinn Björnsson, the first president of Iceland, founded a law firm at a young age, after studying in Copenhagen. Fréttablaðið spoke to four women partners at LOGOS.

In 2000, the firm merged with another large law firm, and the combined firm was given the name LOGOS. LOGOS is the largest law firm in Iceland and employs around 70 people. Of these, around 50 attorneys work in the law firm's offices in Reykjavík and London.

Business Life in the Foreground

LOGOS specializes in service to the business sector and is one of the few law firms in Iceland that provides legal services concerning the business world as a whole. Its large group of attorneys enables LOGOS to deal with the largest projects available, ensuring quality, experience, and responsiveness in all kinds of cases. “We are also aware of the importance of monitoring trends and changes in law. That's why we run our own academy within the company, with lessons on a regular basis,” says Áslaug.

International Activities

LOGOS offers services both in Iceland and abroad. "We are members of Lex Mundi, a large international association of independent law firms that we can contact with one phone call, and thus guarantee our clients the services of powerful lawyers all around the world. In addition, we have been at the very top ranking of quality in Iceland for many years, and foreign ranking bodies, such as Chambers, which evaluate law firms, have given our attorneys their best ranking and selected LOGOS as a leading law firm," says Helga.

Legal Practice is Above All a Service

Guðbjörg Helga Hjartardóttir, a partner at LOGOS, has worked at the firm since she graduated from the legal department of the University of Iceland in 2004. "My main areas of expertise are company law, corporate finance, e.g. loan agreements, mortgage rights, bond issues and the like. I also deal with mergers and acquisitions, including the purchase and sale of companies. Further, I work in the field of financial services and regulations, not least for foreign clients. In general, a large part of my work is spent working for foreign companies of all shapes and sizes . This includes investors and foreign parties who intend to participate in financing or other types of negotiations with Icelandic parties," says Guðbjörg.

Had Thought of Working in a Bank

"It wasn't necessarily my plan to work at a law firm after I graduated from Law school. I always envisioned getting a job in a bank where I would get to work in my field of interest. But I was lucky to get a job at LOGOS in 2004 because here I have had the opportunity to deal with diverse and challenging solutions, while at the same time specializing in what I am most interested in,” says Guðbjörg. In 2006, she acquired the right to litigate before the District Court, an” in 2011 she completed an LL.M. egreee from University College London, focusing on Company Law. “The work is diverse, and you never know what is on the agenda every day. Of course, this can be a demanding job and a lot of work, but that is a bit what attorneys thrive on."

Novelties in Law

"The main novelties in my field mostly concern the recent implementation of various European Union rules and regulations, especially in the field of financial services and capital markets. These rules will have a great impact in Iceland in the coming months. Internally, we have also sharpened our priorities and placed more importance on certain issues where we can be even more helpful to our clients. For instance, we have put more effort into a special banking and financing team, where the focus is on advice and document preparation related to credit issues and corporate financing. We have also focused on energy issues, where there will continue to be a lot of fermentation in the coming years, not least in connection with the forthcoming energy transition. Many different areas of law overlap this field, including company law, the organization and establishment of companies, but also licensing, planning, property law and more. Our size allows us to better bring together a group of employees who specialize in different fields and deal with our customers’ new challenges safely and quickly. Consequently, we are ready when the call comes."

Gender Perspective

"It is good for all operations to keep the gender ratio as equal as possible, because it is important to get different perspectives on all matters. Our clients and the community consists of all genders and being at odds with that would be bizarre. It also creates a healthier work environment for all employees, as the gender ratio has a direct impact on the working atmosphere."

A Leader in the Field of Data Protection

Áslaug Björgvinsdóttir, one of the partners at LOGOS, started working at the firm in 2006. She is one of the country's leading experts in the field of information technology law, including data protection matters, as well as in the field of intellectual property law. Áslaug encountered LOGOS on a school trip with the legal department of Reykjavík University, where she was not very fond of LOGOS at first. "I thought it was all so formal and rigid and I couldn't imagine working there. But something pulled me towards it because I went there for an internship in my master's program. There was no turning back because it soon became clear that this was less than a rigid and boring workplace. On the contrary, there was strong social life, great colleagues and exciting projects. After graduating in 2007, I started working as an associate at the firm but took annual leave in 2011 for a postgraduate education in Stockholm. The year I returned, I became a senior associate and then joined the group of partners in 2017. This is my sixth year in that position, and expect to stay here until the end," says Áslaug.

A Rapidly Expanding Field

According to Áslaug, data privacy is the fastest-growing field of ​​law and has been a large part of her projects since 2016. "New data protection laws were implemented in 2018 and we have had plenty of projects concerning them. Ten years ago, the number of experts in data protection in Iceland could be counted on the fingers of one hand, but the situation is completely different today. Now, for example, there is a new class of experts who have the role of privacy protection representatives for companies and institutions. Intellectual property is also a rapidly expanding field and keeps up with the changes that have taken place in the business world in recent years. Today, the intellectual property industry is a large part of Iceland's export incomes, and intellectual property-related projects of various kinds have therefore increased significantly.

Most of the time my clients are medium-sized or large enterprises in all sectors of the economy, as well as the government institutions, local communities, and universities. Naturally, everyone has to comply with data protection requirements, sole workers, small non-profit organizations or large international companies alike, and this diversity is a big part of what makes this field so interesting. In intellectual property, my clients are mainly manufacturers, software companies and information technology companies. I also assist in drawing up license agreements and terms and I am in advocacy for producers, authors, rights holders' associations and others."

Constantly New Matters of Disputes

Áslaug says the period from 2017 to 2018, when the new privacy laws came into force, was memorable. "Very few companies and institutions in Iceland had prepared for the new obligations that the law entailed. As a result, there was a lot of discussion about the new fines of the Data Protection Authority (DPA), which companies and organizations could face in case of non-compliance. That's why there was a real explosion in this field. The days were well packed from morning to night advising a diverse group of companies and institutions. At the same time, I gave several lectures and educational talks and also taught at the Bar Association and the university. So, the days were often quite long for me, but periods like this are very educational. I can confidently say that the data protection team at LOGOS is cutting-edge in this field, helping companies and organizations with the implementation of the law and related advice. Even though most companies and organizations are well advanced in implementation work, there is no end to data protection-related projects, their nature simply changes. As a result, we advise companies concerning security breaches, provide education, prepare processing agreements and defend the interest of our clients against the DPA. It is exciting to work in a field of law that is so relatively young and constantly developing, and one is constantly stumbling upon new legal issues.

Greener Focus Concerns Everyone, Including Companies

Helga Melkorka Óttarsdóttir, a partner and chairman of the board at LOGOS, says that sustainability-related projects stand close to her heart and that LOGOS places great emphasis on this matter. Helga has worked for over 20 years at LOGOS. She previously worked at the EFTA Surveillance Authority in Brussels after her postgraduate. "Since then, my focus has been on competition law, European law and various related projects for our clients at any given time in several fields. These are diverse tasks: negotiation, administrative matters and court cases before the District Court, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court in this country. I have also presented cases before the EFTA Court and litigated before the European Court of Human Rights," says Helga.

A Large and Rapid Increase in Projects in the Field of Sustainability

"The discussion about sustainability and social responsibility has been prominent. At LOGOS, we attend to strong and diverse work with sustainability as a guiding principle. We have set a sustainability policy as we work towards our goals in that area. The firm's lawyers have expertise in this field, and we have increasingly provided clients with comprehensive services that comply with the latest standards of sustainability. Lately, we have been expanding this range of services in line with the number and variety of projects in the field." The tasks in the sustainability field are, according to Helga, an example of the firms’ ability to fulfill the future needs of its clients. „The goal of LOGOS is to catch issues early and help clients comply with the law from the beginning, thus trying to prevent problems from arising. It can be quite complicated to know and follow all the laws and regulations that are in force at any given time, as the regulatory framework is now much more complicated than it used to be. We have offered training in various legal areas that many companies use."

New EU Regulations

“Within the European Union, there has been a major development in regulations in the field of sustainability. Recently, a taxonomy regulation was approved, which is the beginning of a new vision in investments. The system is based on harmonized definitions of environmentally sustainable economic activities. Certain companies are also required to disclose information about their position in that area. An investment or activity cannot be called green unless it meets certain conditions and contributes to certain goals for the benefit of the environment.

I quickly realized that I wanted to identify issues early, before they become the subject of investigations. When you get involved too late, you may find things that could have been done differently from the start. By educating and correcting various processes, it is possible to promote compliance with the law and prevent avoidable problems. When the EU regulatory system began to develop towards further sustainability, even more interest arose concerning the sustainability-related matters of companies. Investors who want to be concerned about sustainability can use the taxonomy to determine the value of investments in companies, then whether the activities of companies are considered environmentally sustainable. We have done projects for clients who want to better understand the regulatory framework and find out how much emissions a company can have so that operations are considered environmentally sustainable. We also help companies set up internal policies and rules in the field of sustainability. Further, we assist in projects in green financing, evaluation of environmental projects and holistic advice. There we use our knowledge and experience and apply it to a new field. Investors are interested in knowing whether the investments they want to make are truly green and sustainable. A common definition of what is considered sustainable and green is now being created. Previously, all kinds of projects could be marked as green without being backed by a concrete definition. It is also interesting how sustainability issues are connected to many other fields, such as energy issues and financing, fields in which we are very well versed."

Balance

According to Helga, the gender ratio of LOGOS employees is quite equal. "After all, the majority of employees are female. We place great emphasis on gender equality in hiring staff, although balance has not yet been achieved among the partners. Of the four partners who joined recently, two were men and two were women. Customers are increasingly looking at the gender ratio. This is important for the company’s external image. The structure of our company is that we are all equal partners, which creates a different culture and more impact in the group."

Everything Related to Science, Technology and Creativity

Hjördís Halldórsdóttir, partner and board member at LOGOS, specializes, among other things, in projects related to technology, where issues related to artificial intelligence have been prominent. She also deals with matters related to copyright and contractor law, along with considerable litigation work. “In law school, I always had the most interest in legal practice and proceedings. There, internship was mandatory and I tried many different things, for instance the Ministry of Agriculture. I was determined to stay there for one month because I always aimed to become a lawyer. A year after graduation, I started working at AP lögmenn, which later merged with LOGOS, where I work now. Despite the delays in my legal career, I learned a lot. At the Ministry of Agriculture, my boss went on leave after I had been there for six months. In his absence, I was put in a managerial position and was unexpectedly thrown in at the deep end. Today, I am one of the partners of LOGOS and, among other things, I reside on this valuable experience from the first year.”

Diverse Work

"Iceland is a small country and people usually have to specialize in more than one specific field. Being in litigation entails dealing with very diverse issues. One day I may be litigating disputes in the field of contractor law. The next day, I'm taking a case for a financial institution regarding a loan agreement. On the third day, I'm immersed in a court case regarding software or information technology."

Wide Range of Interests

"Copyright, technology, contract law, litigation and law of obligation fascinate me the most, as well as everything related to artificial intelligence. I find litigation the most interesting part of the legal profession. I am a Supreme Court lawyer, like Helga Melkorka. Everything related to technology interests me, in a broad sense, including drug development. I'm fascinated by everything related to science, technology and creativity."

A Postgraduate in Technology

Hjördís completed a postgraduate degree at Stockholm University, where a lot of emphases is placed on interdisciplinary knowledge in law and information technology. "Lawyers who wanted to work in the technical field had to have a sense of the technical side and solve technical projects alongside their law studies." Throughout her career, Hjördís has dealt with technical matters, especially in software and information systems. "It can be negotiation, counseling, disputes and more. In the last few years, I have touched on many things related to artificial intelligence, and for example provided legal advice on how to make decisions based on artificial intelligence. There is rapid development in the regulation of artificial intelligence, and further rules from the European Union are expected."

Copyright

"During my studies, I focused on copyright and therefore received such projects when I started working in legal practice, such as cases related to software development. I spent the first two years mainly working on a large IT project related to software development and gained knowledge and experience in the field. The copyright led me to the technology at AP lawyers and LOGOS six months later. AP lawyers had also handled data privacy cases since the computer act came into force. Since the early days of legal practice, I have therefore dealt with data privacy issues. In copyright, I have worked on projects related to music and films, and in recent years related to television. A lot has changed with the introduction of streaming services, and I have been a consultant in terms of copyright and media law in that context. I am the chairman of the Copyright Association of Iceland and am a part of the copyright committee which advises the Minister of Education. We are currently working on the implementation of the DSM-Directive concerning the Copyright Directive in the Digital Single Market. The directive was adopted within the European Union in 2019 and now all European countries are working to implement the rules. This technical part of copyright law fits right into my field of interest.”

A Job that Suits Everyone

"Female lawyers are still very much a minority. This is especially true for attorneys in law firms. The ratio is better for companies and public bodies. In the group of partners of LOGOS, we are four female partners, but there are more men. This reflects the division in the class as it is. However, there are plenty of talented young women in this field who have their future ahead of them. This will hopefully change, but it does not happen fast enough in our opinion. The legal profession should be suitable for everyone, including people who are responsible for families. Courts and clients have something to say about one's time, but other than that, the working hours are flexible which can suit people with children."

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