Career Stories | Meri-Katriina Pyhäranta, Counsel, Real Assets, Helsinki
6 March 2023
You graduated from the Faculty of Law of the University of Helsinki in 2011, and now you are a counsel at Hannes. What happened in between?
I started as a junior legal advisor and HR coordinator in an international consultancy firm’s HR department but soon realised that I wanted to focus more on law and its role in the society. After some surprising coincidences I found myself studying in an energy LL.M. programme at the University of Eastern Finland and working as an associate in one of the commercial law firms in Helsinki. After graduating from the LL.M. programme, I got a chance to start writing a doctoral dissertation on energy regulation as a researcher at the University of Eastern Finland. I’ve never felt so free in my life, as I had the chance to work from anywhere in the world! My time as a Fulbright scholar in Austin, Texas is an especially fond memory I will always carry with me. After returning to Finland, I started working in the Energy Authority, where our task as the regulator was to monitor the opening of the Finnish gas market for competition and to participate in the market development. During those years, our first son was born and I finalised my doctoral degree (not a recommendable combination though!). At the beginning of 2021, I joined Hannes Snellman, 6 months pregnant.
What has your career at Hannes Snellman been like?
At first, I had my doubts about starting to work in a law firm as a mother of two. I even said this out loud to our partners, but they were exceptionally encouraging and supportive. Before my 12-month parental leave, I had just enough time to start learning to know other people and the culture at Hannes. When I came back in April 2022, the world had changed and everyone talked about energy! I never realised how purposeful it would feel to have a chance to work with clients and assignments that are absolutely critical for energy security and supply in Finland. Besides helping our clients with all sorts of questions regarding energy regulation, I do my best to develop our legal energy practice further together with our other energy professionals. That’s kind of creative and I’ve been surprised how inspiring that is!
Why is hydrogen such a hot topic in the energy sector?
Hydrogen will change everything in the energy sector: how energy is produced, stored, and transported. Of course, it’s not only about hydrogen, but that is the key to transforming our energy system. As the energy sector is undergoing a major transition from a fossil fuel-based economy into a clean hydrogen economy, we are following very carefully how the regulation is evolving. But besides that, we need to understand how the energy sector works. That’s why we take part in various energy and hydrogen-related events. We always learn something new, something you cannot learn from regulation or law books. Energy is a difficult one for a lawyer: you should be a lawyer, an engineer, and an economist at the same time in order to understand the whole picture!
Who should be interested in hydrogen regulation?
Anyone interested in energy and climate questions! There are way too few lawyers working in the energy field. If you consider studies in energy law and would like to know more, I’d be happy to chat and share some insights from a lawyer’s point of view!
How would you describe your team?
Our Energy Team is part of our bigger Real Assets Team, which is a group of 30+ energy professionals working with different kinds of legal questions in various energy-related projects. The Real Assets Team is divided into Energy, Infrastructure, Projects & Construction, Environment & Natural Resources, and Real Estate Teams, which means that we always have a specialist for a project regardless of what kind of questions come across. This enables me to focus on energy regulation, that is, for example, regulatory requirements for hydrogen production, whereas my colleagues take care of the project contracts or other transaction-specific questions related to the same project.
There is not only one team I work with: the team is always built up depending on the assignment and the client’s needs. But in hydrogen-related projects, I mainly work with Julia. I couldn’t wish for a better colleague! We have lots of fun planning the training that we give to our clients and internally to our colleagues, we travel together to energy seminars, and we never run out of topics to chat about. There are so many smart and wonderful people working at Hannes. And working with someone you can trust 100% is the best employment benefit I can think of!
What is your superpower?
Chilling when I have the chance. At one point in my career, I realised that in order to keep up with the fast pace in working life, you need to come up with ways to balance that pace.
How do you maintain the balance between work life and free time?
The most important thing for me in terms of finding work-life balance is making sure that my work is rewarding and interesting and that I spend time with important matters outside work. It also helps to have two active little sons to pick up from daycare!
One theme that currently stands out in working life discussions is purpose. To conclude this interview, we would like to ask what the things are that keep you going and motivated in work — what is your purpose?
I started studying energy law because I thought it was one of the most important instruments in addressing the climate change. I feel privileged to work in the energy sector where big changes can have big effects (yet often desperately slowly!). At the end of the day, I at least tried to do my part.
FAVOURITE | Way of Commuting: Metro and e-bike with two seats for my boys at the back; Book: Katrina by Sally Salminen; Lunch: Cobb salad; Podcast: Maailmanpolitiikan arkipäivää by Yle; Work Equipment: Laptop; Afternoon Routine: A quick snack and a big cup of tea from our Café Courtyard; Mobile Application: Storytel; Relaxation method: Sauna; Work Outfit: Pullover and jeans (unless there are clients around 😊); Power Song: Not to be revealed 😉; Social Media Channel: LinkedIn; Drink: Herbal tea; Weekday: Saturday; Leisure Activity: Tennis