News & Views

Experiences from Hannes Snellman and Nordea’s Joint Trainee Programme

27 May 2024

In 2020, Hannes Snellman and Nordea launched a joint trainee programme. The purpose of the programme is to offer law students an opportunity to experience what it is like to work as a lawyer not only at a law firm but also at the largest bank in the Nordic countries. At the beginning of 2024, Emma Ahonen and David Strauss, two of our former associate trainees, continued their traineeships at Nordea. Emma and David worked in different teams based on their own interests, i.e. Emma in the Finance Team and David in the M&A Team.

Emma spent a total of five months in Hannes and Nordea’s joint trainee programme. At Hannes Snellman, Emma worked in the Finance Team, and at Nordea, she worked in the Business Banking Legal Team, which provides legal support and advice on various banking operations, ensures compliance with financial regulation, drafts and reviews legal documents such as loan agreements, and manages legal risks associated with business banking activities for Nordea’s small and medium-sized corporate clients. Emma has recently graduated, and she now works as an associate lawyer at Hannes Snellman.

David is a fourth-year law student at the University of Helsinki, and he is also studying at Hanken School of Economics. David spent a total of seven months in Hannes and Nordea’s joint trainee programme. At Hannes Snellman, David worked in the M&A Team, and at Nordea, he worked in the Corporate Advisory, Group Corporate Legal Team, which handles Nordea’s company law and securities market law matters, including corporate governance, insider, and disclosure matters and Nordea’s M&A activities and other structural changes.

What is it about financial / M&A law in particular that has made you choose it, and when did your interest in this field begin?

E: My initial interest in transactions deepened and focused on financial law during my previous M&A-related internships as I found the financial side to be an especially intriguing and, of course, integral part of the transaction itself.

D: My interest in M&A, and especially in capital markets transactions, began early in my studies. Initially, I was attracted to the opportunity to engage in a wide variety of transactions in a field of practice where every assignment is different. Additionally, the prospects of gaining broad exposure to many sectors, as well as a good understanding of different market dynamics and strategic challenges, were particularly enticing. These aspects have only become more appealing to me over time, and I have further found that the opportunity to contribute to effective solutions for clients in various situations is deeply motivating.

How did your time as an associate trainee at Hannes Snellman prepare you for your traineeship at Nordea?

E: During my traineeship at Hannes, I was able to assist in a wide range of different financial transactions, all of which were definitely useful for my traineeship at Nordea as well. At Nordea, with the help of what I had learned here at Hannes, I was able to get a deeper insight into the bank's own unique operational structure and procedures, which contributed to a better understanding of the overall picture of the transactions. Having said that, those interested in the Nordea traineeship should not feel worried about having to “study” beforehand — I would say the most important assets are an open mind and eagerness to learn.

D: During my time as an associate trainee at Hannes Snellman, I had an opportunity to work on a wide variety of capital markets transactions and engage in corporate advisory work. Additionally, I had a chance to participate in several in-house training sessions relating to various topics, such as corporate governance and securities regulation. This proved to be a fantastic foundation for my traineeship at Nordea as, for instance, when it came to handling documents relating to annual general meetings, much of the material was already familiar to me. This prior exposure streamlined my transition and allowed me to contribute more effectively to the team at Nordea.

What kind of preconceptions did you have about working in a bank before your experience at Nordea?

E: All my previous internships had been in law firms, so working in a bank felt like an exciting opportunity to broaden my knowledge — however, I purposely wanted to go in with an open mind, i.e. with very minimal preconceptions.

D: Before joining Nordea, I had not worked in an in-house role. As such, I did not know exactly what to expect, although I had heard numerous positive stories about the joint trainee programme and was extremely excited about the opportunity. When I finally joined, I was struck by how similar the work was as compared to working in a law firm, which helped ensure a smooth start to the traineeship. I was also surprised to see how many career paths there are for lawyers in a bank.

How would you describe your assignments at Nordea?

E: My assignments at Nordea Business Banking Legal Team involved providing support and advice on various banking operations as well as drafting and reviewing legal documents, such as NDAs. I worked in close cooperation with the business side as most of my tasks came directly from them. This ensured that every day was filled with new challenges and even though my time at Nordea was brief, the wide range of tasks and the many different areas of law involved really kept me learning new things on a daily basis as some requests were very hands-on and practical, while others were more abstract and high-level. It also felt great to see that the Business Banking Legal Team really trusted me and gave me a chance to work as independently as I wanted, of course while still providing help and guidance if needed.

D: My assignments at Nordea were very diverse. Due to the nature and timing of the traineeship, I mainly worked on matters relating to Nordea’s annual general meeting (AGM), which included drafting and reviewing various AGM documents and preparing stock exchange releases. Additionally, I conducted legal research and assisted in the practical organisation of the AGM in close collaboration with Nordea’s Investor Relations Department.

What did you learn during your time at Nordea? Were there any surprises?

E: At Nordea, I discovered the legal team’s approach to be very pragmatic and closely intertwined with the bank’s business side of operations. Lawyers adopt a holistic view, focusing on practical, business-driven solutions. Hence, it became clear that the loan agreements and transactions I was accustomed to at Hannes represent just a small segment of the responsibilities handled by Nordea’s Business Banking Legal Team. The business-minded orientation to problem-solving is no doubt a skill and a mindset that can, and should, be applied in a law firm as well.

D: During my time at Nordea, I felt like I was learning something new every day. I especially want to highlight the comprehensive insight I gained into organising an annual general meeting of a large, listed company as well as the valuable opportunity to deepen my understanding of corporate governance and securities markets law, with a special emphasis on the banking sector. What surprised me the most was the sheer scale of Nordea's global operations and the vast number of persons committed to successfully executing the AGM — every detail was meticulously planned to guarantee a seamless event and a positive experience for all attending shareholders, regardless of whether they joined in person or online.

What would you say to the applicants applying for our associate trainee programme who are also eager to continue at Nordea?

E: I would without a doubt encourage every trainee interested in seeing another side of finance law to voice their interest in the Nordea traineeship. From my own experience I can add that especially if you have no previous experience outside of law firms, the traineeship gives you an excellent glimpse into the legal duties of lawyers working in a “supporting role” instead of the very lawyer-centric working environment of a law firm.

D: The joint trainee programme is truly unique in the Finnish market, and I would warmly recommend it to anyone interested! It is an exceptional opportunity to work both at one of the leading law firms in the Nordic countries and to experience the AGM process from the perspective of a listed company.

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