Greetings from Alumni: Maija Hall, Associate, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, London
29 March 2021
We interviewed our alumna Maija Hall, who worked as an associate lawyer in Hannes Snellman’s Competition Team between 2012 and 2014. In January 2015, Maija moved to London to work in the Antitrust, Competition and Trade (ACT) team at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. In addition to Freshfields, Maija has also worked at other City law firms and as a barista and document reviewer in Berlin, Germany, during a sabbatical year. She is now back at Freshfields and lives in East London with a cat, Eno, and a man, Danny.
Hi Maija, how has the year 2021 started for you?
Thanks very much for asking! It has been a bit brutal for everyone, hasn’t it. We’ve suffered loss in our family like so many have. London has been in lockdown for what seems like 800 years. But luckily spring is coming, the vaccines are being rolled out. We will soon be able to reconnect with family and friends. I’m really looking forward to that.
You work with antitrust and competition matters at Freshfields. Can you give some examples of the types of matters/issues you advise clients on?
All of us in our team advise on every type of competition issue. I’ve had the opportunity to work on quite a few larger so-called Phase 2 merger control investigations both before the EU Commission and the UK CMA, but also on a range of smaller matters. In terms of industries, we also advise across the board. I’ve worked with many tech, telecoms and financial services clients so that’s where a lot of my experience sits. For example, last year I worked on a big case for our team, the acquisition of financial market data provider Refinitiv by the London Stock Exchange. It was a merger control matter that was filed in multiple jurisdictions, including the EU – a very exciting case to be involved in.
You have been working abroad for many years. Are there any differences in the work of a competition lawyer in the UK and Finland?
I would say the differences are those of scale and pace. The big transition for me personally was that I had worked predominantly with competition litigation in Finland. In litigation, although there is a ton of work, the deadlines are set quite far in advance. In merger control and behavioural antitrust, which is the space I moved into when joining Freshfields, the pace is driven by the demands of the transaction or a live investigation.
Then a practice like ACT tends to get very big cases which again means higher pace and volume. You need to take in large swaths of information quickly and be very decisive and solution-oriented, which is thrilling when you get the hang of it – but it definitely took me awhile to get the hang of it.
London is known as a hectic business city. How would you describe law firm working culture in London, and do you manage to combine work and leisure well?
There’s a lot of choice between different types of firms in London as there is in Helsinki. At Freshfields, maybe because we often work in larger teams, we have a very strong team culture, which I really love. People are very supportive of one another, and you can be yourself at work. This is really important to me as I’ve in the past been uneasy about how to combine my career ambitions with my other passions and who I am otherwise.
I think even London is seeing the world with new eyes, especially after the pandemic. Being busy is not admired anymore, people want to have time with their families and friends. Of course, there are times in this job where it is very crunchy, it is part of the privilege of working on the types of matters we do. I know that sounds a bit wanky but my point is that it is a choice. When things calm down, I try to be quite strict about blocking off time for family and leisure. It is easy to be glued to your phone 24/7 whether you are in London or in Helsinki — it is about making smart, efficient decisions about your own use of time every day and working as a team.
Lastly, could you share with us some memories of your time at Hannes?
Delivering our appeals in the so-called asphalt cartel case to the Court of Appeals comes to mind. We had to have a man with a van because we had so many boxes of files. The court clerk was not best pleased.
In general, I remember Hannes Snellman always did a great job at cheering everyone up in the day-to-day slog with surprise treats – there was always Friday candy or mid-week cake or game night drinks or some nice event planned for the team.
In our Greetings from Alumni series, you will meet interesting people and get to hear about their different career stories. If you want to know more about working at Hannes Snellman, please pay a visit to our Careers section.