News & Views

Greetings from Alumni: Maiju Kettunen

24 March 2020

We interviewed our alumna Maiju Kettunen, who worked as an associate lawyer in Hannes Snellman’s Capital Markets team from 2007 to 2009. In September 2009, Maiju moved to the United Kingdom to pursue a magister juris degree at the University of Oxford. After completing her graduate studies, Maiju worked as an associate at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in London for almost five years. Currently, Maiju works at the London office of JPMorgan Chase Bank.

Hi Maiju! How has the new decade started for you?

Similar to some of my former bosses at Hannes Snellman, I have a keen interest in rather exotic travel, well off the beaten track. Staying true to this passion, I started the new decade by taking a trip to Somaliland, a self-governed and rather peaceful part of Somalia, in the Horn of Africa. Safe to say that that was an adventure.

You did your Finnish law degree at the University of Helsinki and master studies in Oxford. To whom would you recommend doing an LL.M. abroad?

An LL.M. usually starts from the desire to travel abroad and get a new perspective, combined with the hopes for some real world-class teaching and peers, all of which will broaden your horizon and offer an opportunity for a career abroad. I would indeed recommend an LL.M. to anyone who wants to see the world, meet the tops of our legal field, learn to work under pressure, and think well outside the box. 

If you are interested in working abroad, an LL.M. is the first lottery ticket you must buy to win. On the flipside, the experience is guaranteed to make you a better lawyer on the Esplanade as well.

Talking to colleagues who have done an LL.M., you will probably get as many versions of stories as there are former students. It is important to note that your choice of university will make a massive difference to your experience, ranging from nerve-wrecking pressures of the elite universities (which the Finnish background does absolutely not prepare you for) to perhaps more relaxed time you can have if you go about your choice based on other criteria than academics.

You have now lived in the United Kingdom for over 10 years. How would you describe the differences in the Finnish and English working culture from a lawyer’s perspective?

Working in London is ruthless. It really is. You might hear stories of long hours, constant pressure, “interesting” characters amongst your colleagues, and the city boys roaming the work-hard-play-hard life of the metropole. It is all true, at least in my experience.

Compared to Finland, where I still remember partners offering to pick up a cup of coffee for a junior associate, the London law firm atmosphere is tough. And it has to be because the clients from all over the world are demanding beyond belief and the competition between firms is just as heavy. You get to work with the greatest legal minds on the most mind-blowing transactions, but do not expect anyone to tell you to go home if you are sick, leave the office before midnight on the day you turn 30, or ask how your weekend was. 

Against this background, I still fondly remember my time at Hannes Snellman after so many years, topping easily as the friendliest work place of my career.

Having said that, working in London is not all that bad. Especially if you carry out the strategic manoeuvre of moving into an in-house role. My current work at JPMorgan is demanding as well but being the client allows you to have more life outside work and the hellos and thank yous are back in the vocabulary.

Do you remember how your very first day at Hannes Snellman was like in 2007? How about your thoughts during your last day at Hannes Snellman?

I will always remember my first day at Hannes Snellman. I was petrified, not having worked as a trainee before, not knowing everyone, and having a massive “fear of suits” or herrapelko as we say in Finnish. Coming from well outside Greater Helsinki and having only lived in Helsinki for a few years, I was painfully aware of not fitting in.

But then, later in the day, the few of us new-joiners were introduced around the corridors and we stopped in a corner office of one of the Cap Market partners. I did not quite know who he was, but this guy came and greeted me and said “well, we have already been waiting for you”. It was immediately clear that I was at home and part of the team.

Funnily enough, I do not remember my last day as, leaving “only for the LL.M.”, it was never supposed to be my last day. And even though I have gone through a few jobs now after Hannes Snellman, I still think I have not quite left yet, especially as you can spot me in the conference rooms at least once a year when we run the Helsinki University Cap Markets Law course with my old colleagues and friends.  

What kinds of tips would you give to lawyers who would like to work abroad?

Go for it. Absolutely. But be very humble and work hard. You never know where you can end up at.


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