News & Views

What Keeps a Business Lawyer Going for Three Decades?

30 December 2019

Senior Partner Johan Aalto has been delivering first-class client experience to Hannes Snellman’s clients for more than three decades. Responding to the trust the clients have shown and making a broader impact in the society are making the profession meaningful for him even after 30 years in the legal business.

How did you become a lawyer at Hannes Snellman?

I started my career behind Hannes’s switchboard as a summer trainee in 1983. At the time, the firm had less than a dozen lawyers.

What is your work history like?

In 1987, the firm hired me as a lawyer upon my graduation. In 1994, I became a partner and have ever since been actively engaged in different leadership roles (such as a member and chair of the board, managing partner and senior partner).

Did you not want to try any other career?

I have not come across any other place where I could both develop as a legal professional and at the same time engage in important tasks outside my comfort zone. Over the years, the firm has grown immensely. Two days at the office have never been the same - and I am still thrilled about practicing law. I suppose that is the difference between a profession and an ordinary job.

What is the most meaningful part of your work?

Responding to the trust shown by the clients and making a broader impact are the core elements for me.

Ever since the establishment of firm in 1909, our core business has been to provide legal services to our clients. I believe that our way of providing these services, which is nowadays well summarised under one of our values, i.e. “Ownership”, has indeed made an impact on our clients’ businesses. However, we have also endeavoured to make a broader impact in relation to what we today refer to as “stakeholders” and “constituencies”.  

In my mind, the greatest long-term impact made by our firm relate to the activities where we have been able to share our know-how, experience, and set of resources, i.e. the core elements of our business, to the receiver’s benefit. These projects have also been the most rewarding ones for the firm and the people involved, including myself. Our clients today measure the “total societal impact” of their business activities, and so should we.

Does business law have a purpose?

Over time, I have realised that we business lawyers play an important role in building the society. We help companies to grow or focus – sometimes even to survive. We defend their rights and ensure that they comply with laws and regulations. Healthy companies form one of the prerequisites for the welfare state. However, no company can thrive without the rule of law. We often take qualitative legislation, impartial judiciary, and access to justice for granted. We should not! Lawyers, including business lawyers, are a part of the legal system and have both the right and the obligation to uphold the rule of law in their everyday work. This is the fundamental purpose of what we do.

What advice would you give to yourself on your first day at law school and on your first day working in a law firm?

First day in a law school: Realise that law is not an exact science – you need several other skills and virtues in order to become a good lawyer.

First day in a law firm: Trust is everything, from clients and colleagues, you need to earn it every single day.

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