29/01/2021

Young Attorney Recommends Going on Secondment: ‘A Great Learning Experience’

Anu Sillanmäki is a newly appointed member of the Finnish Bar Association and a senior associate at Castrén & Snellman. She encourages her colleagues to go on secondment.

In law firms, a secondment means temporarily working either in another team or in a client company. Anu has done both. Last spring, she was on secondment with Metsä Group for three months.

‘It was an all-around great experience. I learned a lot being able to see the work law firms do from the perspective of the client. It’s worth a try if the opportunity arises.’

Over the spring, Anu worked with many different business units and a wide variety of fields of law. Some of her assignments were very similar to her work at C&S, such as commenting on agreements, but many of them were entirely new to her. Thanks to her secondment, Anu learned what it’s like to work as an in-house lawyer.

Anu works in Castrén & Snellman’s International Construction & Projects team. She advises the firm’s clients in international and domestic project and energy law assignments and in real estate transactions.  Typical tasks for her include drafting and commenting on agreements and, in particular, taking part in energy sector transactions.

A Lawyer by Chance

Anu became a lawyer by chance. As a child, Anu moved with her family to England, and Anu attended lower and upper secondary school in English.

‘I liked the English language and went to study English in the Faculty of Arts. During my studies, I realised that while I enjoyed both the language and my studies, I didn't necessarily want to make a career out of it.’

Anu found a new field thanks to her boyfriend. When her boyfriend, now her husband, decided to switch fields and applied to law school, Anu decided to follow the next year.

‘Being fluent in English has been very useful working at a law firm, as most of our documents are drafted in English.’

A Career U-Turn

Anu was smitten by competition law in her very first year of law school. She took every optional course available on competition law and wrote her seminar papers and master's thesis on it, as well. Before graduating and for a few months afterwards as well, she worked at the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority in competition enforcement.

‘Throughout my studies, I was certain I would become a civil servant and that law firms were not for me. As graduation grew closer, however, I thought I should at give working in a law firm a try.’

The direction of her career changed when she got a job in the competition law team at a large law firm.

‘First of all, I found that I actually enjoyed working in a law firm. Second, I was exposed to other fields of law through working with other teams at the firm and realised that competition law was not the only field that interested me. I realised that university courses provide a fairly narrow and theoretical picture of different fields of law.’

Experience in Many Fields of Law

Many young lawyers are eager to find ‘their thing’ as soon as possible. However, Anu would encourage them to try out many different fields of law.

‘Many law students think that it’s important to find their favourite field of law during their studies and that their first job after graduation will determine the rest of their career. I think it’s worth collecting a wide range of experience. The more you know about different fields of law, the better lawyer you will be, because most cases touch on multiple fields.’

One of the things that Anu particularly likes about Castrén & Snellman is that the firm has a wide service offering.

‘Many of the assignments we have involve different fields of law and require collaboration between different teams. We also have the opportunity to work in other teams according to our interests and workload. It adds a lot of variety to work and is one of the things I like most about C&S. Everyone at the firm has a secondary team, which lowers the threshold to try out other fields.’

A Once in a Lifetime Christmas Gift

Anu got a unique gift last Christmas, as she was accepted into the Finnish Bar Association on 24 December 2020.

‘It was a very nice Christmas gift’, she laughs.

Anu will continue learning and getting to know new fields of law, as she is starting court training in May. Her court training will be half with the Eastern Uusimaa District Court and half with the Helsinki Administrative Court.

Anu is looking forward to challenging herself, deepening her general knowledge of the law and maybe kindling a spark for dispute resolution.

‘I've heard that court training can give you a lot of confidence. I’m sure that jumping into a new challenge and having to solve entirely different kinds of legal problems than the ones I’m used to will do just that for me, as well.’