An Environmental Lawyer Driven by a Genuine Passion

Three lawyers at Castrén & Snellman made the Rising Stars Awards Europe shortlist in their respective fields last year. The award went to Counsel Iikka Väänänen, who is an environmental and energy law specialist.

‘Iikka is the person to have on your side when a hardworking, proven and professional expert on environmental issues is needed’, according to the reasoning for the award.

Iikka believes that his being picked for the award was ultimately due to his genuine interest in environmental law and the energy sector, which he has had ever since his time as a law student.

‘I have always found these subjects fascinating, which has given me the drive to really focus on them and go the extra mile for clients’, he said.

This is also his number one tip for law students and young lawyers interested in a career at a law firm: pick a specialisation that genuinely interests you.

‘If you want to have the motivation to deal with these cases and be successful in this job, you absolutely need a genuine passion and desire to develop as an expert.’

A second tip is to make the most of your studies.

‘You learn a great deal though practical work of course, but university provides valuable substantive knowledge if you have the right attitude towards your studies. Make sure to get a good all-round legal education in addition to studying your own favourite field. This will enable you to provide better advice to clients.’


Iikka first became interested in environmental law and the energy sector towards the end of his studies, when he was a trainee at a law firm that handled assignments in these fields.

There was no environmental law thesis project at the University of Helsinki that year, but Iikka convinced his professor to let him write his thesis on environmental and energy law.

After graduation in 2012, Iikka joined Castrén & Snellman as an associate. He was promoted to senior associate in 2017 and to counsel in 2020.

In 2014–2015, Iikka completed a second master’s degree in England at Queen Mary University of London. Iikka’s return flight had barely touched down when he was pulled into the first meeting of the Nord Stream 2 project. The permitting process for this subsea gas pipeline remains the most memorable project of his career to date.

It was an interesting project in a number of ways: it was genuinely international, attracted a great deal of public interest and brought together a team of lawyers, engineers and scientists.

‘All this made it an intriguing and highly motivating project. All of my professional interests had an important role in the project.’


The EU’s goals relating to climate change and the protection of waters and biodiversity are among the main topics of conversation in environmental law at the moment.

‘The EU is constantly putting out new regulation, which will and already is having an effect on our clients permitting processes, for example. Keeping up with new regulation is vital.’