Senior Counsel Jouko Huhtala
An Unmatched Veteran
In 1974, 23-year-old Jouko Huhtala started his career at Castrén & Snellman as an associate. Back then, the firm consisted of Jouko himself, four partners and their personal secretaries. Despite the small headcount, C&S was already one of Finland's biggest law firms.
Over 40 years have passed, and Jouko is still with C&S. The explanation is simple.
'Why go elsewhere? Castrén & Snellman has always offered highly interesting work for attorneys,' Jouko says.
Over the years, Jouko has seen significant developments not only in legislation but also in the way attorneys work.
'Back in the 1970s and the 1980s, every lawyer got involved in all different kinds of cases. There were no specific expertise groups. Client loyalty was close to 100% and the assignments were much less complex. We also used much less paper, for the simple reason that it was very hard to make corrections on the tracing paper that was used for copying before copying machines came along.'
Lawyers worked very independently. Rather than members of a business organisation, they were individual practitioners.
'You sent the invoice to your client when the till was empty. Working hours were short. Everyone left the office at four.'
But one thing has remained constant during the years: the keystone of an attorney's work is looking after the clients.
'At its core, our work is still exactly the same. This business runs on trust. An attorney must be able to get along with the client, the opposing party and the officials. Lawyers thought about ethical questions and good practices even back then.'
Jouko has acted as an arbitrator in about 150 arbitration proceedings, and he is one of Finland's foremost dispute resolution experts. His career has been marked by several large-scale trials, such as mediating various bankruptcy estates and litigating related disputes. In the 2000s, C&S's dispute resolution team was busy with a large tobacco trial. One of the most memorable cases in Jouko's career was the explosion of an ammunition factory in the town of Lapua in 1976. It became the most significant case in occupational safety at its time. The Lapua case profoundly changed the way penal code is applied to occupational safety issues in Finland. On a more personal level, it taught Jouko to work together with colleagues from different offices.
What Jouko finds exciting in trials is that they require that a strategy be built quickly and provide the attorney with a great deal of independence.
'The attorney must be able to connect all kinds of facts with legislation and must also have a thorough command of procedural provisions. In the court, the attorney has to convince the audience of his argument. At that moment, you really are on your own. The best part is when you are alone in the courtroom and cannot ask anyone for advice any more. You have about thirty seconds to decide what you will argue and on what grounds, plus to predict how the opposing party and the defendant will react.'
In February 2011, Jouko stepped down from our firm's partnership after 32 years. Now he concentrates on client assignments as a senior counsel. This veteran doesn't have any plans to retire yet.
'Once a lawyer, always a lawyer. I'll be eagerly making arguments up to the very end,' says Jouko with a smile.