Hanna Laurila, Senior Attorney and Head of Competition and Public Procurement, Dittmar & Indrenius
How long have you been working for your current company?
Briefly explain your career history and what led you to your current position.
While finishing law school, I received a two-year scholarship to continue my studies in Economics and Business Administration. A specific wish of the scholarship fund was that the subject of my licentiate thesis would be in the field of competition law and economics. Finland had just entered into the European Union (in 1995) and there was an increasing interest in competition law as a subject of academic research. Having finished my licentiate studies, I was hired by the Finnish Competition Authority in 1999 to join the new merger control unit. After gaining valuable experience in the development of Finnish merger control and watching the world through the eyes of an independent authority, I joined Dittmar & Indrenius where I have worked ever since. I have headed the firm's competition practice since 2008.
What is your proudest professional achievement and why?
I have been involved in many interesting projects and cases both while with the Finnish Competition Authority and in private practice. Above any single case which I have steered into completion, I feel proud of the continuous professional trust of long-standing clients and colleagues.
What are the greatest challenges that you face in your current role and what do you do to overcome them?
In tough economic times when clients have limited legal budgets, continuous competition compliance work needs to be encouraged. Competition in my field of specialty is intense and sometimes clients prefer to work with the largest firms' international presence. Fortunately there are clients who understand that in an established mid-size law firm their legal affairs are likely to get more attention than in a larger firm. A limited number of lawyers involved in one case often leads to lower costs for the client. Keeping professional expertise up to date is a constant challenge that requires conscious attention.
How difficult is it for you personally to attain work-life balance and how do you endeavour to do this?
As I do not have children, juggling my work and personal life has been somewhat easier than for most women. I may have other types of challenges in ensuring that I have enough interests outside the office to get my thoughts off work.
Did you have a mentor or role model in your career or while you were studying law? Who were they and how did they help you?
I have not really had specific role models or mentors but I do value open discussions with many current and former colleagues from whom I have learned a great deal about being a lawyer and understanding clients needs.
How effective do you think corporate diversity initiatives are? What methods do you think are most effective and why?
I find that any diversity initiatives are important steps in the right direction. However, they are effective only if the top management is committed to making real life decisions that make changes possible.
Were there any points in your career when you felt you were at a disadvantage or at an advantage because you were female?
I do not think my competence as a legal professional has been questioned because I am female. Gender probably does have more indirect effect on women's careers - it may be more difficult for women to enter into male dominated social networks or to find a mentor that would actively support their career development. The fact that the proportion of female partners in law firms is still lower probably has an effect.
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
Today a larger part of lawyers graduating from law school in Finland are women. Although many women lawyers enter into public service, more and more women become partners in law firms or general counsels for large companies. Technology has made flex-time or part-time work a more realistic solution for law firms as well and has improved the capability for many women to combine a family and a career.