Hannes Snellman’s Associate Pirjo is currently doing her training at the bench in the District Court of Helsinki. Last October, before starting her training at the bench, she answered questions regarding her feelings prior to the training. This time, Pirjo shares her experience from the training.
What types of matters have you worked with so far and what do you expect to work with in the coming months?
I spent the first few months mainly handling different petitionary matters concerning, for instance, guardianship and family and inheritance law. At the moment, my work is focused on bankruptcy matters, and in May I will begin to work with criminal cases. In addition to these, I have worked with various types of civil cases throughout the year.
What has been the most surprising part of the work?
I have been surprised to see what types of things people argue over in court. In the most extreme cases, the amounts subject to dispute may be as little as a few dozen euros. I have also been surprised by the fact that many cases, especially minor disputes, are often settled in the days leading up to the hearing.
What have you learned so far?
Working as a trainee district judge teaches you independent decision-making and process management skills above all else, and in the courtroom, you also learn to react quickly even to the most surprising situations. In addition, you gain more subject matter knowledge, also with regard to new areas of law, because you find yourself examining new provisions of law on a near-daily basis.
What is your favourite part about the work?
The best part, and also the most exciting part, has been to chair court hearings. Luckily, I will get to act as chairman on a weekly basis as of May when I begin to hear criminal cases.
How would you describe the working culture?
My work at the District Court is very independent, and I hear and decide all cases assigned to me on my own. I can of course always ask my senior colleagues for advice, but I am always responsible for the decisions I render. To balance out all the independent work, we have an outstanding group of almost 20 trainee district judges, and we spend a lot of time together both at work and in our free time.