Michael Ristaniemi is very involved in competition law, both in his legal counsel role within Finland’s Metsä Group and as a visiting researcher at the school of Law at the University of California. He gives us some insight into his missions and knowledge of business law and competition law.
Leaders League. How you would describe your role as in-house counsel within Metsä Group?
Michael Ristaniemi. I have two main roles. First, I am the head lawyer for Metsä Wood - one of Metsä Group’s five business areas - which entails having overall responsibility for its legal affairs. The role lets me advise on a broad range of topics, as well as improve preventive risk management. I’m also the group-wide competition counsel. Splitting time between being a generalist and a competition specialist works perfectly for me.
In addition to providing day-to-day legal support, I enjoy contributing to development projects. One recent example where I was involved concerns developing our supply chain sustainability processes, alongside our group purchasing team. I believe that better supply chain visibility and working together with suppliers on sustainability issues can have a real impact and that in-house counsel can bring significant added value to such endeavors.
What are the major legal changes you have seen since the beginning of your career?
The level of hype around technology in every shape and form. The examples are numerous and include the usual suspects big data AI, VR, augmented technology, algorithms, and blockchain. From a policy perspective, legislators and enforcers appear to be struggling to decide whether we need better regulation, better application of current regulation, or merely better enforcement of current regulation (as it is today applied). From an in-house counsel perspective, many of these novel technologies present potential, but we have not yet seen specific legal tech which would actually deliver on these promises.
How are you developing your current talent to meet both existing challenges and those to come?
This is a good and topical question. Nordic states and the companies based in them generally are very supportive of personal development and training. After all, the number of qualified personnel is quite finite up here in the Scandinavia. I’ve been keeping busy preparing my PhD in competition law, which I am hoping to complete in the coming months. As a part of it, I took time off work last year for graduate studies at UC Berkeley, in California. More generally, proactively engaging with the business side of the company and being curious always provide great learning experiences, which in turn lead to better legal support.
In what ways do organizations benefit from consulting in-house counsel on commercial strategy?
Commercial strategy should be both far-reaching and predictable. In-house counsel can help with both of said elements, but particularly the latter – helping ensure that those rough patches that can be avoided are avoided. One key part of an in-house counsel’s job is to identify possible risk areas and to suggest alternatives that make sense from both a business and legal perspective. Participating in the design phase is crucial. This requires being proactive, but I consider it a major benefit of an in-house role.
This interview is part of our "Litigation & Competition" publication to be released very soon!