A foursome with diverse experience leading the Faculty of Law

At the turn of the year, the new dean and vice-deans of the Faculty of Law began their work under the direction of Johanna Niemi.

Dean, Professor Johanna Niemi

As the new dean, Johanna Niemi bears overall responsibility for Faculty operations. In addition, she is in charge of Faculty finances, matters relating to equality, international affairs and bilingual affairs.

Niemi specialises in procedural law. In addition to criminal procedure, she has investigated human rights and women’s rights, which were her particular focus during a five-year term in a Minna Canth Academy of Finland professorship.

Niemi has completed all of her academic degrees and worked on all levels of the career path hierarchy at the University of Helsinki. Outside her alma mater, she has broadened her views by working at Umeå University and Lund University, the National Research Institute of Legal Policy (currently the Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy) and, most recently, the University of Turku. A long and diverse career provides a solid backbone for the deanship.

“I’m inspired by having the opportunity as the dean to draw from my diverse experience in academia. I think it’s my duty to support staff in teaching and research. I am also a solution-oriented person, and I wish to help my colleagues to find solutions to a range of development needs.”

Niemi believes that things are good at the Faculty: there have been an abundance of significant publications and research findings as well as success in the acquisition of funding, while the Faculty's administration and management system have been developed. Things are looking good also in terms of teaching, the development of which is still exciting for Niemi.

“In the assessment of legal education conducted last year, it was found that maintaining a general degree in law is important, and we have succeeded in doing just that. At the same time, collaboration, groupwork and leadership skills relevant to professional life could be strengthened. I don’t consider them as opposites. Rather, high-quality teaching boosts both subject-specific expertise and career skills.”

Vice-Dean, Professor Jaakko Husa

Professor of Law and Globalisation Jaakko Husa is the vice-dean in charge of doctoral education and research.

As a researcher, Husa is particularly interested in legal cultures, legal language, legal history and the thematics associated with the rule of law. Husa comes from a very diverse background, and he has held professorships in various fields of law at the Universities of Vaasa, Eastern Finland and Lapland. The latest appointment will provide him with an even broader view of academia.

“I wanted to get a better overview on what is being investigated at the University of Helsinki, and the position of vice-dean for research provides an excellent vantage point. I also thought my experience could benefit the Faculty. I hope to learn something new, even though I’m not particularly enthusiastic about meetings.”

In his position, Husa wishes to serve as a bridge-builder between various legal trends.

“In law, there is perhaps an overly clear division between traditional legal research and the more recent internationally oriented methodology. I would like to narrow that division so that, instead of confrontation, newer trends and established tradition would support one another.”

Vice-Dean, Professor Juha Raitio

Professor of European Law Juha Raitio is the vice-dean in charge of public engagement and communications. Raitio broadly investigates European Union law and is currently leading a research project focused on the development of the rule of law in Finland and the EU.

Raitio has previous experience relevant to communications and public engagement, and he has contributed, also in the role of the chair of FIDE Finland, to arranging funding for the congress of the International Federation of European Law, the umbrella organisation of associations in the field, to be held at the University of Helsinki in 2027.

“Alumni activities and assisting the dean in fundraising are central to my duties. The former encompasses, among other things, the organisation of various alumni events. Together with the dean, I’m also responsible for Faculty communications.”

Raitio has also previously been a member of the Faculty's public engagement committee, which made him consider it natural to apply for the position. He has a couple of clear ideas on how to further develop the Faculty’s public engagement.

“In alumni activities, I want to promote the Faculty's relations with large law firms. I will look into what kind of shared practical courses and other cooperation we could develop. In addition, I wish to develop our budding collaboration with general upper secondary schools. In terms of communications, I intend to continue our effective communication on social media.”

Vice-Dean, Senior university lecturer Jaana Norio

Senior University Lecturer in Commercial Law Jaana Norio is the vice-dean in charge of academic affairs. Norio teaches consumer law, while in research she focuses on insurance law. Norio headed the Bachelor’s Programme in Law from 1 March 2020 to 31 December 2021, making the position of vice-dean a natural continuation.

“As degree programme director, I had the chance to diversely familiarise myself with the everyday aspects of teaching and related challenges from the perspective of both teachers and students. I also learned about the structures associated with the planning and organisation of education, as well as its practical implementation".

According to Norio, there is no need for major redesigns after the Big Wheel reform. What is needed right now instead is fine-tuning and continual quality assurance. In terms of teaching, the digitalisation of education emerges perhaps as the key question.

“The coronavirus period has brought digital solutions emphatically to the fore in teaching. Once we are able to return to Porthania, we have to consider how to combine contact instruction and digital teaching opportunities into a high-quality and pedagogically meaningful whole.”

As a member of the steering group for the digitalisation of teaching, Norio is dealing with the same issues also at the University level.

The development of continuous learning and the integration of the sustainability theme into all degrees will also be matters of particular importance among her duties.