FALA hosts Finnish Membership Committee Chairman in NYC

On Thursday evening, November 18, 2010, The Finnish American Lawyers Association (FALA) met for cocktails and dinner at O’Neill’s Irish Pub and Restaurant between 45th and 46th Streets on Third Avenue in NYC. The “official” business on hand was to meet and greet Matias Palve, our newest member and Finnish representative from Turku. Matias has finished his study of law at the University of Turku and will complete his legal requirements to practice law in Finland upon completing his thesis. At present he intends to commence employment in the legal department of a very well-established company in the medical field in Finland, at which time he hopes to choose a theme for his thesis which he could relate to what he is working on in his employment. Matias has been in the US now since August 2010 for a four month internship, at the bequest of Judge Pessala, FALA executive director, who arranged Matias’ semester abroad in the USA.

Matias has been “interning” with FALA President and co-founder Robert Alan Saasto, Esq. He has had a unique opportunity to actually go into the New York State Courts and observe and partake in jury selections and trials. Robert Alan Saasto handles mostly civil trials, with a primary emphasis on personal injury and medical malpractice trials for plaintiffs injured due to negligence of the defendant(s). Unlike the US where it is the jury that renders the decision or verdict, medical malpractice claims in Finland are determined by professionals. Awards, if any, for pain and suffering are difficult to secure and not well compensated for. Personal in injury claims are essentially non-existent under the theory that “accidents happen”. However, in Finland “victims” have full medical coverage and the concept of financial compensation for pain and suffering is not commonly accepted. Essentially there are no juries in Finland and the few that do exist in the rural countryside act more in an advisory capacity with the decisions left to the “tuomari” or judge. In the US it is the jury that renders the decision or verdict.

Matias has commented as follows: “The whole legal system differs quite remarkably from ours, and working with a trial lawyer has given me a front row seat to experience these differences. At the same time I’ve learned a lot of the American legal culture and have had a great opportunity to improve my English as well. Helping promising students to learn legal English while working in the US is a great example of connections that FALA can provide.”

While in the USA, Matias has become involved in the FALA membership. He organized on the internet the membership list. The use of the internet will permit Matias to continue to up-date and expand the membership list. The next “project” is to collect and make accessible to all on the internet the areas of law each member concentrates in. Matias will be coordinating his efforts with Pasi Mäntylä, who has been responsible for the up-keep of the website. Ideally we would have links for all of our members so that more information of FALA members would be available. If you have any proposed new members, contact Matias at matias.palveutu.fi.

No FALA event can conclude without a group picture. The ten FALA members present were overwhelmed on the top floor at O’Neills by celebrating alumni and fans watching the Notre Dame football game on the TV(s) surrounding the bar. The Irish prevailed, left, and the FALA dinner followed.

Seated at the table in the picture to the left is Robert Alan Saasto, the President of FALA, spoke about future plans to contact and secure autobiographical information about the members to publish on the web site, and introduced Matias to the members present.

Robert Saasto is the first diner on the left at the table. To his left is Thomas Hakala, FALA Treasurer. Tom continues to be the Managing Director of Wilmington Trust, located in New York City. Tom works in financial and estate planning; private banking; LIBOR lending, equity, fixed income and alternatives asset management.

Seated next to Tom Hakala is Jarno Vanto. Jarno obtained his law degree and masters from Turku University, and the obtained his LL.M. from NYU. Jarno is an expert on data protection law and international commercial agreements. He is a professor and lectures on these topics, and he practices law in NYC. His wife is a practicing attorney for a large NYC law firm.

Seated next to Jarno is Matias Palve and seated next to Matias is Ernest Owen Saasto, who just recently returned from his wedding in Finland to Tarja Koskela, the ex-Finnish pastor for the northeast coast USA. Seated across from Ernest is Pasi Mantyla.

Pasi Mäntylä is an American attorney with total fluency in both Finnish and English. Currently he is in charge of the collateral of WestLB AG New York Branch, a Düsseldorf based investment bank, and has his own practice open for Finnish and American clients. He has an MBA from University of Vaasa, Finland, and a JD from Rutgers School of Law, New Jersey. He is admitted to practice law in the State of New York.

Seated next to Pasi is Ceridwen Koski. Ceri is admitted to the state bars of Arizona and New York. She has experience working with clients that range from Fortune 500 companies, individual investors, start-up companies, US branches of global corporations, and entertainers.With Laura Devine Attorneys LLC, Ceri specializes in both permanent and temporary immigration solutions including for multinational managers, investors, individuals of extraordinary ability, bachelor’s degree professionals and advanced degree professionals. She also works on compliance issues including Department of Labor related obligations, record keeping, and audit/investigation.

Seated next to Ceri is Elizabeth (Beth) Pessala, who has worked for many years in the Nassau County court system. She commenced her career in the Nassau County Law Department doing legal research and opinions/decisions for judges. She just recently retired from her position as the legal assistant for Judge Parga in Nassau County Supreme Court. She continues to act as the Westbury Village Court Judge in Nassau County Long Island New York. Beth intends to increase her volunteer work at the Cold Spring Harbor Lab Library, which is a world renown medical research center.

Seated next to Beth is Petri Luukkanen. Petri is originally from Imatra, Finland. He came to New York after several stays in Montana. He lives in Huntington, Long Island, NY with his family, but will shortly be moving to London where he will be the regional head of Bank of America Merrill Lynch's bank services management. His last position was at Citigroup leading a global Client Advocate team.

Petri is a Finnish lawyer. He is a Wharton alumni who became a banker in Finland after being bench trained in Vaasa Court of Appeals. He received the Finnish distinction of "varatuomari". Early in his career he shifted from purely legal work to corporate finance managing business teams for Danish and German banks in New York and London targeting the largest global financial institutions as clients.

Seated next to Petri and the first diner on the right at the head of the table is Michael Student. Michael Student is an attorney with Sullivan & Worcester in New York. Michael does corporate and commercial work with a focus on representing Finnish clients. He has more than 25 years' experience working with Finnish companies in buying and selling businesses, establishing U.S. operations, technology development agreements and commercial contracting and general business. Michael is on the Board of Directors and is Vice President of the Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce in New York.

After the dinner the FALA members met with the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce (FACC) young associate members. The picture shows FALA members Matias Palve and Ceri Koski with FACC members Tuula Vartiainen, who is the Operations Manager for Voss Water in New York, Katja Toivonen, who works at Estee Lauder in New York, and Tiia Helenius, who has studied law and is originally from Helsinki, moving to Connecticut in 2009.

Robert Alan Saasto, Esq.
President, FALA

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