New professorships established at the Faculty of Law

The fields of the professorships are cooperative law, financial law, labour and social law, and sports law.

Legal research and education concerning cooperation are multidisciplinary and pioneering in nature

According to Jukka Mähönen, who is assuming the position of professor of cooperative law on 1 January 2019, key questions in the field include the ever-present duty of cooperatives to promote the monetary interests and intellectual development of those with limited resources, today manifested as a tool of cooperation for freelancers and those in false self-employment, in danger of marginalisation or working in difficult competitive conditions.

“Then again, the challenge of cooperation is sustainability, as it represents a business model that both takes into account the limitations of our planet and recognises the right of related individuals to a decent life,” Mähönen adds.

He characterises the nature of cooperation as boundary-stretching and anarchic. For this reason, legal studies and education in the field should be, on one hand, multidisciplinary and pioneering, and on the other, profoundly familiar with the nature of cooperation and its regulation.

“The cooperative model is a central organisational model for business in Finland and the Nordic countries, as well as across Europe and the world. That’s why investment in the field by the University of Helsinki is an excellent idea. My central interests, namely digital affairs, sustainable SME business models and sustainable business overall, hopefully belong to research thematics that serve modern research and education in the field of cooperation.”

The professorship has been established with donated funds (article in Finnish only). The OP Financial Group donated €1 million to the University of Helsinki for developing the educational field of law. The University decided to use the returns from the donated funds to establish a professorship in cooperative law.

Maintaining financial stability is the principal duty of financial regulation

According to Heikki Marjosola, who began serving as assistant professor of financial law on 1 November 2018, decelerating economic growth, pressures to raise interest rates and a high gearing ratio guarantee a sustained focus on risks and regulatory issues related to the stability of banks in Europe.

“The duty of financial law is to ensure that the financial system carries out its basic functions as well as possible at all times. In other words, that savings are channelled through banks, markets and, say, crowdfunding platforms to productive projects that promote employment,” Marjosola states.

The current financing system presents challenges of its own to the field, as the multitude of applications derived from novel technologies and cryptocurrencies operate almost exclusively outside the strictly regulated financing system.

“The keenest of minds believe financial law will become obsolete in a future where banks no longer exist and financial agreements are carried out on their own. And yet, despite new technologies it seems that at least for the time being the problems remain largely the same,” Marjosola assesses.

He thinks students of financial law must be provided with the intellectual tools necessary for better understanding the nature and functioning of the financial system.

“It is also important to emphasise that financial law doesn’t apply to the public regulation of financing only. The core of financial law is founded on civic law, an area still ripe for research by scholars of the field: general securities law, for example, dealing on questions concerning the property law-related nature of various financial instruments, is badly out of date.”

“Research and teaching in financial law have the ability to fill many gaps left open by the prevailing classification of the branches of law. At best, financial law has the potential to evolve into a dynamic discipline, further advancing itself in interaction with other branches according to the needs and problems of a changing financial system,” Marjosola sums up.

Norms of labour and social law reflected in research and teaching

Jari Murto, who began serving as assistant professor of labour and social law on 1 November 2018, notes that the key questions of the field are currently linked with social change both in working life and regulatory activities based on social legislation.

“Solutions employed in labour and social law are more or less targets of re-evaluation, with certain questions receiving heightened attention in the public debate. On the other hand, other changes are harder to perceive, and their significance will only be understood later.”

Murto believes that the field is in need of research that would help analyse the broad and complex norms of labour and social law with more precision. This would also make grasping new phenomena easier by utilising up-to-date concepts. Such basic research focused on general theories results in new information, while keeping the teachings in this branch of law current.

“Orientation on norms and emphasis on general theories also has an impact on teaching, which in labour and social law must provide students with the tools needed for perceiving various legal issues and questions of interpretation, as well as methods for solving and answering them. A broad-based understanding of general theories gives students a solid professional foundation by promoting the analysis and resolution of practical legal problems,” Murto outlines.

The assistant professorship has been established with donated funds (article in Finnish only). The Confederation of Finnish Industries EK, the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK, the Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff in Finland Akava and the Finnish Confederation of Salaried Employees STTK, as well as the Finnish Pension Alliance TELA donated €450,000 to the University of Helsinki for developing the educational field of law. The University decided to use the returns from the funds for the establishment of an assistant professorship in labour and social law.

Legal problems in sports require a comprehensive approach

According to Antti Aine, who is assuming the position of professor of sports law on 1 January 2019, central themes in the field are currently linked with the financial questions of sports, as well as the status of fundamental and human rights in sports. As regards the latter, attention is focused particularly on the application of anti-doping and disciplinary rules in relation to the legal provisions of the designated consequences.

“In terms of financial aspects, questions may revolve around legal issues concerning player or media contracts, affected by the centralised structure of the sports market,” Aine states.

“The need for research knowledge in the sports market is highlighted by the impact of the rules and decision-making systems of sports organisations on financial relationships,” he adds.

Aine finds it important to realise that sports-related legal problems cannot always be parsed solely on the basis of law. What is needed is the incorporation of various fields of science.

“Issues of sports law arise with regularity, for example, from the operations of sport clubs and organisations. That’s why teaching and education in sports law also has a place outside faculties of law, making popular sports movements, among others, natural partners.”

The professorship is partly based on separate funding granted by the Ministry of Culture and Education. The position is shared with the University of Turku.