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Alumni profile - Christine Nikander

Fri 1 June 2018

Christine Nikander

Christine Nikander, LLM Global Environment and Climate Change Law, 2017

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I completed the LL.M. in Global Environment and Climate Change Law in 2016-2017. Prior to that, I had studied public international law at Leiden University in the Netherlands and for the past two years I have been working at a large law firm in Amsterdam.

How did you come to study law?

My mother is German and my father is Finnish. I would say that my interest in law — particularly in comparative, EU/European and international law — stems from my intercultural family background and also from moving around. Prior to moving to Edinburgh, I lived in Germany, the USA, Finland and the Netherlands. I would say that growing up I was always really curious about the relationships between different states and their citizens, and also the way that different countries take different approaches to dealing with or regulating various issues. At some point in my teenage years, I then started to wonder what could be done to tackle cross-border or global issues, given that individual governments only really seemed to deal with issues inside their own borders. That is what brought me to study international law.

What made you choose to study law at Edinburgh?

I am from a family that is strongly oriented towards technology, environmental science, and economics. I came to want to study environmental law because I wanted to combine my studies in law with science and economics. I choose to study in Edinburgh because the Law School offers a really good course in environmental law. At the time, Professor Alan Boyle was still teaching at the Law School and I think I just knew that there was a lot to be learned from him, which also turned out to be true.

A lot of my coursemates had followed the traditional path of completing an LL.B. prior to starting the LL.M., but there were also quite a few people who had a BSc/MSc and even some who had a background more in politics and international relations. Environmental law is an interdisciplinary field and I think the diverse academic backgrounds of my coursemates contributed a lot to the in-class discussions and to what I learned during the course. Apart from the course itself, I also knew that the University of Edinburgh has quite an international student body and a very lively "student culture", and that was something I was looking for too.

What are your enduring memories of your time here?

It is a hard question to answer because I had a wonderful year in Edinburgh and at the Law School, and I have a lot of fond memories from that time. I think if I have to limit myself to three things, they would be the following:

  1. I find Scottish people really warm-hearted and kind, so I have a lot of good memories of just having wonderful conversations with people both in- and outside of the Law School.
  2. During my time in Edinburgh, I was a member of the University boat club. I was a complete novice to the sport at the start and first learned how to row in Edinburgh. I have a lot of fond memories related to rowing and spending time with people from the club. That love for the sport is something that I took with me from my time in Edinburgh and I still row regularly today.
  3. I feel like in Edinburgh on the campus, and especially in the library, there is a really strong “we are in this together” vibe during the weeks right before and during exams or when larger assignments are due. This can be with your coursemates or even with someone you have never spoken to (but that you have been sitting in the library with for the past few hours), and there is something really reassuring about that.

How did your time at the Edinburgh Law School prepare you for your career?

I think one of the things you learn at Edinburgh Law School, perhaps more so than at a lot of other law schools, is to write and bring legal arguments in a very concise manner. This is due to the quite short word counts that you are allocated for your essays, papers and dissertation, despite having to cover quite a lot of ground contentwise. Completing an LL.M. at Edinburgh Law School not only trains you in identifying the various legal arguments you could bring and how to formulate those exceptionally clearly, but it also really teaches you how to weigh the different (potential) arguments up against one another to then prioritize the arguments so you can make your case in a concise manner. You learn how to be very focused in your reasoning and in your use of language. I think learning to be this clear and concise in your argumentation is a good starting point for any legal career, and it is something I still get positive feedback on from my colleagues now.

It might not sound the most positive, but I honestly also think the quiet steep peaks in workload that you have at the Law School at the end of each semester also prepare you well for your legal career. I am sometimes asked by colleagues why relatively speaking I stay so calm during the busy/stressful periods close to larger filing/hearing dates, and I think it has to do with the having been exposed to and learning how to cope with quite heavy workloads during my time in Edinburgh.

What do you enjoy most about your career?

I work at a large law firm in Amsterdam and what I enjoy most is getting to work on quite complex and cross-boundary matters, with people who are really passionate about what they do. I also really enjoy getting to combine my knowledge of the law and of science on some of the intellectual property cases or larger arbitrations I have gotten to work on.

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