Located in Northern Europe where it is bordered by Norway, Sweden, Estonia and Russia, the Nordic country of Finland consistently ranks as one of the best places to live in reference to quality of life, economic opportunities and education. Finland boasted a per capita income of nearly $50,000, one of the highest in the world. Sparsely populated due to its cold climate and rugged terrain, Finland is the eighth largest European country in terms of land measurements, with most of its five million residents living in the southern part of the country, specifically Helsinki, Lahti and Tampere.
Fast Facts about Finland
- The average temperature during winter in south Finland stays below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 Celsius), with snow remaining on the ground from November to April. However, Finnish summers can get terribly hot. Temperatures of 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius) in mid July are not unusual.
- Farmers in northern Finland focus on animal husbandry, while southern farmers emphasize cereal farming
- In 2002, Finland's currency (the markka) was replaced with the Euro.
- Finland has two official languages: Swedish and Finnish. 90 percent of Finland's population speaks Finnish. English is spoken by 60 percent of Finns while 20 percent speak German.
Government and Legal System of Finland
A parliamentary democracy governed by a prime minister, head of state and a constitution implemented in 2000, Finland allows its citizens to vote in all country elections as well as European elections. Supreme legislative authority is exercised by Finland's unicameral Parliament comprised of 200 individuals who are given the power to change the constitution, override vetoes by the Prime Minsiter and dismiss the cabinet.
Finland's judicial system is based on civil law and divided between administrative courts and criminal/civil courts. Finnish law is based primarily on Swedish law but is also heavily influenced by Roman law. Appellate (regional) courts and local courts decide cases brought to judges in various jurisdictions throughout Finland. A High Court of Impeachment also exists that deals solely with crimes committed by high-ranking holders of government offices.
Punishment for breaking laws in Finland involves probation, fines and community service. Manslaughter, drug trafficking and other serious crimes generally warrant nine years in prison. Finland does give life sentences for premeditated murder but generally awards the prisoner probation after 10 to 15 years. Finland abolished the death penalty in 1971.
Study in Finland
Earning a Law Degree in Finland
Finland allows anyone to practice law but only individuals obtaining licensing by the Finnish Bar Association can legally use the title of "asianajaja" (literally meaning "lawyer", "advocate" or "attorney"). Lawyers who are considered "asianajaja" have completed a three-year Bachelor of Laws program ("oikeusnotaari") and a two-year Master of Laws ("oikeustieteen maisteri"). In addition, lawyers must also experience a four year apprenticeship with a law firm or private lawyer and pass the bar exam.
The highest law degree students can obtain in Finland is the "Oikeustieteen tohtori", or Doctor of Laws. Students need to earn 60 credits and complete a doctoral dissertation called a "monograph" that is typically around 250 pages. This monograph must also be verbally defended in front of a panel of designated law professors. Law degrees can only be obtained from one of three universities: the University of Lapland, the University of Turku and the University of Helsinki.
Finnish lawyers are allowed to practice independently, in limited companies or in partnerships. In addition, practicing lawyers must spend 18 hours or more in a continuing education course each year to maintain their licensing.
Tuition and Living Expenses
Students wishing to study in a Finnish law program will be happy to know that education is free and financing of living expenses is largely provided by government-based student benefits offered through the Ministry of Education. The World Economic Forum recently ranked Finland's higher education system as the best in the world due to its emphasis on research, science and practical course degrees.
Monthly living expenses in Finland (this includes food, accommodation and travel) is approximately 750 Euros ($1000 USD). Students needing medical insurance are advised to join a student union and obtain a student card from the union which often provides discounts for school-related expenditures.