Swedish lawyers have long been prominent in international arbitration, in part thanks to an uncommon ability with languages and also its unusual mix of civil and common law. “We are a civil law code,” says practice leader Kaj Hobér, “but the procedure has always included, for example, oral testimony and cross-examination”. He notes that French-Canadians have the same advantage “and they’re also quite prominent”. Another springboard is the lack of commercial litigation. In Sweden, disputes between local companies have been arbitrated more than decided in court.
- No. of pending cases:
- Value of all claims:
- US$12.9 billion
- No. of appearances in Who’s Who Legal:
- No. of treaty cases:
- No. of arbitrator appointments (no. as chair or sole):
Mannheimer Swartling, the biggest firm in the Nordic region, arose through a merger in 1990 of two Swedish firms. One side, Mannheimer, had a charmingly-named founder - Mr Love Mannheimer - while the other’s premises translated literally as “The Matchstick Palace” - Tändstickspalatset. The firm they formed today employs more than 420 lawyers. In past GAR 30 rankings, Mannheimer Swartling has several times been the only representative of the civil law world in the top 10. The firm allows senior figures to combine advocacy and arbitrator work and, in the mould of several of the top arbitration firms, the team is led by a practitioner-academic (Kaj Hobér). The arbitration group is now the firm’s second biggest component. In a good year, it can produce €15 million in fees. The firm likes to emphasise the international aspect of the arbitration work. Hobér told a GAR reporter last year that until recently he hadn’t had a single Swedish client for 10 years.
As well as offices around Sweden, the firm has opened in Germany, Russia, China and the US (New York).
Who uses it?
A current client is the Swedish energy firm Vattenfall. Vattenfall is using it on a delicate matter - it is bringing one of the first claims within the EU under the Energy Charter Treaty. The respondent is Germany. Claims under the Energy Charter Treaty, over the years, have proved something of a Mannheimer Swartling niche. Another niche is East-West disputes - encompassing business issues in the Baltic Region, Russia, and China. In addition, businesses with an especially urgent need to obtain annulment of an arbitral award from the Swedish courts - a tricky task at the best of times - tend to seek it out preferentially, to judge from some of the most significant recent matters. The Czech Republic asked Mannheimer Swartling lawyers for help after sustaining an award equivalent to its annual healthcare budget. More recently, Globe Nuclear Services, a firm facing not only the stoppage of its uranium supply but also hard labour for two executives, if an award remained unreversed, retained it.
A lot of the firm’s bigger wins are, regrettably, not a matter of public record. A few years ago, it’s understood, Mannheimer Swartling in effect preserved E.ON’s main Swedish nuclear operation in a row with the government. More recently, it helped a major insurance firm avoid closure by proving the value of its reinsurance cover. For now, though, anyone seeking public proof of the firm’s effectiveness will have to rely on reading between the lines.
All the major ranking services put Mannheimer Swartling as a class apart for disputes in Sweden. One ranking on Russia also includes a Mannheimer lawyer. It’s picked in the mid-to-upper part of a Europe-wide arbitration list - on the same level as Lalive, Homburger and Herbert Smith - but is not included by another book as a global player.
The firm’s absence from the global ranking is, arguably, a surprise. Mannheimer outperformed various firms included in that list in past GAR 30s. On that basis, Mannheimer Swartling should be on the same list, at a position commensurate with its volume of work.
In partner terms, the practice remained constant in size in 2009, after a promotion was offset by a departure. Associate Mattias Göransson gained a partnership on 1 January. Over the autumn, Tore Wiwen-Nilsson disclosed that he would soon be leaving the firm, to concentrate entirely on arbitrator work. In the lower tiers of the practice, the firm added 12 associates, it said. It also moved a senior associate - Nils Eliasson - from Stockholm to Hong Kong.
On the work front, the practice secured a fresh retention in an Energy Charter Treaty case from Hungary. It also secured a satisfying win, it said in a description of the year’s high points, for a stock-exchange operator over a technology matter. It said it had obtained damages worth several millions and defeated a counterclaim worth much more. Meanwhile for two members of the practice, the year brought new roles.
The University of Dundee appointed Kaj Hobér as Professor of International Law at its Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy. Hobér fills the chair occupied by the late Thomas Wälde. He will combine teaching with his practice.
Annette Magnusson will be secretary general for arbitration at the SCC shortly. The professional development lawyer emerged as the chosen candidate to lead the institution following an executive search.
The lawyers to know:
- Frankfurt: Alexander Foerster and Johann von Pachelbel;
- Gothenburg: Fredrik Andersson (also Moscow) and Robin Oldenstam;
- Helsinborg: Pär Andersson;
- Hong Kong: Nils Eliasson (senior associate);
- Moscow: Richard Chlup (senior associate); and
- Stockholm: Kaj Hobér (also Hong Kong/Moscow), Olle Flygt, Mattias Göransson, Hans Hammarbäck, Christian Pfeiff and Jakob Ragnwaldh (also Moscow).