The Barrister Fall 2017 - 20

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As Seen In Sweden
By Stephanie R. Hager, Esquire

"So, what do you know about Sweden?" It seemed like an odd
question for Lotta to ask. When this question was repeated
by others several times over the course of my nine-day trip, it
appeared as if these Swedes didn't expect Americans to know
much about the country in advance of a first-time visit. I had to
know plenty about Sweden. I'm a dedicated world traveler.1 I've
worked, lived and attended school among Scandinavian people.
I furnished my first office almost exclusively with IKEA. I liked
lingonberry jam and Swedish meatballs. Maybe I used to buy a lot
of food from IKEA, too. I knew enough ABBA tracks to pick my
top five.
However, truth be told, I wasn't sure how much more I actually
knew aside from the core reason for my visit: in the northernmost
reaches of the country, the sun would not sink below the horizon
between mid-May and mid-July. The lure of experiencing the
Midnight Sun combined with the opportunity to reconnect
with a few far-flung friends was enough push I needed to put in
for some time off and embark for Sweden at the end of June. I
explored Malmö , Gothenburg, Kiruna and Stockholm, and to the
benefit of my small talk repertoire, I learned a few things I didn't
know about Sweden. Some of those were things I wish I'd known
before making the trip. For those reasons, I've compiled a few
observations to inform your planning of any forthcoming Swedish
sojourns.
1. Can't make it a week without practicing law? Feel free to
represent someone in court.
After a brief stop in Dublin to attend a Radiohead concert, I
set off to visit Lotta, an old friend and Malmö native. Lotta and I
spent a summer working together as legal interns at a chamber of
barristers in Melbourne, Australia, and this was our first reunion
in the nine years since. She practices in commercial arbitration
now in Malmö, an industrial seaport town at the southwestern tip
of Sweden located across the Öresund Bridge from Copenhagen.
After briefly catching up on our significant milestones from the
last decade, we did what I expect any two attorneys worth their
salt would do: we talked shop. To the dismay of her non-attorney
husband, we talked so much shop that it's possible the majority of
our time together was spent comparing the rules of our respective
jurisdictions.
Notably, there are no legal requirements for education or
training in order to call one's self a "lawyer" (in Swedish, a "jurist")
1

and there are no restrictions
on any adult's ability to
represent clients in court.
There are no licensing
requirements or ethical rules for these "lawyers." If, for example,
a person wanted to contest a traffic ticket, she could bring a
neighbor to court to speak on her behalf even if that neighbor has
never before set foot inside a courtroom. Lotta is not a lawyer;
rather, her title is "advokat," which means she has completed a full
advanced level legal education, has taken a bar examination and
has been accepted as a member of the Swedish Bar Association.
She had initially considered becoming a judge, explaining that
instead of being elected or appointed by an executive, judges
obtain their positions by applying to enter training, clerking
for several years, and after passing an exam are simply assigned
to a district court. There are no term limits, and because it is
notoriously difficult to be dismissed from employment, some
judges are essentially holding down lifetime appointments. She
mentioned one instance in which a sitting judge was charged with
a crime involving underage persons. However, the only impact
on his professional life was that he's restricted from hearing
future cases involving children while he remains on the bench.
We uncovered a fair amount of differences between our systems,
including caps on legal fees, the fact that homeowner's insurance
typically covers an insured's legal fees in many types of civil and
criminal cases, and the standard rule that the loser in litigation by
law has to reimburse the winner for all costs and attorney's fees.
2. Avoid visiting during public holidays.
After Lotta graciously put me on the train to Gothenburg
(although most adults can speak some level of English, most of
the signage is strictly Swedish), the next leg of my journey was
impacted significantly by the Midsummer holiday. As I would
find out, there is a mass exodus from the cities and towns to the
countryside as people dress in garlands of flowers and participate
in a festival celebrating the longest days of the year. In something
akin to a nationwide love-in, they celebrate life, fertility and
nature while in most cases drinking heavily and dancing around
the maypole - a less-than-subtle symbol of fertility - and virtually
every public establishment shuts down. When I arrived in
Gothenburg on Midsummer Eve, there wasn't much to do aside
from stroll past empty bars and restaurants and locked museums.

Admittedly not nearly half as dedicated as I am in my role as an associate attorney with Stevens & Lee, P.C. of Reading.

20 | Berks Barrister


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The Barrister Fall 2017

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