Wikborg Rein was founded in 1923 by 28-year-old Erling Wikborg. Wikborg started as a one-man operation and worked primarily with maritime law and marine insurance. This remained the firm's most important areas of work far into the 1960s and 1970s.
Towards the end of World War II, Erling Wikborg met resistance fighter Alex Rein on a trip to Stockholm. Rein was staying illegally in Sweden at this time. The two men agreed that Rein would join Wikborg at the firm after he had finished the war trials. Rein started at the firm in 1945, and Erling Wikborg and Alex Rein entered into a partnership in 1947.
International expansion - First We Take Manhattan
In 1956, Frode Ringdal travelled to New York with his family, and thus Wikborg Rein's first overseas office was established. Wikborg Rein was the first European law firm to set up operations in New York, and was therefore earlier on the scene than all the major British companies operating there today.
The purpose of this establishment was to provide assistance in local investigations and claims handlings for the marine insurance company Gard, as well as mutual insurance groups in primarily North and South America. The majority of the work was shipboard investigations of personal injury cases and cargo damage cases in the New York area, emanating from Norwegian liner traffic. The largest industrial client was Norcom, which operated a cement terminal in Brooklyn.
Until the late 1960s, the office was a pure maritime law practice. Through the 1970s, however, Norwegian liner departures to America decreased, hence ceasing much of the office’s bread and butter work. At the same time, international communication capabilities by way of telephone, fax machine and aircraft dramatically improved, meaning the distance between Norway and New York for all intents and purposes decreased. When this office closed in 1986 it was the oldest international law office in New York.
Following several major casualty events in the Far East, it was decided an office would be established in Japan. In 1965, Erling C. Hjort was handed $10,000 and instructions to set up an office with Aal & Co in the port city of Kobe. This office has always been oriented towards shipping, even if the work to an increasing extent also included construction contracts, purchase and sale of particularly second-hand cargo, as well as more general assistance to Norwegian and Japanese companies. The last Japanese representative was the fourteenth in the line and there has always been only one person at the office. The last one who headed the office was Torgeir Willumsen. The office closed on 31 December 2016.
As Rotterdam was considered an important port city, Wikborg Rein established an office there in 1971 in collaboration with Nordic colleagues under the name Scandinavian Law Office. The purpose of this operation was to assist the existing Norwegian clients in Rotterdam. After 16 years of business it was decided the Rotterdam operations would move to London, from then on as a pure Wikborg Rein office.
The office in Bergen opened in 1978. The office is the largest law firm in Bergen. It has a solid foothold in banking and finance, particularly within the maritime cluster on the West Coast. The office is headed by partner Jan Erik Clausen.
The London office was established in 1987. The London office focuses on shipping and offshore-related projects, including financing and transactions. The office, headed by Chris Grieveson, is responsible for the firm's commitment to English law and oversees our presence in Brazil.
Wikborg Rein’s roots in Singapore stem back to 1996, before a dedicated office was established there in 2000. Operations in Singapore were traditionally related to international shipping and offshore operations, but were eventually expanded to include general legal advice to Norwegian-related businesses in the area. The office is headed by partner Ina Lutchmiah.
Wikborg Rein is today well represented in Asia by offices in Singapore and as of 2002, also in Shanghai. In addition to having a Norwegian lawyer, the Shanghai office employs local Chinese lawyers with knowledge and experience in Chinese law. Yafeng Sun was Wikborg Rein's first foreign lawyer employed at one of our overseas offices. The office is led by partner Christian James-Olsen.
The largest law firm in Norway
From 1999 to 2002, Wikborg Rein expanded by 50 percent. Although our roots are in shipping, today the firm also has expertise in many other areas. This has led to a specialisation in five different industries: in addition to shipping, these are offshore, banking finance, energy and natural resources, trade industry and corporate. Our attorneys are each associated with their own practice, and maintain forefront positions in academic matters. The combination of expertise, industry experience and commercial awareness enables Wikborg Rein's attorneys to overcome challenges and develop new business opportunities for clients.
Wikborg Rein has about 200 lawyers, of which about 65 are partners. The first female partner was Susanne Munch Thore, whose appointment took place in 1993. As of 2011, Munch Thore was the first female managing partner in one of the large Norwegian law firms.
In 2002, Wikborg Rein was the first Norwegian law firm to have English legal expertise at the senior level. The focus on English law was strengthened in 2010 through the appointment of three British partners: two in London and one in Singapore.
Brazil has emerged as one of the most exciting growth areas in the world economy, focusing on oil and offshore activities. As of May 2011, Wikborg Rein was in the first Norwegian law firm with representation in Brazil through an agreement with Vieira Rezende.
Maritime Law Firm of the Year - in Asia
2011 was the year when Wikborg Rein’s investments in Asia started to really bear fruit. After considerable growth over many years both in Shanghai and Singapore, the company was first ranked as one of the fastest growing law firms in Asia it was then voted maritime law firm of the year by renowned journal Lloyd's List, competing with some of the world's leading law firms.