A look into Wikborg Rein's international competence
For nearly 100 years Wikborg Rein has been a law firm looking outwards, and the international aspect has always been a central part of our vision. As of today we are Norway's leading international law firm.
As the first European law firm we opened an office in the US already back in 1956, and in 1965 we were the first foreign lawyers to open an office in Japan. In 1971 we established an office in Europe's largest port city, Rotterdam. Today Wikborg Rein has offices in Shanghai, Singapore and London, in addition to Oslo and Bergen. The firm consists of approximately 23 different nationalities and our employees speak approximately 20 different languages. In this article, some of our employees will tell you about their everyday life of international law.
First stop: the Shanghai office in China
In 2017, Therese Trulsen discovered what she considered the world's most exciting job advertisement: A Norwegian lawyer at Wikborg Rein's Shanghai office. With her wanderlust and background as an Associate in Oslo, in addition to her education from both Oslo, Hong Kong, Peking and Southampton, she decided to apply – even though she did not meet all of the criteria. Therese felt confident that she had other suitable qualifications that made her eligible for the position.
From that moment on everything went by quickly until Therese became an Associate at Wikborg Rein and moved to Shanghai. The plan was to stay for three years, but this summer she was offered a position as the office's first female Chief Representative and Senior Lawyer. This led to her stay being extended out 2021.
This summer Therese Trulsen was appointed to be the first female Chief Representative at the Shanghai office.
– My stay in Shanghai has exceeded all expectations and then some. My daily work life is more varied than I imagined before I moved, and I feel lucky to be able to work in a team with such talented Chinese lawyers, Therese says. She encourages all law students who dream of working outside of Norway to think differently and acquire experience abroad during their studies.
Our Partner Gaute Gjelsten had a different travel route in Asia. He started as an Associate at Wikborg Rein's Oslo office, where he worked for two years before receiving a Norwegian practicing certificate. The same day as he got his certificate, he moved to Japan – a journey that began with a training period in London. Thereafter he managed Wikborg Rein's former Kobe office for three years and acted as a Norwegian Consul General for Kobe/Osaka. As of today 16 years has passed since he lived outside of Norway, but he still works internationally.
Gaute Gjelsten managed our former Kobe office in Japan for three years.
– I always knew that I wanted to work internationally, but not necessarily where I wanted be located, says Gaute. – The Japanese have a great culture with strong traditions. It was a fun place to be, he recalls.
28 year old Ingeborg Collett is looking forward to her future stay in Asia. Today she works as an Associate in Oslo, but at the beginning of next year she will relocate to Shanghai, where Therese also works. This was decided after Ingeborg saw an internal job advertisement and felt that she was ready to take on a new challenge.
– During my studies I lived in both Cape Town and the US for some time, so basically I thought that I was ready to be back home in Oslo for a while. However, it did not take long until I felt my wanderlust tingling again, Ingeborg says. She is excited to see the different issues she faces at work in the light of a different culture. – I believe that you learn a lot both academically and as a person, and that is something that drives me to move abroad, Ingeborg tells us.
From 2008 to 2013 the Shanghai office was led by Geir Sviggum, who is Wikborg Rein's Chairman and also Partner at the Oslo office today. Geir has spent many years abroad in the past, and this year he was named The International Lawyer of 2019 in the Norwegian Financial Daily's lawyers survey.
Chairman and Partner at Wikborg Rein, Geir Sviggum, thinks that his stay abroad made him a better lawyer.
– I had lived abroad earlier and was particularly intrigued by China. Therefore we settled on Shanghai, Geir says. – I was a Trainee at several of the largest law firms in Norway. They all seem quite similar from the outside, but I settled on Wikborg Rein due to the possibility of moving abroad.
His Shanghai stay was initially considered a temporary solution and he was only supposed to stay for two years. But two years in Shanghai quickly turned into five, and in 2010 he became Chairman of the Norwegian Chamber of Commerce. The Shanghai office experienced an enormous growth during the time Geir spent there. It was at this time that Wikborg Rein became well established in Shanghai. – In addition to this it was also a private journey, and I travelled a lot with my family, Geir tells us. During his last year in China he became the International Managing Partner.
Next stop: London
Birgitte Karlsen has experienced work life both in Asia and the UK. She worked at our Singapore office from 2005 to 2007, before she began working in-house at Aker Solutions in 2009. After a couple of years she returned to Wikborg Rein and started working at our London office. She stayed in London from 2011 to 2018. During the same year as Birgitte moved, she was accompanied by the firm's current Senior Lawyer Andreas Fjærvoll-Larsen. Andreas returned to Oslo in 2017, one year before Birgitte. As of today, Wikborg Rein has a total of 37 employees in London.
Ole Henrik Wille also has work experience from London. He worked at Wikborg Rein's London office from 2015 to 2018 and became Partner during his stay. – The experience was extremely exciting and educational. It gave me a great benefit to bring back to Norway, Ole Henrik says. He lists many advantages of gaining experience from another country, including experiencing different cultures, becoming more independent and improving your English skills.
Working internationally from the Oslo office
There are not only Norwegian lawyers who are sent abroad from Oslo. We have multiple employees here in Norway who either took their education abroad, or who comes from other countries. Norwegian Mari Berg Rindahl, Julia Skisaker and Mads Ødeskaug all took their education and worked in London. Today they are located on the same floor of the Oslo office.
Julia Skisaker, Mads Ødeskaug and Mari Berg Rindahl studied abroad in England. Today they work at our Oslo office.
When Mari began studying, her impression was that the opportunity to work abroad with a Norwegian education was limited. – I was always interested in working internationally and therefore I chose to get an English education to ensure this opportunity. When I returned to Oslo, I received my Norwegian practicing certificate after taking a conversion exam, she says. – I appreciate the flexibility of Wikborg Rein and the fact that they allow you to work at another office for a certain period of time if that is your wish.
British Stuart Stock also appreciates this sort of flexibility. He began working at Wikborg Rein in October 2016 and is a Senior Associate at our Oslo office. Previously he worked as a lawyer in London for approximately six years before moving to Oslo. – When I was looking at law firms in Norway, Wikborg Rein clearly stood out. The international nature of the firm, including an overseas office in my home country, means WR is the best fit for me, Stuart says.
American Charlie Pope also took the same route as Stuart. For the past two years he has been a Specialist Counsel at Wikborg Rein's Oslo office. He took his education in his hometown New York, and thereafter he has been travelling a lot for work. In 2018 he worked with a large, Kurdish dispute resolution on behalf of a Norwegian company. After this settlement, he felt ready for new challenges. He was informed that Wikborg Rein was looking for somebody with his type of experience, and since then he has been a part of our law firm. A typical work day for Charlie may include reading documents in Norwegian, English, Spanish, German and sometimes French. He tells us that during a single project he can find himself coordinating a team consisting of Norwegian, American, Singaporean and Mexican lawyers. – My experience abroad has made me a better intermediate, he finishes.