Carita Wallgren-Lindholm is identified by respondents in the market as "the number-one role model in the market" and "Finland's most international arbitrator".
Carita is a Helsinki-based international arbitrator who began her practice in Paris in the early 1980s. Before starting her boutique in 2008, she spent 25 years at Roschier in corporate and dispute resolution work. She has been involved in more than 110 international arbitrations, mainly as arbitrator and chair including SCC, ICC, FAI, LCIA, JCAA, DIA, PCA, ICSID and UNCITRAL. She has been the chair of the ICC Commission on Arbitration and ADR since 2018.
What inspired you to pursue a career in law?
A combination of factors, certainly: you choose a direction, and then there are triggers. A sense of the importance of the administration of justice, I am sure, was a foundation. During my sophomore year in the USA I was on a debate team, and was fascinated by the art of argumentation, having a background in languages and linguistics. My world was perfected through the possibility of combining international affairs with law in the form of comparative legal studies.
What qualities make for a successful international arbitrator?
A combination of courage – or rather the readiness to try to do the right thing, including when this is the most difficult alternative – and great humility. Looking to the sides, or for accolades, does not inspire credibility and sensitivities are heightened in an international context. I also do not think we can be truly internationally minded – and open-minded – without humility, which would normally mean that we also listen actively to ideas and arguments that we cannot initially understand. Another quality is the ability and willingness to try to look at ourselves and our actions from the outside – from another culture and perception of justice. We also, obviously, need to have the capacity and inclination for managing proceedings firmly while remaining user-friendly. And finally, reasonable familiarity with many legal systems is obviously an asset in the substantive work.
How have arbitration proceedings evolved since you started practising?
While, clearly, today there is more procedure to attend to as a result of the development of statute, rules and practices (my perspective goes back to the late 1970/early 1980s), and there is a clear risk that much of the participants’ attention will dwell on procedural structure, I also perceive a trend for more down-to-earth, practical approaches by arbitrators; a more conversational climate; and, hence, a pragmatism within the boundaries of procedural requirements. I welcome the latter development, which manifests itself in more dialogue between arbitrators and counsel, with procedural solutions arrived at through interactivity. The identity of the future arbitrator may rather be a very present service provider than a distant ruler. The covid-19 pandemic will certainly also highlight the need for greater interactivity among all.
What reform do you think would help most improve diversity in arbitration?
I have always believed that the dialogue surrounding reform is more important than the reforms themselves. Permanence of traditional settings and participants has so often been a result of lack of perspective and awareness, alongside fear of new solutions. In all areas of life and work it has now finally been internalised – mainly through public discourse – that diversity is conducive to a more refined collective judgement, and generates better results in business and professional practices. It is not affirmative action, but rather a strive for a higher quality. The reforms or initiatives that have generated the general, ever-expanding awareness, alongside the pledge, is clearly led by the institutions that, in addition to applying equality tests in appointments and officers, also communicate their ambition to do so. This development is obviously supported by a parallel development in society at large.
What role do you see third-party funding playing in arbitration moving forward?
Predictions as to our post-covid-19 world, including arbitration practice, are uncertain at best. My guess is that we are in for a fundamental change of disputes climate and a parallel overhaul of our practices. While there obviously will be an increase in the number of possible disputes, it is also to be expected that attitudes and approaches will change, also for the good. While one can expect more readiness to try to settle the many disputes that will now arise as a result of the pandemic, it is also a realistic scenario that the many businesses on the brink of collapse will increasingly need third-party funding to enable access to justice.
Should confidentiality always come before transparency in international arbitration?
As we all know, investment arbitration must be viewed differently than commercial arbitration when it comes to transparency, where the public interest is greater than in B2B disputes. But also, in commercial arbitration transparency is clearly on the increase, largely as a result of the initiatives of arbitral institutions to allow greater access to information regarding cases. A nuanced protocol addressing what to keep confidential and what to share should in my view be approached through the real needs of relevant stakeholders in terms of the specific information that may be relevant to them, as opposed to the parties’ business and other interests; calibrating information through the spectre of real needs or usefulness will indicate what may be shared and what should not. And it must be possible to resist requests for “just wanting to know more”, and deal with public and even populist discourse through communication strategies – not disclosure.
As founding partner of Lindholm Wallgren, what are your main priorities for the firm’s development over the next five years?
It will remain as it is – essentially a one-arbitrator firm with a small support team.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own firm?
Your firm should look like you and reflect your working habits. Some are very good running the whole infrastructure themselves, others less so. If we have worked in a big firm, even in management positions, the tacit work supporting our practice that we have taken for granted will require hard work and much time in a new setting. No reason to hesitate though!