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 and UNCITRAL. She is the chair of the ICC Commission on Arbitration and ADR 2018.
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO ARBITRATION AS A SPECIALITY?
I was interested in international matters and foreign cultures, and my professor in private international law directed me to write my master’s dissertation about ICC awards, a theme we later developed into a book. You choose a direction, and further developments are often accidental. Obstacles can also be good opportunities: not landing a law firm job in Helsinki took me to Paris after graduation to work in my first ICC arbitration in 1980. Even though my career path was not very linear, everything somehow comes to make sense at the end of the day: linguistic studies and excursions into international political studies, philosophy and media have certainly formed my world view, hopefully for the good as an arbitrator as well.
WHAT CHALLENGES DID YOU FACE IN ESTABLISHING YOUR OWN FIRM?
When we originally opened in 2008–2009 with two small pillar teams for corporate advisory and dispute resolution respectively, the greatest (albeit positive) challenge was the very driver for the opening: being hands-on in all matters big and small. In a big firm the “organisation” even “packs your skis for the annual retreat”, as one former colleague once said. Another challenge was our decision to exercise restraint and not to grow beyond a boutique, while at the same time being able to meet some of the youthful enthusiasm of young lawyers/trainees wanting to work directly with the old school. I was actually quite surprised by how well applicants understood, and accepted, a firm strategy without institutional ambitions or a career path to more senior positions in the firm.
HOW DOES YOUR FIRM DISTINGUISH ITSELF FROM COMPETITION IN THE MARKET?
Our original two-partner boutique offering corporate advice and also counsel services was one of the very first locally, and I think it is fair to say that its distinguishing feature was high-end advice, delivered personally by the partners. It is in the nature of positioning yourself high up in the value chain for legal advice that only a small pyramid of very qualified people is required. You must, however, be clear in your message that you are not a full-service firm and that you accept the boundaries. Today, after the passing of my partner Tomas Lindholm in 2014, I only serve as an arbitrator supported by a small, long-term team. The relevant market for such activity is global and the location of the offices in Helsinki is one of practical consideration only.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT TO DATE?
When one of my daughters, against my advice, said she wanted to study law and do what I do. When I questioned the decision she said I appeared so happy doing it.
WHICH ASPECT OF YOUR ROLE AS THE CHAIR OF THE ICC COMMISSION ON ARBITRATION AND ADR DO YOU ENJOY MOST? AND WHAT HAS BEEN ITS GREATEST CHALLENGE?
Maybe the greatest enjoyment is the challenge. The challenge to steer a multicultural body with up to 1,000 participants and manage the interface to the ICC as an institution. As a Nordic person I suspect I am quite a straight shooter, relatively speaking, and I enjoy the challenge of finding ways to act in concert with the multiple governance and communication traditions represented by close to 90 national committees and individual practitioners. Extensive diversity allows for great thinking and added value sometimes comes from unexpected sources. And I do enjoy my team at ICC HQ in Paris.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN COMMERCIAL AND INVESTMENT ARBITRATIONS IN TERMS OF PREPARING AS AN ARBITRATOR?
I have sat much less in investment matters so may not have an educated view. One aspect is probably that an arbitrator in an investment arbitration has to take a broader view and prepare beyond the pleadings of the parties. Iura novit arbiter should, in my book, be applied very narrowly in international commercial arbitration. I may be wiser to comment some time from now, since I have only been listed on the ICSID panel of arbitrators since this year – I was formerly on the conciliation roster.
HOW WILL ARBITRATION PRACTICE CHANGE IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
I think, and hope, that there will be a drive for simplification of procedural measures and – along with a higher degree of competence and skill in practitioners – the courage to do away with measures, often overlapping as they are adopted from different legal cultures, that serve no or limited purpose. There is a lot of truth to the famous statement, ascribed to many originators, that if I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter. And it cannot be overemphasised that to secure a sustainable development of our practice we need to be humble before criticism of us and of the system, and never lose sight of the users of arbitration. I also think that the GDPR may support a new minimalism.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNGER PRACTITIONERS HOPING TO ONE DAY BE IN YOUR POSITION?
Be true to yourselves and build upon your innate strengths. Do your homework very well but accept that you do not always get to display your findings and reflections in the short term. This is a marathon – not a sprint. Do not grab beyond what comes naturally, irrespective of advice to this effect by coaches. Competence will be recognised eventually by those who can understand what they see. Recognising talent takes talent, so exercise caution in your choice of senior colleagues. Lowering your voice is one way to be listened to. Maintain a clean agenda – you may not be forgiven if your private agenda is seen to take precedence over the common agenda; law firms and counsel teams depend on collectivism.
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 Wallgren-Lindholm is a Helsinki-based international arbitrator. After starting her dispute resolution practice in Paris in the early 1980s, she spent 25 years at Roschier before founding her boutique firm in 2008 to focus on arbitral work. Carita’s transactional background is in public M&A and board advisory including governance and internal investigations. Since 2013, she has served only as an arbitrator, mainly in international arbitration, under institutions and rules including SCC, ICC, FAI, LCIA, DIA, JCAA, PCA, ICSID and UNCITRAL rules.
Carita is currently chair of the ICC commission on arbitration and ADR (member since 1996, vice-chair 2011-2017) and a past member of the ICC International Court of Arbitration (2012–2018). She has served on the ICSID panel of arbitrators (2019–) and its panel of conciliators (2007–2018); and the board of ICC Finland (2008–2014) and its advisory group (2015–2016).
Other board memberships include the Finland Arbitration Institute (1996–2001); the Finnish Arbitration Association (1996–2012); Lex Mundi (1996–2000); the Finnish Bar Association (2001–2004); and the Ibero-American Foundation of Finland (2007–2010), where she has also sat on the board of trustees (2012–).
In addition, she has served on the executive committee of the Swedish Arbitration Association (2007–2011); as chair of the Finnish Bar mediation committee (2002–2004); and as member of the ICC’s ADR working group, the CCBE (2001–2007), the ILA (2008–), the advisory council of the Atlanta Centre for International Arbitration and Mediation (ACIAM) (2015–), the ACIAM’s arbitrators’ council; and the editorial board of GAR.
Carita is a law graduate of the University of Helsinki; her other studies, in Finland and in the United States, include English and Romance languages, political science and international relations.
Her working languages are Swedish, Finnish, English and French (and some Spanish). She has published and lectured in the areas of conflict management, arbitration, takeovers, corporate governance, CSR and legal ethics.