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Thought Leaders

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Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

Questions & Answers

James Hope is head of international arbitration at the Stockholm office of Vinge in Sweden. He is a dual-qualified Swedish advokat and English solicitor-advocate, and is well placed to compare common law and civil law practices and procedures. He has acted as counsel or arbitrator in more than 80 international arbitration cases, ranging from small cases worth around US$100,000 to highly complex cases worth more than US$50 billion.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT ARBITRATION PRACTICE?

Every case is different, with different people, different factual and legal issues, often different industries, and sometimes different legal systems and different languages. It is also very rewarding to work in a team. Several heads are always better than one!

HAVING WORKED IN LONDON BEFORE MOVING TO STOCKHOLM, HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE WORKING IN THOSE TWO CITIES?

I worked in London for over 10 years between 1996 and 2006, and I have now spent over 10 years in Stockholm. I would say that international arbitration in Stockholm is actually more international than in London, in two respects: language and legal culture.

Regarding language, whereas international arbitration in London is, in practice, almost entirely monolingual, in Stockholm virtually every case actively involves two languages (Swedish and English), and very often another language is involved as well. One of my recent cases involved four languages.

Regarding legal culture, international arbitration in London tends to be conducted in a fairly uniform English manner. In Stockholm, by contrast, there is quite often a clash of legal cultures, to a greater or lesser extent.

HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR PRACTICE DEVELOPING OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?

I have noticed the following developments recently, and I expect them to continue.

First, ever increasing complexity (for example, sanctions issues, GDPR, Achmea, to name just a few challenging topics). Second, clients’ continuing desire to save time and costs. Third, many of my cases increasingly involve EU law and competition law, and I am fortunate to be able to work together with my competition law colleagues. Fourth, many of my cases increasingly also involve intellectual property law issues, and I am fortunate to be able to work with my intellectual property law colleagues. Fifth, I am increasingly working with electronic documents instead of paper.  And finally, my practice as arbitrator has grown considerably over recent years.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS YOUR PERSPECTIVE OF ARBITRATION CHANGED FROM HAVING PRACTISED IN DIFFERENT CULTURES AND IN DIFFERENT LANGUAGES?

I have worked with three very different sets of civil procedure rules during my career, in Scotland, England and Sweden (actually, I have worked with four sets of rules, if you include the old RSC in England). Similarly, I have worked with contract law in several different legal systems.

All civil procedure rules have the same basic goals: in particular, fairness and impartiality. However, there can be very large differences in practice. One problem is that many lawyers only know one system of procedural rules, and lawyers tend to think their own system is the best!

There are also considerable differences between the common law and civil law approaches to contracts and contract interpretation.

Being able to compare several different legal systems has taught me to keep an open mind. Different lawyers really do see things differently – there are excellent lawyers (as well as bad lawyers) in each jurisdiction, and there are good (and bad) features of each legal system.

HOW DO YOU, AS AN ARBITRATOR, TRY TO ENSURE HEARINGS ARE FAIR FOR ALL PARTIES?

As every parent knows, fairness is a fundamental human need. The essence of fairness in arbitration is to remember the basic rules – the procedure needs to be seen to be fair and impartial, party autonomy must be upheld, and each party needs to have an equal and reasonable opportunity to present its case.

Much of the job of an arbitrator – particularly for the chair or sole arbitrator – takes place before the hearing. The arbitrators need to engage in active case management, and I think it is important that procedural orders are fully reasoned.

When it comes to the hearing, the arbitrators need to be well prepared. Their main job at the hearing is to listen carefully, and to ensure that they fully understand the cases that are being put to them. Thereafter, the award must be written as soon as possible, while the case is still fresh in the minds of the arbitrators. It is often said that the award should be written for the losing party, and there is considerable merit in that approach. The losing party and its witnesses must be able to understand, and if possible accept, why they lost.

WOULD A GLOBAL RULE OF ETHICS FOR LEGAL PRACTITIONERS BE BENEFICIAL, AND WHO WOULD IT HELP? WHAT ARE THE CHIEF CHALLENGES IN IMPLEMENTING IT?

It is difficult to draft comprehensive global rules of ethics, and it is even more difficult to police such rules. In practice, I think it is best left to bar associations to set the applicable ethical rules for their members, while “soft law” instruments such as the various IBA guidelines seek to provide a level playing field.

Meanwhile, arbitrators need to work carefully in each case to ensure that the parties and their counsel understand what rules and principles will apply in each particular arbitration.

WHAT ROLE DO LAWYERS HAVE TO PLAY IN COMPLEX GEOPOLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL PHENOMENA AROUND THE WORLD?

Lawyers have a vital role to play in upholding fundamental values in today’s world, including: the rule of law (not “might is right” or “trial by Twitterstorm”); the importance of telling the truth, not lies; the difference between assertions and evidence; the fact that issues are often complex and need time for proper consideration (law by “soundbite” simply does not work); and the fundamental importance of fairness and justice for all.

At a time when some of the most fundamental values of our societies are being questioned, we need to stand up and fight for those values.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNGER ARBITRATION PRACTITIONERS HOPING TO ONE DAY BE IN YOUR POSITION?

Make sure that you become properly qualified in at least one jurisdiction. If you don’t succeed at one firm, try another. Dare to follow your own path. Learn at least one foreign language (or preferably several). It is now possible to practise international arbitration all over the world, and some of the most exciting opportunities are in emerging markets. Be prepared to travel! Remember to make time for your family and friends. Do try to get enough sleep. Never stop learning.

Global Leader

Arbitration 2019

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

James Hope stands out as "an excellent advocate" who is "involved in many heavy international arbitrations". Peers consider him "one of the best currently working in Sweden".

Biography

James Hope is head of international arbitration at the Stockholm office of Vinge in Sweden. He also sits as a member of the Board of the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce.

He is a dual-qualified Swedish advokat and English solicitor-advocate, and is well placed to compare common law and civil law practices and procedures.

He has acted as counsel or arbitrator in more than 80 international arbitration cases, ranging from small cases worth around US$100,000 to highly complex cases worth more than US$50 billion. He has particular experience of energy disputes.

James has sat as arbitrator in international arbitrations under the ICC, SCC, Danish Institute of Arbitration, UNCITRAL and Finnish Chamber of Commerce arbitration rules, in Stockholm, London, Paris, Copenhagen and Helsinki, under Swedish, English, Danish, Russian, Ukrainian and Finnish substantive laws, as well as under CISG. He is a member of the ICDR international panel of arbitrators, the CIETAC panel of arbitrators and the Asian International Arbitration Centre (AIAC) panel of arbitrators. He is also a CEDR-accredited mediator.

In addition to private practice, James is also a part-time supervisor and lecturer for the master’s programme in international commercial arbitration law at Stockholm University, and a guest lecturer at Edinburgh and Uppsala Universities. He is the author of a number of articles on dispute resolution issues, and is a frequent speaker at conferences.

James is fluent in English and Swedish, and has some basic knowledge of Russian and Mandarin Chinese.

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