Tue, Oct 6, 2009
By Signe Hansen
For a Norwegian business law firm with international clients, understanding and knowing the market international clients and law firms operate in is important. This is why Thommessen is one of few Scandinavian law firms represented in the UK. By having an office in London, Thommessen aims to establish contact and strengthen relations with potential and existing international clients and to provide its lawyers with an opportunity for professional and personal development.
Thommessen was recently named “Norway’s Law Firm of the Year 2009” by Who’s Who Legal, and the Norwegian winner of Chambers Europe Awards for Excellence 2009. Thommessen dates back to 1856, and through organic growth and mergers, it has become one of the leading law firms in Norway with 170 lawyers divided between offices in Oslo, Bergen and London.
Changing direction in the UK
Currently, there are three lawyers based in their office in New Broad Street in the City; two of them are participating in Thommessen’s associate secondment scheme, while Resident Partner Lars Eirik Gåseide Røsås has been in London for almost three years. “This year is the 25th anniversary of our London office,” says Røsås. “The reason for starting up here 25 years ago was to follow our Norwegian clients into the UK market and provide legal counselling, mainly in relation to the shipping industry.”
Today the core areas of business have changed somewhat because many Norwegian businesses seek English legal counsel directly, or only need to be referred to the appropriate local counsel. “We used to be mainly the intermediary for Norwegian clients between English and Norwegian law, but today we more often provide Norwegian legal advice to international clients, either directly or by acting for international law firms. The reasons for being here have changed over the years,” says Røsås. Part of the firm’s business in London still consists of advising Norwegian clients in the UK. However, the majority of the work concerns UK or other international companies doing business in Norway.
Creating a competitive edge
The benefits of being present in the UK are not easily measurable; however, they are still there, says Røsås. Having a London office allows Thommessen to be on the ground in a major business hub, and to offer Norwegian legal services at the doorstep of international clients. “Our presence here has a representation and marketing function, and we believe that it makes us more visible.”
Still Røsås says that it is of course possible to run a Norwegian business law firm with clients in the UK without having a London office. “It is a matter of offering our clients here something extra,” he says. “We have seen in recent years that it has become more and more important to have an international footprint. Besides, London is very often the first point of contact, and when being approached by an English, American or other international law firm, it is important to know and understand their standards and how they expect you to deliver your services.”
Providing international experience for associates
Last September, Thommessen introduced a secondment scheme which offers associates the opportunity to work at its London office. “The scheme means that our associates in our offices in Oslo and Bergen can apply to come here and work for four months, and we provide them with accommodation and an international learning environment,” explains Røsås.
Two of the lawyers to have taken advantage of this scheme are Lars André Gjerdrum and Mads Haavardsholm. “I think that when it comes to recruiting and keeping people in the firm, the possibility of coming over here is important,” Gjerdrum says, while Røsås adds: “After a certain time, associates might be interested in broadening their experience and this scheme gives us the possibility of offering something within the firm.”
While Thommessen came to London 25 years ago with a specific aim, which has evolved over the years, Røsås says that Thommessen intends to maintain its presence in the City. “We are satisfied that we will be able to continue providing this service to our national and international clients, and although the reasons for our presence have changed and developed over the years, being in London still is important, and perhaps even more so than before,” he says.
Advokatfirmaet Thommessen AS
42 New Broad Street, London EC2M 1JD
Contact: Phone: +44 207 920 3090, @: email@example.com