Scandinavia - Law Firms Jones Day: Representing Swedish Clients In The U.S. And Across The Globe

Sunday, February 1, 2004 - 01:00

Editor: Would you give our readers some idea of your background and experience?

Cargill:
I went to Georgia Tech and then Harvard Law School. Following three years in the navy, I returned to Atlanta in 1976 to practice with a regional firm by the name of Hansell & Post. I was with Hansell & Post until 1989, at which point they merged into Jones Day. I have been with Jones Day since that time.

Editor: I understand that you have considerable experience in representing Scandinavian clients, and particularly Swedish clients, in this country. How did that come about?

Cargill:
It was really a fortuitous development. When I came back to Atlanta in 1976 inbound foreign investment was just starting to arrive in the Southeast. I wanted to work in what we now call transnational corporate practice, and my timing was good. Some of the firm's first foreign clients happened to be Swedish. Their interest in the Southeast, very predictably, was wood, that is, timber, timberland, wood chips and so on. There was then and to some extent today a large pulp and paper industry in Sweden. It requires large amounts of cellulose material. At the time the Swedish Kroner was very strong against the dollar, so it made much more sense for the Swedes to buy that material here as opposed to buying it in Sweden.

Editor: What kinds of services were they looking to you for?

Cargill:
They were engaged in joint ventures with U.S. paper and pulp mill companies, so drafting and negotiating contracts was among the services we provided. They were also interested in buying timberland, which involved us in real estate acquisition services. They were also building export terminals in Savannah for the export of wood chips. We were involved in all of these areas.

Editor: Do you deal with Swedish law firms in your practice?

Cargill:
Yes, I do. It is more common to deal with the corporate clients directly, which includes in-house lawyers as well as non-lawyers, but we do deal with their law firms from time to time.

Editor: Have you encountered any cultural differences in dealing with the Swedish law firms? Would you describe such a firm more egalitarian than its American counterpart?

Cargill:
The primary difference between U.S. and Swedish law firms is their size. Although there are a couple of Stockholm firms that now have 200 or so lawyers - and this is a fairly recent development - most of the Swedish firms I deal with are in the 20 to 30 lawyer range. That makes them less institutional, less departmentalized than the American firms engaged in a transnational corporate practice. Decision-making tends to be more informal, and I suppose that makes them less hierarchical than many American firms. But I think that has more to do with the size of the firm than it does with any cultural differences.

Editor: You mentioned relations with Swedish corporate clients. Have you found any difference in dealing with Swedish clients as opposed to American clients?

Cargill:
There are differences, of course, but among all the foreign clients I have dealt with, it is the Swedes who come closest to being like Americans in a business setting. I think that our business culture - Swedish and American - is essentially the same. There are assumptions made on both sides of a negotiation involving Swedish and American clients that would never be made in dealing with Japanese or Chinese clients. In the latter situation, everything must be made explicit to avoid misunderstandings, nothing can be implicit.

Editor: How closely do you work with the legal departments of your Swedish corporate clients?

Cargill:
It varies considerably. For some of our Swedish corporate clients, particularly the larger ones with in-house legal departments, I deal very closely with corporate counsel. For one particular client, and this is one on which I spend more of my time than any other, I am on the phone several times a week with lawyers from the legal department in Stockholm. In other cases, once we have set up a U.S. subsidiary, the Swedish legal department drops out of the picture. We tend to have all of our contact with people in Atlanta or at least in this country, not in Stockholm.

Editor: I gather there is not really a pattern. In some instances you might integrate with the law department of a Swedish client and work as a team, while in others you seldom, if ever, have contact with your Swedish counterparts?

Cargill:
I think that is a fair comment. There are cases where we work very closely with corporate counsel in Stockholm. The larger corporations - those that have a legal department - tend to be more interested and involved in our representation, but that is not always the case. Many Swedish corporations, including some of the largest, give management of their U.S. subsidiary a great deal of latitude. A more or less autonomous operation here invariably results in the establishment of direct ties with the enterprise's American lawyers. In that instance, we do not have much contact with our Swedish counterparts.
For some of the U.S. subsidiaries of these Swedish corporate clients I serve as a sort of an external general counsel. They will call on me for any number of problems, personnel or labor, a litigation matter, a tax issue. If the problem is not something in my area of practice, I do have the resources at Jones Day to bring appropriate forces to bear. In a typical case, the American subsidiary of a Swedish corporation will not have a legal department. If there is a lawyer present, he or she is usually alone. Access to a variety of legal disciplines is very important, and what I am doing in this instance is providing access to the requisite expertise from within a firm that has the ability to respond.

Editor: As you know, many of our readers are interested in Sweden as an investment destination. It would be equally interesting to hear about the United States as an investment destination for the Scandinavians. Can you describe the investment climate here, as seen through the eyes of a Swede or Norwegian?

Cargill:
As far as Swedes are concerned, I think most corporations of any size have known for some time that they must have a presence in the American market. Most of these enterprises sell products that are technically sophisticated. They tend to be high in quality and high in cost. The largest market for such products in the world - for industrial process control automation equipment, high-tech medical equipment, optical products, such as cameras, microscopes, binoculars and so on - is the United States. I believe the U.S. recently surpassed Germany as Sweden's largest single export market. Given the size of the Swedish, or even the Scandinavian, market, even small enterprises in Sweden know that they must do business in the U.S. eventually.

Editor: Can you share some of their thoughts on doing business in the United States?

Cargill:
I suspect they would characterize us the way I characterized them. Namely, that there are very few significant cultural differences. The business framework here, within which the Swedes are expected to operate, is perfectly comprehensible because it is the one they have at home. Both sides to the equation tend to be direct and straightforward. Both mean what they say. And, of course, there are no linguistic barriers.

Editor: Do we offer any incentives to foreign enterprises looking to relocate or start up in the United States?

Cargill:
That is very much a state by state issue. Some states are quite competitive in terms of offering incentives to foreign business. Georgia, through its Department of Industry and Trade, recently thought it had a deal with Daimler Chrysler to locate a new factory near Savannah, and the state actually acquired several hundred acres of land and was spending a large amount of money on infrastructure. Unfortunately, that deal has fallen through. Other states in the South have been very active in seeking foreign investment.

Editor: Sweden is not part of the Euro Zone, but its currency, like the Euro, has risen significantly against the dollar in recent months. Has this had any impact on your business?

Cargill:
Not really. If anything, the rise in the value of the Kroner as against the dollar would tend to encourage more manufacturing in the U.S. as compared with Sweden. Currency trends, however, have to be in place a long time before they influence major investment decisions in terms of manufacturing locations.

Editor: All of the Scandinavian countries, with their long experience in international trade and shipping, were part of a global economy long before the term was invented. May we have your thoughts on globalization? Do you think the process is irreversible at this point?

Cargill:
Yes. Notwithstanding the efforts of a variety of protesters at recent meetings of the World Trade Organization, globalization is irreversible. There will be times when its pace may decrease; other times when that pace will pick up. But the pace itself will be continuous. The Swedes have been involved in international trade forever. Sweden is a very small country with a small domestic market, and any significant Swedish business exports about 90% of its products.

Editor: What does globalization mean, as a practical matter, for your practice?

Cargill:
Globalization has had a very strong impact on my career and, of course, on the fortunes of Jones Day. I was very much involved in the opening of the firm's new office in Madrid, for example, and in the integration of the Madrid lawyers into the firm. I am about to leave for Shanghai, where Jones Day has had an office for some three years.

Editor: Jones Day is clearly a global law firm.

Cargill:
And for me personally that means that I have the opportunity to represent my valued Swedish clients in the U.S., but also in many other countries. Jones Day's presence across the globe permits me to move with these clients from one jurisdiction to the next. To cite but one example, a Swedish medical products company I represented here purchased a business in France. A year later they were forced to divest that business. Working with Jones Day's Paris office, I was able to handle both ends of the project. I expect to be doing the same thing in China, with Swedish, Spanish and American clients. Globalization is unquestionably the present and the future.