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 120 international arbitrations, mainly as arbitrator and chair including SCC, ICC, FAI, LCIA, JCAA, DIA, PCA, ICSID, UNCITRAL and NAFTA. She was the chair of the ICC Commission on Arbitration and ADR 2018-2021.
What has been your greatest achievement to date?
That will be for others to say (my generation of Nordics were not conditioned to look through the lens of personal achievements).
How has the role of an arbitrator changed since you started your career?
Most arbitrators today have descended from their ivory tower and let down the stone face mask to become more active and visibly engaged, forward leaning to steer the proceedings and try to bridge any existing gaps in the parties’ approach to procedure. The arbitrator is not only perceived as the adjudicator but also as a service provider who is expected to be well informed about the case from the beginning and manage the proceedings proactively. This need not mean being inquisitorial but to tailor the procedure to efficiently deal with the substance before the tribunal. There is clearly more interactivity between the parties and the tribunal today and to some extent more orality. I have found that the temperature lowers in oral exchanges to achieve better-customised structures. This does not necessarily mean greater informality, only constructive dialogue. Long sequenced writings do not always meet.
Practitioners report a marked increase in international mediation, even when there are arbitration clauses in contracts, due to cash-strapped businesses seeking early settlement. Is there a danger arbitration could take a back seat to mediation?
I do not see a conflict between mediation and arbitration; they rather supplement one another. Some disputes are better suited to be solved through the one rather than the other procedure. And as we know, both mechanisms can be deployed in parallel or in sequence for the same dispute. I would not approach a comparison between arbitration and mediation by trying to be “protective” of the former: arbitration exists because disputing parties need it and should its raison d’être weaken in favor of mediation through market forces, then nature has taken its course so to speak. In all events, I believe there has been much cross-fertilisation between arbitration and mediation. One example could be more collaboration between counsel in arbitration. I chaired the mediation committee of the Finnish Bar upon its inception and it was obvious that attitudes of counsel in litigation and arbitration changed among those who had been mediation trained. While not an active mediator myself, I think there has also been, and is, a flow in the other direction.
What do you think will be the greatest challenge facing the next generation of arbitration practitioners?
Arbitration attracts much extraordinary talent, and there is a risk that it will be crowded in the high-end arbitration practices. On the other hand, maybe an arbitral specialisation can be deployed elsewhere since this practice is to some extent closer to the law than e.g., transactional work. In order to hedge against a too crowded marketplace, maybe the next generation would be wise to take a few steps back and assure a broader legal foundation, a kind of back-to-basics. Arbitration is one conduit for access to justice and I think that in today’s complex world it can be more important to understand fundamentals than the (ever-changing) practices of today. I often recommend, also to myself, a brush-up of Roman law. In order to deal with future challenges old fundaments may be a good platform from which to proceed.
To what extent can virtual hearings be relied on to decide high-stake multibillion-dollar cases between parties?
I am a big aficionada of virtual hearings, wholly or partly, and while some face-to-face often is beneficial to the proceedings, I think that logistically and technically remote hearings are in principle an adequate means to also solve big-ticket disputes. In my experience, chemistry and atmospherics can also be conveyed.
How have the new ICC rules impacted commercial arbitration practice?
I think the ICC rules are in tune with the times and address most of the issues that are faced in practice, mirroring but also leading prevalent practice. The ICC rules are the standard that practitioners look to.
Given the increasing amount of conflicts arbitrators and counsel are experiencing, should there be a set of universal conflict principles across arbitration institutions?
My short answer is yes; I would favour a few principled base rules with guiding examples. But there is a danger in most discussions about conflicts, often reducing the debate to a casuistic, tick-the-box exercise of minimal standards. Rarely do we hear a reference to the role of a lawyer or an adjudicator in the administration of justice, something that may contribute to a certain lack of credibility of the ethics inside our community seen from the outside. I also think that the rewriting of ethical standards by political actors responding to populist demands has not been helpful. Even though uniform standards will obviously be a challenge, the discussion surrounding any effort is essential. Hopefully it could focus more on fundamental values than securing protection of a perceived right to serve.
What advice would you give to lawyers looking to establish a career in arbitration?
The base attributes are the obvious: law, comparative law, true mastery of and interest in languages and cultures, curiosity and readiness to manage your biases. Being a nice and respectful person overall is distinctive. Authority has many faces and never conflicts with civility.