Interview Series - John Ragnawaldh

#10QuestionswithMaxwell Interview Series: Jakob Ragnwaldh

In this week’s #10QuestionsWithMaxwell, we interviewed Jakob Ragnwaldh, a partner in Mannheimer Swartling’s dispute resolution group. He is also the Vice-Chair of the Board of the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce and the former Chairman of the Executive Board of the European Federation for Investment Law and Arbitration (EFILA).

Currently based in Singapore, Jakob has acted in cases involving the laws of Sweden, Finland, China, England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Latvia, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Estonia, Italy, Albania and the United States. He has extensive experience in complex international arbitration matters and his expertise covers a wide range of fields, such as energy, natural resources, telecommunications, engineering and construction, trade and sales contracts, joint ventures, shareholder agreements, licence agreements, distributorships and agencies.

In this interview, we find out more about how he got involved in international arbitration, a mentor he looks up to throughout his career, his favourite Singaporean food and more!

Read his full interview below:

Q: How did you get involved in international arbitration?

A: My first encounter with international arbitration was in 1995, when I studied law at Panthéon-Assas in Paris. The late Professor Fouchard taught a course in international arbitration and I realized almost instantly that this was what I wanted to focus on as a practicing lawyer. During my time in Paris, I also worked as a trainee for Sigvard Jarvin, which gave me my first practical experience of international arbitration. When I subsequently started as an associate at Mannheimer Swartling in the late 1990’s, Kaj Hobér very soon became my mentor and after that, there was no looking back!

Q: Share with us how you got your first arbitrator appointment.

A: The Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce appointed me as sole arbitrator in a small domestic Swedish dispute.

Q: What’s been your most memorable experience as an arbitrator?

A: There are many memorable experiences but they all have one thing in common: competent and enjoyable co-arbitrators and able and professional counsel on both sides.

Q: What is the most rewarding about your career?

A: By far the most rewarding has been the opportunity to work internationally and to meet and get to know so many talented and interesting colleagues and friends from around the world. To be able to live and work in Hong Kong and Singapore is another highlight of my career. The fact that international arbitration is a truly international business is unique compared to many other disciplines of law, and I am extremely grateful that I chose and was given the opportunity to work in this field.

Q: What is 1 key development you see in the near future of ADR?

A: In my view, the top key development in ADR is the accelerated use of technology and what that will mean for how arbitrations will be conducted going forward. I believe that virtual hearings are here to stay in some form or another, even though there will always be cases that will need to be heard in person. I have to say that my experience of virtual hearings over the last year has been overwhelmingly positive and I find it regrettable for many reasons that the arbitration community only woke up to the full potential of virtual hearings as a result of the pandemic. Fact-finding and presentation of evidence has already been hugely influenced by technology in recent years and that will no doubt continue as more and better technology becomes available. Will counsel and/or arbitrators be replaced by AI in the future? Possibly, but if so, that will (hopefully!) not happen in the near future.

Q: Do you have a mentor / an influential figure that you look up to throughout your career? Share with us.

A: Shortly after I started at Mannheimer Swartling some 22 years ago, Kaj Hobér became my mentor and there is no doubt that Kaj in many respects has had a large impact on my career and development as a lawyer. We have spent an enormous amount of time together arguing cases and traveling around the world, and I have many fond memories from that time.

Another person that I would like to mention in this context is Johnny Veeder. In 2002, I had the pleasure of doing a secondment at Essex Court Chambers and I spent four months with Johnny in his office at Lincoln’s Inn Fields and in various hearing rooms in London. I learned a lot during that short period of time, including some unexpected things such as Russian poetry and where to find the best Pad Thai in London.

Q: What advice would you give to a young lawyer trying to get into the field of arbitration?

A: Apart from the usual advice, such as finding a mentor and working for the right person, I would urge young lawyers to be open and humble enough to learn from opposing counsel. When you have the privilege of having very able and professional lawyers as opposing counsel, be alert and take notes of what they do well. Conversely, what does opposing counsel do less well, and what can you learn from that?

Sitting as tribunal secretary is another great way of learning the trade. I did this early in my career and found it immensely valuable; you get to see different styles of advocacy, listen in to the Tribunal’s discussions during the breaks and help out in making arrangements for the hearing.

Although networking and writing articles can be valuable, I would advise young lawyers to focus most, if not all, of their energy on the cases they are working on. Nothing is more important than that.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure? How do you like to wind down after a long day?

A: Quite a few, but on top of the list would probably be dark chocolate and red wine. I rarely have difficulties winding down, and tend to believe that the walking that I do before and after work really helps.

Q: Share with us your favourite Singaporean food!

A: Living in Singapore is an everyday culinary journey. A few favourites worth mentioning would be Laksa and Indian chickpea curry.

Q: Share with us 3 fun facts about you that not many know about.

A: I love playing golf, although this does not seem to be a unique pastime among tenants at Maxwell Chambers. History is another interest of mine, in particular ancient Roman history, and it would be fantastic to one day find the time to properly study it. I always want to visit bookstores wherever I go. We love travelling as a family, and I always drag the rest of the family along to the local bookstore. Now when travelling is not an option, Kinokuniya has become a local favourite.


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