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Last update: 02-05-2005
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Legal professions - Sweden

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Judges 1.
2. Lawyers 2.
3. Prosecutors 3.
4. Bailiffs 4.

 

Presentation of the professions

1. Judges

The majority of judges (domare) work within one of the two ordinary court structures. These are, on the one hand, the ordinary courts (allmänna domstolar) , which consist of a large number of district courts (tingsrättar) , six courts of appeal (hovrättar) and the Supreme Court (Högsta domstolen) , and, on the other hand, the ordinary administrative courts (allmänna förvaltningsdomstolar) , which consist of a large number of county administrative courts (länsrättar) , four administrative courts of appeal (kammarrättar) and the Supreme Administrative Court (Regeringsrätten). A judge other than the president of a court or a division of a court is called a rådman in the district courts and the county administrative courts, a hovrättsråd in the ordinary courts of appeal, and a kammarrättsråd in the administrative courts of appeal. A judge who presides over a division is called a chefsrådman in the district courts and the county administrative courts, a hovrättslagman in the ordinary courts of appeal, and a kammarrättslagman in the administrative courts of appeal. The president of the court is called the lagman in the district courts and the county administrative courts, and the president in the ordinary courts of appeal and administrative courts of appeal. The judges of the Supreme Court are called justitieråd.

A judge must be a Swedish citizen. A judge must hold one of the Swedish degrees of bachelor of laws (juris kandidatexamen) or master of laws (juristexamen). On certain conditions, legal training in another Nordic country is considered equivalent to these degrees. A person who is bankrupt or whose affairs are in the hands of an administrator (in förvaltarskap) may not become a judge.

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Judges are appointed by the Government under an applications procedure. The system does not apply to the highest judicial offices. Judges are appointed essentially on the basis of ability and suitability for the profession. In making its choices the Government is assisted by a special judicial appointments commission. The commission’s main function is to make recommendations to the Government for the filling of appointments.

Judges are employed by the State, and have the status of public servants. They may be removed from office only if they show themselves unfit, by seriously or repeatedly neglecting their duties or by committing a criminal offence, or when they reach retirement age. The constitution guarantees judges independence in the performance of their duties.

In Sweden would-be judges usually train specifically for the profession. Persons trained as judges make up the main base for recruitment of professional judges. Such training is not formally required. Anyone with a legal qualification may apply for a post as judge. Applicants who have trained as judges are, however, normally considered to be at an advantage.

In order to be accepted for training the prospective trainee must have both a bachelor of laws degree and a qualification as a court clerk (notarie) , that is to say must have worked for two years as a clerk at a district court or country administrative court. A person accepted for training as a judge is employed as a reporting clerk (hovrättsfiskal or kammarrättsfiskal) at a court of appeal, ordinary or administrative, on six months’ probation. If his or her performance over the probationary period is approved, the trainee is employed as a reporting clerk at the court of appeal on conditional tenure. After at least two years in that capacity, the trainee serves as an assistant judge (tingsfiskal or länrättsfiskal) at a district court or county administrative court for another two years. These assistant judges are judges of the court and deal with business in the same way as the regular judges.

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In the final stage of training, the assistant judge returns to the ordinary or administrative court of appeal to serve as a judge for at least a year. Once that period of service has been successfully completed, he or she is designated an associate judge (assessor) of the ordinary or administrative courts of appeal, and the traineeship ends.

Associate judges who wish to be appointed as regular judges normally work outside the judiciary for a number of years after completing their training, in order to acquire varied experience and to improve their ability to compete for a post as a regular judge.

The legal rights of the individual and public confidence in the legal system require that judges decide the cases before them without regard to extraneous considerations. The rules for judges set out a number of general principles governing the way judges should conduct themselves in their daily duties, and reflect the different demands placed on a judge, such as objectivity, impartiality and the ability to treat everyone equally. They also make specific provision for the disqualification of judges from particular cases.

Judges in the ordinary courts and the ordinary administrative courts are not as a rule specialised, and deal with all cases coming before the court.

As mentioned above, Swedish citizenship is a requirement for becoming a judge in Sweden. There is no provision for foreign nationals to apply for such a post.

2. Lawyers

All lawyers (advokater) in Sweden are in private practice; the public law offices (allmänna advokatbyråer) that formerly existed have been abolished. In contrast to many foreign legal systems, it is permissible in Sweden for individuals to plead their own cases in court. A party is under no obligation to be represented or to engage a lawyer. A person representing or advising a party to legal proceedings does not have to be a lawyer. A person wishing to represent another in court is subject to certain requirements, but they do not include possession of the professional title of lawyer: they relate rather to such things as residence, language proficiency and suitability. Lawyers are, however, privileged in some respects. With certain exceptions, for example, it is only lawyers who can act as court-appointed counsel for the defence. Anyone who meets the requirements for legal representatives can act as counsel appointed by the defendant. In contrast to the position in many other countries, however, there is generally no difference in quality between counsel appointed by the defendant and court-appointed defence lawyers, as in the vast majority of cases both types of counsel are in fact lawyers. A “lawyer” (advokat) in Sweden is a person who is a member of the Swedish Bar Association (Sveriges advokatsamfund). Members must satisfy certain formal requirements and have the necessary competence, experience and qualifications.

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A person wishing to become a lawyer, or in other words to be admitted to the Bar Association, must:

- be resident in Sweden, the EU, the EEA or Switzerland;

- hold a bachelor of laws or master of laws degree;

- have completed five years’ legal work since taking their law degree, at least three of which must have been spent either as an assistant lawyer in a law firm or running the prospective member’s own legal practice;

- have passed a lawyers’ examination; and

- be of good character and suitable in all respects for the profession of lawyer (the prospective member must not be a judge, prosecutor or other public servant) and be financially sound (a person who is bankrupt or whose affairs are in the hands of an administrator will not be admitted).

The competence requirements are intended to ensure that those who become lawyers have the necessary knowledge and are suitable for the profession: the title of lawyer is a guarantee of quality. Anyone who improperly himself or herself to be an authorised lawyer commits an offence carrying a fine.

Anyone may set up a law firm. No specific training or experience is required in order to call oneself legal adviser (jurist) , and to offer legal advice on a professional basis.

The only statutory prohibition against acting as a legal adviser is a ban that may be imposed on persons who have committed a criminal offence, other than a minor one, in the course of providing legal assistance. Any such person can be prohibited from providing legal assistance for a period of no more than 10 years. A person who provides legal assistance and in so doing through gross negligence encourages the commission of a criminal act can be sentenced to a fine or imprisonment of a maximum of two years. But in the case of a lawyer, i.e. a lawyer belonging to the Bar Association, an action for negligent counsel of this kind can be brought only after consulting the Association.

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The work of lawyers is regulated primarily by law (Chapter 8 of the Code of Judicial Procedure). The legislation regulates the requirements for admission to the Bar Association, registration, how the work is to be carried on, joint ownership in partnerships, supervision etc. In addition to the legislation, good practice is also governed by the charter (stadgar) of the Bar Association and the guidelines it issues. The charter of the Bar Association is laid down by the Government, which means that the Association is a private-law body with a public-law character, and not a public authority as such. The charter has the status of a Government order (förordning).

One of the cornerstones of the rules governing legal practice is independence. The rules requiring independence are intended mainly in order to protect society’s interest in having a legal profession which is subject to the strictest professional secrecy, and which can provide legal advice and assistance without regard to extraneous considerations, taking account only of the best interests of the client. There are extensive requirements governing ethical behaviour; lawyers are subject to disciplinary supervision in order to maintain the high ethical requirements that have been set. The rules for lawyers exercising their profession – particularly the rules for organisation, qualifications, professional ethics, control and liability – ensure that they have the independence, the integrity and the experience which consumers of legal services are entitled to demand, and which are necessary conditions for the sound administration of justice.

Most lawyers specialise either in the law governing individuals - family law, criminal law etc. - or in business law. Defence lawyers often specialise in certain types of criminal case, e.g. financial crime, narcotics, crimes against women or crimes committed by juveniles. Some lawyers specialise in cases concerning human rights. They often represent parties bringing cases before the European Court.

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As there is no necessity to be represented, or to engage a lawyer, it is never obligatory to use a legal representative.

Lawyer activity and the establishment of lawyers is specifically dealt with in Directive 77/249/EEC to facilitate the effective exercise by lawyers of freedom to provide services (the “Lawyers Directive”) and in Directive 98/5/EC to facilitate practice of the profession of lawyer on a permanent basis in a Member State other than that in which the qualification was obtained (the “Establishment Directive”).

As we have seen, a person wishing to become a lawyer, or in other words to be admitted to the Bar Association, must be resident in Sweden, the EU, the EEA or Switzerland; must hold a Swedish bachelor of laws or master of laws degree; must have passed a lawyers’ examination; and must be of good character and suitable in all respects for the profession of lawyer. A person who has completed the training required to become a lawyer in a state within the EU or EEA or in Switzerland, and who passes an examination in Sweden to demonstrate that he or she has sufficient knowledge of the Swedish legal system, will be deemed to meet the requirements of Swedish training and the Swedish lawyer’s examination, and if they are found suitable in all other respects they can be admitted as a member of the Bar Association and can then practice under the Swedish title of advokat. The same applies to a person who has registered with the Bar Association and who has subsequently practised effectively and regularly as a lawyer in Sweden, dealing mainly with Swedish law, or who has otherwise acquired sufficient knowledge and experience to be admitted as a member.

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There are no special Swedish requirements governing the professional qualifications of persons who wish to pursue the activities of lawyers under the professional title of their home country.

In general there are no obstacles to foreign lawyers who want to pursue their activities in Sweden without being established in Sweden. There is an exception, however, if the activity includes representing a party in a Swedish court. This is because in order to represent a party, or to act as counsel appointed by the defendant, there are certain requirements to be met relating to suitability, including good character and knowledge of the Swedish legal system, and residence in Sweden, the EEA or Switzerland. Lawyers who do want to establish themselves in Sweden have to register with the Bar Association, which brings them under the supervision of the Association. When pursuing activities in Sweden lawyers authorised in another state within the EU or the EEA or in Switzerland are by and large subject to the same rules that apply to Swedish lawyers.

A lawyer need not be established in Sweden in order to pursue the activities of a lawyer in Sweden. But lawyers authorised in another country within the EU who wish to practice on a permanent basis in Sweden, i.e. to establish themselves in Sweden, using the professional title of their home country, must register with the Swedish Bar Association. This brings them under the supervision of the Association.

Swedish citizenship is not required in order to practise in Sweden. A foreign lawyer may work in Sweden under the professional title of his or her home country, but to practise the profession on a permanent basis he or she must register. Since 1 July 2002 there has been no citizenship requirement for admission to the Swedish Bar Association, which means that after three years of effective and regular activity mainly involving Swedish law a foreign will be considered to meet the training and practical experience requirements for membership of the Swedish Bar Association, and if otherwise considered suitable can be admitted to the Association and thereafter practice under the Swedish title of advokat.

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Foreign firms of lawyers do not need any advance permission to establish themselves in Sweden.

Legal practices do not have to take any specific legal form. Various types of partnership are used. Indeed a partnership does not have to take the form of a partnership either.

A person who is not yet a practising lawyer and who wishes to have a foreign law degree recognised in Sweden, in order for example to work as an assistant lawyer in a law firm, must undergo a special test of knowledge if his or her degree course differs significantly from the Swedish courses in length and substance.

Where lawyers work in a partnership only a lawyer may be a joint owner or partner, unless the board of the Bar Association grants leave (see Chapter 8, Section 4, subsection 2 of the Code of Judicial Procedure and Section 3, subsection 4 in the Swedish Bar Association’s guidelines on good practice). A lawyer may not be employed by an individual other than a lawyer unless leave is granted by the board of the Association (Chapter 8, Section 2, subsection 6 of the Code of Judicial Procedure). This means that for joint ownership of a partnership there is a requirement of residence within the EU, the EEA or Switzerland. There is no nationality requirement, however, as there is no longer any citizenship requirement for admission as a lawyer.

It follows from these rules that a lawyer must not run a business jointly with persons from other professions, such as accountants for example. The prohibition on multi-disciplinary partnerships was considered and accepted by the European Court of Justice in the Nova case.

3. Prosecutors

Prosecutors have a very important role in the justice system and criminal trials. The prosecutor directs the investigation of crimes, decides whether proceedings should be brought, and pleads the case in court. In principle the prosecutor has the same independent status as a judge, and it is the prosecutor personally who decides for example whether or not to prosecute.

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A prosecutor must be a Swedish citizen. In order to be appointed as a prosecutor, one must have a Swedish bachelor of laws or master of laws degree and have served as a clerk for two years in a district court or country administrative court. On certain conditions, legal training in another Nordic country is considered equivalent to these law degrees.

Public prosecutors are appointed by decision of the Prosecutor-General.

Prosecutors are organised in districts staffed by district prosecutors (kammaråklagare). The head of a district is called a chief prosecutor (chefsåklagare). A senior prosecutor (överåklagare) usually heads a public prosecution authority made up of several districts. The highest prosecutor in the land is the Prosecutor-General (Riksåklagaren).

All public prosecutors have power to bring prosecutions before both the district court and the court of appeal. But only the Prosecutor-General can plead cases in the Supreme Court.

In Sweden would-be prosecutors usually train specifically for the profession. Persons trained as prosecutors make up the main base for recruitment of prosecutors. Such training is not formally required, however. Anyone with a legal qualification who has done the necessary service as a court clerk may apply for a post as prosecutor.

In order to be accepted for training the prospective trainee must have a bachelor of laws or master of laws degree, and must have served as a court clerk. A person who is accepted will be employed as a trainee prosecutor (åklagaraspirant). The trainee is given a placement in a team of prosecutors, and performs simple duties under a supervisor. After nine to twelve months the trainee undergoes an examination to establish whether he or she can be given conditional tenure as an assistant prosecutor (assistentåklagare). After two years as an assistant, the prospective prosecutor undergoes another examination, leading to appointment as a district prosecutor. There is specific training for prosecutors wishing to specialise in particular forms of crime, such as drug-related crime, environmental crime or financial crime

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The prosecutor directs the preliminary investigation, deciding how the investigation is to be conducted, what acts are to be investigated, what coercive measures are to be taken, etc. It is important that the prosecutor should perform his or her duties independently in such a way that the case is managed properly and in a legally sound fashion. The prosecutor must conduct the preliminary investigation objectively: account has also to be taken of circumstances that may be in the suspect’s favour. There are rules entitling the suspect to consult the file on the investigation. The Prosecutor-General has issued a number of guidelines that apply to the handling of various types of criminal offence. There are also specific rules for the disqualification of prosecutors from particular cases.

Within the public prosecution system there are prosecutors who specialise in certain areas such as environmental crime, financial crime or drug-related crime. The great majority of these prosecutors serve in the ordinary public prosecution teams. Specialists in financial crime, however, serve in a special authority, the Financial Crime Authority, where they work together with specialised police and economists.

As mentioned above, Swedish citizenship is a requirement for becoming a prosecutor in Sweden. There is no provision for foreign nationals to apply for such a post.

4. Bailiffs

A bailiff (kronofogde) is a State-employed public servant working in an Enforcement Office (kronofogdemyndighet). A bailiff deals with such things as enforcement cases and unpaid private and public claims (see the factsheet on “Enforcement”). In addition, the State is regularly represented by a bailiff in court proceedings concerning bankruptcy, composition or debt reorganisation.

The person who heads a department or unit at the Enforcement Office will as a rule be a bailiff. But there is no requirement that the head of an Enforcement Office must be a bailiff.

There is specific training for bailiffs. In order to be accepted for training the prospective trainee must be a Swedish citizen, must have a bachelor of laws or equivalent degree, and must have qualified as a court clerk. Specific types of practical experience may replace the court clerkship, and leave may be granted to dispense with it.

A person who is accepted will be employed as a trainee bailiff (kronofogdeaspirant). Training lasts about 40 weeks, during which practical work alternates with academic study. The trainee then undergoes an examination leading to appointment as a bailiff.

The rules governing the disqualification of bailiffs from particular cases are similar to those for judges.

A bailiff working in a collection unit is not as a rule specialised. There are, however, options for bailiffs to specialise in the sale of property, for example, or the supervision of bankruptcy.

As mentioned above, Swedish citizenship is a requirement for becoming a bailiff in Sweden. There is no provision for foreign nationals to apply for such a post.

« Legal professions - General information | Sweden - General information »

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Last update: 02-05-2005

 
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