A change of scenery usually leads to an expansion of one’s horizons, a new point of view or an addition to the collection of experience and wisdom. Sometimes, it’s all of the above.
At least that’s the way it is for Anna Jakstrand, an attorney from Sweden who spent a month in America this summer including two weeks at Holland & Knight’s office in Jacksonville.
Jakstrand, her husband and their three sons began the month with two weeks in New York City, where she spent time not only at Holland & Knight’s office there, but also at the New York branch of Handelsbanken, the largest full-service bank in Sweden and the third-largest in Scandinavia. It was established in 1871 and last year lent the equivalent of more than $200 billion.
“At Handelsbanken I am an in-house counsel and I specialize in loan transactions,” said Jakstrand.
This is actually Jakstrand’s third trip to Jacksonville. She vacationed in America in 1991 including a stop in North Florida and after she finished law school at the University of Oslo in Norway, where she specialized in maritime law, Jakstrand secured an internship in Jacksonville at the Gabel & Hair firm from 1992-94. That’s when she met George Gabel, who is now with Holland & Knight.
“We stayed in touch via e-mail over the years and recently when I won a scholarship from the bank’s international program to travel abroad, I called George and asked him if I could spend some time at Holland & Knight,” said Jakstrand.
While she’s not licensed to practice law in the United States, Jakstrand said she gets to review files and learn about the American legal system and how law is practiced here.
What’s one of the biggest differences between the American legal system and the Swedish system?
“Your files are much thicker,” observed Jakstrand, who then explained the difference. “The most fundamental difference is that in Sweden the system is based more on civil law, while in America it is more a common law system. Whereas you rely more on the courts, we rely more on the civil code. In Sweden at trial there is a judge plus two or three laymen — who are elected — which could be compared to your jury.
“But one of the biggest things I have gotten out of my time in America is realizing that the law is not that different. I have also met so many nice people. Americans are very friendly and you have such a positive attitude.”
After a 14-year absence, she said she has noticed how Jacksonville has changed as a city.
“It is much more global now than it was when I was here before. There is a much more international, metropolitan feel to the city,” she said.
Jakstrand is one of many attorneys from other countries who have spent time at Holland & Knight as part of their professional development.
“In the past 30 years more than 600 foreign attorneys have spent weeks or even months with us,” said Gabel. “We’re an international firm and the program has given us the opportunity to forge relationships with those attorneys who now work at law firms and corporations all over the world. It’s good for our lawyers and for our staff.”
Jakstrand and her family will be going back to Sweden this week. After two weeks at the beach, they are going to make a stop in Orlando to visit Disney World and Sea World before flying home.
“This has been an American adventure for the whole family,” she said.