Falun is the capital of Dalarna province, located about halfway up Sweden’s length on the border with Norway. Famed for centuries for copper mining, Falun remains a relatively small town in a predominantly rural area. But as both the administrative centre and location of biggest courts in Dalarna, it is home to a healthy legal market.
According to Sylwan & Fenger-Krog’s CEO, Axel Eskeby, the firm was a general practice for most of its history until “we made an active choice to grow” about 15 years ago. Since then, the firm has increased in size to ten people, seven of whom are lawyers, and offers expertise that goes beyond the law to encompass every aspect of doing business to better serve the medium-sized corporations that make up much of its client base today.
“Larger companies need more specialised lawyers,” Eskeby points out, “fast access to advice, and continuous care. We have recruited specialist lawyers to build diverse teams that can compete with ‘big-city’ law firms, but we are scaled to the size of our market.”
A couple of his colleagues at Sylwan & Fenger-Krog hold dual degrees in economics and accountancy, in addition to law, while others devote their time exclusively to issues like bankruptcy. While he spends around three-quarters of his time on commercial cases, specialising in intellectual property and marketing law, Eskeby continues to take on criminal defence cases “to maintain my skills in court,” he says.
Eskeby joined Sylwan & Fenger-Krog in 2000, after moving to Falun for a two-year stint clerking in the local courts after completing his studies, and has been in the area ever since. He is now one of three partners at the firm, has been on the board for a decade, and has served as its CEO for the last couple of years.
Sylwan & Fenger-Krog has undergone a “generational shift” in recent years, Eskeby notes, and added two new faces to its roster in the last two years alone. He explains that his and his partners’ management goal is to “help people grow at the firm, fulfil their potential, find their own specialisation, and have opportunities to develop themselves, as lawyers and as individual.”
A member of TEN before Eskeby arrived at the firm, Sylwan & Fenger-Krog refers or receives at least one case a year, “and often more”, via the network and really benefits from “access to skills in other countries,” he insists. “It’s a real advantage for our clients that we have trusted relationships with lawyers who will handle cases in a thorough, responsible way. It is often a reason why our biggest clients choose us to work with.”
Eskeby is enthusiastic about TEN’s expansion beyond Europe and sees it as key to long-term growth: “We would like access to Asia and the Americas,” he says, “as our clients have the same needs internationally.”
Eskeby is especially proud of the IP cases he has argued, and won, on behalf of clients in the special court for marketing law and intellectual property law, but says the best part of his job is “the opportunity to make a real difference for a corporate or private client. For example, helping a company prosper, putting in place the foundations for growth, resolving sometimes severe problems is very rewarding. Its also about making a contribution to society as a whole.”
That includes everything from representing clients in cases where their survival as a company depends on the outcome” to advising new companies about how to set up and draw up contracts with partners, suppliers, and buyers that create a path for their success over time.
As a firm, Sylwan & Fenger-Krog supports a local network of start-ups and a company incubator, providing free advice, mentoring, and financial backing, while its lawyers are involved in a range of community projects, including cultural, social, and sporting activities. Another partner is part of a cultural association that has turned an old warehouse into a concert hall to bring musical acts and other artists to the town.
Although not a player himself, Eskeby is the chairman of his local bandy club – “like soccer on ice”, he says – which is involved in a wide range of initiatives year-round, from immigrant integration programmes to summer schools, and even helping to set to the Somalian national team to take part in the Bandy World Championship.
When not at work – “We encourage all our lawyers to have a life outside the office,” he smiles – Eskeby is a lover of endurance sports, including cross-country skiing, cycling and running, although he is also kept pretty busy running around after and for his “three very active children.”