In focusCorporate culture is key

Our inclusive corporate culture at Mannheimer Swartling is fundamental – and it embraces not only our existing employees, but our alumni and job applicants too.

Mannheimer Swartling is a service business – we sell knowledge. Although law is our domain, our mission to clients extends well beyond legal texts, contractual clauses and international trade agreements. Today, our advanced range of business law advisory services encompasses business strategy, business intelligence and sustainability.

"Our strength lies in the combination of knowledge of all of our practice areas and industry groups. We rely on the expertise of all employees put together – partners and senior lawyers, as well as support staff and new recruits," says Azadeh Razani, partner at Mannheimer Swartling.

Clients and lawyers-to-be see Mannheimer Swartling as today's leading supplier in the premium business law segment. Maintaining this position of course requires us both to recruit the right employees and to develop those already with us.

"Skills development and knowledge sharing form the backbone of our corporate culture. These are more than just words – they reflect what we practise every day. This makes us competitive for clients and attractive to prospective lawyers," says Azadeh Razani.

From student to alumni
Each year, some 1,400 law students graduate from Sweden's universities and colleges. A third of them apply to Mannheimer Swartling. The firm therefore has the advantage of choosing, rather than searching for, the right candidates. This is a privilege which requires us to behave in an exemplary manner towards the many candidates we are unable to hire.

"We normally recruit 60–70 lawyers per year, meaning that a large number of applicants will unfortunately not secure a position with us. That means there are many lawyers out there whose application we have declined at some point in time. Naturally, it is important that these applicants too feel that we have a professional and fair employment process," says Jan Dernestam, Managing Partner. Maintaining good relations with applicants, regardless of how far they progress in the recruitment process, is equally important for all other roles at the firm. Out of a large number of applicants in 2018, the firm hired 56 non-lawyers.

Jan Dernestam emphasises that everyone coming into contact with the firm – clients and job applicants alike – should be treated with respect and informed about the firm's values and corporate culture.

"Recruitment interviews are an ideal opportunity for us to communicate what we represent. Regardless of whether an applicant subsequently joins us or not, we must paint a clear picture of how we work and how we develop our employees," says Jan Dernestam.

A sense of belonging
Throughout the years, Mannheimer Swartling's organisation and corporate culture have been shaped into a model as clear as it is successful. The foundation for this is what we call Pure Lockstep – a profit-sharing system where all partners share equally in our profits, regardless of workload. Similarly, compensation for the firm's other lawyers is based solely on experience and is completely independent of individual performance. But it does not stop there. All of the firm's employees are also expected to share their knowledge, experience and ideas. Former employees also testify to Mannheimer Swartling's most distinctive feature being a pronounced sense of belonging. All clients are clients of the firm as a whole.

"What struck me when I started at the firm was the welcoming atmosphere. All doors were open – partners and all other colleagues were incredibly helpful," says Victoria Hedell, who was a junior assistant at the firm in 2015–2016.

Victoria Hedell studies law at Uppsala University. The nearer graduation approaches, the more she and her classmates are bombarded with information from various law firms. Marketing mail, invitations to recruitment days, student seminars, open lectures and more. Competition for future lawyers is fierce, but candidates have high expectations of their future employers as well.

– My perception of the corporate culture at Mannheimer Swartling is that it is typically Swedish. There are high levels of transparency and collaboration: everyone is informed of what is happening at the firm, and everyone is expected, and endeavours, to share their experience, says Hayden Cooke, a corporate associate at English law firm Slaughter and May.

Hayden Cooke was one of the secondees at Mannheimer Swartling last year. He explains that the flat structure and egalitarian culture was different to London and quite refreshing, and, despite being quite junior at the time of the secondment, he enjoyed being made to feel an important member of the team with ideas to contribute.

– I think that the entire legal industry is facing an enormous challenge. Firms with employees that do not reflect society, whether by virtue of gender, race, socio-economic background or otherwise, will struggle to recruit if they cannot sustainably and meaningfully address this shortcoming, says Hayden Cooke.

Jan Dernestam agrees, emphasising that the collective corporate culture is crucial to the firm's success.

"Involving all employees in the development of the firm is what makes the difference," says Jan Dernestam. The firm's appraisals of partners address leadership and culture far more than financial goals.