“Litigation is important for SANDS. We have a core team at the partner level of 13 or 14 people who work almost exclusively on litigation. 13 lawyers are admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of Norway, with several more authorisations around the corner.,” says Morten Steenstrup who leads the effort on civil litigation.
What Steenstrup believes distinguishes SANDS most from other firms is an understanding that today it is not enough to just be good at litigation.
“You also have to know the subject. When we appear in court in intellectual property rights, construction or shares, we have to have people who know these subject areas thoroughly. We therefore build flexible teams around one subject specialist and one litigation specialist,” says Steenstrup.
“It’s fun for us and cost-saving for everyone. This is our way of doing it.”
THE CASES YOU REMEMBER BETTER THAN OTHERS. In 2001, Steenstrup was contacted by Jens Evensen Sr., the political giant who had negotiated the Norwegian oil adventure on behalf the country. The Minister for the Law of the Sea, along with his son Jens Evensen Jr., had been sued by another son, Even, who thought his brother had received shares he was not entitled to from their father.
“I was incredibly proud when I first met Jens Evensen in 2001. It was fantastic to be able to represent a person of such standing.”
Steenstrup presumed that the confidence placed in him had to do with his orderly political background.
“Fortunately for the family, the case went under the radar for a long time because the courts handled it discreetly. You can imagine the front pages if the press had caught wind of it: “Minister for the Law of the Sea sued by his son!”
Evensen Sr. won the case. In 2011, a few years after Evensen’s death, the case also cracked open in public on the basis of medical papers which showed that Evensen Sr. had had dementia. When the case was to go before the Court of Appeal, Steenstrup finally got to know why Evensen had actually chosen him as a lawyer ten years earlier.
“Evensen Jr. came over to me with an issue of the the picture magazine NÅ from 1975,” says Steenstrup.
The entire cover was a picture of Jens Evensen Sr. and the headline “The Labour Party minister who is a multi-millionaire”. There were five pages inside the magazine with detailed descriptions of everything Jens Evensen Sr. owned.
“This is the reason Dad chose you,” Evensen Jr. said. I was the one who had written the piece. I was an investigative journalist in addition to my studies.
The article had bothered the then Minister for the Law of the Sea. But he had been impressed that someone had found out everything at a time when they physically had to dive down into the register of companies to put the thing together.
SCHRØDER VS THE LAWYER In February 2007, Steenstrup was contacted by the family of the deceased shipowner Ole Schrøder. Schrøder’s lawyer had had two-thirds of the shares in the family company transferred to himself right before the shipowner died. That was the start of a nine-year-long inheritance battle that was front-page stuff the whole way.
In March 2011, the lawyer was ordered to return the shares in the company that he had unlawfully acquired for himself. Because he was unable to repay dividends and cover the legal costs of the case, his law firm was sued. The Supreme Court of Norway held that the law firm was liable as an employer for its partner, and the Court of Appeal awarded the Schrøder children a total of NOK 25 million. The order was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2016. The family has got the family company back and has been compensated for the loss they suffered in the amount of NOK 25 million.
“It’s fun working on big civil cases with plenty of media attention, when they go the right way,” says Steenstrup.