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Looking North: Academic Education and Work Reality in Norway

Looking North: Academic Education and Work Reality in Norway

In Norway, you may study law at the universities of Oslo, Bergen, and Tromsø. Because the law study is among the most popular academic degrees, a high score is required to enter the study programme.

We asked Helge Aarseth about the academic education and the work reality of lawyers in Norway. He is a partner in the law firm Larhammer Aarseth in Molde, where a substantial part of his work is litigation, especially in tax matters. The former President of the Norwegian Bar Association, bars representative in The European Bar Association (CCBE) and IBA, university lecturer, and adviser shares his observations with us.

He underlines the difference between ‘studying the law’ and ‘qualifying as a lawyer’. ‘The law study does not qualify for a specific career,’ he points out. To license to practice as a lawyer, candidates must undergo practice training and take courses according to the legislation. He makes clear, ‘the actual work is a versatile combination of professional knowledge, experience through practising, customer relations, and ethical aspects.’ Indeed, law school provides a broad introduction to the law discipline.

In retrospect, the time at the law faculty gave him a ‘solid professional background’ and an understanding of the ‘legal method’. This feature of the study is the same today as it was 40 years ago. Still, a lot has changed over the time. One significant change is the advancement of women that make up the majority at law school today.

‘Back in the days, it was rather voluntary to follow the lectures, or not. Many felt they were being left on their own,’ Helge Aarseth tells us. Today, the education has efficient follow-up mechanisms with periodic evaluation. Students work in smaller groups and train their verbal abilities and communication skills.

The university organises all that despite a growing number of students. ‘My impression is an increase of resources to reach the individual student combined with a better follow-up. As a result, one can find out whether this is the right path, or not. If yes, your academic training will be monitored and looked after.’

As the university provides only the academic foundation for a succeeding career, various competencies remain to be learnt beyond the curriculum. At university, knowledge is progressively based on access to databases, using IT as a tool. Yet, influential matters, such as new information technologies, automatisation, and marketing are not, or to a limited extent, part of the coursework.

For Helge Aarseth, technology is and should be considered a tool. A tool created by humans, necessary for managing an ever-growing complexity in legislation. ‘We see a tremendous increase in interference with international sources for the interpretation of law-questions. In particular, with the European Convention on Human Rights and verdicts from the European Court of Justice.’ Legal issue diversification has expanded over the years: ethical aspects have gained greater focus, also has the responsibility for legal advice.

More total knowledge and know-how are distributed throughout the system. At the same time, we strive to thrive and excel in the information overload. It remains to be seen how this complexity will be mastered. For sure, we have to understand it well enough to manage it effectively.


About Helge Aarseth

Helge Aarseth is a partner in the law firm Larhammer Aarseth in Molde. He obtained a Law degree (cand. jur.) from the University of Oslo in 1974 and licensed to practice as a lawyer in 1978. His work experience includes his activities as a university lecturer and as a public employee at the Ministry of Finance. He has served as the President of the Norwegian Bar Association from 2000 to 2004, the Bars Representative in The European Bar Association (CCBE) and IBA, and Deputy Chair at the Board of Norwegian Court Administration.


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