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American Citizens Services Unit

A listing of attorneys in Sweden is available for downloading on this site: List of attorneys in Sweden (PDF 214 KB).

For information on retaining an attorney in the U.S., please see the Martindale website.

Retaining A Foreign Attorney

In retaining the services of a foreign attorney concerning a private party dispute abroad, the following guidelines may assist you in protecting your interests.

I. Selecting a Attorney

When you receive a list of attorneys, it would be wise for you to contact several attorneys, briefly describing the nature of the services you desire. Before you decide which attorney to employ, ask for a written schedule of fees generally charged for the services you need, ask whether the attorney is fluent in the English language, and become acquainted with a particular attorney. Do not turn over your documents or funds until you are certain that the attorney understands your problem and is willing to handle your case.

II. Assistance of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate

Should your association with a foreign attorney prove unsatisfactory, a U.S. consular officer can contact the attorney on your behalf in an effort to ease and expedite your mutual communication. In addition, complaints against foreign counsel whose names appear on the list of attorneys can result in the removal of their names from the list.

III. Coordination with Counsel in the U.S.

American attorneys may not be in a position to represent your interests abroad, particularly because they will not be permitted to participate in foreign court proceedings under the laws of the foreign country. American attorneys experienced in international law may be helpful in explaining the complex international issues involved in your case and some may have associates or partners abroad to whom they can refer you.

IV. Legal Aid Association

There may be facilities in the foreign country for low cost or free legal services. If information about such assistance is not included in the list of attorneys, ask the local bar association or the Ministry of Justice about the availability of legal aid.

V. How to Deal With Your Foreign Attorney

  1. Find out the attorney's qualifications and experience.
  2. Find out how the attorney plans to represent you. Ask specific questions and expect the attorney to explain legal activities in language that you can understand.
  3. Find out what fees the attorney or notary charges and how the attorney expects to be paid. In Sweden a notary public is always a lawyer. Some attorneys may expect to be paid in advance; some may demand payment after each action they take in your behalf, refusing to take further action until they are paid; and some may take the case on a percentage basis, collecting a prearranged percentage of the monies awarded to you by the foreign court. In 1976, the Law Library and the Library of Congress prepared a report entitled "Payment of Attorneys Fees in European Countries". You can obtain a copy of the report by contacting the Library of Congress directly at Room 240, James Madison Bldg., 101 Independence Avenue, S.E. Washington, D.C. 20540, tel: (202) 287-5065.
  4. Ask that your attorney keep you informed of the progress of your case according to the pre-established schedule. Remember that most foreign courts work rather slowly. You may, therefore, wish the attorney to send you monthly reports, even though no real development have ensued, simply to satisfy your doubts about the progress of the case.
  5. Have your attorney analyze your case, giving you the positive and negative aspects and probable outcome.
  6. Do not expect your attorney to give a simple answer to a complex legal problem. Be sure that you understand the technical language in any contract or other legal document prepared by your attorney before you sign it.
  7. Keep your attorney fully informed of any new developments in the case.
  8. If you need to provide complex or technical documents to your attorney, you may wish to consider having the documents translated into the native language. Remember, an elementary knowledge of English may not be enough to enable the attorney to understand the documents you provide.
  9. Be honest with your attorney. Tell the attorney every relevant fact in order to get the best representation of your interests.
  10. Find out how much time the attorney anticipates the case may take to complete.
  11. Note:In some countries the courts recess for a period of several months. In addition, even if the case is resolved, currency control laws delay the transferring of funds awarded to you from the foreign country for an indefinite period of time.
  12. Request copies of all letters and documents prepared on your behalf.

VI. Assistance of the Department of State

If you have additional questions, contact the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of American Citizen Services and Crisis Management (CA/OCS/ACS), Room 4811A, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20520, tel: (202) 647-5225 or (202) 647-5226.

For matters specifically involving child custody and/or Hague Convention issues, you can contact the Office of Children's Issues directly at (202) 736-7000, fax (202) 663-2674.

VII. Complaints Against Foreign Attorneys

If the services of your foreign attorney prove unsatisfactory, in addition to notifying the Department of State and the U.S. embassy or Consular Section abroad, you may address yuor complaints to the local foreign bar association.

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