Features of the Norwegian legal system

Norway is consistently ranked among the top countries in regard to adherence to the rule of law. The absence of corruption combined with an independent court system allows for ease of investment and efficient dispute resolution. In fact, Norway is among the top ten countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings and is even ranked number three in terms of the ease of enforcing contracts.

  • Legal system and sources of law

Norway has a civil law legal system in which statutory provisions are the main source of law. Legal interpretation, however, relies heavily on preparatory works and Supreme Court precedent. This is partly due to a legislative tradition where laws have been drafted in more general terms, leaving further specification to administrative regulations and to the courts.

In addition to Norwegian legal sources, international sources of law have become increasingly important when navigating and interpreting Norwegian law. Through the Human Rights Act, Norway has incorporated several human rights treaties as national law. These include the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

Additionally, Norway’s membership in the European Economic Area (EEA), regulated in the EEA Act, requires Norway to harmonize a great deal of its legislation with EU law. Norway’s membership in the EEA allows it to stand outside the European Union while ensuring that Norway can take part in the EU single market and thus benefit from the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital. For more information about Norway’s relationship with the EU, see here.

Norway’s international obligations, that arise out of the Human Rights Act and EEA Acts, take precedence over conflicting national legislation.

All laws and regulations are published on Lovdata. See also Lovdata in English for an overview of Norwegian legal sources in English.

For further information about Norwegian legal sources and methodology, see Rebecca J. Five Bergstrøm’s article on Legal Research in Norway.

  • Judicial review

Judicial review in Norway may take place in both civil and criminal cases. However, the courts only conduct judicial review in individual cases (in concreto) and only after the contested provision or decision has been set into force (ex post). Norway does not have a constitutional court, but constitutional questions of some importance or complexity will by way of appeal, normally be decided by the Supreme Court in the last instance.

  • Notary functions

As opposed to many other countries, notarial functions in Norway are mainly carried out by the District Courts, not by private law offices. Furthermore, the functions of a notary public are more limited in Norway than most common law jurisdictions. Importantly, the acknowledgement of deeds when transferring real estate is carried out by the Norwegian Mapping Authority.

The most common forms of notarial confirmations are confirmation of signature, confirmation of an authorization to bind a company by signature, solemn declaration, confirmation of a true copy or original document, issuance of life certificates, and protest of bills.

More information about notarial certification can be found here.

  • Arbitration

Arbitration (voldgift) in Norway is governed by the Norwegian Arbitration Act (NAA), regardless of the parties being Norwegian or foreign. The NAA is based on the UNICITRAL Model Law.

While the NAA is flexible, allowing the parties to contract out of its provisions, section 11 of the NAA specifies that an arbitration agreement shall not be binding on a consumer if entered into before the dispute arose.

Norway is a party to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, meaning all arbitration awards falling within its scope are enforceable in Norway.

While ad-hoc arbitration has traditionally been the most common in Norway, institutional arbitration has become increasingly popular. Institutional arbitration services are provided by the Oslo Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and the Nordic Offshore and Maritime Arbitration Association (NOMA).

The OCC offers various forms of mediation as well as ordinary and fast-track arbitration. Its’ rules were updated and modernized in 2017, and are harmonized with the NAA and UNICITRAL Model Law. NOMA was established in 2017 by the maritime law associations of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. The background for establishing NOMA was that traditional arbitration institutions such as ICC and LMAA were perceived as too rigid and not compatible with the more flexible Nordic legal tradition. NOMA’s rules therefore aim to provide a certain degree of flexibility and party autonomy, while at the same time promoting transparency and foreseeability in the arbitration process. An important feature of NOMA is that there are no fees payable to NOMA, and the association is not involved in administrating the proceedings.