Despite the economic downturn, competition law is certainly keeping me busy. I'm currently involved in advising on about 10 different cases.
My work is mainly split between advising clients that are being investigated for having participated in alleged illicit cartels, advising on the competition law aspects of mergers and acquisitions transactions, and 'other'! A cartel investigation can take quite a long time - often up to a number of years - but it's a fascinating process. A case might start with the regulator conducting a 'dawn raid', and you would stick with it from that point until the regulator issues a final decision, which can be a few years down the line. The job involves interviewing witnesses, reviewing and analysing evidence, liaising with the regulator (often the European Commission), defending the client, and sometimes going all the way to appealing the European Commission's decision before the European Court in Luxembourg.
Merger-related work is quite different. It involves working very closely with the client, getting under the business' skin, finding out everything you can about the industry, and how the client operates its business. Once you've got a very good understanding of the industry and its characteristics, you can provide the advice to the client, and present your case to the regulatory authority that has to make the decision of whether to approve a transaction going forward.
I try to balance the slower-burning cartel work with merger work. Merger work is a lot faster, and can be over in a few months. In that time, there are lots of ups and downs, and lots of tight timetables to meet. It's good to have a contrast.
Being in Brussels is a real advantage for any competition lawyer. Most of our work involves interacting with the European Commission, which is just down the road.
Being here and working at Freshfields puts you squarely into the Brussels competition law community. You get to develop great personal relationships within the community. This all gives you a better insight into how the European Commission operates.