What Competition/ Antitrust Lawyers Do
Antitrust lawyers are often hailed as heroes for the competitive market, regardless of which side they represent. They may work for the government, for a firm, or even in-house for a company, but their goal is always the same; to ensure fair competitive practices are followed by companies.
For example, if two competitors agree to charge the same price in order to avoid a price war which might result in lost profits, price fixing is said to have occurred. If the same two companies agree to stay out of each other’s territory as a means to keep each one strong, while blocking any potential competitive startups, market allocation rigging or a monopoly will have occurred. If competitors agree to issue non-competitive bids in order to ensure one company wins, bid rigging has occurred. By creating side deals, companies engaging in these behaviors destroy true competition, can hurt other businesses, and can cause harm to consumers.
When representing companies, antitrust lawyers may be involved in preventing competition lawsuits by helping the organization establish policies that ensure no breach of law occurs and that documentation is available if their actions are ever called into question. They may also prevent issues by becoming involved in mergers and acquisitions. Should an issue arise, the antitrust attorney will defend his client as well.
Attorneys who focus on competition can also represent a plaintiff. In most cases, this is the government or a government agency, which may be investigating a merger simply because it crosses a value threshold, or because evidence has been presented that suggests a company has engaged in unlawful competitive behavior. However, antitrust lawyers may represent companies who wish to sue other companies as well. This generally occurs when one feels it has been harmed by the unfair practices or actions of another.
Who would enjoy a career in Antitrust Law?
Lawyers with an affinity for economics and business do best in antitrust law. Because much of the job involves scouring documents and gathering testimony to serve as evidence, it’s a research-intensive career that’s best-suited to people with analytical minds. Those who enjoy keeping up with business, industry, and legal news also have an edge. Naturally, negotiation skills are beneficial too. Those who prefer “advice” based law rather than heavy transactional law are also more suited to this specialty of law, the former often involving lighter hours in the office than the latter.
Who mightn't like the career?
The media presents antitrust law as a high-stakes event, with massive corporations going head-to-head against each other or the government and millions or billions of dollars on the line in court. While it can happen this way, it’s the exception. Antitrust lawyers spend most of their time researching and negotiating, not in the courtroom, and not with huge amounts of money in danger. Those who have a “Hollywood” image of what antitrust law is about will become bored quickly. In addition to this, some cases can extend for years at a time, so those who need a constant influx of new challenges won’t stay happy in the career.
Admittance into an accredited university upon completion of entry exams is the first step in entering law. Quality institutions have rigorous requirements and competition for positions is fierce, given the field can sometimes involve less hours and feel more interesting than other transactional or banking areas of corporate law.
A law degree is required in order to practice at any level above the rank of intern or summer associate in the US and Canada. In the UK and Australia, offerings such as the Graduate Diploma of Law (GDL) or the Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (GDLP), respectively, are available, which allow people with virtually any undergraduate degree to move into law. Each jurisdiction has further requirements, including a bar exam and licensure process.
Those who are aware they’d like to enter into a law career should plan early and apply for a summer associate or internship position while still in school, as the experience will help secure a long-term position after graduation. Antitrust law candidates should have familiarity with local antitrust or competition legislation frameworks and to get an edge, should be familiar with recent key cases that would materially impact the relevant laws.
- Harvard Law School’s “Questions You Should Be Prepared to Answer”
- 10 tips for a strong legal internship interview
- 5 Career Tips For Aspiring Antitrust Lawyers
- What Does It Mean To Work As An Antitrust Lawyer? (Full Guide with Attorney Stories)
Moving into Antitrust Law from another career
It can be difficult to transition into law, simply because one must pass legal exams and participate in additional coursework. At the same time, some big firms appreciate diversity and take pride in amassing a staff with unique non-legal backgrounds, as these individuals are better prepared to understand the needs of each sector that is being represented by the firm.
- Consulting (general business)
- University Professor (any subject, especially law)
- Corporate Law (particularly M&A)
- Government (diplomat, military, politician)
- Economics Consultant
Graduate / Associate
Role: Incoming lawyers are referred to as associates. Students who are interning may have the distinction of being called a “summer clerk” or “summer associate,” and those fresh from university will be called “first-year associates,” and so on. Lawyers typically hold the title of associate for somewhere between seven and ten years, depending on the firm. During this time, their job is to support the firm’s partners, generally by handling research and reviewing contracts. It’s worth noting that some firms have an “up or out” policy, meaning that if a lawyer is not on the tenure track and does not become a partner within the allotted time, they are asked to leave the firm.
Role: Generally speaking, the title of senior associate is offered to a lawyer around five years into practice, though each firm will have its own guidelines. During this phase, the senior associate is expected to behave as if he or she is a junior partner. Ownership of projects is expected and the individual should be an expert in the area he or she covers. Tasks of greater importance may be assigned to senior associates by the firm’s partners and senior associates will generally have junior associates they can delegate some of their work to. It’s while working as a senior associate that a lawyer demonstrates to the firm that he or she is an indispensable part of the firm and is already behaving as if a partner.
Role: Associates who have proven themselves and are managing some of their own clients as well as bringing in new clients are typically offered partnerships. The exception to this is firms that have “of counsel” positions, which is a promotion from associate for those not on the partner career track. When a lawyer is offered a partnership role, it’s generally an equity partnership in which the lawyer “buys in” to the practice and then earns a percentage of the profits. As part owner, he also gets a say in the firm’s business decisions. Some firms may offer non-equity partnerships and let their seasoned lawyers take a salary instead of being part owner.
It’s fairly rare for competition / antitrust lawyers to travel unless they’re part of a large firm, have a good reputation and are attracting clients from a distance, or represent large companies.
Entry Level: According to data from PayScale, those beginning their careers have salaries of approximately USD $104,000 in the United States, £58,000 in the United Kingdom, CAD$97,000 in Canada, and AU$78,000 in Australia.
Mid-Career: USD$121,077, £70,800, CAD$110,580, AU$113,943.
Experienced: USD$159,040, £74,340, CAD$121,250, AU$145,816.
Naturally, bonuses and profit sharing are a major part of a partner’s income. With additional payments, an experienced attorney can earn more than USD$307,000, £120,000, CAD$156,000, or AU$206,000.
Why Competition/ Antitrust Lawyers move on
The burnout rate is somewhat high for those trying to make it up the ladder in a larger law firm, particularly in the first couple of years. Antitrust law can often feel too pigeon-holed and some lawyers may wish to broaden their corporate law skillsets and transition out. The ongoing stress and emotional weight of the position can also cause people to seek less-demanding careers. For further reading, see “Why You Should (and Should Not) Quit the Practice of Law.”