What is competition law? A guide for aspiring solicitors

Last updated: 18 Aug 2023, 14:27

Online markets are an increasing area of focus for competition lawyers. Discover what else a trainee solicitor needs to know in our analysis of a competition practitioner's working life.

A Monopoly board with green houses and a silver car player piece, symbolising competition law

Competition law is increasingly in the press as countries and institutions seek to rein in the power of tech giants and other new and emerging industries. All that focus means increased work for solicitors.

What is competition law?

Competition law exists to prevent anti-competitive behaviour in markets and maintain fairness – for example if a dominant market player is abusing its position or if a proposed merger or acquisition will give a company unfair monopoly. In an increasingly digital world, there has been a particular focus on how to regulate competition in fast-moving digital markets.

What do competition solicitors do?

While merger cases are usually over in a couple of months, a cartel investigation could last for several years. This typically involves a ‘dawn raid’, where the competition authority or the industry’s regulatory body will gather evidence from the businesses involved. A solicitor will need to attend and protect their client’s rights, before reviewing the evidence and advising on next steps and whether to fight the case.

Large cases can involve more than ten lawyers at all levels, while smaller cases can be handled by a team of junior lawyers. Cross-border cases are common so solicitors will need to get used to communicating with clients and lawyers in different time zones.

What is life like as a competition law trainee?

Trainee tasks include research, data analysis, reviewing evidence and drafting submissions to competition authorities. There are opportunities to travel to client sites, meetings with competition authorities and international conferences.

What skills do you need to be a competition law solicitor?

An interest and understanding of the markets is a must for aspiring competition lawyers, including some awareness of how the markets function across borders. The usual lawyerly traits of an analytical and inquisitive mind will help, as will the ability to draft persuasive arguments. People skills and the ability to build rapport will be useful when working in larger teams or with clients.

Types of law practised within competition law

  • EU and competition law
  • Competition litigation

How much can I earn in competition law?

You will likely undertake competition law as a seat on a training contract as part of a rotation and may specialise later. You can take a look at our article on How much you can earn as a trainee solicitor to get a broader picture of how much law firms pay trainees, but it’s not uncommon for firms with UK offices to offer £50,000 to trainees in their first year, rising to anywhere up to and above £100,000 upon qualification.

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