This article is written by Shweta Rath, Team LawSikho.
Law firms, research positions, cities, & future growth paths
Have you been reading our articles?
If yes, you would be aware of Competition law practices that we have been sharing.
We also hosted a session on How to make a career in Competition Law this Saturday at our Saket office which was a huge success. You can get notified about the upcoming events by visiting us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Telegram.
In a fairly short span of time, the practice of competition law has swiftly become the most coveted practice amongst the various different fields of law. The topmost law firms of the country today have established strong competition practice teams. In one of our previous articles which you can access here, we covered a list of 11 prominent law firms to work for as a competition lawyer. Go check it out!
However, the scope of this article is broader than that. Competition law as a field is no longer restricted to just working as a competition lawyer in a tier-1 law firm. The horizon of practice has gotten bigger. Despite the fact that this practice area is a niche, it is also one legislation whose legal implications highly overlap with other laws and regulatory bodies.
Let us take an example of IBC lawyers. They have to be updated with the Competition Act because the moment a resolution plan is in place, the intending acquirer has to notify the Competition Commission of India (CCI) regarding its intention of acquiring a failing entity. Also, the CCI quite often clashes with other regulatory bodies like the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Office of the Controller General of Patents, etc in terms of jurisdictional boundaries.
This is why the practice is spreading slowly but steadily. Let us have a look at the various areas and opportunities where competition lawyers can lead their careers.
#1 Tier -1 and Tier 2 Law Firms
This is the most preferred line of career chosen by competition lawyers because the most high-stake matters of enforcement and transactions come to the tier-1 or tier-2 competition law practice teams.
In our previous article, we spoke about such prominent firms that have a flourishing practice. But what does the job description entail?
Well, competition lawyers in these firms mostly work on transactions such as acquisitions, mergers & amalgamations.
While the General Corporate teams and M&A teams focus on deal structuring, the job of the competition team is to ensure whether these transactions need approval from the CCI or not. If they do need approval, then the teams file either a short form I or a comprehensive long-form II which contains the details of the transaction, details of the parties involved and most importantly, the competitive impact that these transactions would have on the market.
The basic job of the team is to convince the CCI that these transactions will not cause a negative impact on the market and therefore should be approved. They are involved in the constant paperwork, hearings & negotiations with the CCI until they have received the approval.
Examples of such famous transactions are: the Walmart-Flipkart acquisition, the Vodafone-Idea merger, the stake acquired by the TATA Group in GMR Airports and many more. All these transactions required approval of the CCI.
On the enforcement side, quite often informations are filed against parties engaging in an anti-competitive agreement or indulging in abuse of dominant position.
The lawyers either file the information on behalf of the complainant/informant or defend the opposite parties. However, these are high stake enforcement matters like the sugar mills cartel, the cement cartel, aviation turbine fuel pricing cartel, abuse of dominant position by Google, Indian Railways, Intel, etc which require the best of the practice teams to work on them.
The most prominent law firms in India which take up competition cases includes names such as 1) Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas (Team size: 20-25) 2) AZB & Partners (Team size: 15-20) 3) Trilegal (Team size: 15-20) 4) Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (Team size: 15-20) 5) Khaitan and Co. (Team size: 15-20) 6) L&L Partners (Team size: 10-15) 7) Jyoti Sagar Associates (Team size: 10-15) 8) Talwar Thakore Associates (Team Size: 15-20) 9) Pathak and Associates (Team Size: around 10 members) 10) Chandhiok & Mahajan Associates (Team Size: around 10-11) Gaggar & Partners (Team size: 5-10)
#2 Working as/with Independent Practitioners:
Due to the quantum and the technical nature of the field, not many independent practitioners were taking up this area of practice. However, that has been changing as well.
Independent practitioners like Ms. Nidhi Singh, Mr. Chanakya Basa (representing All India Online Vendors Association in their appeal against the CCI and Flipkart- operating out of Hyderabad), Ms. Khyati Dhupar (Representing Matrix Info Systems against Intel Corporation in the CCI) have started working on enforcement matters involving filing of information, defending mid-size corporations, etc.
Such practitioners have small teams for competition and do hire juniors advocates with relevant expertise to assist them on matters. These teams are not like tier-1 or tier-2 firms which is why the level of accountability would be higher and there is more scope for effective contribution and possibly leading the matters before the authorities.
Some practitioners like Mr. Samar Bansal (practicing in New Delhi) have been kept on the panel of the CCI and also take up independent matters. Independent practitioners don’t often take up transactional matters because such matters require a big manpower and correspondence with other practice teams.
However, the plus side of working with independent practitioners is that along with competition law work, you get good work experience in other forms of civil and corporate litigation as well.
Quite often, competition lawyers after having worked for a law firm’s competition team, wish to make a transition into becoming an independent practitioner dealing with more than one practice area.
But in order to retain the specialization of competition law in terms of matters, such practitioners enter into an of-counsel arrangement with the law firm before making the transition. Mr. Rahul Rai is one such example who was earlier a partner in AZB & Partners but is now an of-counsel to the team while he pursues independent matters of his own. Another such example is Mr. Avinash Amarnath who is an of-counsel to Pathak and Associates. In such cases, unless there is a conflict, other law firms may also send them briefs on competition matters.
#3 Working with Senior Advocates
We had extensively covered 10 prominent senior advocates to work for as a competition lawyer, which included names such as Mr. Amit Sibal, Mr. Salman Khurshi, Mr. Rajshekhar Rao, Mr. Arun Kathpalia, Mr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Mr. Somasekhar Sunderesan, Mr. Ramji Srinivasan, etc. You can get a more detailed description here.
For those who are looking to establish their own practice, or receive good recommendation letters for their studies abroad, this is a very good area of work because you will be working with the topmost senior advocates of the country.
While working with senior advocates, you will have competition teams of various law firms briefing you and your senior with their matters which would be argued by the senior advocate.
Here, you will not be involved in drafting the information or the replies because that will be carried out by the briefing counsel teams. Your job as a competition lawyer would be to conduct research on the propositions raised by the senior advocate and identify loopholes in the drafts that have been presented by the briefing teams (if any).
Quite often, competition law teams before filing information or leniency applications circulate their preliminary draft with the team of the senior advocate to seek advice. This is where the junior advocates have to go through such drafts and provide detailed recommendations on improving the same. Therefore, lawyers working under senior advocates are expected to be highly proficient in this field of law.
#4 Policy Researcher in Think Tanks
Policy research has become a very important field and a preferred one for those who do not want to pursue a career in courtroom litigation or transactional law and yet want to be deeply involved in the subject.
Competition Law is one of the most recent legislation which is undergoing constant changes and amendments. It is heavily inspired by its EU and the US counterpart laws which is why think tanks have started creating verticals of competition law to encourage policy advocacy.
Professionals are encouraged to apply in places like Vidhi Centre for Policy, Institute for Commercial Policy and Legal Research, Jindal Institute on IP and Competition (JIRICO), CUTS Institute for Regulation and Competition, etc.
Working for these organizations not only gives you exposure towards competition law but also exposes you towards subjects such as economics, intellectual property rights which is what makes this an interdisciplinary field.
Associate Fellows as a job description conduct research studies and fieldwork, design, develop and execute innovative training/academic programs and conferences in the field of competition law.
#5 Research Associates in Competition Commission of India (CCI)
This is considered the holy grail for people who want to get exposed to the adjudication side of this field. Working for the CCI helps you understand the approach that the regulatory body takes for deciding cases.
Lawyers are encouraged to apply as research associates who would be expected to conduct research and assist in drafting the orders of the CCI for ongoing matters.
The CCI regularly puts out advertisements for interviews and the remuneration is based on the level that they are hired at. The level of the Research Associates will be determined not only on the basis of experience and educational qualifications but also on the basis of the overall performance of the candidate during his/her interview.
Researcher Associates also get first-hand experience in the process of merger review and get to know the possible roadblocks faced by lawyers. After having worked for the CCI, law firms actively start hiring such people because they would be in a better position to determine what approach CCI would take in enforcement and merger related matters.
#6 In-house department in New age companies
This is a very interesting area that has recently come up owing to the attack of the CCI on new age technology and e-commerce companies. Companies like Facebook have started creating a team of specialists to deal with their competition, privacy and data-sharing violations. Their job is to focus on the companies’ economic, security and social good impact. The article of Facebook hiring competition lawyers for its panel can be found here.
This trend started in the United States and now is spreading over to other countries as well. Companies in sectors which are competition scrutiny prone require at least some of their in-house counsels to know or learn competition law.
In India, companies like Amazon and OYO are placing a high regard on proficiency in competition laws while hiring counsels for their legal departments. Even though such companies will always hire external law firms, they want their internal teams to be well-informed to deal with the new age violations like competition, data sharing and privacy issues which are all interconnected at the end of the day.
#7 Faculty Positions in Law Colleges
The best part about this field is that there are less than 200 active competition lawyers in the country right now. So, the expertise is practically in the hands of the few. Those who do not want to pursue law firm practice anymore can take up faculty positions in law colleges which is also the need of the hour.
Law colleges in India today unlike the countries outside have a dearth of quality competition law training. When we say training, we don’t just mean reading out provisions and case laws. Practical implications of competition law are not being taught in most colleges today because very few colleges are actively even teaching it as a separate subject.
This is where lawyers can tap into this market. Jindal Global Law School has already started setting up an effective competition law department. NLSIU had Mr. Rahul Singh heading the competition law faculty for years now before he switched to Khaitan and Co. to start practicing.
Similarly, lawyers can take up such positions in non-NLUs where the requirement is even higher. Due to the subject being high in demand, prospective applicants will have a higher bargaining power even in terms of remuneration.
Despite the array of career opportunities, the one common verdict remains that there is a lack of effective training being imparted at a beginner level. Students in colleges do not have practicing competition lawyers teaching them the subject which is why they mostly try understanding the subject through moot court competitions or on the job.
Such self-learning comes in the midst of a lot of pressure of deadlines. Today no matter whichever career you wish to pursue in competition law, you will only be well paid if you do not compromise on the level of skill-sets required for this field of practice.
Which are the cities you can work in for Competition law?
Competition law practices are largely concentrated in Mumbai and Delhi. The CCI with the office of the Directorate General (DG), NCLAT (the appellate forum for competition appeals) and Supreme Court are all in Delhi, so most of the competition work is in Delhi.
As Mumbai has been the destination for large corporate offices, competition teams also operate from Mumbai because it gives them an opportunity to meet and interface with clients in person. However, Mumbai-based competition lawyers regularly travel to Delhi for matters, as frequently as two to three times a week due to filing requirements and to attend hearings.
For the same reason, Bangalore, Hyderabad and other places where clients operate from, are also potential destinations for competition lawyers to operate in the future. Such lawyers will still need to frequently travel to Delhi, or atleast liaison with competition lawyers in Delhi, until a bench of the CCI is created there.
In some cases, writ petitions against the CCI’s orders go to the state High Court. To this extent, competition law is also practiced at the state level like Mumbai, Madras, etc.
Understanding the vast scope of the field but the existing gaps of education and training, we at LawSikho have created an executive certificate course on competition law called the Certificate Course In Competition Law, Practice And Enforcement.
This is an executive certificate course with 1 online live class per week, printed study materials at your disposal, doubt clearance within 24 hours and a lot of other benefits that you can find on the course page with details.
This course follows a holistic approach towards making sense of the provisions of the law and developing the required skill sets to approach competition cases.
Just comment below or give us a call at 011-4084-5203 for a free career counseling session by one of our experts! And do not forget to go through the details of the course from the course page here.
Other courses that you might want to check out are listed below:
EXECUTIVE CERTIFICATE COURSES