Peter Alexiadis is the partner-in-charge of the Brussels office of the international Law firm, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. He has practised community law in Brussels since 1989, where his practice is split between competition law, communications policy and intellectual property law. He is the holder of postgraduate legal qualifications from the Universities of London, Sydney and Thessaloniki, and he is the visiting professor in the LLM programme at King’s College London, for the course on competition law and regulated networks sectors.
What motivated you to become a lawyer?
In order of importance: (1) my father, who had a lawyer’s DNA and is the most ethical person I ever met; (2) a deep love of arguing, propelled by my interest in philosophy, ethics and history; and (3) popular culture heroes of my childhood in the form of Atticus Finch and Perry Mason. This hopefully adds up to someone who can get a message across to others.
How do you differentiate yourself from other practitioners?
I’d like to think that I can provide different ways of looking at things which embrace law, economics and policy. I’d also like to think that I can perform equally well across the regulatory/competition divide, which many lawyers seem to find difficulty in achieving. Having kept one foot in academia over many years, I also feel that I am in a position to take a more holistic view of certain issues, and to combine strategy alongside legal analysis. Most importantly, I’d like to think that I argue for what I really believe in, as opposed to what might be expedient or self-serving.
What is the most challenging issue facing competition lawyers practicing within the information technology, media and telecommunications sector?
The most challenging problem in practice today still relates to the phenomenon of technical and commercial convergence. This renders traditional market definitions and market analysis very complex, especially where markets are multi-sided around a common delivery platform. Another challenge that will emerge in the near future is the forging of a more robust economic model by which we can evaluate efficiencies in telecoms mergers versus the risks posed by higher prices post-merger. Most importantly, however, policymakers will be struggling with how best to adapt to the phenomenon of “big data” in a myriad of situations in which data-rich applications might allegedly raise competition concerns; it will be important that policy-makers do not charge windmills as did Don Quixote.
How has Brexit impacted your practice? What competition issues do you expect it to bring to the fore with clients in the future?
Not as yet; it is too early to predict the precise impact of Brexit on our practice, although the rise in local enforcement, market reviews and merger control at the UK level should be anticipated. It will also be interesting to see how questions of geographic market definition are addressed over time, and whether or not UK regulators will continue to play an influential role in key elements of EUlevel policymaking and on fora such as BEREC.
As a global law firm, how does Gibson Dunn distinguish itself in the international market?
We have partners who are real experts in certain areas, and we marry up their skills across practice groups and offices to provide integrated services to our clients. I feel that we achieve these sorts of synergies better than many of our peers. I think that works because our methods of practising law are “old school”.
What is the most interesting case you have ever worked on?
“Interesting” is probably the wrong word for it, but the blocked MCI/Sprint deal was a huge challenge, whether it be dealing with a hostile DOJ and European Commission, and anything-but-helpful co-counsel in the US, an uncompromising merger filing deadline (at the time) and an understanding of the way in which internet markets work that was as alien to the filing parties as it was to competition authorities. In retrospect, putting forward a view of the internet backbone that history has proved to be correct is satisfying, as was the rarity of winning an appeal against a Commission decision blocking the merger. On the regulatory policy front, playing a key role in the formulation of the EU’s current Regulatory Framework was a particularly rewarding experience.
With the ever-increasing advances in technology, what is your main priority to ensure your competition practice continues to best serve clients in this sector?
The great irony is that my means of communication and research are relatively Luddite-like in a world where so much is in flux. My younger colleagues are used by me as barometers of which technologies are best adapted to serve particular needs. One should never underestimate what one can learn from the younger generation when conducting a real-life “substitutability” or “essentiality” test.
What do you feel you have not yet achieved in your career, but would still like to?
I feel that I have experienced many exciting moments in the world of TMT, but that the advent of 5G technology and the application of netneutrality rules pose a massive legal challenge to our profession. I look forward to being heavily involved in these developments, both for our clients and in an academic context. I am also working on two fascinating pro bono projects that pursue important environmental roles. Saving the UK from the perils of Brexit would also be a notable cause, but I will leave that to others.
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