Strategic Research Sponsor of the American Bar Association's Section of International LawThe Queen's Award for Enterpise 2012

John Boyce
Office:
Square de Meeûs 40
1000
City:
Brussels
Country:
Belgium
Tel:
+32 2 737 9411
Fax:
+32 2 737 9401

Thought Leaders: Competition 2017

John has spent most of his career in Brussels – for two years as an associate (when the firm established its Brussels office in 1989) and since 1996 when he returned as a partner. Much of that time has involved notifications of deals to the European Commission under the Merger Regulation. His practice also covers cartels and other antitrust investigations, as well as proceedings before the European Courts (and the UK domestic courts).

Why did you decide to specialise in competition law?

I studied EEC law at university and was attracted by the international nature of Slaughter and May’s practice. I found advising on competition law issues required a good understanding of clients’ business activities and objectives. Working with clients to navigate antitrust obstacles continues to give me job satisfaction.

What advice would you give to younger lawyers starting their career in this practice area?

Be enthusiastic and open-minded. Meet and work with individuals – clients across different sectors, regulators, economists, other advisers – from different cultural backgrounds and legal traditions. Variety is the spice of life. It helps you “think outside the box” and find solutions, rather than just identifying problems.

What are the greatest challenges facing competition lawyers at present?

Staying on top of your workload and focused on each client’s objectives, despite other demands and distractions (including incessant email traffic).

What separates your firm from the competition?

Slaughter and May is about talented individuals working in teams, focused on achieving the best result for the client. We don’t have the tensions of an “eat what you kill” culture or “billable hours” targets. We have a different approach to international coverage, managing challenging multijurisdictional projects by working flexibly with antitrust specialists through our network of “best friends”.

How important is maintaining a good working relationship with the competition authorities in your practice?

Maintaining good relations is a key part of working in the “Brussels bubble”. It makes the job enjoyable and helps investigations run smoothly. It takes time to develop a good reputation in Brussels, but much longer to rebuild one if it is seriously damaged.

You have over 30 years of service with Slaughter and May; what is it about the firm that has encouraged you to stay for so long?

I’m part of a great team of talented women and men with different backgrounds, strengths and skills. It’s very satisfying to help younger colleagues develop their legal and business skills to achieve our clients’ objectives (and now doing so using new technologies and working practices).

What do you anticipate the future holds for the competition legal market in Europe?

We’ll continue to see international cooperation, with regulators learning from others’ investigative toolboxes and deploying the competition rules more strategically to achieve broader political objectives. Brexit may complicate enforcement within Europe, and will increase the number of regulatory reviews for business.

What is the secret of your success?

The KISS principle. Keeping it simple and straightforward generally helps cases run smoothly and achieves better results for the client. But modern investigative techniques (including increased use of econometrics) mean that gliding calmly across the water requires proper preparation and frantic relentless paddling beneath the surface.

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