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John Boyce
Square de Meeûs 40
+32 2 737 9411
+32 2 737 9401

Thought Leaders

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.


Who's Who Legal Competition: Lawyers

John Boyce studied at King's College London and at Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne). He joined Slaughter and May in 1985, became a partner in 1994 and has been based in the firm's Brussels office since 1996.

Since the adoption of the Merger Regulation in 1989 he has regularly been involved in the notification of deals to the European Commission for a broad range of clients. Phase II cases include acting for Bertelsmann on the Sony/BMG case and on the disposal of its music publishing interests (to Vivendi/Universal), as well as deals such as Ball/RexamCargill/Degussa, IBM/Telelogic and SC Johnson/Sara Lee. He has also advised on many cases where the parties have been able to secure Phase I clearances by offering commitments (such as AkzoNobel/ICI, IAG/Aer LingusIAG/bmi, Intel/McAfee, Linde/BOC, Medtronic/Covidien, Procter & Gamble/Gillette, Reckitt Benckiser/SSL and Thermo Fisher/Life Technologies), as well as several cases where the parties have successfully used the Article 4(4) and 4(5) pre-notification procedures.

He acted for British Airways on the Commission's investigation into its transatlantic joint venture with American Airlines and Iberia. He has also acted in many UK merger and behavioural inquiries. Industry inquiries and cartel investigations he has advised on have covered a wide range of industries, from chemicals, car parts and consumer goods to financial services and the IT sector.

His practice also involves contentious work, including national court proceedings as well as pending cartel investigations by the European Commission and CMA. His experience before the General Court in Luxembourg includes successful appeals in merger, state aid and cartel cases and in parallel trade matters.

John is a contributing author to Bellamy & Child (European Union Law of Competition, 7th edition, Spring 2013), Chapter on Merger Control. He is ranked as a leading individual (Band 1) in the Competition/European Law sections of Chambers Europe and Chambers Global, and in the EU Competition Section of IFLR 1000.

John is fluent in French. 

WWL says: "One of the key people in the practice of competition law worldwide"

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Competition which can be purchased from our Shop.

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