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Luke Woodward

Luke Woodward

Gilbert + TobinL35, Tower Two, International Towers Sydney200 Barangaroo AvenueSydneyAustraliaNSW 2000

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Luke Woodward gains recognition as a “clever litigator” and “a strong strategic thinker”. One client is “impressed with his ability to bring to bear years of relevant experience and advise on strategies that allow us to approach our matter with confidence”.

Questions & Answers

Luke is a senior partner in Gilbert + Tobin’s competition and regulation group and has been a partner for the last 20 years. Luke has over 30 years’ experience as a legal adviser to leading Australian businesses on competition and economic regulatory matters and in public policy and administration at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, where he held various senior positions as general counsel, head of the compliance division (responsible for ACCC enforcement) and head of the mergers branch. 

What inspired you to pursue a career in competition law?

I was fortunate early in my career to work as a prosecution counsel for the forerunner to the ACCC. This was a rare opportunity to work on a variety of cases, including contested mergers, market power and cartel cases. I had a great mentor, who was incredibly experienced as well as being an excellent lawyer, completely dedicated to the job. I had the opportunity to work closely with the commission staff and commissioners, which I really valued.

What do you enjoy most about working in law?

When I started out, I think it was the problem-solving aspect of the law that I enjoyed the most; the challenge of using the law to get your client a successful outcome. Now, I really enjoy working in a highly collaborative team of great lawyers, who are passionate about what they do.  

To what degree are competition authorities becoming more sophisticated and increasingly digital?

At an operational level the ACCC is definitely “digitally” accessible and savvy, and they are also focusing strongly in building their understanding of the digital economy. However, overall, I don’t think the competition economics and law capability is more sophisticated than in the past. If I was truly candid, as rightly well regarded as the ACCC is, I think the level of sophistication may have gone backwards over time, which is probably a function of the large increase in the ACCC’s workload and scope over the years. 

What are the biggest challenges facing the market now?

Operating in uncertainty is the biggest challenge. Having said that, like other leading firms, we will continue to invest in supporting and developing our lawyers, which will put us in the best position as we work through the impact of covid-19 on the local and global economy. One thing to call out, is ensuring graduate and junior lawyers can get the close professional engagement when working remotely. This is a real focus for us.

How have you adapted your practice in response to changes in the space caused by the covid-19 pandemic?

We are tracking well in terms of maintaining a good working cadence and work levels across the team including through remote working. The technology support for the most part has worked well. The ACCC has maintained an open for business approach to merger reviews and other important areas. We are continuing to get great merger instructions, including some covid-related restructuring advice work. Other covid-specific competition law issues have come up, particularly where industry has needed to cooperate to maintain services, as well as a lot of consumer law issues.  

To what extent would you say merger control is becoming too burdensome?

In terms of the ACCC, it is probably fashionable to say that it is too burdensome; but I don’t generally agree with that. There are some cases where the investigatory demands may have been over-done, but overall the ACCC is sensible and calibrates its demands and processes according to the seriousness of the issues. At a global level for multi-jurisdiction reviews, I am sure merger control is becoming ever more burdensome, particularly for the client and coordinating counsel.  

What key skills and traits would you encourage in the next generation of competition lawyers?

There are many qualities necessary to be an effective competition lawyer. Start early (and keep going) in building deep knowledge of the law and practice as well as competition economics. You need an enquiring curious mind that can engage in the detail and then piece it together to see the bigger picture. Understand your client’s business and commercial objectives deeply and be thoughtful about how to best present their position. Strong persuasive skills to shift the regulator’s thinking; at other times you need to be in a defence mode and you need to be able to shift between them. Maintain a strong working relationship with the regulator over time, even when taking a strong adversarial defence position. And as I have said before, courage is essential.  

Thought Leaders - Competition 2021

Q&A

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Luke Woodward is an “extremely clever litigator” and “strategic thinker who is very deliberate and clear in his advice”.

Questions & Answers

Luke is head of Gilbert + Tobin’s competition and regulation group and a partner for the past 20 years. Luke has over 30 years’ experience as a legal adviser to leading Australian businesses on competition and economic regulatory matters, and in public policy and administration at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, where he held various senior positions as general counsel, head of the compliance division (responsible for ACCC enforcement) and head of the mergers branch. 

What inspired you to pursue a career in competition law?

I was fortunate early in my career to work as a prosecution counsel for the forerunner to the ACCC. This was a rare opportunity to work on a variety of cases, including contested mergers, market power and cartel cases. I had a great mentor, who was incredibly experienced as well as being an excellent lawyer, completely dedicated to the job. I had the opportunity to work closely with the commission staff and commissioners, which I really valued.

What do you enjoy most about working in law?

When I started out, I think it was the problem-solving aspect of the law that I enjoyed the most; the challenge of using the law to get your client a successful outcome. Now, I really enjoy working in a highly collaborative team of great lawyers, who are passionate about what they do. 

To what degree are competition authorities becoming more sophisticated and increasingly digital?

At an operational level the ACCC is definitely “digitally” accessible and savvy; and they are also focusing strongly on building their understanding of the digital economy. However, overall, I don’t think the competition economics and law capability is more sophisticated than in the past. If I was truly candid, as rightly well regarded as the ACCC is, I think the level of sophistication may have gone backwards over time, which is probably a function of the large increase in the ACCC’s workload and scope over the years. 

What are the biggest challenges facing the market now?

Operating in uncertainty is the biggest challenge. Having said that, like other leading firms, we will continue to invest in supporting and developing our lawyers, which will put us in the best position as we work through the impact of covid-19 on the local and global economy. One thing to call out is ensuring graduate and junior lawyers can get the close professional engagement when working remotely. This is a real focus for us.

How have you adapted your practice in response to changes in the space caused by the covid-19 pandemic?

We are tracking well in terms of maintaining a good working cadence and work levels across the team including through remote working. The technology support for the most part has worked well. The ACCC has maintained an open-for-business approach to merger reviews and other important areas. We are continuing to get great merger instructions, including some covid-19-related restructuring advice work. Other covid-19-specific competition law issues have come up, particularly where industry has needed to cooperate to maintain services, as well as a lot of consumer law issues. 

As head of Gilbert + Tobin’s competition and regulation group, what are your main priorities for its development in 2021?

While the road ahead is unclear, continued focus on team connectedness and collaboration, professional skills development and project management will put us in the best place to react and respond to opportunities. We continue to focus heavily on digital economy transformation and in life sciences and health, as well as our traditional key sectoral strengths.

To what extent would you say merger control is becoming too burdensome?

In terms of the ACCC, it is probably fashionable to say that it is too burdensome; but I don’t generally agree with that. There are some cases where the investigatory demands may have been overdone; but overall the ACCC is sensible and calibrates its demands and processes according to the seriousness of the issues. At a global level for multi-jurisdiction reviews, I am sure merger control is becoming ever-more burdensome, particularly for the client and coordinating counsel. 

What key skills and traits would you encourage in the next generation of competition lawyers?

There are many qualities necessary to be an effective competition lawyer. Start early (and keep going) in building deep knowledge of the law and practice as well as competition economics. You need an enquiring, curious mind that can engage in the detail and then piece it together to see the bigger picture. Understand your client’s business and commercial objectives deeply and be thoughtful about how to best present their position. Strong persuasive skills to shift the regulator’s thinking; at other times you need to be in a defence mode and you need to be able to shift between them. Maintain a strong working relationship with the regulator over time, even when taking a strong adversarial defence position. And as I have said before, courage is essential. 

Global Leader

Competition 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Luke Woodward gains recognition as a “clever litigator” and “a strong strategic thinker”. One client is “impressed with his ability to bring to bear years of relevant experience and advise on strategies that allow us to approach our matter with confidence”.  
Peers and clients say:
"Luke is both a smart and experienced competition practitioner."
"He is an excellent competition lawyer."
"Mr Woodward is very capable and has a good head on his shoulders."
"He is extremely smart, talented and well connected."

Biography

Luke is the head of Gilbert + Tobin’s competition and regulation practice.

In a career spanning 30 years, Luke has consistently been at the forefront of the profession: as a lead prosecution lawyer; as head of mergers, head of enforcement and general counsel at the ACCC; and 18 years as a partner at Gilbert + Tobin. He has an outstanding track record in gaining clearances in complex merger and joint venture cases, while also successfully conducting many high-profile merger, market power and collusion cases. Most recently, Luke was recognised as the leading thought leader in the Asia-Pacific region for Competition (The International Who’s Who of Competition Lawyers, 2018). 

Luke is regularly sought out for strategic advice in complex industry-changing matters. He is known for achieving outstanding commercial results, through innovative solutions and perseverance. Luke’s expertise spans general competition law/antitrust and regulation of utilities (aviation, ports, electricity and water), which in Australia is based on competition law and/or undertaken by the ACCC or state regulators within a common framework. 

Luke has led a number of significant transactions including two significant matters in Australia over the past 12 months, advising Qube (jointly with Simon Muys) on Pacific National’s proposed acquisition of Aurizon Intermodal, and Viva Energy (Shell) on the competition aspects of their alliance agreement with Coles Express until 2029.  Luke’s handling of the competition and regulatory issues was central to the structuring of both deals and the successful outcomes.

Luke has unrivalled expertise in enforcement matters, which have become increasingly critical and risky in Australia with the criminalisation of cartel behaviour. Luke leads the defence team (with Elizabeth Avery) in landmark criminal cartel prosecution of K-Line (a major global shipping line), which is part of the first prosecutions since introduction of criminal cartel laws in 2009.

He currently has a critical role advising Expedia on the ACCC’s investigation for the use of narrow price most-favoured nation clauses in agreements with accommodation providers. This is an important investigation, being part of a global move by competition regulators (in Europe and other parts of the world). 

Luke is the senior relationship partner for Virgin Australia, Ausgrid and Qube. He is also the relationship partner for Jemena (gas and electricity network operator) and a leading strategic energy regulatory adviser to APA (an ASX top 30 company), SA Power Networks, and AusNet (ASX listed electricity distribution and transmission network operator).

Luke remains as a lead competition adviser to the Business Council of Australia on competition law and policy reform, including proposals to amend the misuse of market power provision (section 46).

Luke is consistently ranked as one of Australia’s leading competition and regulation lawyers in major legal directories. He is currently ranked as a leading competition practitioner in Australia (Who’s Who Legal 2018).

He was named Competition and Trade Partner of the Year at the 2016 Lawyers Weekly Partner of the Year Awards and was a finalist for the same award in 2017.

National Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended
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