Marquard advises on all aspects of Swiss and EU competition law (horizontal and vertical agreements, dominance abuse, merger control, and civil antitrust law) and represents clients in proceedings before competition authorities and courts. He is particularly experienced in public procurement-related competition law matters such as bid-rigging. Marquard is a member of the five-headed steering committee of the global CMS competition group, responsible for setting the strategy of more than 200 competition lawyers worldwide.
What inspired you to pursue a legal career in competition law?
Koen Lenaerts (now president of the European Court of Justice) and Jacques Steenbergen (now president of the Belgian Competition Authority), during my Erasmus exchange year at the University of Leuven in 1997–1998. I found their lectures on EU law in general, and EU competition law, and their introduction to the concepts of competition law particularly inspiring.
What did you find most challenging about entering the competition field?
When I started practising as a lawyer in 2001, Swiss competition law as we know it today was a very young field of law with only a few lawyers specialising in it. Being involved at this early stage was on the one hand challenging, but at the same time very exciting since a lot of concepts were just about to evolve – leaving room to develop your own line of argument in order to navigate the borders of what competition law in Switzerland is all about.
What qualities make for a successful competition practitioner?
First of all, of course, a solid knowledge of the legal framework and case law in Switzerland and, on top of that, EU competition law, since many concepts in Swiss competition law are based on EU competition law – and the authority and courts often refer to EU competition law whenever a certain question has not yet been addressed in Switzerland. Second, a good understanding of the economic concepts on which competition law is based. Third, a certain eagerness to profoundly understand not only the facts of the case, but also the business of your client and the industry sector and/or business model in the context of which you are asked to provide legal guidance. Fourth, experience with investigations and the functioning of the authorities, which is an important factor in order to achieve the best result for your client. And, last but not least, a fair understanding of related fields of law, such as public procurement law.
How has the competition law market changed since you started practising?
There are more lawyers truly specialising in competition law, whereas earlier competition law was (and to some extent still is in Switzerland) a field of law which lawyers used to practise in addition to other fields of law. Nowadays, in my view, this is hardly possible anymore, considering the continuous development of case law and new regulations. So, at least in my case, it has proven to be the right decision to have a clear focus on competition law from the very beginning of my legal career.
How has your practice adapted to address challenges in the context of public procurement-related competition law matters?
When I was approached by a client in 2010 to represent it in an investigation by the competition authorities regarding an alleged bid-rigging cartel, I realised that a solid understanding of the interplay between public procurement and competition law was crucial in order to be in a position to provide concise and meaningful legal advice. So I started building up expertise in public procurement law in order to complement my competition law expertise and give my competition law profile a “special edge”. This has proven to be very helpful in all public procurement law-related competition proceedings I have been involved in since then. Since 2015, I have also headed the public procurement practice of our firm.
How is the generational shift changing legal practice at your firm? What do younger lawyers do differently?
The younger generation of lawyers is often more open to and familiar with developments in the area of legaltech. This relates not only to the use of e-discovery tools in order to handle and analyse large data volumes, be it in the context of investigations or internal competition law audits, but also to the area of project management, communication with clients, etc. As a member of the expert group on digitalisation of the Swiss Bar Association, I am particularly exposed to new developments in the legal technology area and involved in the evaluation of new technologies available on the market. In addition, I would say that younger partners are often more directly involved in the actual legal work to be done. Clients hire me due to my expertise and, accordingly, expect me to be involved in legal analysis – something that I am more than happy to do, not only because I enjoy practising competition law, but also to stay on top of new developments in my area of expertise.
How do you anticipate the legal market changing in the next five years? How might this affect your practice?
There will certainly be more possibilities to make use of new technologies allowing us, to the benefit of our clients, to provide our services in a more efficient manner. In addition, I believe that the Swiss market may see more boutique law firms with a clear focus, at firm level, on competition law, which may increase pressure on legal fees. Furthermore, there is likely to be more work in the area of merger control if the current efforts to amend the rather permissive Swiss merger control regime will result in the introduction of the ‘significant impediment to effective competition’ test and, possibly, a lowering of the notification turnover thresholds. And finally, we may see an increase in civil antitrust cases and, in particular, more focus on the compensation of cartel victims – an aspect of Swiss competition law that is, compared to other jurisdictions, still very underdeveloped for various reasons.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the competition field?
At some point, add economics to your studies; spend some time at the authority (eg, as an intern); dare to focus on competition law from an early stage of your career; and add a particular edge to your competition profile in order to distinguish yourself from your competitors in the legal market.
Marquard Christen is “clearly one of the best experts in competition law” extol sources, one of whom says, “His strength is his ability to quickly understand even the most complex set of facts.”
Marquard Christen is a partner at CMS von Erlach Poncet Ltd specialising in competition and public procurement law.
Marquard advises Swiss and international companies on all aspects of Swiss and EU competition law (horizontal and vertical agreements, dominance abuse, merger control and civil antitrust law) and represents them in proceedings before competition authorities and courts. Over the past 15 years, he has gained special knowledge in various industries. Additionally, he advises clients on compliance matters, in general and with a particular focus on antitrust law (development of compliance programmes, compliance and dawn raid trainings and antitrust law audits). In public procurement law, Marquard supports both procuring entities and bidders in the tender process and in appeal proceedings.
Born in 1975, Marquard graduated from the universities of Fribourg (summa cum laude) and Leuven, Belgium (EU law) and completed postgraduate studies in Sydney and Geneva (international law). He was admitted to the Bar in 2003 and is a member of the Swiss and Zurich Bar associations and the Antitrust Law Association (Studienvereinigung Kartellrecht). Marquard is a member of the steering committee of the global CMS competition practice group and heads our firm's public procurement practice group. He is the co-founder of a competition law roundtable consisting of senior associates and young partners from major Swiss law firms.
Marquard regularly lectures and publishes on competition and public procurement law. He is fluent in German, English and French and also speaks Spanish and Dutch.
CMS von Erlach Poncet Ltd is a leading Swiss business law firm and a member of CMS, the world’s fifth-largest law firm. The CMS Competition Practice Group consists of more than 170 competition lawyers.