Paula advises on competition law matters including merger clearances, investigations and the competition law issues affecting joint ventures and other complex transactions. She provides ongoing strategic and commercial advice to clients in the banking, insurance, wealth management, payments, health, entertainment, manufacturing and petroleum industries. She is a digital economy and payment systems specialist, advising on new products, the development of new payment systems and platforms, investigations and regulatory reform processes.
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO A CAREER IN COMPETITION LAW?
Competition law grapples with problems that are the core of our social and economic life – how to make markets more competitive and how to increase social welfare. Often, competition lawyers are asked questions that cannot be answered with a simple “yes or no”. Working through that complexity is very satisfying. You often need a very nuanced approach that brings together the law, the body of jurisprudence and economic principles that sits behind the law, and a range of policy objectives and priorities (some of which are not always internally consistent). I have always been attracted to the complexity and intellectual challenge that competition law presents.
WHICH QUALITIES ARE KEY TO SUCCESS AS A COMPETITION PRACTITIONER?
Having a deep understanding of legal and economic principles is a good starting point. Having a high level of pragmatism and creativity also helps. Other than that, I find that successful practitioners have a distinctive ability to bring together things that others may find impossible to reconcile. It may be the ability to stay focused on the details and the big picture at the same time; or may be the ability to advocate a legal argument that brings together seemly irreconcilable legal principles; or the ability to bring together people with very opposed views. Some may call that good advocacy or even good people skills, and that would probably be correct but I think underlying that there is also an ability to bring together the “yin and yang” of any problem or situation that is uniquely important in our area of law.
WHAT ASPECT OF YOUR CURRENT ROLE DO YOU ENJOY THE MOST?
Competition law is constantly evolving and changing. There is always new jurisprudence, new laws, new approaches to enforcement and new issues that need addressing. This is an area of law that never stands still and demands full intellectual engagement. That intellectual challenge is one of the first things that attracted me to competition law and still applies to this day.
As a partner, I also work with many young lawyers and I enjoy seeing them develop as practitioners. Mentoring is a very rewarding part of my role.
HOW IS THE PAYMENT SERVICE SECTOR DEVELOPING, AND IN WHAT WAYS HAS THIS IMPACTED YOUR PRACTICE?
Electronic payments are a key part of ecommerce, so the sector has evolved significantly in the last few years. When I started working in this space, it was considered a very niche area. Since then, the law has developed a complex set of rules to regulate various aspects of payments, and competition regulators around the world have started to recognise the important role of payments to facilitate (or hinder) competition. My practice has obviously evolved in response to these changes and I expect that it will continue to change in the years ahead.
WHAT DOES GILBERT + TOBIN DO TO STAY AHEAD OF THE COMPETITION?
We operate in a very competitive and demanding environment, so a commitment to excellence is a must. We also foster an environment where creativity is valued and rewarded. We are legal practitioners and therefore operate in an environment that is heavily influenced by precedent, but in advising our clients we never want to just stick to a formula, even if it that formula has been successful in the past. We are constantly trying to reinvent ourselves and improve what we do to ultimately service our clients efficiently and effectively.
HOW WILL AUSTRALIA’S NEW CONSUMER DATA RIGHT LEGISLATION IMPACT YOUR PRACTICE NEXT YEAR?
Initially, the Consumer Data Right will only affect a few industries (banking, energy and telecommunications) but I think the impact will go beyond that. In particular, I expect the ACCC will start paying closer attention to the impact of data on competition across different industries. I expect that questions of access to data, data monopolies, data as a source of market power, anti-competitive conduct involving data and information sharing more generally will become more prevalent, as the ACCC and regulators around the world start grappling with these new issues.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNGER PRACTITIONERS WHO HOPE TO BE IN YOUR POSITION ONE DAY?
I would invite them to stay curious, flexible and open minded. Like many industries, technology is also changing we way we practise law. So I would also invite them to embrace change and make the most of the opportunities that will be created in the future.
YOU HAVE HAD A VERY DISTINGUISHED CAREER TO DATE. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO ACHIEVE THAT YOU HAVE NOT ALREADY?
I actually have a very long list of things that I want to achieve. One pet project of mine is to develop better legal software, particularly software with AI capabilities. I would be very excited if I could develop software that replaces some parts of my own day-to-day job.
Paula Gilardoni is a partner in the competition and regulation group.
Paula specialises in the regulation of payment systems and competition issues arising in the digital economy. As lead partner of the innovation team in competition and regulation, Paula is at the forefront of the development of new technology platforms for the delivery of legal services. She developed HarperReady, an interactive tool that uses a technology-driven risk-based approach to the delivery of legal content (available on Gilbert + Tobin’s Smart Counsel app).
Paula is also the relationship partner for Caltex (ASX top 50 and one of Australia’s largest petrol companies) and Pact Group (ASX listed domestic manufacturer), and the lead competition adviser to Coca-Cola Amatil. She provides ongoing strategic and commercial advice to a range of clients in the financial services, insurance, manufacturing and the petroleum industries. She also advises on financial services regulatory matters and represented the Insurance Council of Australia before the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.
Paula is a regulator contributor on topical competition issues in the financial services and payments space. In late April 2018, she spoke at the AFR Banking & Wealth Summit on competition and open banking. In October 2018, she was the lead partner to coordinate and host Gilbert + Tobin’s “Data As An Asset” conference. In February 2019, she chaired ACCC’s enforcement and compliance policy update, introducing Rod Sims.
Who’s Who Legal 2019 recognises Paula as an “expert” for competition. Best Lawyers 2019 has also listed Paula in the competition law, health and aged care law, and regulatory practices categories.