Competition law in a post-Brexit world

Whilst the UK has its own established competition law, it is closely modelled on EU law, which ultimately takes precedence. It should be noted that post Brexit, EU competition rules will continue to apply to both agreements and the conduct of UK businesses that have an effect within the EU, just as the conduct of US and Asian businesses do. But has this affected the recruitment of competition associates?

In the UK

There is still a demand for competition associates in UK firms: with EU law applicable to any cross boarder mergers, this expertise is still needed in the UK market. Immediately following the EU referendum, there was a significant increase in the demand for competition associates, though this has since waned. The slight slow down seems to have been caused by overall uncertainty, leading to law firms being selective in terms of whom they hire. At the same time, there have been reports that despite lawyers at certain firms being overworked, firms are reluctant to invest in hiring.

EU and Brussels

Many law firms have offices across the world, and associates who are qualified in other jurisdictions can be rather appealing. In the EU and Brussels, experience of UK and EU competition law would be beneficial; nevertheless, Brussels has become increasingly popular for associates wishing to gain experience of high profile or interesting competition cases at the hub of EU competition law.

Unfortunately, firms cannot sign off for everyone to relocate to Brussels, but there are many excellent opportunities out there – especially for those with European language skills. Before considering a move to Brussels or the EU however, it should be noted that in 2019 UK lawyers may no longer be EU registered, and may be required to re-qualify within their chosen jurisdiction. Due to the high number of lawyers viewing Brussels as a safe haven, there appear to be far more lawyers than vacancies – and like London, law firms can be selective about who they choose to appoint.

Outside the UK/EU

There have been some recent moves from top UK firms to both global law firms and top tier independent firms. Competition law is unique, depending on location; however, all jurisdictions share similar aims of protecting the free market and preventing any abuse of dominant power.

The similarities in law mean that UK competition associates have many transferable skills, so for an individual willing to re-qualify in other jurisdictions, they have plenty of opportunities across the US, Asia and Australia. This is especially true for those with language skills, and excellent academics. We are seeing lawyers who are internationally mobile looking to leave the UK and return to their countries of birth.


From a candidate perspective, we are seeing many lawyers asking for career advice on the best move for them. Many lawyers seem to have decided to leave now, rather than waiting until post-Brexit when firms in other countries are likely to have already made their strategic decisions.

Based on what we have seen in the market, competition associates should begin to consider all of their options. It has become a highly competitive market, giving firms the power to exercise more choice concerning new hires in their team. However, associates can use this as a fantastic opportunity to make that move, whether in the UK or elsewhere – allowing them to broaden their exposure, and potentially re-qualify.

Sophie Burns specialises in recruiting competition associates into top tier law firms both in London and for international relocations. If you’re a competition associate looking for a new role or a competition partner/HR professional looking for an associate to join their team, please contact her on 0207 300 9015 or email

By Sophie Burns - Recruitment Consultant - Legal Division


Recruitment , See all , Legal , Brexit
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