Q&A with Paul Lugard, Partner at Baker Botts (Belgium) LLP

BL: What is your legal background (including education, early career etc.)?

PL: I studied law at the University of Groningen, a vibrant, but also a somewhat far-away city in the northern part of the Netherlands, at least in my days when students were not allowed to travel for free with public transport. Professor C.W.A. Timmermans, later judge at the European Court of Justice and Professor M.R. Mok, who has been instrumental in introducing competition law in The Netherlands, were my main teachers.

After a traineeship at DG COMP, then called DG 4, I spent a year at the College of Europe and was then hired by one of the larger Dutch firms in Rotterdam, Trenité van Doorne. After five years I moved to an in-house position at Philips, where I would spent more than a decade, the last few years as Senior Vice President and Head of Antitrust. It was an exciting and interesting period and I have made some good friends there. In 2012 I was asked to set up the Brussels office of Baker Botts, together with Catriona Hatton, who was then the partner in charge of the Brussels office of Hogan Lovells.

BL: Could you say a little about your role at Baker Botts - is there any such thing as 'typical day'?

PL: I suspect that most competition lawyers will tell you that there is no such thing as a “typical day” and if they would, they would certainly not be telling the truth. A day in the office can range from intense preparation for a hearing, reflecting on some thorny legal issues to preparing a client memorandum of a proposed business transaction, to internal management issues, discussions with colleagues on ongoing matters and administrative matters. It is mostly a combination of all these activities and of course we travel a fair bit, either to meet clients, to visit competition agencies abroad, or to spend time at our US offices.

One thing stands out though: even if the working days are sometimes long, it is a pleasure to work for a firm that truly values its lawyers and where teamwork is actively stimulated. We also have a great group of associates and staff and without them life would be harder and not so much fun.

BL: Was Competition Law an area that interested you from early on in your studies? How did this evolve into an area of expertise for you?

PL: Yes, I am afraid that in some respects I am indeed a bit of an antitrust nerd and that has been the case since the early 1990s. It definitely helps to have enthusiastic and visionary professors and I have always been interested in how economic regulation impacts on business, markets and industrial sectors. I was also fortunate to do a traineeship at the Dutch Civil Aviation Authority at a time when the European air transport sector was liberalised. And I joined Philips because it was one of the very few companies at the time at the forefront of competition law and a great place to practice competition law.

BL: What prompted your move from working in-house as Head of Antitrust at Royal Philips Electronics to a global law firm like Baker Botts? What challenges and opportunities did it present?

PL: After more than ten years with Philips, it was time for something new. I had not planned on joining a global firm like Baker Botts, but I liked the business plan and the people I met there, some of who I had met when they were still with Howrey. For example, Jim Rill, one of most prominent former Assistant Attorney Generals of the US Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division and a formidable antitrust lawyer encouraged me to join.

The transition to private practice has been remarkably smooth, even if it requires a different mindset. The greatest opportunity - and challenge at the same time - is building a high-quality office that competes with the best offices around the world and ensuring that each of our lawyers and team members enjoy being part of the firm. It is a great thing that we seem to get it right, at least often.

BL: You are also an Assistant Professor at TILEC - what advice would you give to Law students starting out on their journey, or those still early on in their career?

PL: There are significant synergies between private practice, academic work and, in my case, advocacy work, for instance for the Competition Commission of the ICC, the Business and Advisory Council of the OECD and the ICN. While private practice is not always conducive to academic work, I would encourage law students and young practitioners to keep an eye on what is happening in academia. But most importantly, follow your vision, practice the type of law that you like, be prepared to invest and make some sacrifices, apply high quality standards and let yourself be inspired by others. And try to have some fun along the way.

BL: Do you have any future career goals?

PL: I would be really pleased if at the end of my career the Brussels office of Baker Botts would be flourishing even more.

BL: Thank you very much for your time