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Q&A with Stephen Smith

4 May 2017

Stephen is partner in the Competition team at Bristows and chair of the Law Society Competition Section advisory committee.

Stephen Smith

You're talking to a friend of a friend at a party. How do you describe what you do?

I’m a competition lawyer - it’s a diverse area of corporate law that is designed to ensure that businesses compete fairly and on a level playing field. I work with my clients to ensure they understand their obligations and defend them when they are in breach. This might range from helping to persuade a regulatory authority to allow two businesses to merge together to defending a company from allegations that it has engaged in ‘cartel’ behaviour, for example by fixing prices with a competitor.

What are you working on at the moment?

A number of things, but the European Commission's e-commerce sector enquiry and related investigations are a big focus right now.

What was your first job?

I did a few paper rounds whilst at school, washed cars and stacked shelves in a supermarket. Working in a Threshers off licence whilst at law school came with the benefits of a staff discount and first option on 'disposing of' out of date beer after a stock take....

Career highlight?

It has to be the Court of Appeal victory for the operating company of Eurotunnel's MyFerryLink cross-channel ferry service. Our victories in the Competition Appeal Tribunal and subsequently the Court of Appeal kept the business operating (and its staff in work) against the odds for three years. It was disappointing not to be able to continue the fight in the Supreme Court when the business ceased to operate shortly afterwards for commercial reasons.

Share some great advice you've been given.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time …. That’s been invaluable advice at many times when faced with the enormity of a task!

What's in your desk drawers?

If I need anything, I like to keep it where I can see it, on my desk. That’s another way of saying I have a very untidy desk and very empty drawers...

Can you recommend a local lunch or coffee spot?

Lunch at Shaw's Booksellers is always a pleasure.

How do you relax?

Spending time with my wife and three children is a great way to relax and get some much needed perspective at times!

What's your pet hate?

People who put their bags on unoccupied seats in busy commuter trains.

Sum up working as a solicitor in one word.

Unpredictable.

Favourite city?

London. But if overseas, I would have to say Washington D.C.

What book is on your bedside table?

All Out War by Tim Shipman. A fantastic insight into the Brexit campaign.

What needs to happen to get more women into leadership roles?

We need to work hard as a profession to keep the talented female mid-level lawyers who will become the senior associates and partners of the future. Flexibility, an open-minded approach to career structures and honest communication are all steps in the right direction.

If you hadn't become a solicitor, what would you have done?

I’d like to say professional sportsman, but more realistically I would probably have pursued a career in business following a well-trodden path on a graduate training scheme.