Insight

Davies Points to “Groupthink” as Contributor to Industry Stagnation

The 2019 Canaidan "Law Firm of the Year" honoree for Competitions/Antitrust Law shares the keys to their success.

Davies "Law Firm of the Year" Q&A
Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers

January 24, 2019 04:40 PM

George N. Addy, senior counsel at the Canadian law firm Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP and former head of the Canadian Competition Bureau, talks with Best Lawyers CEO Phillip Greer on the evolving nature of Competition and Antitrust law both locally and globally. The winner of the 2019 “Law Firm of the Year Award” for that practice in Canada, Addy discusses how his firm remains competitive in a changing field.

Are there any trends that you’ve witnessed within the competition and antitrust law sectors in the past year, and do you see these trends continuing to change in Canada in the future?

On the issue of the global or international competition law environment, I think there are a couple of notable trends of concern. The first is the growing deliberate extraterritorial reach of remedies that essentially use competition law as a trade tool. Frankly, I think the European Commission’s numerous investigations of the Silicon Valley high-tech sector are more trade-oriented as opposed to pure competition law–oriented. I find that trend quite worrisome, and I hope it doesn’t spread.

The second trend, somewhat related to the first or perhaps building on it, is the extensive mimicking in the antitrust enforcement community. If one antitrust agency decides to explore an issue, then they all have to start their own reviews or studies on the same issue. It’s like a domino effect with little appearance that there’s a lot more behind these initiatives other than “We should do it because the others are doing it.” It seems there’s something of a “groupthink” at play as opposed to agencies doing their job under their legislation, deciding the matter and issuing a decision. Often today with international mergers, you’ll have several countries looking at a transaction and analyzing it, but even though country A has finished its examination, it won’t issue its decision because country B or C or D is still looking at it. They sometimes seem more preoccupied with coordinating the timing of press releases than telling parties what they’ve decided when they’ve completed their analysis. I’m worried about that behavior diluting the focus of national agencies on their national law. It can also be unfair to the parties.

Another example of the groupthink issue can be seen in the “privacy” space. I doubt you can find an antitrust agency in the world that doesn’t have some review going on now regarding the competitive implications of privacy. I’m worried that there’s a lot of mandate confusion and extensive resources being spent by agencies on issues outside the antitrust space because privacy is perhaps more interesting than the usual files or because privacy is catching media attention—a new Y2K frenzy of sorts.

If one antitrust agency decides to explore an issue, then they all have to start their own reviews or studies on the same issue. It’s like a domino effect with little appearance that there’s a lot more behind these initiatives...

Another trend that has increasingly been the subject of commentary is timeliness of decision-making by competition authorities and Canada is no exception. Experience and judgment often seem to have lost ground to an analysis by checklists and blind adherence to process. This has led to merger reviews taking longer and longer, often outside agency guidelines or performance measures—again at significant costs to the parties.

Those are some of the trends that concern me.

Are there any policy changes on the government level, either locally or globally, that you’re also seeing affecting competition or antitrust law?

Globally, there are increased market uncertainties flowing from some of President Trump’s initiatives and from initiatives elsewhere around the world: trade wars, political instability, and protectionist policies to name a few—all of which are affecting and chilling capital investment decisions. In Canada, those concerns were compounded by uncertainty in 2018 regarding NAFTA and infrastructure projects and recently about relations with China. Good examples are the pipeline files and concerns about the ability of investors in the resource sector to actually get deals done and capital investments completed. Whether warranted or not, investor concerns over whether you can get your pipeline built, for example, or whether infrastructure spending will actually show up at some point create a layer of uncertainty that is driving the business sector to be quieter and hold back on growth and investment plans, as it waits to figure out what the lay of the land is going to be.

In what way has technology impacted your firm’s work in antitrust law?

We are all aware of the benefits of technology in providing easy access to information needed in the practice of law. One of the other things technology has done is allow us to deal with multinational issues more easily. In real terms, if you’re dealing with multinational conduct files or mergers, you actually don’t spend much face time with clients. You’re working with other firms around the globe and coordinating filings with various agencies to ensure consistency and that regulatory submissions accurately reflect market conditions. It’s easy to communicate collaboratively with counterparts. A lot of the practice today is global, and technology has allowed us to deal with that. I joke with colleagues that my office is my briefcase. It really doesn’t matter where I am physically. I’ve got my laptop. I can get online. I’ve got my smartphone, and I can deal with clients anywhere in the world, 24/7. So technology has had that impact. Some people resent it, but frankly, I embrace it because it allows me to do my job more efficiently.

How does Davies stay agile against competitors in antitrust law?

To start, there is our laser focus on our strategy to be the firm that clients go to for business-critical work. We’re also laser-focused on excellence, which I think give us the edge. And then, the third component of our success, is our promotion of thought leadership, the way we work as a firm, the culture here, a flat organizational structure and how young lawyers are encouraged and mentored. All of that is critical to attract and build the right team and be the best at what we do.

I’ll just close with a little anecdote that reflects several of the key features of our firm’s success. At the height of the “patent wars,” we undertook an internal study focused on the intersection of antitrust and IP laws and policies because of my concerns about the lack of discourse in Canada on those issues. I enlisted a young associate in the group to help me and she spent several months of intense work on the project. The study caught the attention of the government of Canada, which commissioned a more in-depth analysis to assist in its review of IP policy. The associate was so enthralled with these issues that with my full support and that of the firm, she left Davies to pursue an MA at Stanford in law and the Internet. Since then, she’s worked with a national U.S. firm in Silicon Valley and is now a professor at Temple University. While we lost a valuable member of the team, I’m proud that we provided an environment for somebody to blossom and to feel comfortable enough to take on a new challenge and just follow her passion. I think that type of environment is a terrific example of one of the real attractions of our firm and that keeps us ahead of our competition.

Related Articles

The 2021 Best Lawyers in Canada


by Best Lawyers

Featuring the top legal talent in Canada.

Best Lawyers Canada 2021 Homepage Image

The 2021 "Law Firm of the Year" Awards in Canada


by Best Lawyers

We are excited to announce the recipients of the 2021 "Law Firm of the Year" awards in Canada.

2021 Law Firm of the Year Awards in Canada

The Buyout Brigade


by Best Lawyers

Neill May, John Connon, and David Matlow discuss what’s ahead for private equity—and why dealmakers of all stripes have more leverage than ever.

An Interview With Goodmans

Leading the Evolution in Workplace Law


by Best Lawyers

Colin G.M. Gibson discusses workplace safety, issues such as raising the minimum wage, and job-protected leaves. 

An Interview With Harris & Company

What the Seller-Friendly Market Means for Private Equity


by Best Lawyers

JP Bogden and Kurt Sarno of 2019 Canadian "Law Firm of the Year" award-winner Blakes discuss trends in the private equity sector.

Blakes 2019 "Law Firm of the Year" Interview

Staying Competitive in Competitions and Antitrust Law


by Best Lawyers

Igor Svechkar of Asters talks with Best lawyers about his firm's 2019 Antitrust "Law Firm of the Year" award for Ukraine.

Asters Q&A Law Firm of the Year

Gowling WLG Attorneys Discuss Aboriginal Law in Canada


by Best Lawyers

Gowling WLG won the 2019 "Law Firm of the Year" award for Aboriginal Law in Canada.

Gowling WLG "Law Firm of the Year" Q&A

Fasken Attorneys on Their 2019 "Law Firm of the Year" Award Win


by Best Lawyers

Lawyers from the Canadian firm discus their employment law practice and the changes coming to the Canadain legal market.

Fasken Law Firm of the Year Q&A

What Are Examinations for Discovery


by Salvatore Grillo

This article explores the importance of an examination for discovery in civil lawsuits.

Illuminated lightbulb in a maze

Canadian Women in the Legal Profession: From Non-‘Persons’ to Chief Justices


by Sara Collin

We take an in-depth look at the challenges and optimistic future of women in the Canadian legal sector.

Canadian Women in the Legal Profession

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Germany™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Germany.

Black, red and yellow stripes

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Switzerland™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Switzerland.

Red flag with white cross

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Austria™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Austria.

Red and white stripes

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Italy™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Italy.

Green, white and red stripes

How To Prepare a Strong Personal Injury Claim in Canada


by Lawyer Submitted

If you suffer injuries due to an accident or other incident, you should take several steps to prepare a solid personal injury claim in Canada.

Personal Injury Claims in Canada

There’s Hope for the Canadian Real Estate Market Post COVID-19


by Steven Tulman

Clover Mortgage offers advice and predictions on the Toronto real estate market as we move on post-pandemic.

Canadian Real Estate Market Post COVID-19

Trending Articles

Announcing the 2023 The Best Lawyers in America Honorees


by Best Lawyers

Only the top 5.3% of all practicing lawyers in the U.S. were selected by their peers for inclusion in the 29th edition of The Best Lawyers in America®.

Gold strings and dots connecting to form US map

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America for 2023


by Best Lawyers

The third edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America™ highlights the legal talent of lawyers who have been in practice less than 10 years.

Three arrows made of lines and dots on blue background

Announcing the 2023 The Best Lawyers in Canada Honorees


by Best Lawyers

The Best Lawyers in Canada™ is entering its 17th edition for 2023. We highlight the elite lawyers awarded this year.

Red map of Canada with white lines and dots

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers® in the United States


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers listed in the 28th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America® and in the 2nd Edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America for 2022.

2022 Best Lawyers Listings for United States

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in Canada 2023


by Best Lawyers

The year 2023 marks the second edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in Canada, highlighting professionals earlier in their legal careers all across Canada.

Blue background with white stairs formed out of lines

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers in Canada™


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers listed in the 16th Edition of The Best Lawyers in Canada™ and 1st Edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in Canada.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers in Canada™

Famous Songs Unprotected by Copyright Could Mean Royalties for Some


by Michael B. Fein

A guide to navigating copyright claims on famous songs.

Can I Sing "Happy Birthday" in Public?

Choosing a Title Company: What a Seller Should Expect


by Roy D. Oppenheim

When it comes to choosing a title company, how much power exactly does a seller have?

Choosing the Title Company As Seller

What the Courts Say About Recording in the Classroom


by Christina Henagen Peer and Peter Zawadski

Students and parents are increasingly asking to use audio devices to record what's being said in the classroom. But is it legal? A recent ruling offer gives the answer to a question confusing parents and administrators alike.

Is It Legal for Students to Record Teachers?

All Eyes to the Ones on the Rise


by Rebecca Blackwell

Our 2023 honorees recognized in Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch™ in America tell us more about how their path to law formed, what lead them to their practice areas and how they keep steadfast in their passion to serve others.

Person walking between glass walls towards window

The Real Camille: An Interview with Johnny Depp’s Lawyer Camille Vasquez


by Rebecca Blackwell

Camille Vasquez, a young lawyer at Brown Rudnick, sat down with Best Lawyers CEO Phillip Greer to talk about her distinguished career, recently being named partner and what comes next for her.

Camille Vasquez in office

Caffeine Overload and DUI Tests


by Daniel Taylor

While it might come as a surprise, the over-consumption of caffeine could trigger a false positive on a breathalyzer test.

Can Caffeine Cause You to Fail DUI Test?

Announcing the 2022 "Best Law Firms" Rankings


by Best Lawyers

The 2022 “Best Law Firms” publication includes all “Law Firm of the Year” recipients, national and metro Tier 1 ranked firms and editorial from thought leaders in the legal industry.

The 2022 Best Law Firms Awards

Wage and Overtime Laws for Truck Drivers


by Greg Mansell

For truck drivers nationwide, underpayment and overtime violations are just the beginning of a long list of problems. Below we explore the wages you are entitled to but may not be receiving.

Truck Driver Wage and Overtime Laws in the US

Press and Publicity: How Television and Social Media Impact Legal Careers


by Justin Smulison

In recent years, with social media giving minute by minute reporting, many lawyers are finding themselves thrust into a spotlight they never planned for. How are lawyers grappling with unexpected stardom, media coverage and merciless influencers?

Close up of camera at news station

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch – The Future of Legal Talent Looks Bright


by Justin Smulison

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch is launching its second edition in the United States, and after talking with both a company leader and esteemed lawyers on the list, the importance of this prestigious list is evident.

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America 2022