find the latest legal job
Corporate Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Highly-respected, innovative and entrepreneurial Not-for-Profit · Competency based Board
View details
Chief Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Dynamic, high growth organisation · ASX listed market leader
View details
In-house Projects Lawyer | Renewables / Solar | 2-5 Years PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: All Australia
· Help design the future · NASDAQ Listed
View details
Property lawyer - Melbourne
Category: Property Law | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Impressive client list, national firm · Well-led and high-performing team
View details
Senior family lawyer - Melbourne
Category: Family Law | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Outstanding national firm · High-calibre family law team
View details
Legal professionals need more economic awareness, academics say

Legal professionals need more economic awareness, academics say

Legal, scales of justice

Australian and US universities have partnered to educate legal professionals about the application of competition laws.

The Centre for Market Design at the University of Melbourne, in partnership with George Mason University’s Global Antitrust Institute, ran a program in June to educate legal professionals in the Asia-Pacific region about the economic principles that underlie legislation, such as Australia’s Competition and Consumer Act.

The week-long course was delivered to 35 judges and antitrust regulators from across the Asia-Pacific region.

The University of Melbourne’s law faculty has also been focusing on the issue of anti-competitive behaviour such as price fixing, with US Court of Appeals Judge Douglas Ginsburg addressing the topic at the annual Baxt Lecture.

Professor Simon Loertscher, the director of the Centre for Market Design, told Lawyers Weekly this increased focus was prompted by a perceived lack of economic awareness in the Australian legal profession.

“We got a sense that in the Australian environment, there’s very little economics expertise that goes into that [antitrust economics and industrial organisation],” he said.

“A couple of years ago there was the overhaul of the Competition and Consumer Act in Australia, and there were very few research-active economists that worked on antitrust and industrial organisation issues that [gave] input into that new legislation.”

Professor Loertscher said Australian lawmakers need to be more aware of the ways different parties’ incentives interact in the antitrust space, and the effect of legislation on competition.

“The laws usually say things like, ‘We’re going to have more competitive outcomes’, but what is a more competitive outcome? What’s a meaningful interpretation of competition?” he said.

“In the United Sates, they have adopted a standard that they just care about consumer surplus primarily. That, from an economics perspective, is an operational, meaningful concept.

“But in many other jurisdictions, in particular in Asia, there’s a view [that the law] should also promote fair competition, but it’s very difficult to make sense of the notion of ‘fair’: what does fair competition mean?

“In Australia there’s also a tension … in the practice of applying antitrust legislation in that they do not only care about consumer surplus, they also care about the effect that, say, a merger has on the competing firms of the merged firm. So if it harms the competitors, then that’s also considered anti-competitive, and that is in a sense paradoxical because the merged firm ... can only become so much stronger to harm the competitors if it is actually much more efficient than the competitors.”

Professor Loertscher said these somewhat contradictory objectives in competition law can present problems for judges.

“We’re trying to create basic awareness of these issues and say, ‘What are meaningful objectives for a consumer act?’ and ‘What are the sort of questions judges should be asking?’,” he said.

“I think that was an important lesson from the program: create awareness for the judges of the sort of questions that they should be asking. They’re not going to be experts on the economics, but what sort of questions should they ask to get the right answers from the parties in court? That’s what it’s about.”

Professor Loertscher added that he would like to see increased consultation with the Australian academic community when consumer laws are being updated, similar to the way top economists have come together in the US to discuss the overhaul of the country’s horizontal merger guidelines.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Legal professionals need more economic awareness, academics say
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Warning
Aug 23 2017
NT Law Society sounds alarm on mandatory sentencing
The Law Society Northern Territory has issued a warning over mandatory sentencing, saying it hasn’...
Unite
Aug 22 2017
Professionals unite in support of marriage equality
The presidents of representative bodies for solicitors, barristers and doctors in NSW have come toge...
Aug 21 2017
Is your firm on the right track for gig economy gains?
Promoted by Crowd & Co. The way we do business, where we work, how we engage with workers, ev...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...