Archive for the ‘Life at University’ Category
You already know this trick: busy days=
attempts at light funny or stupid posts. Today’s post isn’t particularly funny, but it sure is particularly stupid. Even though it’s not prima facie related to competition law, I’m sure that you’ll be able to find it of practical application to your law firm, competition authority, university or psychiatric institution (to name only the four organizations from which we get more readers):
A couple of Swedish professors (M. Alvesson and A. Spicer) have recently published an article titled A Stupidity-Based Theory of Organisations in which they develop the concept of “functional stupidity” and conclude that organizations with too many smart individuals risk being disfunctional. Their article has been discussed in other places like Fortune or New Scientist, where it was originally published.
The authors posit that stupidity boosts productivity, streamlines things in an effective manner, facilitates consensus, conveys respect for hierarchy, fosters a culture of commitment and effort, and that it can even help you (no offence; I didn’t mean you, I meant the stupid at issue..) get a promotion faster (the argument supporter the latter being that bosses would not promote their most useful assistants because they couldn’t do without them).
The theory also goes that people who try to make sure that everyone notices how smart they are are likely to do worse than those who hide their intelligence (a troubling thought for many of us show-off lawyers). Likewise, places where people tend to be
lieve they are clever are, according to this theory, quite inefficient (I wonder whether profit per partner ratios confirm this intuition)
Interestingly, the Fortune piece discussing this article and the benefits of stupidity concludes with a reference to Google’s simple and functional user interface (as already anticipated a few times, whether Google’s UI will be smartened up or made more complex thanks to DG Comp will be discussed in our upcoming comments on Google’s commitments; but don’t take my word for it, a couple of years ago we also committed to hold a Chillin’Competition conference and, well…).
For more on stupidity, check out Cipolla’s masterpice on The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity.
P.S. If you ask me, whereas there may be some logical basis and abundant practical evidence for some of this “functional stupitidy” theory, holding it as true would be a bit stupid, and, as most things stupid, quite dangerous.
Note by Alfonso: As some you may have noticed, I’ve taken an unusually long blogging break from which I’m now back. As every time I’m out of combat, Pablo Ibañez Colomo (who, by the way, has recently been fast-track tenured -major review- at LSE and has just received a major review teaching prize; congrats!) comes up with a replacement post that’s better of what I would’ve written (we have a luxury bench at Chilin’Competition…). A few days ago Pablo sent us this post on France Telecom that we(I)’ve been slow to publish due to the easter holidaus and to to the frenchy’s posting frenzy We leave you with Pablo:
Some readers wll remember that during my short-lived tenure as a substitute blogger a few months ago, I wrote about a pending State aid case involving France Telecom. I guess that at least a fraction on those readers will be interested in knowing that the Court of Justice delivered its Judgment in the case on
Unsurprisingly, the judgment is in line with AG Mengozzi’s (very sensible) opinion. The General court annuled the Commission’s decision on grounds that the Commission had not identified a clear link between the advantage deriving from a shareholder loan offer in favour of France Telecom and the State resources allegedly involved by virtue of the measure. As I argued in my previous post, the Court of Justice takes the view that the General Court’s interpretation of Article 107(1) TFEU would leave outside the scope of the provision measures suh as guarantees departing from market conditions (see paras 107-111). Such measures do not immediately place a burden on the budget of the State, but a ‘sufficiently concrete risk of imposing an additional burden on the State in the future‘. According to the Court, it is sufficient to identfy such a ‘sufficiently concrete risk‘ for State aid rules to come into play.
The broader picture is aguably more interesting than the outcome of this case. As I mentioned in the previous post, the Court of Justice has sided with the Commmission (thereby departing from the analysis of the General Court and the theses advanced y Mmember States) in some key cases revolving around the notion of selectivity. France Telecom, arguably the single most important case of the past years on the notion of State resources, seems to confirm this trend. The old principles of Article 107(1) TFEU case law, if anything, seem more solid following these high-profile disputes
Come work with me !
The University of Liege School of Law and Political Science is opening a part time academic position – 65% of a FTE – in the field of Innovation and Intellectual Property Rights. Appointments will be effective as of 1st October 2013.
This position may be split into two academic positions, and give rise to two distinct appointments (respectively covering a 50% part time position and a 15% part time position).
This appointment is for an initial duration of 5 years (max), and may subsequently lead to a definitive appointment (at the earliest after 3 years).
The 65% part time academic position covers:
Yesterday again, I found myself pondering: how did I get so busy?
Sure, my lawyer friends would find my schedule laughable. And a bunch of them have actually told me they envy my freedom, and the time I spend abroad.
Yet, all the commuting my activities involve is beyond reason. Take a look:
- Monday: Paris, Brussels, Liege, Brussels (roughly 600 kms)
- Tuesday: Brussels, Lille, Brussels (approx. 300 kms)
- Wednesday: Brussels, Liege, Brussels (approx. 220 kms)
- Thursday: Brussels, Luxemburg, Brussels (approx. 420 kms)
- Today: Brussels, Liege, Brussels (approx. 220 kms)
All this by car, of course, meaning that I have (i) spent a fortune in oil; (ii) significantly harmed the environment; and (iii) been away from my computer for long hours (this is the excuse for the low posting frequency lately).
Sandwiched into those insane hours on the road, I have had to teach for 15 hours, to deal with a raft of organisational issues (we have a conference on antitrust fines on Monday), and to prepare a talk on the June Microsoft compliance case (I attach the presentation at the end of this post).
The bottom-line: some days I happen to dream about a teaching position in Brussels.
Every time we meet for the first time a reader of this blog, we get the question of how Nicolas and I met. Most people guess we studied together at the College of Europe, but that’s not the case. In fact, next weekend Nicolas will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of his promotion, whereas last weekend I celebrated the 5th anniversary of mine (I´m not used to telling the truth here; people often assume that I was there much longer ago –which doesn’t say much about my juvenile looks..- and I always fail to tell them wrong).
With all these current commemorations it seems like an appropriate moment to share some of our views on the College, an institution which elicits all kinds of reactions from different people [an illustration of those reactions: a recent book titled “Intimate Brussels” characterizes alumni of the College of Europe as the evil characters in Brussels and profiles them/us as a much hated secret society (!)]
This post is not entirely competition law-related and we don´t want to bore you, so click here if you’re interested on this long story:
Concurrences and George Washinton Law School presented their Antitrust Writing Awards on Tuesday night in D.C.
The list of winners is available here.
Bill Kovacic was in charge of announcing the winners. We weren’t there, but we can imagine him saying something like: “And the award to the best academic paper on unilateral conduct goes to…….. Nicolas Petit, for “Credit Rating Agencies, the Sovereign Debt Crisis and Competition Law“!l
Yep, Nicolas is the proud winner of the award to the best academic article on unilateral conduct. His piece was also the most publicly voted one (the readers of this blog probably have something to do with that, so thanks on his behalf).
I want to congratulate not only Nicolas, but also all other winners as well as all the authors of all the other articles that had been selected for the competition.
Moreover, we want to congratulate the organisers: Concurrences (in the person of Nicolas Charbit) and George Washinton Law School. The creation of these awards is a fantastic initiative; we hope that they’re here to stay.
non-politically correct comments now:
1: To a certain extent Nicolas deserves credit for this prize. Nonetheless, any impartial observer should rapidly realize that I -in my capacity as the manager of Nico’s brilliantly conceived campaign- am the one responsible for his victory.. ;) We’ll ask a credit rating agency who deserves more credit (wow, this is incredibly bad even for my standards…).
2: The picture illustrating one of our “campaign” posts was premonitory.
3: This must be the first time in a decade or so that a Frenchman wins any competition (except, certainly, for this one) In fair reciprocity (some background here), I -as a Spaniard- should write a piece hinting that Nicolas owes his victory to doping (which, by the way, was definetely the case since he finished it during a trip to Scotland; this is how his desk must have looked like).
4: How much sense does it make for a paper on “collective” dominance to be awarded the prize to the best article on “unilateral” conduct?? Just kiddin’ here: the core of the paper apparently deals with individual abuses of collective dominance, so it makes perfect sense.
5: You caught me: I just wrote “apparently”. I guess I’ll now have to read Nicolas’ paper.
P.S. One suggestion for the organizers of the Writing Awards: since client alerts and articles published in newsletters are elegible for the prizes in the “Business” category, why not extend it to blog posts? We also need incentives to compete!
A few days ago someone sent us a very interesting piece published by Okeoghene Odudu (who is also the author of a great book on Art. 101) in European Competition Journal (August 2011) under the title: “Indirect Information Exchange and the Constituen Elements of Hub and Spoke Collusion“.
Although we have enjoyed the substance of this article, the reason why it was sent to us in the first place was not its content but rather a particular footnote at the very end of it. It reads as follows:
“187. In his blog posting of 21 February 2011, Nicolas Petit expressed the view that there was nothing worthy of analysis in the hub-and-spoke phenomenon and concluded by writing, “The bottom-line: I will fight any proposal to organise an event on hub-and-spoke agreements. See http://chillingcompetition.com/2011/02/21/much-ado-about-nothing/.”
[*Note by Alfonso: The original post features a smiley face like this right after this quoted statement. The face is nevertheless missing in the quote that appeared in the article. It's a pity, because it would have been funny to see the smiley appear in European Competition Journal!].
However, by 24 May 2011 he seems to have had a conversion, announcing that, through the Brussels School of Competition Law, he had co-organised a seminar on information exchange, to deal in part with “Sharing Information through Intermediaries (supply-purchase relationships, distribution agreements, meet and release clauses, hub-and-spokes, etc)”. See http://chillingcompetition.com/2011/05/24/information-exchange-in-eu-competition-law-conference-22-june/“
We were surprised at this footnote (since we don’t always take what we write seriously, it’s curious to find out that people do), which nonetheless expresses a very legitimate opinion.
In Belgian academic life, job promotions are rare. In short, tenured academics can move along the following scale:
- Chargé de cours
- Professeur ordinaire
The dream of all academics is to move to grade 3. Means a little more money but more importantly, peer recognition.
Promotions typically happen every two years. Tenured academics can apply for promotion. Applications are reviewed, and ranked by ad hoc committees which scrutinize in particular (i) teaching skills; (ii) research record; and (iii) contribution to University affairs (with a strong emphasis on (ii)).
Yesterday, I moved from 1 to 2. I am now officially a (happy) Professor. This blog, and your visits, have likely contributed to this. Again, thanks for your trust and support.
We hadn´t realized, but yesterdat chillingcompetition turned 1 !
It was on October 2oth that we started spreading the word around about the existence of this blog. Nicolas probably knew what to expect after the hotchpotch experience, but I´ve been frankly surprised by the reach of this tool.
Chillingcompetition has had nearly 70.000 visits; its daily visits are currently in the order of 350 (and constantly increasing).
Moreover, its visitors are from very varied places (check the map on the lower right side of the web, right now showing visits from all over Europe, the US, China, Colombia. Kenya, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, India or Dubai).
We are proud that some people might find the posts here interesting, and we´re committed to improving all the many things that surely can be done better.
Thanks for your trust and interest in our stories!
Nicolas / Alfonso
Last Monday I returned to real life (i.e. the office) after a great year in the U.S. and a more or less sabbatical summer.
Since my return, I´ve read several discussions regarding competition lawyers and LLMs (see e.g. Nicolas´ tweet a couple of weeks ago). Several people have asked me for an opinion, so I though it could be interesting to share some very personal advice for those considering enrolling in an LLM.
If you can, do it. If you have the possibility and the means (there are plenty of scholarships and other sorts of financial aid) to take one year off work to pursue an LLM, do it. Whether you´re interested in deepening your knowledge on one area; in exploring diverse fields; in acquiring a taste of common law; in experiencing other teaching methods; or plainly in profiting from an extraordinary personal experience, do it.
Be real about what you expect. An LLM will help you broaden your horizons (as I´ve written here earlier: the world is much larger than our desk at a firm); it might open new doors; it should provide enormous personal enrichment; and you would surely learn a lot. However, it won´t transform you, professionally speaking. In my experience, excellent lawyers come back as they were, and crappy lawyers do too.
Don´t take admission decisions too seriously. If you´re admitted by a top-notch school, that doesn´t mean you´re any better than those who are not there (I´ve met a surprisingly high number of people who think that way): most truly brilliant people do not even have the possibility of applying to these programs. On the other hand, if you are rejected, be conscious that there are random elements unrelated to your skills that influence these decisions and don´t quit trying.
Don´t look for “THE best LLM”. Choose a particular program depending on your interests. Ivy League schools offer incredible “brand recognition” and generally have superb faculties. However, the quality of teaching is very similar in other places (at least in my case learning mostly takes place reading and reflecting, and you can do that anywhere) which also offer complements such as specialized programs or the possibility of living in particular cities. At the end of the day, what really matters is the people that surround you; good schools make a great filter, but not the only one. I am very satisfied with the path I chose, but naturally, and fortunately, we all tend to argue that our decisions are the best, and to some extent we´re all right.
To those who wish to pursue a career as competition lawyers: If you´ve never studied EU competition law before, a European program (College of Europe; Liège; King´s; BSC…) could be of greater use. Personally, I learnt much more competition law at the CoE than in the US. I would advise anyone to remain in Europe to “focus” first, and to go to the US to “expand” later.
P.S. For full disclosure: I decided to return to Garrigues, where I will be working at the Madrid and Brussels offices. You can now reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org