Relaxing whilst doing Competition Law is not an Oxymoron

Archive for September 15th, 2010

Back on track + yet another discussion on LLMs

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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:


Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

15 September 2010 at 10:07 am

Posted in Life at University