Linklaters celebrates the hire of Bellamy from the CAT

Linklaters celebrates the hire of Bellamy from the CAT” />There was only one thing that occupied the minds of competition lawyers last week and that was the news that Sir Christopher Bellamy was stepping down from the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) to join Linklaters as a senior consultant.

The announcement could not have been timed more intriguingly, coming just a week after the Lord Chancellor announced the launch of a consultation paper on judges returning to legal practice. At issue is whether former judges should be banned for five years from written and oral advocacy, and the paper also proposes a quarantine period of two years before a former judge can be employed by a firm or individual who has appeared before said judge, either as a litigant or an adviser.

Although Bellamy is not a High Court judge, his seniority and the growing importance of the CAT as a tribunal make it something of a test case; and indeed, finding Bellamy’s replacement will be the first high-profile job for the new Judicial Appointments Commission.

The question on most lawyers’ lips is: why Linklaters?
Linklaters, while having a strong merger control practice, is not prominent in behavioural cases and is hardly a high-profile player on the competition circuit in the UK. This may have been a factor in Bellamy’s decision to join, given the Department for Constitutional Affairs’ proposal that High Court judges should undertake the two-year quarantine. Linklaters’ most celebrated recent appearance in the CAT was for Celesio as the applicant in the appeal on the Boots and Alliance Unichem merger, but that was before Marion Simmons QC as opposed to Bellamy.

Bellamy is certainly not going to Linklaters to enhance its representation before UK competition authorities. In keeping with his previous experience as a judge at the Court of First Instance (CFI) in Luxembourg from 1992 to 1999, his remit will be international, advising particularly on how regulators around the world might be interacting. Rather than joining Diana Good’s litigation team, he will be part of Linklaters’ non-contentious competition group, traditionally dubbed ‘Group 18’ internally.

In a statement last week (20 September), Bellamy said: “Competition and regulatory law continues to develop at an astonishing pace around the world. I see this appointment as an exciting opportunity to work… on a global basis to meet those new challenges.”

The prevailing opinion in competition circles is that Bellamy’s move can only help Linklaters’ reputation. “He’s a big name,” says a well-known City competition partner. “There’s a value in that he can pick up the phone to virtually anybody in the world of competition and they’ll speak to him.”

“Like me, he’ll be directing strategy,” says Linklaters co-head of antitrust Alec Burnside. “There’s a team of people here who are doing the heavy lifting and drafting and I’m moving the chess pieces around. He’ll be playing chess, but of a three-dimensional kind because of his added perspective.”

Bellamy’s hire is opportune for Linklaters, which will shortly see the retirement of old hand Bill Allan. Having been a leading silk for several years before joining the CFI in 1992, Bellamy would be able to name his price in private practice.

As the president of the CAT, his salary was £175,000 plus a pension. With Linklaters’ average profit per equity partner at £1.06m this year, he could be making up to a tenfold increase in salary. (One prominent competition partner wryly calls Bellamy “the highest-paid professional support lawyer in the City”.)

Linklaters’ Burnside stresses that Bellamy will be a full-time fee-earner. “He’s going to be working for clients,” he says. “He’s not going to be deployed on smaller cases – he’s not going to be writing notifications.”

One organisation that will be delighted at Bellamy’s impending exit is the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which has had a bruising time at his hands. His robust stance on enforcement did not make him popular at the competition body. OFT officials may well be applauding his move to Linklaters more than anybody.