chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.


Practice Areas & Settings

Practicing Antitrust Law as an Attorney Advisor at the FTC

Adam Cella

Practicing Antitrust Law as an Attorney Advisor at the FTC
Portra via iStock

Jump to:

Antitrust law is a collection of state, federal, and international laws aimed at protecting consumers from anticompetitive mergers and business practices. The laws benefit consumers by keeping prices low and the quality and choice of goods and services high.

Pursuing a Career in Antitrust Law

There are many career paths for a lawyer interested in antitrust law. A common role involves serving clients in private practice, but there are unique avenues inside and outside of a firm. For example, there is no traditional side for antitrust lawyers. These attorneys may work for defendants or plaintiffs and on civil or criminal matters. Their work includes litigation, merger review, and compliance issues. In addition to working at a private firm, antitrust lawyers can work at in-house antitrust departments within larger business corporations or government agencies. While many attorneys begin their careers in private practice, antitrust attorneys should strongly consider work in the federal (or state) government. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC or Commission) and the Department of Justice have a significant role in enforcing the nation’s antitrust laws, and working at one of these agencies can be gratifying.

At the FTC, where I work, antitrust lawyers hold various roles. Staff in the Bureau of Competition investigate and bring enforcement actions (when necessary) against anticompetitive mergers and business practices. Lawyers in the Office of International Affairs work with competition agencies worldwide to promote cooperation and convergence toward best practices. The Office of the General Counsel represents the Commission in court, supports litigation and appellate Commission actions, and advises the Commission on law and policy issues. These examples are only some of the bureaus and offices where antitrust lawyers can find roles at the FTC.

Types of Work Performed by Government Antitrust Attorneys

Being an attorney advisor for an FTC Commissioner is a career opportunity that, while temporary, is as exciting of an opportunity that an antitrust lawyer can experience. Attorney advisors prepare and counsel the Commissioners on every issue before the Commission. The issues can include enforcement actions, policy initiatives, and industry studies, to name a few. FTC Commissioners act as thought leaders in competition and consumer protection law. To support that role, attorney advisors assist Commissioners in researching and preparing for speeches, panels, and congressional testimony.

The attorney advisor role at the FTC may attract lawyers interested in enforcing antitrust laws on behalf of American consumers and learning about the internal process at a government agency. Working for the FTC also allows a lawyer to shift her mindset from private practice, where work is directly helping specific clients with their goals, to the public sector, where the focus is on serving American consumers.

A Future in Antitrust Law

Antitrust lawyers have endless opportunities to pursue along their career paths, including some nontraditional opportunities, like working for the government as an attorney advisor to an FTC Commissioner. These nontraditional experiences will help you develop new skills and give you a deeper understanding of antitrust law, its applications, and its implications. Diversifying your experience as an antitrust lawyer can also help you find new ways to use and develop skills.

Attorneys interested in antitrust law, but who do not have a background in the subject, can transition into the field. Skills valued in antitrust include a combination of lawyering skills (including oral and written advocacy and litigation), interpersonal skills (including counseling), and a willingness to learn about new industries and economics constantly. Additionally, the American Bar Association’s Antitrust Law Section is a leading professional organization for antitrust law. Its members receive many opportunities to meet fellow antitrust lawyers and learn more about antitrust law.

Antitrust law covers the regulation of business organizations to promote fair competition, and consumer law protects the rights of consumers. This can entail transactional work (such as mergers and acquisitions), litigation, technology issues, and international consumer protection work.

Learn about the broad area of antitrust law and consumer protection by watching the ABA Career Center Career Choice webinar on Antitrust Law and Consumer Protection. The speakers provide invaluable insight into what skills you’ll need to break into this area, what drew them to it, the pros and cons, and what a typical day in their practice entails. (Note: This is not for CLE. The recorded program and materials are exclusively for ABA members.)