The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is the consumer and competition agency, enforcing the law in those areas.
The OFT employs around 80 lawyers, competition lawyers, criminal lawyers, public lawyers, commercial and civil litigators. From the investigation and prosecution of criminal cartels, mergers, civil-anti trust cases to influencing government policy and the law as it affects competition.
The OFT works under a structure that is arranged by markets, rather than legislation, e.g. the Mergers Group, the Infrastructure Group, Anti-Money Laundering etc.
The General Counsel’s Office is made up of a number of teams including advisory lawyers and a know-how team providing advice on general public law, competition law, corporate governance, complaints, market investigation references, reviews of undertakings and orders, market studies, consumer policy and legislation and freedom of information. The Adjudication Unit is an independent in-house decision-making unit on Consumer Credit Act and Estate Agents Act fitness cases. The Litigation Unit is involved in significant litigation in the UK courts, both enforcing and defending its decisions in competition and consumer law. Full-time lawyers are members of the Government Legal Service.
More cases and more responsibility can be expected, compared to private practice, many matters with a high profile and high levels of public interest. Senior associate is perhaps the optimum level at which to join the OFT, where the PQE experience is sufficient, but any compromise in pay is likely to be less painfully felt than later on. A public sector stint is also seen as a big plus, facilitating for many a return to private practice at a more senior level with a CV enhanced by the experience. The OFT will be looking for analytical skills, communication skills, good judgment, team players etc.