ACCC & AER annual report 2016-17

Improving specialist services

Legal and economic services

Our Legal and Economic Division provides specialist legal and economic services. The division comprises two groups: the Legal Group and the Economic Group. The Legal and Economic Division is also the division responsible for the retail electricity inquiry.

The Legal Group consists of general and special counsel, and four core units that provide in-house legal services to specific business areas. It assists the ACCC and AER to make legally informed decisions and manage litigation, including by facilitating, as an informed purchaser, external litigation services. It also assists in managing the agency’s corporate legal obligations.

The Economic Group consists of the Chief Economist and two core units that provide in-house strategic economic advice and related services to specific business areas. It aims to facilitate the consistent use of economic principles in decision-making, increase the quality of economic analysis and contribute to economics-related learning and development initiatives. It is committed to strengthening the quality of economic analysis in the organisation and to maximising the influence of economic ideas.

In 2016–17 the Legal and Economic Division also established a Strategic Data Analysis Unit, which provides expert quantitative analytical support across the agency.

The division’s objectives are directed at increasing ACCC and AER effectiveness, and providing expert advisory services and assistance to help the agency achieve its strategies and deliverables. The division aims to provide its legal and economic services efficiently, and assists the agency in obtaining value for money from its external legal and economic service providers. It also invests in projects to improve organisational effectiveness and improve the capability of the agency in making high-quality decisions, through its contributions to legal and economic discussion, guidance and training.

During 2016–17, there were a number of initiatives to improve the effectiveness of the Legal and Economic Division and enhance organisational capabilities. Activities included:

  • developing and providing an internal legal and economic training program to improve capability to investigate and litigate competition matters
  • instigating a Strategic Data Analysis Unit to provide quantitative analysis advice, complementing the work of the Economic Group in particular
  • coordinating a network of quantitative data analysts from across the agency, to share skills and initiate targeted training to improve analytical capabilities
  • contributing to Commonwealth legal coordination initiatives, including through participation in the Commonwealth’s General Counsel Working Group and the Australian Government Legal Network and through providing submissions to the Attorney-General’s Department Secretary’s Review of Commonwealth Legal Services
  • ensuring that processes focus on value for money from external legal services providers
  • coordinating processes for evaluating internal and external legal work
  • developing and implementing training on strategic use of litigation technology to improve the efficiency of investigations and litigation where there are high numbers of documents
  • upgrades to our case document review and electronic discovery preparation software, including innovative litigation technology tools to assist in the strategic management of cases and to make investigation and litigation exercises much more efficient, where they entail many thousands of documents.
  • launching a comprehensive suite of e-learning videos on litigation technology tools covering a range of topics which make it easy for staff to get up to speed on a specific aspect of the technology very quickly at any time from their own desktop
  • renewing the Legal Document Management Services panel following an open request for tender process. The panel provides document processing services, primarily the processing of electronic and hard copy material for import into our software and gives us access to competitive providers who are highly regarded in the industry, along with updated requirements which better suit our needs.
  • coordinating the 14th annual Competition Law and Economics Workshop in conjunction with the University of South Australia School of Law
  • coordinating the annual ACCC/AER Regulatory Conference, which more than 400 delegates attended
  • organising the Utility Regulator’s Forum, held twice yearly, which involves all state and Commonwealth economic regulators, as well as the New Zealand Commerce Commission
  • hosting a Women in Economics Network event in Melbourne.

Legal services

The Legal Group consists of four core units:

  • the Competition and Consumer Law Unit, which provides legal services to our Enforcement and Consumer Division and Small Business and Product Safety Division
  • the Merger and Authorisation Law Unit, which provides legal services to our Merger and Authorisation Review Division
  • the Regulatory Law Unit, which provides legal services to our Infrastructure Regulation Division and the AER
  • the Corporate Law Unit, which deals with corporate in-house issues, strategic development initiatives, legal technology services and freedom of information requests.

General and special counsel provide additional high-level independent strategic advice on complex major issues across all areas of the ACCC and AER.

The roles of in-house lawyers include providing legal advice, specialist drafting of legal documents and helping to prepare and manage litigation. Our in-house lawyers also manage external lawyers who are engaged where additional resources are needed, or as required under the Legal Services Directions. In-house lawyers are located in most ACCC offices to ensure that specialist legal services are available to staff at all times.

Legal technology services

The Legal Technology Services Unit within the Legal and Economic Division specialises in the technological aspects of case management, including the electronic management and analysis of evidence and case material and its production to the court and third parties. The unit is also responsible for national coordination of the ACCC’s evidence management and managing the Legal Document Management Services panel.

Economic advice

The Economic Group comprises two units:

  • the Regulatory Economic Unit, which provides economic services to our Infrastructure Regulation Division and the AER
  • the Competition and Consumer Economic Unit, which provides economic services to our Enforcement and Consumer Division, Small Business and Product Safety Division and Merger and Authorisation Review Division

Our Chief Economist provides additional high-level independent strategic economic advice on complex major issues across all areas of the ACCC and AER.

Economic Group specialists provide economic advice and research support on strategic projects, and develop and educate staff to improve understanding of the application of economic techniques to competition and regulatory issues.

Data analysis

The Strategic Data Analysis Unit provides quantitative advice and support across the ACCC and AER. Strategic data analysts work on key inquiries and matters where the use of data and analysis is critical.