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Editorial

Legal market overview

The world’s ninth largest economy, Italy, is highly dependent on the services and manufacturing sectors and despite its weak banking sector and high public debt levels, the domestic economy was in recovery mode in 2017: third-quarter growth climbed to about 0.5%, when compared with the previous three months, and in September, industrial output also increased, while unemployment figures experienced a reduction.

Business confidence also enjoyed a noteworthy boost: private equity firms were especially buoyant, international investors displayed a returned interest in Italian companies and Italian investors were keen to invest in middle-market companies and start-ups. In addition, the July state bail-out of Italy’s oldest bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, and the rescue of Banca Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca greatly benefitted Italy’s financial sector; meanwhile, other major Italian banks attempted to strengthen their balance sheets through the disposal of non-performing loan portfolios, such work keeping a number of legal practices very active during 2017.

Compliance issues are increasingly important in Italy; several Italian and international law firms regularly assist clients with compliance programmes and corporate issues that arise from corruption and Decree 231, which deals with corporate crimes and the assessment of companies’ liability, as well as enforcement proceedings and internal investigations. This year The Legal 500 introduces a compliance section to reflect the increasing importance of this practice area and the investments that legal practices have made.

The strongest domestic law firms across several practice areas remain BonelliErede, Chiomenti Studio Legale, and Gianni, Origoni, Grippo, Cappelli & Partners, while Legance - Avvocati Associati is also a significant Italian player and Gattai Minoli Agostinelli & Partners has experienced impressive growth in recent years.

On the international side, key UK-headquartered law firms include Clifford Chance, Linklaters and Allen & Overy - Studio Legale Associato; and US-based legal practices Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Latham & Watkins LLP and White & Case (Europe) LLP also have strong presences in Italy, while recent entrant Dentons has made significant progress.

The large Italian firms also continue to venture abroad. In late 2016, BonelliErede announced the opening of new offices in Cairo and Addis Ababa, while Legance - Avvocati Associati launched an office in New York.

Key movements in the country’s legal market included Norton Rose Fulbright’s former Italy head Nicolò Juvara, who focuses on insurance and financial services, joining Molinari e Associati; tax law specialists Ludovici Piccone & Partners’ former partner Vittorio Giordano and tax lawyer Andrea Merolle co-founding Giordano-Merolle Studio Legale Tributario in Rome; and DLA Piper hiring Andrea Di Dio from Chiomenti Studio Legale as the new tax head in Rome. DLA Piper in turn experienced the departure of former Milan banking and finance team head Mario D’Ovidio for Studio Legale Associato a Watson Farley & Williams, while Domenico Gaudiello joined CMS in Rome as public finance leader.

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