Legal Market Overview
The Italian economy, unaided by huge public debt, political uncertainty and financial turbulence, registered growth of just 0.1% in 2019. Notwithstanding these ongoing concerns, the country’s economy is predicted to grow at a moderate level of approximately 0.4% in 2020, as a result of stronger domestic demand and recent boosts in industrial production.
The Italian market tends to feature fewer large deals than some other European economies, and it is characterised mostly by small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Italy’s AIM market, which is dedicated to dynamic and competitive SMEs that are looking for capital in order to finance their growth, reflects this feature. It has expanded notably, registering a growing number of company listings in the last five years.
Although private equity experienced a slowdown in the third quarter of 2019, M&A activity, spurred on by significant deals in the domestic energy, mining and utilities and telecoms sectors, showed growth when compared with the first two quarters of the year.
Regulatory and compliance issues, areas where the country’s leading practices have begun to invest in significantly, are increasingly featuring during M&A and banking transactions. Data privacy and protection is also an area where clients are frequently in need of top-level advice. In recognition of this, the 2020 guide includes a newly introduced data privacy and protection ranking for Italy.
Headline news of the year was the July 2019 integration between BonelliErede – a longstanding Slaughter and May best friend – and Italian law firm Lombardi e Associati, which was led by litigation and arbitration specialist Giuseppe Lombardi. Around 70 professionals joined from Lombardi e Associati, including corporate law expert Stefano Nanni Costa, with Lombardi becoming a joint co-ordinator of the litigation department. Meanwhile, a team of 15 lawyers, including corporate partners Antonio Segni and Andrea Mazziotti exited the pre-merged Lombardi e Associati to rejoin Gianni & Origoni. Gattai Minoli Agostinelli & Partners also picked up a team of eight lawyers from Lombardi e Associati, including energy and infrastructure expert Carla Mambretti.
International firms have also been looking to expand their Italy operations. Herbert Smith Freehills, which launched a Milan office in 2018, hired a six-strong energy and infrastructure team from Paul Hastings LLP in 2019, including partners Lorenzo Parola, its former EU energy and infrastructure chair, and Francesca Morra, who is experienced in energy regulation and competition law. In October 2019, as its last lawyers also found new homes, Paul Hastings LLP announced the closing of its Milan office; former office chair and restructuring specialist Bruno Cova is now at Studio Legale Delfino e Associati Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, and former banking and finance head Marc-Alexandre Courtejoie joined Gatti Pavesi Bianchi.
Other headline moves include the hiring by White & Case (Europe) LLP of banking and finance and debt capital markets expert Andrea Novarese and corporate and M&A and and restructuring specialist Maria Cristina Storchi from Latham & Watkins LLP, where Novarese was European chair of the automotive industry group.
Elsewhere, corporate partner Giovanni Pedersoli rejoined independent Italian law firm Pedersoli Studio Legale, which was founded over 60 years ago, bringing M&A partner Marta Sassella with him, from Linklaters; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe hired general lending and corporate finance expert Marina Balzano from Pavia e Ansaldo; and Dentons launched a German desk following the arrival of German-speaking cross-border M&A and joint venture expert Carsten Steinhauer from McDermott Will & Emery Studio Legale Associato, which itself recruited corporate partner Fabrizio Faina from Jones Day.