How are client demands in Italy changing?
Italian clients require an increasing understanding of their business and specialist expertise in their industry sector(s). Clients’ desire for new markets is achieved not only through their penetration in the richer markets of industrialised countries, but increasingly through access into fast-growing economies, which have a growth rate three to four times higher than the mature economies.
Opening up to the rest of the world also means facing and winning new challenges coming from multiple directions: for example, Brexit is evolving and Italian companies – in particular those active in the manufacturing, automotive, pharmaceutical, electrical and beverage industries as well as financial services – are asking us for support and assistance in preparing for the UK’s exit. Clients demand greater efficiency and value, and therefore cost optimisation of legal services and the search for innovative pricing solutions continue apace with the expansion of the legal tech industry/artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to assist law firms to remain competitive.
Last, but not least, in close connection with the technological evolution of the legal sector, Italian clients demand more effective data security and state-of-the-art management of sensitive information.
How are you adapting to these changes?
The firm is equipped with task forces to analyse strategic topics and develop guidelines that enable GOP to adapt to market developments and client needs in a timely and effective manner. Working in partnership with our clients means understanding and anticipating their needs. We have invested in creating a full-service firm, and increasingly in developing a focus on specific industry sectors with the formation of multi-disciplinary groups of lawyers working in a client-centric culture.
Following the launch of GOP4 Venture (an extremely active specialist group dedicated to venture capital and technology transfer), the firm introduced ‘Art Law’, a new team which advises art collectors, galleries, museums, private auction houses, charitable organisations and art market professionals worldwide on all legal and regulatory issues connected with fine art, antiques and heritage property.
Since Brexit is redesigning the geography of the new banking and financial centres in Europe – and Luxembourg is likely to play an increasingly central role in the creation and management of investment vehicles, as well as in the interests of financial and insurance services – the firm has launched a Luxembourg desk which allows us to deepen our presence in an area that already boasts consolidated business relationships with our country, for the benefit of our clients generally, as well as the Italian financial and business sector specifically.
The firm also carefully follows the development of technology, especially in AI and big data. For this reason we set up a task force which aims to identify the link between the development of proprietary tools and their acquisition from the market.
Our clients expect their sensitive and confidential data to be secure and safe with our firm and it is our priority to reassure them and demonstrate their trust is highly prized. In December 2016, we became the first Italian, full-service law firm to obtain ISO27001, an international accreditation that is only awarded to organisations which are able to ensure that information and data are secure from any kind of threat.
How do you set yourself apart from the competition?
Local presence and international strategy. With five offices in Italy, GOP is the law firm that boasts the largest territorial presence in the country. The strategy responds to the need to ensure ‘cultural’, as well as geographic proximity to those companies that are the pillars of economic growth in the country and will play a leading role in market penetration out of Italy.
On the other hand, internationalisation has always been our goal and we aim to assist our clients wherever they may need us and in their cross-border transactions. Through our local and overseas offices we are present in key business centres. We have long-standing relationships with leading law firms all over the world and we continue to successfully develop referrals and
cross-border work, not least through our consolidated desks dedicated to strategic areas such as Africa, India, China, Korea, Luxembourg, Turkey and Russia.
Our role as a partner in internationalisation processes focuses on large Italian groups, and on small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This model is based on a long-term approach and involves the building of a partnership with clients. Those Italian SMEs that are open to international progress will become the ‘national champions’ of the next generation.
We continue to scout new geographical regions that are becoming more and more prominent in the world and which represent an interesting market with prolific growth potential for the ‘Made in Italy’ brand. In this regard, we continue to collaborate with embassies, foreign chambers of commerce and governmental agencies, and we also take part in governmental missions abroad to enhance business exchanges and create partnership opportunities. In addition, we rely on an internationalisation task force that assists the firm in developing guidelines for furthering its internationalisation process.
Where are you seeing growth in Italy?
Italian companies which survived the economic turmoil following the crisis in recent years are now pretty strong and willing to make acquisitions. Their main interests are in infrastructures, energy and petrochemicals but they are also very attracted to the manufacturing and technology sectors.
With reference to outbound investments, these companies are expanding worldwide: Germany, France and other large European countries, Latin America, Asia and Africa. Among the companies that have increased their presence abroad, many belong to the engineering/mechanical and technological industries.
Overseas companies are mostly interested in the fashion, food, automotive and component industries – areas in which Italian companies continue to be attractive targets. We have also noticed a return of so-called ‘strategic’ investors that are investing capital with more strategic long-term aims to develop industrial business instead of engaging in speculative/short-term transactions. This category of investor from Japan, the US as well as within the EU, has been noticeably more active in M&A deals.