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Eversheds is setting up an Italian office as part of its strategy to establish itself as a major City player, The Lawyer can reveal.
The firm's plans to open in Italy come just two months after it announced its intention to merge with a Dusseldorf practice within six months.
Eversheds' move is part of a concerted effort to market itself as an international commercial practice.
Eversheds managing partner Peter Scott says: "We aim to be an international player - certainly a European firm."
He adds: "We are actively looking at the Italian market and have had discussions with a number of people."
However he refused to reveal details of which firms Eversheds has approached.
To reinforce its commitment, Eversheds is setting up an Italian desk in its London office to service European clients. The Italian desk will be run on similar lines to the firm's German desk, which comprises one partner, Michael Carl, who heads the team and three assistants - all of whom are dual-qualified.
Scott refuses to say whether it will set up in Italy on its own or form an alliance with a local firm, adding: "We are playing things by ear."
While Scott maintains that he is cautious about forming alliances, he says: "There is a business rationale behind it in that we are going where our clients are."
Clifford Chance established its own London-based Italian desk recently, headed by Alberto Del Din, previously a senior partner at top Italian firm, Chiomenti Studio Legale.
Eversheds will arrive in Italy as the market there continues its period of growth.
The economic boom was sparked by Olivetti's hostile takeover bid for Telecom Italia, followed closely by a proposed merger between three of the country's largest banks.
Neil Falconer, partner in project and asset finance at Freshfields' Rome office, says that smaller Italian firms are becoming increasingly worried by the continued influx of UK firms.
Falconer says: "A number of local lawyers are fearful of the market changing."
He says this is reflected by the fact that the Italian legal profession is consolidating, citing the tripartite merger of Erede e Associati, Bonelli e Associati and Pappalardo e Associati.