The talks, revealed by The Lawyer in October, have foundered due to disagreements over lockstep. It is thought that the Italian partners are unwilling to slot into Freshfields' setup.
Freshfields declined to comment, but a source close to the firm says that it is looking at "other options" in Italy. Freshfields recently changed its lockstep to ease through the Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Löber merger (The Lawyer, 19 June). It moved the equity spread from 2:1 over a 10-year period to 2.5:1 over 12 years. But it is understood that Chiomenti's lockstep may be as high as 8:1, and that neither party is prepared to budge.
This is the second time within 12 months that Chiomenti partners have failed to agree to merge. Last year talks with Shearman & Sterling fell through after six months of discussions. It is believed this was because Chiomenti felt that the US firm would not be able to cater to European clients.
Goffredo Guerra, a partner at Studio Legale Tonucci, says of the latest round of talks: "Chiomenti is a very traditional firm, the aristocracy of Italian law firms. I'm not surprised that the talks have come to nothing. Partners are partners in the sense that they really lead the firm. Everyone else must follow."
He adds that Freshfields entering the Italian market with an aggressive marketing strategy may be at odds with Chiomenti's approach.
Chiomenti is one of Italy's largest firms, with 23 partners and more than 90 lawyers.