Freshfields Italy chief calls for partnership overhaul

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer‘s Italian managing partner has called on his colleagues to ditch the firm’s all-equity partnership after a five-lawyer team from Rome defected to Pavia e Ansaldo.

The Italian’s demands come as partners in the firm’s German offices have expressed fears about practice areas being ditched in a drive to improve profitability.

Senior associates Giuseppina Ivone and Nico Moravia are leading the exodus after being told they would not become equity partners at Freshfields.

Italy managing partner Raffaele Lener told The Lawyer: “They’re certainly good lawyers but they couldn’t find a way to become partners. It is sad, but normal in our life.”

However, Lener warned: “Such a rigid structure can create problems in terms of opportunities. We have 22 partners in Italy, which is already quite a lot.”

He added that he would be voting in favour of introducing fixed-share partners at the end of June, supported by many in Freshfields’ international network. “It’s a necessity,” said Lener. “But maybe the feeling is stronger in continental Europe. My colleagues in France, Spain and Germany think we need this flexibility.”

But German partners are concerned that non-transactional practices, such as
IP/IT, will be hit by de-equitisations and that other non-transactional practices will suffer as the firm makes a Linklaters-style drive to improve profitability.

The firm’s partnership council approved plans to create fixed-share partners on 24 May and will put the proposals to a worldwide partnership vote by the end of June.

Freshfields is the last magic circle firm with an all-equity partnership, but, as reported in The Lawyer (27 February), the firm has moved to ditch the model in its Chinese offices in favour of having salaried partners.