Grapevine

Return of the native: CC lures back ex-joint Italian chief

Now that’s a turn-up for the books. Clifford Chance‘s former joint Italian managing partner Luigi Chessa has rejoined the magic circle firm’s Rome office as of counsel just two years after quitting. Clifford Chance will hope the shock return is evidence that the Italian practice has drawn a line under its recent woes.

Chessa was appointed joint Italian managing partner alongside incumbent Nicholas Wrigley in 2002 following the departures of Vittorio Grimaldi, four partners and 26 other lawyers from Clifford Chance’s Italian practice in March 2002.

Chessa, a highly rated structured finance lawyer, was a partner at Clifford Chance from 1997-2003. He left the firm in February 2003 and, despite being offered an opportunity to join Sidley Austin Brown & Wood as the US firm’s Italian managing partner, decided to go it alone.

Ironically, the principal reason behind Chessa’s return to the fold was because he missed the support and infrastructure that’s available at a large law firm.

Since 2003 Chessa has been Standard & Poor’s legal adviser for Italy and secretary to the board of directors of state savings bank Cassa Depositi e Prestiti.

‘Abused’ mediation gets leg-up with promotional week

Last week was National Mediation Week. Organised by the Department for Constitutional Affairs, the week was designed to promote mediation as an alternative to litigation. In an era when companies are increasingly concerned about reputation and risk management, avoiding the courts surely needs no promotion.

Apparently, though, it does. Those in the business – an increasing number of retired judges, senior barristers and solicitors – say that mediation hasn’t quite taken off. Where it is used, it’s more likely to be a tactic employed en route to court than as a true alternative. Lawyers are waiting for disclosure, witness statements and other clues as to the possible outcome of a case before suggesting mediation to clients. Not what Woolf’s reforms were designed for.

But it’s going to take more than a few government-sponsored events to really change the way disputes are managed. There needs to be a shift in the litigation environment – and at the moment that is not forthcoming.

Middle East veterans CC, Norton Rose tighten their grips
It’s all go in the Middle East. There’s a shortage of cement thanks to the sheer volume of construction projects, and as revealed in The Lawyer (8 August), law firms are tripping over one another to get out there.

Clifford Chance and Norton Rose are old hands in the region. Clifford Chance opened in Dubai 30 years ago, while Norton Rose established itself in Bahrain in 1979 and Dubai in 2003. But both firms are reacting to the increased competition by ramping up numbers on the ground.

Clifford Chance moves into its new 13,000sq ft Dubai offices at the end of November and also has plans to grow its numbers. Meanwhile, Norton Rose is relocating lawyers from London, as well as hiring new ones, for both of its Middle East offices.

The hope is that bulking up now will keep the firms ahead of the newcomers in what looks like being a very profitable region over the next year.