International report: Studio Legale Grimaldi e Associati

Following its stormy merger with, and then demerger from, Clifford Chance, Studio Legale Grimaldi e Associati now follows a staunchly independent course in the Italian market.

“After the divorce we wanted a niche practice of the highest possible standard, selecting clients and only doing the fairly big deals,” says founding partner Vittorio Grimaldi, who has not looked back since the split in 2002.

The firm’s client base draws heavily on the banking sector, especially in corporate and project finance transactions, but arbitration for bond investors is beginning to bear fruit as a new practice area.

Grimaldi says he got bored of banking after 30 years in the field and has gradually handed over banking work to his partners in favour of arbitration. This, he says, provides him with “the fight, the smell of blood” which forms his passion.

At the moment, Grimaldi is looking to start arbitration proceedings with the government of Argentina on behalf of a group of 200,000 bond retailers and investors who lost a total of €6bn (£4.15bn) when Argentina defaulted on its debt.

Grimaldi and managing partner Daniela Troilo have deliberately kept the firm small. Each of the 14 partners concentrates on one deal at a time, and must make sure each one is big enough to keep the firm running at a profit comparable to the Italian champions Bonelli Erede Pappalardo, Chiomenti Studio Legale and Gianni Origoni Grippo & Partners.

In the past few months alone, Grimaldi’s corporate and project finding partners have wrapped up Unicredito’s €548m (£379.1m) sale of its security services to Société Générale, CEM’s €200m (£138.4m) acquisition of Perlier and advised Finmeccanica Finance on the construction of a €454m (£314.1m) windfarm in Reggio Calabria.

Grimaldi says: “We’ve decided not to grow after the grand globalisation, during which we met with so many difficulties with clients.”

The firm’s strategy holds that, if Grimaldi does add a partner, it will be an internal promotion rather than a lateral hire, to keep growth organic.

Grimaldi admits that keeping numbers down has at times hurt the firm’s chances in beauty parades against Clifford Chance and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

“Sometimes we’re at a disadvantage because of our size and some clients might be afraid we won’t have sufficient resources,” says Grimaldi. “But we do compete with everyone.”

Founding partner: Vittorio Grimaldi
Managing partner: Daniela Troilo
Turnover: €19m (£13.1m)
Profit per equity partner: €2.6m (£1.82m)
Total number of lawyers: 74
Total number of partners: 14
Main practice areas: Arbitration, corporate, project finance
Key clients: Unicredito, Lucchini, ERG
Number of offices: Three
Locations: Brussels, Milan, Rome