Italian firms merge to fight the English

The end of a family feud is leading to the creation of Italy's biggest firm.

Osborne Clarke's Italian associate Croze Radice & Associati, which was set up by a member of the same family that founded top Italian firm Carnelutti, is now seeking to reunite the family in a marriage between the two firms.

The expected merger is seen as a defence against English firms invading the Italian market (see news analysis, page 10).

The history of the family reads like a novel. Prominent lawyer Francesco Carnelutti originally set up the firm, but in the 1960s it split to form independent practices in Milan and Rome. A long dispute ensued about who had the right to use the name.

In 1974 Carnelutti's grandson, Alberto Croze, left the Milan practice to set up his own practice, which last November welcomed a partner from Milan-based Toffoletto and renamed itself Croze Radice & Zambelli.

The firm is a niche practice with 11 lawyers specialising in international law and cross-border deals.

Last March the Carnelutti factions buried the hatchet to unite against what the firms call the “offensive launched in Italy by English firms”.

Now Carnelutti is to welcome back the last sheep into the family fold with a merger with Croze Radice.

This will create a firm with 30 partners and around 180 lawyers, including Carnelutti's New York office.

“If you want to fight the battle with Clifford Chance and Freshfields, then you have to increase your critical mass,” says Croze.

“The big international firms are willing to put up the kind of money that we can't because we need to make a living.”

International firms can afford to run new foreign offices at a loss, says Croze.

He says his firm will specialise in giving a personal, dedicated service, adding: “There is a fierce battle being fought,” he says.