Financial crisis forces upturn in merger deals between isolationist Italian firms

Financial crisis forces upturn in merger deals between isolationist Italian firmsMerger fever has gripped the Italian legal market as domestic firms join forces to weather the economic storm.

This month Camozzi & Bonissoni Varrenti & Associati and Studio Associato LCA merged to form CBA Studio Legale e Tributario (CBA). The move will ­create a new entrant into the ­Italian market with a combined turnover of around e35m (£31.66m).

The new firm comprises 45 partners and more than 180 fee-earners, with offices in Milan, Rome, Padua, Venice and also a small practice in Munich, Germany. CBA will specialise in corporate and tax advice for clients in Italy’s north east.

Name partner Alessandro Varrenti said: “A merger is something we’ve been ­looking at for the past couple of years. Chemistry with LCA is something that’s been there from the start. We started working with them on deals and after two or three we began to talk about how we could operate more closely.

We wanted to be an independent law firm focusing on the north east, which is Italy’s richest region. We hope this merger is a precedent and that there’s some consolidation. The market has been overly fragmented for a long time.”

Mergers are a good way for medium-sized firms to bulk up quickly. Claudio Giordano, former senior partner at LCA, said a bigger presence and more lawyers will help the merged firm better compete nationally and internationally.

“A central part of CBA’s future strategy will be to win a greater number of domestic instructions through the complementary services offered by the legacy firms and its greater geographical reach,” he added. “The firm’s increased size and capabilities will also allow it to build its international profile.”

Before making the ­merger official, Camozzi & Bonissoni Varrenti boosted its partnership with a ­number of partner hires. The firm brought in Paolo Omodeo Sale, a former managing partner at Andersen Legal, Paolo Berruti from Agnoli Bernardi e Associati, Claudio Guccione from Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, as well as Paolo Carini, who joined from Italian real estate firm
Delli Santi & Partners.

The merger comes a few months after Pirola ­Pennuto Zei & Associati and Agnoli Bernardi joined forces to create a firm with a turnover of E110m (£99.39m) and more than 500 employees. The merged firm has 150 lawyers, with 80 coming from Studio Pirola and 70 joining from Agnoli ­Bernardi.

Italy has traditionally had one of the most fragmented legal markets in Europe, but merger activity prompted by the economic downturn could spark a wave of ­consolidation.

Giuseppe Pirola, chairman and co-founder of ­Pirola Pennuto Zei, said: “While for several years now we’ve been witnessing a trend towards the aggregation of law firms in the US, France and Spain, Italian firms have tended towards a certain isolation in the ­exercise of their ­professional activities.

“However, the recent financial ­crisis, which has also made itself felt in the legal sector, has prompted medium-sized firms to ­consider the situation seriously. In the past few months we’ve ­witnessed a rise in the movement of lawyers from one firm to another, which is an acceleration in the consolidation process between firms. This trend is likely to increase in the near future.”