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Linklaters & Paines is to open offices in Italy and Spain as part of what it calls a "stronger commitment to continental Europe".
Managing partner Terence Kyle is drawing up plans which he will present to partners before the end of the year. He was recently given the go-ahead by Linklaters' management committee to pursue the opening of the European offices.
Senior partner Charles Allen-Jones said the proposals would need the agreement of Linklaters' partners, but said: "I am certain this will go ahead. It is likely the new offices will open next year."
Allen-Jones said the moves were first discussed at the firm's annual retreat for partners, where he said a decision was made to open offices in European countries where Linklaters had no presence. "We are particularly keen to open an office in Italy because of its economic strength," he added.
It is not yet clear whether Linklaters will open its own offices or seek an affiliation or merger with existing Spanish or Italian firms. Allen-Jones said this would depend on Kyle's recommendations.
Linklaters plans are part of a recent flurry of UK law firm activity in Italy. Simmons & Simmons merged with its long-standing Italian partner, Milan-based firm Grippo e Associati in June, while last December Freshfields took over another Milan firm, Lega Colucci Albertazzi & Arossa.
Clifford Chance and Frere Cholmeley Bischoff also have Italian associate firms.
Linklaters' designs on the Spanish market follow Denton Hall's addition of Madrid firm Bufete Lupicinio Rodriguez to its Denton International Group of law firms last month.
Denton Hall is also investigating closer ties with an Italian firm but will not say which firm it is negotiating with.