Studio Legale Sutti (SLS) has signed its first international merger agreement, teaming up with Bulgarian law firm Varadinov & Co.
The merger marks a turning point in the Italian firm's strategy of creating an SLS network in south east Europe, which it announced last year (The Lawyer, 30 October 2000). SLS's managing partner Stefano Sutti said: "There were some douBTs and fears with respect to loss of independence, but we were able to persuade our Bulgarian partners that they would retain full control over the management of their own office." The full merger, with profit sharing, gives SLS three partners in Sofia and a total of 10 lawyers. Varadinov specialises in international trade, company law and intellectual property. The new office will offer a full service but will focus on representing the firm's Italian and international clients in Bulgaria as they become increasingly active within the EU. Bulgaria is also becoming a growing target for foreign investors. In addition to its offices in Milan, Rome and Genoa, SLS has overseas offices in London and Tokyo, where it relies heavily on referral work. Sutti said: "The mission of our office in Bulgaria will be dramatically different from that of the existing offices in London and Tokyo. They aim at providing local clients, and above all local law firms, with Italian legal services and are never staffed by local lawyers. In this case it will be for the rest of the firm to sell Bulgarian legal services to our current and prospective clients. From now on, from all practical aspects, SLS is an Italian-Bulgarian law firm." SLS is understood to be in the final stages of merger negotiations with a Belgrade firm and also plans to open in Bucharest.