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Like its prime minister, Italy’s legal market is a law unto itself. Countless broken tie-ups between UK and local firms have only served to strengthen the notion that the Italian market is notoriously difficult to crack.
In the face of such volatility, Clifford Chance has taken its share of pain in the country.
Remember its short-lived relationship with Grimaldi e Associati? They merged in 2001 after agreeing a deal that saw Vittorio Grimaldi, who was installed as the firm’s Italy senior partner, pocket a profit share that was three times what Clifford Chance plateau partners earned at that time.
The relationship fell apart a little over a year later, with Grimaldi taking a group of partners to set up on his own again. Since then the coming and going of Italian lawyers has kept Clifford Chance on its toes.
Take Luigi Chessa. Although the securitisation specialist chose to stay with the UK firm following the Grimaldi exits, he served less than a year as joint managing partner in Italy before leaving to set up his own practice in 2003.
Two years later he came back. Then earlier this year he quit again (see story).
Chessa wasn’t the only lawyer to head for the door this summer, though, with partners Paulo Calderaro, Michele Crisostomo and Silvio Riolo taking a group of associates to set up a niche capital markets practice in Milan (see story).
But what’s this? Perhaps taking a leaf out of Chessa’s book, one of those associates - Lucio Bonavitacola - has returned after a few short months, this time as a partner (see story).
If Chessa’s example is anything to go by we give him until next summer before he starts planning his second exit from the firm.