Bonelli embraces institutional thinking

Bonelli has finally ditched its individual ethos to embrace institutional thinking

There has never been any doubt about the quality of the lawyers at Italian firm Bonelli Erede Pappalardo. But while Slaughter and May’s best friend sits at the top of the qualitative rankings, the firm has lost some ground strategically in recent years in terms of its succession planning.

That could all change now. At a recent partnership meeting the firm overhauled governance and structure to make the firm more institutional and encourage partners to think collectively rather than individually.

There is a new lockstep system, senior associates will get a higher proportion of their wages through bonuses, and clients will no longer have only one relationship partner.

The track to partnership is also more transparent, with candidates voted on by an independent partnership committee instead of being put forward by a small number of partners.

Meanwhile a pair of managing partners, Stefano Simontacchi and Marcello Giustiniani, are replacing Alberto Saravalle, who has held the role for two three-year terms.

Some would say that the strategic review should have happened several years ago – indeed Gianni Origoni Grippo Cappelli & Partners instituted similar changes in 2006. Generally, Italy’s legal market has lagged others in Europe when it comes to institutionalisation and the jurisdiction remains over-lawyered, with a lot of small firms hanging on to their independence at the expense of client service.

Changes such as Bonelli’s are essential if independent firms want to compete in an international arena.