CC structured finance partner latest to defect as UK firms face tough time in Italy

Former Clifford Chance Italy co-managing partner Luigi Chessa has left the magic circle firm.

It is not yet clear which firm Chessa will be joining, with speculation in the ­Italian legal market ­focusing on whether the high-profile securitisation partner will opt for an ­international or a local firm.

One local partner said: “Chessa has a good client following and there will be a lot of firms very interested in hiring him. He’s very well-known and highly regarded in the Italian ­market. It’s a loss for ­Clifford Chance.”

The past few months have seen a number of partners from UK firms move to local Italian rivals. Earlier this year Allen & Overy lost ­partners Alberto Nanni and Antonella Capria to Gianni Origoni Grippo & Partners. This was followed by a mass walkout at the magic circle firm, with 17 associates ­moving to Gianni in May.

A local recruitment ­consultant commented: “The international firm environment is not viewed as secure anymore. Italian lawyers [feel] they have a much more secure future at local firms. We’ve not seen the same level of layoffs as US and UK firms have ­experienced.”

Chessa has had a diverse career history in and out of Clifford Chance. After co-leading the structured finance practice with former Clifford Chance partner Nick Wrigley since the late 1990s, Chessa left in 2003 to join credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s as a ­consultant.

Just two years later ­Chessa made a shock return to Clifford Chance as ­counsel in 2005. In 2007 reported (4 June 2007) that Chessa had been promoted to partner in Rome, becoming the first person to be made up on two separate occasions at the magic circle firm.

Chessa played a major role in building a structured finance practice for Clifford Chance in the country. The firm now serves clients such as UniCredit, Calyon and BNP Paribas in the Italian market.

Chessa’s exit comes after a spate of departures from Clifford Chance in recent months. In April structured finance partners Paulo Calderaro, Michele ­Crisostomo and Silvio Riolo left the firm to launch a niche local practice.

Despite a number of ­resignations, Clifford Chance remains confident that its securitisation and structured finance practice remains strong.

Clifford Chance Italy managing partner Charles Adams said: “This has been the area where we’ve built up a good reputation in Italy. The credit crisis has made it more challenging, but the people are confident the market will return. It may not be exactly the same, but those capabilities will
be valuable.”

Adams insisted his firm’s strategy in Italy remains unchanged. It wants to ­continue servicing ­international clients as well as local banks, including financial institution Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena.

“We’ve come a long way in developing our presence in Italy,” argued Adams. “Yes, it’s always difficult when partners leave the firm, but we don’t see Luigi’s ­departure as a significant problem for us.”