Dentons has opened its first office in Italy with the hire of 21 lawyers, eight of whom have joined from DLA Piper.

The Milan office will open with seven partners including former DLA Piper managing partner for Europe and Africa Federico Sutti.

Of the seven partners three have left directly from DLA Piper, two have been made up and two have joined from boutique employment firm The Employment Law Plant (hELP).

Out of the 21 lawyers moving to the new Milan office eight have moved directly from DLA while the remainder have arrived from hELP.

Sutti will become managing partner of Dentons’ Milan office. He was managing director of DLA’s Europe and Africa offices since 2013, prior to that he was Italy managing partner for 10 years.

The other six partners joining Sutti at Dentons are: Aldo Calza, Pier Francesco Fagiano, Matteo Falcione, Maria Insinga, Iacopo Piuri and Frederico Vanetti. The new team focuses on real estate, energy and employment law.

All of the partners joined from DLA except Calza and Piuri who left the firm in 2011 to set up boutique employment firm hELP.

Dentons’ global Chairman Joe Andrew said: “Italy ranks amongst the world’s top 10 countries by GDP, and is the third largest economy in the Eurozone. The launch of our Milan office marks another important milestone towards achieving our objective of becoming the world’s leading law firm, capable of offering clients premium counsel in all of the places they do business.”

Dentons global chairman Joe Andrew said that the firm has increased its European headcount by 100 lawyers this year already, and that Italy represents “an important market, not just one of the largest inside Europe”.

He said that the Milan office will cater to the practices that the firm is planning to continue to grow including corporate, private equity and employment law.

Andrew confirmed that this office hire and opening was part of the firm’s reported 21 non-disclosure agreements reported earlier this year.

“There is more to come later in 2015 but certainly in 2016, and it’s part of a larger story and a momentum,” he said.

Dentons Europe CEO Tomasz Dabrowski said the firm would have a full service practice from the first day, and that the firm plans to grow its Italy office to around 80 to 100 lawyers in three years.

“We would like to attract other professionals in banking, litigation, tax, capital markets, corporate M&A and private equity,” he said.

It recently emerged that London based Matthew Arnold & Baldwin could be one such firm. If talks were to be successful, MAB would be the third firm to merge with Dentons since the beginning of the year.

Earlier in the year Dentons also merged with US firm McKenna Long & Aldridge after 18 months of negotiations. The move boosted Dentons headcount to 6,600 lawyers of which 1,100 are based in the US.

At the beginning of the year Dentons became the largest firm in the world after securing a merger with Chinese firm Dacheng. At the time of the combination Dacheng had 50 offices and over 3,000 lawyers despite only being founded in the early 1990s.

DLA strengthened its Hamburg office in September, taking a 20-lawyer team from Bird & Bird.