Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has expanded in Europe, opening its first office in Italy with a hire from Simmons & Simmons.

The new Milan office, which has been described by the firm as an “IP boutique”, will launch through Laura Orlando, Simmons’ former leading IP partner in the Italian city.

Orlando focuses on patent and regulatory law in the life sciences sector. A source said it was likely Orlando would be bringing a team of two or three associates with her from Simmons, however the departure of only one associate has been confirmed.

Her hire adds to the 30 laterals HSF has made over the past five years opening four offices across Europe.

In an interview with The Lawyer, HSF head of disputes Mark Shillito said the firm had worked closely alongside Orlando for a couple of years, often referring work to her while it didn’t have a presence in Milan.

“A principal role for HSF has been to co-ordinate other law firms where we don’t have offices. It feels like Laura is part of the firm already. We’re confident she’s market leading as we are, and that she fits in well with us.”

The firm said it already has IP clients that would be serviced well in Milan, including pharmaceutical company Gilead, which the firm has advised on its HIV portfolio. Other clients include Roche, Biogen, Takeda and Sanofi. It is understood Orlando has been able to take a number of her clients from Simmons to HSF.

Orlando is the latest IP lawyer to have left Simmons for a rival firm. In August last year, the firm lost its head of IP in London Marc Döring to Allen & Overy following the hire of fellow IP partner Marjan Noor two months earlier.

In September, Simmons’ partners Mark Heaney and David Stone became the third and fourth partners to join A&O as it launched a mission spearheaded by practice head Nicola Dagg to build up its IP capabilities. Dagg was appointed by the firm as global head of IP as it embarked on a significant restructuring and strategy revamp.

A spokesperson for Simmons & Simmons said: “We can confirm that Laura is leaving the firm by the end of the year and wish her all the best for the future.

“In the meantime work will continue through our international IP Group; we will be looking to replace, further information will be provided when we have news to share.”

Shillito said that the hiring of Orlando and the launch in Milan was a stepping stone to further expansion in Europe, citing an IP-led firm in Germany as his next target.

“We’ve been busy in Italy and see Orlando as a good practitioner. Germany is an important jurisdiction because of the volume of patent litigation. The most important countries in this area are the UK, Germany, Italy, France. We already have an office in Paris and will continue to actively look for opportunities in rest of Europe, and in particular Germany.”

Herbert Smith Freehills CEO Mark Rigotti added: “Europe is a key market for pharmaceutical companies, second only to the US and so is naturally a key market for the firm, especially in light of our strategy to grow our EMEA platform. Our new Milan office will further enhance and strengthen our global IP team for our clients, both domestic and from across our wider global network.”