Paul Hastings raids rivals for inaugural Italian office

Following a period of protracted negotiations, Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker has at last made its Italian debut with the hires of Norton Rose Italian founder Roberto Cornetta and Parmalat head of legal Bruno Cova.

As first revealed on (12 April), Cornetta and Cova were voted into Paul Hastings’ equity earlier this month. They join the firm as co-chairs of the new Milan office.

There are no immediate plans for a Rome launch. Paul Hastings chairman Seth Zachary said the US firm aims to have at least 20 lawyers by the end of this year.

Cornetta, who founded Norton Rose’s Italian operation and was its managing partner until two months ago when he was replaced by partner Paolo Daviddi, is one of Italy’s foremost banking lawyers, with particular expertise in energy and projects work. He brings with him a small team of Norton Rose assistants.

Meanwhile, Cova, an expert in capital markets, restructuring and M&A, who was also Fiat’s former general counsel, concludes his work at Parmalat at the end of this month. His successor, who will steer the company through its August/Sept-ember IPO, is Nicola Palmieri, the former general counsel of defunct energy company Montevison and general counsel at BASF in the US.

Cornetta’s resignation will come as no shock to Norton Rose. As exclusively revealed by The Lawyer (2 August 2004), Paul Hastings has been in discussions with Cornetta for some time and vied with firms including White & Case for the rainmaker’s affections. Sources at the UK firm attributed Cornetta’s departure to a fundamental difference in strategic vision.

It is understood that Norton Rose’s Italian operation has struggled to make a profit in recent years, but senior sources at the firm indicated that it was committed to Italy, particularly in the energy and projects arenas. The firm is already believed to be in talks with a number of potential lateral hires with a view to rebuilding the Italian practice.