Italian firms attack govt’s transparency scheme

The Italian government has outlined new regulations governing lawyers in Italy, sparking outrage within the Italian legal community.

The legislation, proposed by justice minister Clemente Mastella, could force lawyers to give clients an estimate of their maximum spend and reveal details about their insurance cover.

Michelina Grillo, president of the Italian Lawyers Union (Organismo Unitario dell’Avvocatura Italiana), voiced opposition to the new regulations. “We’ll continue to use all our energy and activities to make sure that the law receives all the necessary corrections during its passage through parliament,” she said.

The Italian government’s move comes in the same week that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Italian minimum fee rules break EU competition laws.

The ECJ said the Italian minimum fee system is anticompetitive, as it prevents foreign firms from undercutting Italian firms.”[The system] limits the choice of service for recipients in Italy because they cannot resort to the services of lawyers established in other member states that would offer their services in Italy at a lower rate than the minimum fees set by the scale,” said the ECJ.

The court did not propose an alternate system, concluding that national courts would have the final say.

Leah Dunlop, managing partner of Lovells in Italy, said: “I suspect the decision is somewhat late. The Italian tariff system has always been within the crosshairs of the [European] Commission.”

The Italian government had already passed a decree in June abolishing the tariff system, which offers lawyers a minimum percentage of a deal or case. Parliament has 18 months to finalise the framework law.