Italy taken to Euro court over foreign law firm ban

European Court Justice(ECJ) over alleged discrimination against foreign lawyers. If the case is successful, it could open the doors to many UK and US lawfirms wanting to set up in the

booming Italian market.Two separate cases have been brought by unnamed individuals over

obstaclesfor professionals trying to set up in the country.At present Italian law

prohibits English lawyers who provide services inthe country from opening offices.To

bypass the rule, English and US firms have linked up with Italianfirms, for example,

Linklaters has just announced that it is to add GianniOrigoni & Partners to its

Alliance.The Commission claims the Italian law infringes treaty provisions on thefree

movement of services within the EU.It says its view is supported by a 1995 ECJ ruling

which recognised that aprovider of services may equip himself with some form of

infrastructure,such as an office, chambers or consulting room.The second case challenges

the aptitude test given to foreign lawyers,which is thought to be too difficult.While

aptitude tests are allowed under European law for the recognition ofhigher education

diplomas, the Italian one takes more than one year toprocess and for the oral exam alone

10 subjects are covered, which is morethan that required of Italian lawyers.Law Society

director international Jonathan Goldsmith says he has notheard any complaints from

English lawyers.”The alleged restrictions do not seem to have had any effect on the

bigfirms,” he adds. “I was talking to an Italian lawyer the other day who saidthere is

an English invasion in the legal market.”However, if there has been a breach by Italy

then we are glad that thecommission is taking Italy to the ECJ.”