Dewey Ballantine, Italy

Managing partner:

Bruno Gattai
Turnover: £7.5m (estimated)/£210m firmwide
Number of lawyers: 65 (498 firmwide)
Number of partners: 16 (129 firmwide)
Clients: 3i, Apax, Barilla, Wind
Number of offices: Two
Locations: Milan, Rome

The path to success in Italy is strewn with monuments to failure. UK and US-headquartered firms, known locally as anglosassoni, find it particularly difficult to make the marriage of cultures a happy one. Think of the 2004 divorce of Linklaters and Gianni Origoni Grippo & Partners, the 2005 split between McDermott Will & Emery and Carnelutti, or even the amicable arrivederci from Allen & Overy to Pavesio e Associati.

It is, then, no small feat that Dewey Ballantine has grown exponentially in Italy in the last three years and has plans to continue doing so until it reaches a headcount of around 100, according to regional managing partner Bruno Gattai.

Gattai admits: “The lawyers in Italy are generally prime donne. They all have strong personalities. It’s difficult even for Italians to manage. When a firm opens abroad it should build its office according to that country’s culture, and not impose a culture or system that’s very different to what people are used to, and expect success.”

Gattai himself came with two other partners from Simmons & Simmons Italy to launch Dewey’s operations in the peninsula in 2003. He quickly surrounded himself with choice laterals from Gianni, Chiomenti Studio Legale and Clifford Chance.

Gattai’s tactics of cherry-picking talent has mushroomed to cherry-picking a whole boutique, give or take a few tax partners. As first reported by The Lawyer (22 February), Dewey is collaborating with local firm Galgano, a highly unusual move that sees the US firm taking on 20 full-time fee-earners from its new best friend, while operating a referral relationship with the remaining Galgano lawyers. These include founding partner Francesco Galgano, a much revered lawyer with political contacts who, according to Gattai, “basically wrote the book on modern Italian corporate law”.

Dewey might not have been able to make its mooted merger with Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe work, but Gattai has proven that integration is possible at the New York-headquartered firm.

“Right now it’s all about integration, about maintaining the same Dewey spirit,” says Gattai, who is known by his countrymen also for being a champion skier. He defines that spirit as an office where “the people come to work with pleasure. We chat, we go out together. We all feel a part of something, something that has grown quite big now.”

That something has always been profitable, says Gattai. Italian turnover now stands at e11m (£7.5m). Clients include Italian household names such as pasta producer Barilla, but also private equity houses such as Apax and 3i. Most notably, these are clients sourced directly in Italy, not referred from London or New York, although the Italian arm does work a lot with its international network.

So what are the differences for an Italian at a US, rather than UK, firm? “English partners are a lot more involved in management and the partnership. Americans just care about the work,” says Gattai.