Orrick’s Italian launch kicks off with major E&Y corporate raid

Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe has raided Ernst & Young’s (E&Y) Italian legal arm for the first stage of its Italian launch.

The haul of three equity partners and 20 lawyers in Milan gives Orrick an impressive corporate and public law practice, but plans to add finance and tax capabilities have yet to be realised.

Alessandro De Nicola, a founding partner of E&Y legal affiliate Studio Legale Tributario, is negotiating the terms of his exit, together with corporate partner Luigi Colombo and public and administrative law specialist Guido Bardelli.

Orrick chairman and chief executive Ralph Baxter said there would not be a repeat of the protracted Watson Farley & Williams negotiations of last year. After months of on-off talks, Watson Farley’s Paris partners finally joined Orrick last October. This time Orrick is not directly involved with the negotiations. “I expect E&Y will be much more amicable,” said Baxter. “It’s really up to our new partners and E&Y to work this through.”

Four senior E&Y managers or local partners will also join Orrick as equity partners. De Nicola was previously national director of the firm and will head the new Orrick practice.

David Syed, the ex-Watson Farley partner who is now Orrick’s Europe managing partner, was pivotal to the Italian deal and the two offices are expected to work closely. “There’s a higher percentage of French clients doing business in Italy than US or UK clients,” said Baxter. Orrick is still working on Germany. “We’re seeing interesting people, but have yet to focus on a particular team,” he added.

E&Y’s departures comes amid much upheaval since the legal arm merged with lawyers from Andersen’s defunct practice last year, bringing more than 300 fee-earners together. Former Andersen Legal head Francesco Marotta became managing partner and is driving the Italian integration. The combined turnover, excluding the audit arm, is expected to hit e90m (£61.5m) for 2002-03.