Francesco Gianni, the talismanic head of Italian independent Gianni Origoni Grippo & Partners, is used to making tough decisions.
He is unrepentant about losing eight partners this year following a huge overhaul of the firm’s strategy.
He says: “When you change a system, create a revolution, there are people who are happy and people who are less happy.”
After all, this is the man who divorced Gianni Origoni from Linklaters in 2004 after disagreeing with the global firm’s approach to the Italian market.
“Life after that has been how we expected,” says Gianni. “We didn’t lose market share at all.”
In February the firm lost four partners, who broke away to form finance boutique Labruna Mazziotti Segni. Fabio Labruna says it was difficult to pinpoint areas of dissatisfaction, but the four finance partners agreed that they would be better off out of the plans. “It’s really difficult to concretise into specific things,” says Labruna. “It was the focus on management roles, the direction of the practices, a combination of all factors.”
With average profit per equity partner hovering around the E1.4m (£955,000) mark, Gianni makes the point that people did not leave because of financial difficulty, but because of disagreements over his plans for the future.
“Anytime you do something you cannot wait for 100 per cent agreement,” he says. “If you wait you don’t do anything.”
Gianni Origoni went on to lose three further partners in July and one in June.
Most of the disagreements seem to be over the way Gianni is encouraging his second generation of partners to take a greater interest in the running of the firm.
Previously Gianni Origoni only had a five-partner executive committee, but it has now set up an elected remuneration committee and an opinions committee to give 14 partners a taste of management.
And like the Anglo-Saxon firms, the firm now has office managing partners. M&A
partner Giovanni Nardulli became the firm’s Rome head and corporate specialist Bruno Bartocci leads Milan.
Most importantly, Gianni has changed the lockstep to accelerate the partners who get involved in training and other firmwide initiatives. The points run from 20 up to 100, with the average partner taking around 13 years to get to the top, which some estimates put at E5m (£3.41m).
Gianni says: “My second generation is much younger and other firms don’t have a third generation. 2007 is important, but 2015 is much more important.”
Gianni Origoni is a relative upstart in the Italian legal market. In 18 years the firm has developed from nine lawyers to a 340-lawyer operation with a E100m (£68.24m) turnover. The challenge is to maintain this momentum.
Gianni wants to diversify the firm’s future client base. It is relevant that three out of the four recent departures came from M&A, an area where 24 of 50 Gianni Origoni partners specialise.
Gianni is now targeting mid-cap Italian companies, between €200m (£136.49m) and €500m (£341.21m), and commercial practice areas such as litigation and IP. Gianni says he is prepared to give his senior associates a chance rather than jump feet first into the Italian recruitment scene.
Gianni is unflinching about his reforms. “You have partners you may want to lose and you have partners you don’t want to lose,” he says. “You have to give more weight to those you don’t want to lose.”