E&Y Legal Italy chief mulls options post defection

The chairman of Ernst & Young Legal (E&Y) in Italy is defecting and taking an unspecified number of lawyers with him.

Paolo Tanoni told The Lawyer that contrary to market speculation, he is not definitely opening his own spin-off. Instead, he said, that this is just one option that he is mulling over, along with three job offers from separate law firms.

Although he would not mention the firms by name, Tanoni said that they were Italian offices of Anglo-Saxon firms rather than domestic shops.

If Tanoni does choose the route of an Anglo-Saxon firm, he would be following in the footsteps of Alessandro De Nicola, a founding partner of E&Y legal affiliate Studio Legale Tributario and national director of E&Y Legal in Italy. He is now managing partner of Orrick Herrington & Stucliffe’s Milan office.

Wherever he ends up, Tanoni, who specialises in corporate and M&A, plans on taking “around 10 E&Y lawyers” with him, although they are unlikely to be partners. As chairman of the firm, he has not in private practice over the last year.

The accounting giant has been refocusing its strategy and downsizing its legal offering across Europe.

Tanoni attributed his decision to leave to the fact that the legal division had received “no investment” from E&Y over the last three years, since EY Law wound down. “We were just ancilliary to the accounting,” he said.

Tanoni said he did not think he would be replaced. He said: “Disappearing quietly with no replacement would fit in much better with E&Y’s strategy.”

Although German firm Luther officially stopped its alliance with E&Y this summer, E&Y’s managing partner in Milan, Francesco Marotta, insisted that the firm would continue to practice within a multidisciplinary environment.