Slaughters’ Italian ally restructures in generational shift

Bonelli Erede Pappalardo, Slaughter and May’s Italian best friend, has overhauled its governance and structure and elected two new managing partners in a bid to ensure its future.

stefano simontacchi bonelli
Stefano Simontacchi

Tax and transfer pricing head Stefano Simontacchi and employment head Marcello Giustiniani are taking over from outgoing managing partner Alberto Saravalle, who is returning to full-time fee-earning after two three-year terms in office.

The new management team was elected at a partners’ meeting on Saturday (18 May). At that meeting and an earlier meeting a fortnight ago Bonelli’s partners agreed a raft of changes to the firm’s governance and structure, intended to take the firm forward for the next three years.

The changes include reforms to remuneration and the route to partnership and follow on from the adoption of a “three-pillar” strategy 18 months ago (15 December 2011).

Under the firm’s previous structure, equity partners were remunerated on a modified lockstep basis with 80 per cent of remuneration coming from lockstep and 20 per cent through a bonus. Simontacchi told The Lawyer that Bonelli has reshaped the system to encourage partners to contribute more to the firm as a whole instead of focusing on their own performance.

The firm has now reallocated lockstep points for all partners. A small group of nine partners will be remunerated entirely on a lockstep basis, with remuneration for the rest of the equity partnership now split 90 per cent on lockstep and 10 per cent on bonuses. However there is no longer an automatic increase in points each year, and overall firm performance and the contribution to aspects such as business development have become as important as individual performance.

“We want to change from a firm of individuals to being a group of people working together and creating value for clients,” Simontacchi said.

The firm still has a small group of eight salaried partners, whose remuneration remains unchanged.

Bonelli has also reviewed the remuneration of its senior associates, reducing their base salaries but increasing the bonus pool. Simontacchi said the firm would not make any savings for the change, adding that it would reward those who deserved it most.

Meanwhile the route to partnership has been revamped with the intention of making it more transparent. Whereas in the past candidates for partnership were required to have the support of a small number of partners – usually two – they will now face an independent partnership committee who will review their candidacy, evaluating potential partners on their performance and their ability to generate business.

Additionally Bonelli is planning to invest in a client relationship management system. The firm is reorganising itself along sector and industry lines instead of practice areas, as well as focusing on “areas of excellence”. Simontacchi said that would entail offering clients expertise in specific areas, for example risk analysis.

Clients will also no longer be given a single relationship partner, Instead multiple lawyers will be the points of contact, with the intention of creating institutional relationships for the future.

Bonelli will also focus on its marketing and business development and is further expanding its business development team.

The two managing partners will have separate responsibilities. Simontacchi will be responsible for Bonelli’s strategic development as well as being its external spokesperson. Meanwhile Giustiniani will focus on organising and managing internal affairs.

An international committee and business development committee will report to Simontacchi, while committees focusing on IT, employee remuneration, partners’ remuneration and partnership will report to Giustiniani. A maximum of one board member can sit on each committee.

Saravalle will continue to sit on Bonelli’s board, alongside London managing partner Andrea Carta Mantiglia and corporate partners Paolo Daino and Umberto Nicodano.

The partners’ meeting also elected a new remuneration committee. IP head Giovanni Guglielmetti, employment partner Vittorio Pomarici and tax head Andrea Silvestri will join the committee alongside incumbents Vittorio Allavena, who also heads the litigation department, and corporate partners Eliana Catalano and Roberto Pistorelli.