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BonelliErede shakes up Italian legal market to merge with 70-strong rival Lombardi

Slaughter and May Italian ally BonelliErede is to merge with litigation and corporate independent firm Lombardi e Associati, strengthening its position as the largest player among the country’s three champions.

Bonelli’s partnership unanimously approved the move on Saturday (25 May) and as of July the firm will take on around 70 lawyers, growing its headcount to more than 500.

They include Lombardi’s head Giuseppe Lombardi, who will co-lead Bonelli’s litigation team. Three fellow litigation partners will also join Bonelli, alongside four corporate partners, one banking and one administrative law partner.

‘With the integration of Lombardi e Associati, we confirm our position as the market leader in Italy and, furthermore, we add recognised expertise and long-standing experience in law,’ said Bonelli’s head Stefano Simontacchi (pictured).

Mainly aimed at strengthening Bonelli’s litigation credentials, the move was not without its fallouts however, involving a number of other Italian firms.

Earlier this month a team of 15 lawyers including corporate partners Antonio Segni and Andrea Mazziotti quit Lombardi e Associati for their former firm, Bonelli’s rival Gianni Origoni Grippo Cappelli & Partners.

Private equity specialist, 100-strong Gattai Minoli Agostinelli & Partners announced today (28 May) it recruited a team of eight lawyers from Lombardi, including energy and infrastructure partner Carla Mambretti and co-head of project finance Nicola Gaglione.

Alongside Gianni and 300-lawyer Chiomenti, Bonelli is regarded as one of Italy’s top three independent firms. Key mandates the firm acted on in recent months include the €50bn merger between French lens manufacturer Essilor and Italy’s Luxottica.

Bonelli has also been focused on expanding abroad, particularly in Mediterranean Africa and the Middle East. However the firm’s 2018 revenue remained substantially flat on the previous year, at an estimated €160m.

Bonelli and Lombardi’s move is a rare exception in a market where schisms have traditionally been far more in vogue than mergers.

Top lawyers in Italy have usually been more likely to run their own firm than take orders from others, meaning international firms have had a hard time, although entrants in the last decade including Linklaters, White & Case and Latham & Watkins have managed to build relatively successful niches.

But the individualism of the Italian market has also meant that local champions have traditionally been over-reliant on one or two of their top partners. In this context, the Bonelli-Lombardi merger marks a significant move towards consolidation.