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HSF launches in Milan with hire of Simmons Italian disputes head

Strengthening its considerable European disputes offering, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) will open in Milan with the hire of Simmons & Simmons’ Italian disputes and IP head Laura Orlando.

The firm is seeking to take advantage of the European pharmaceutical patent litigation market, second only in the world to the US in terms of size. The office is set to officially open in early 2018.

Orlando had previously led Simmons’ disputes and IP practices as well as the life sciences sector group, and has experience acting on high-profile multi-jurisdictional patent litigation cases.

HSF’s UK head of disputes Mark Shillito told Legal Business that Orlando had been on the firm’s radar for some time, having worked alongside her for ‘two or three years’.

‘The plan is to open an intellectual property and litigation boutique. We’ll see how it beds down, but we expect it to be very successful very quickly. We’ve got some pre-existing Italian clients of our own and Laura is bringing the majority of her clients too, they’ve been very supportive’, he added.

In a statement, HSF’s global head of disputes Justin D’Agostino noted the firm’s impressive European growth of late, doubling the size of its disputes team in Germany and attracting lateral hires in both its Madrid and Paris offices. ‘This reflects the fact that there is a strong client demand for our disputes expertise throughout Europe’, he added.

With the addition of the Milan outpost, HSF has now opened four offices throughout Europe over the past five years, and made over 30 lateral hires.

The departure of Orlando is the latest in run over high profile IP departures to larger UK-based rivals. In the space of four months in 2016, Simmons lost IP partners to A&O, including highly-regarded patent specialist Marjan Noor in June, followed by London IP head Marc Döring in August, and Mark Heaney and David Stone in September. The exodus to A&O prompted the firm to push through amendments to its partnership deed restricting team moves.

The European expansion will be welcome for HSF, after it lost a two-partner real estate team from its Paris office in September. Well-cited Paris real estate head Pierre Popesco and urban planning and public law expert Florence Chérel left for CMS after 12 years at the firm.

However in the same month, HSF made a major move in Asia, hiring a three-partner projects team from Pinsent Masons in China.