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Paul Hastings withdraws from Milan as K&L Gates loses eight-partner employment team in Australia

Paul Hastings is shutting up shop in Milan as its office head leaves for a US rival while K&L Gates has seen an exodus of partners in Australia.

Bruno Cova has been a corporate partner at Paul Hastings for over 14 years and currently chairs the firm’s operation in Milan. However, Cova is set to leave the firm for Studio Legale Delfino e Associati Willkie Farr & Gallagher. Though the hires have not yet been finalised, Cova is expected to join alongside litigation partner Francesca Petronio.

In a statement, the firm commented: ‘We would like to express our gratitude for the contribution of Bruno and Francesca to our Milan office and to our firm’s service of our clients in Italy. Looking forward, we believe that our clients will be best served in this region working collaboratively with the leading independent firms in the market.’

The closure comes after Herbert Smith Freehills hired an energy and infrastructure team from Paul Hastings over the summer, with two partners and four associates among those joining the Anglo-Australian firm in Milan. The team included Paul Hastings’ chair of EU energy and infrastructure Lorenzo Parola. As a result of the exits, Cova and Petronio were the only two remaining partners for Paul Hastings in the Milan office, with their imminent departures sealing the outpost’s fate.

Italy has proved to be a complex market for UK and US firms, with their models often hard to combine with a market dominated by smaller groups of veterans that run independent firms. Latham & Watkins, Linklaters, Dentons and White & Case are among the more recent entrants in the region.

Elsewhere, K&L Gates has lost around 30 employment lawyers in Australia, with approximately 8 partners thought to be among the departures. The firm has a presence in Australia with four offices in Perth, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, having first entered the country through a merger with national firm Middletons in 2013.

A K&L Gates spokesperson commented: ‘We can confirm there have been some recent partner resignations from our Australian labour, employment and workplace safety team. As we are still in discussions with this team regarding their departure, we are unable to provide additional information at this time. Regardless, our Australian labour, employment and workplace safety practice will remain strong and will continue to be a core area of service for K&L Gates clients in Australia and globally.’