Renaissance style – the battle to modernise Italy’s legal elite

Italy’s economic crisis has forced elite domestic law firms like Bonelli Erede Pappalardo to reconsider their business models. Legal Business discovers whether the market is ready for change

In 2011 Stefano Simontacchi, then head of tax at the Italian legal giant Bonelli Erede Pappalardo, made a high-stakes presentation at the firm’s general partners’ meeting. The increasingly disastrous economic climate in Italy was forcing the firm to reappraise its strategy and Simontacchi, as part of a three-partner committee, had been approved by the firm’s board to find a solution.

‘We needed strategic thinking about whether we wanted to be a very small boutique or whether we wanted to remain at the size we were,’ recalls Simontacchi. ‘In which case, how could we survive when overall spending capacity of the market is decreasing?’

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Italy 2.0

The Italian legal market has modernised over the past decade as local firms have reacted to greater client demands and the influx of foreign practices. Now there’s greater pressure on fees and billing arrangements

Over the past decade the Italian legal market has gradually been modernising, entering its own 2.0 era. Firms have taken a more business-focused approach to how they run their firms. Italian lawyers who traditionally prided themselves on their ability to advise on a wide range of areas have become more specialised.

In part, the competitive nature of the market has forced Italian lawyers to adapt. There are more than 200,000 members of the Italian bar, Consiglio Nazionale Forense. The total number of lawyers is more than in Germany, even though Italy has a much smaller economy.
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