Legal Business

Legal Business Awards 2020 – International Firm of the Year

Legal Business Awards 2020 – International Firm of the Year

The entries have been assessed and our research completed: we are now delighted to reveal our International Firm of the Year for the 2020 Legal Business Awards.

This award acknowledges leading independent non-UK or US law firms – operating onshore or offshore – in mainland Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia, Australasia, the Middle East and Africa. Key factors taken into account by our judges include a clear demonstration of growing market share, a well-conceived business strategy, stellar financial performance, strong management, a successful recruitment and retention strategy and a significant client development programme.




Sponsored by




Winner – BonelliErede

Slaughter and May’s Italian ally, BonelliErede, laid claim to moving ahead of its competitors with a key strategic move last summer – taking over litigation and corporate independent, Lombardi e Associati.

It was undoubtedly a significant move in an Italian legal market traditionally used to schisms. The merger sees Bonelli strengthen its position as the largest of the country’s three champions, growing its lawyer headcount by 70 to more than 500. It almost doubles Bonelli’s disputes ranks, adding 40 lawyers to hit 100. The rest of the legacy Lombardi team is split across restructuring, M&A, intellectual property, administrative law and banking.

Management at Bonelli – led by president Stefano Simontacchi – is now bullish about its prospects in a market where the litigation scene has traditionally been dominated by small boutiques, claiming that a general counsel or a company that has a major litigation issue will make Bonelli its first port of call. For Lombardi – a highly regarded disputes boutique – tying up with an institution secures its future in an Italian legal market that is consolidating fast.

In a static market where the big three firms are to an extent dominated by patriarchs, Bonelli has emerged with a clear strategy of innovation and internationalisation. While it is clear to point out that it is not pursuing growth at all costs its recent moves have demonstrated an ambition that could move it ahead of its competitors.

Highly commended – Noerr

Well respected by peers and a previous winner in this category, German market-leader Noerr has a solid track record of revenue growth over the last decade, having more than doubled its turnover from €105.8m in 2009. Its most recent financial performance was particularly strong, increasing turnover by 13% to €229.4m while revenue per lawyer rose 6% to €542,000.

To drive its goals of remaining at the forefront of its home market, Noerr has continued to invest significantly over the past 18 months, especially through strengthening in corporate, litigation and regulatory through partner promotions and lateral hires, as well as pressing ahead with the modernisation of the infrastructure and digitalisation of the firm.


Other nominees

BDGS Associés

BDGS was formed in 2013 by four former Gide Loyrette Nouel partners who believed that a small, transactions-focused player had more chance of success than a large firm. The 35-lawyer practice has quickly established itself as the strongest domestic challenger to local leaders Bredin Prat and Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier.

De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek

Considered the top independent law firm in the Netherlands, De Brauw turned over €174m in 2018, thanks to the contribution of key players such as corporate head Arne Grimme and working with the likes of Slaughter and May on’s $10bn acquisition of Just Eat.

Mason Hayes & Curran

As the only elite Irish firm to disclose its financial performance, Mason Hayes has doubled turnover in six years to December 2018, with revenue growing 8% to €82m. Evidence of growing market share in Dublin can be seen from eight lateral hires from direct competitors in two years.


A serious challenger to the Spanish legal elite, Pérez-Llorca is recognises by local and international firms in Madrid as an important competitor, not just for Spanish clients. The numbers confirm this: the firm grew revenue by 30% to €52m in 2018, following a 20% growth the previous year.

Uría Menéndez

Cementing its position as the top Spanish independent firm, recent mandates included advising Abertis on the $19bn takeover by Atlantia – the fourth-largest European deal in 2018, contributing to the firm hitting €240m in global revenues in 2018.



Legal Business

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

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.

Legal Business

Deal Watch: European acquisitions generate big-ticket roles for Latham, Bakers and Bonelli

Deal Watch: European acquisitions generate big-ticket roles for Latham, Bakers and Bonelli

Latham & Watkins, Baker McKenzie, Clifford Chance (CC) and Allen & Overy (A&O) have lined up alongside a group of top independents in two multi-billion euro deals as Europe’s M&A scene maintains its brisk 2018 form.

Latham advised Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) on the €1.94bn acquisition of Italian railway operator Italo – Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori (Ntv). The deal means the only privately-owned high-speed rail operator in Europe has shifted to American control after shelving plans to float on the Milan stock exchange. The Rome-based group is the country’s second-largest railway operator after state-backed Ferrovie dello Stato.

Latham London partner David Walker (pictured), Italy managing partner Antonio Coletti and Milan partners Stefano Sciolla and Giovanni Sandicchi acted for the US investment fund as it acquired 100% of the group. Slaughter and May’s local ally BonelliErede advised the seller led by partners Carlo Montagna and Elena Busson.

The deal generated roles for a number of major Italian law firms, with Nctm also advising Italo-Ntv with a team headed by Sante Ricci and Lukas Plattner, while Chiomenti’s Francesco Tedeschini and Andrea Sacco Ginevri acted for shareholder Allegro. Pedersoli advised debt provider Intesa Sanpaolo, fielding a team under Carlo Pedersoli.

BonelliErede had previously advised Italo-Ntv as the company announced plans for an IPO by the end of February. Shearman & Sterling and Italy’s Lombardi Segni & Associati were also advising on the proposed floatation, which had received the backing of the country’s minister of economy and finances Pier Carlo Padoan. However, Italo’s stakeholders decided to accept GIP’s bid after the fund raised its initial €1.9bn offer on Wednesday (7 February) last week.

The deal sees foreign investors return to Italy for big-ticket deals after last year’s €50bn merger of French Essilor International and Italian Luxottica Group. Going the other way, Italy’s Atlantia is involved in a bid battle with Germany’s Hochtief to acquire Spanish toll road operator Albertis.

Moving to Northern Europe, Bakers, CC and A&O have advised on the $6.7bn takeover of Danish phone carrier TDC by a consortium including Australian infrastructure leader Macquarie and three local pension funds.

As interest in telecom assets grows from investors, the consortium aims to restructure TDC to create two separate infrastructure and consumer-facing businesses.

Bakers’ London corporate partners Tim Sheddick and James Thompson acted for longstanding client Macquarie. Plesners provided Danish law advice to the consortium, which also included local pension funds PFA, PKA and ATP.  CC advised the consortium on debt financing.

A&O London partner Jonathan Brownson led the team advising the lenders alongside partners Matt Moore and Jake Keaveny. Horten provided Danish law advice to the lenders with its head of banking and financing Claus Bennetsen leading. Danish leader Kromann Reumert advised TDC.

For more analysis of Italy’s legal market see Legal Business’s latest issue with the piece ‘Letter from… Milan’ (£)

Legal Business

International moves: Bonelli recruits A&O Italy senior capital markets partner while BLP makes double Dubai hire

International moves: Bonelli recruits A&O Italy senior capital markets partner while BLP makes double Dubai hire

Italian firm BonelliErede, the European best friend of Slaughter and May, has made a key hire with Allen & Overy‘s Italy senior partner, Massimiliano Danusso. Meanwhile, Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) has invested in its Dubai team with a double hire.

Constituting a major hire for Bonelli, which rebranded from Bonelli Erede Pappalardo several months ago, Allen & Overy’s former head of Italian international capital markets Danusso is cited by the Legal 500 as a leading individual in debt capital markets work and described as a ‘strategically thinking’ adviser.

Bond specialist Danusso is to be managing partner of the London office, and brings with him a team of eight lawyers from Allen & Overy who had he worked with previously.

Italian leader Bonelli voiced its intention to tackle the City last year, as its 13-year-old London arm serves as a gateway to other jurisdictions. London head Andrea Carta Mantiglia told Legal Business at the time: ‘We look at the London office as a means to develop our international strategy at large, including pursuing further Africa and Asia work. London is ideally placed to develop those activities. We are also looking in the market to expand our presence here, we will relocate people and hire.’

Elsewhere, BLP has moved to improve its UAE offering with King & Spalding Dubai disputes head Raza Mithani and DLA Piper’s Alexander Sarac who join the firm on 3 February.

Mithani led the disputes practice for King & Spalding in Dubai, working across various sectors including financial services, aerospace and defence, energy, construction and insurance. Prior to his move to Dubai in 2008, Mithani practised as a barrister from No5 Chambers.

Energy and infrastructure partner Sarac had served as legal director in DLA Piper’s finance and projects team in Tanzania, since 2013. A statement today (25 January) said his appointment ‘continues BLP’s development of its capability in Africa.’

Sarac is tasked with strengthening the firm’s project finance practice and ‘enhance BLP’s ability to advise clients in relation to investments into and out of Africa in conjunction with the wider team in Europe and Asia.’

BLP UAE country managing partner Richard Davies added: ‘Strategically these hires are hugely important for BLP both globally and specifically for our Middle East and Africa practice. They help us to join up our efforts in Africa, Europe and Asia.’

The firm has been making concerted efforts to improve its disputes offering internationally, and in March last year, launched an arbitration practice in Hong Kong with the hire of a nine-strong team from local boutique Hayley & Co.

Legal Business

Italy: Hogan Lovells trio departs to Ernst & Young while Bonelli changes management

Italy: Hogan Lovells trio departs to Ernst & Young while Bonelli changes management

Hogan Lovells’ Rome office has lost partners Gianroberto de Giovanni, Massimiliano Marinozzi and Paolo Ricci to Ernst & Young.

The trio will join as partners of the Italian legal offering of the global audit firm in its Rome and Milan offices. Ricci will take over the leadership team in Italy, while de Giovanni and Marinozzi will head the corporate and dispute teams respectively.

They join Ernst & Young (E&Y) partner Francesco Marotta, who will supervise the development and supervision of the firm’s Mediterranean offices in Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Ricci joined Hogan Lovells’ Italian start-up in 2000 and was head of the firm’s Italian corporate insurance team. Meanwhile, de Giovanni led the Italian energy practice while Marinozzi has over 20 years’ experience of disputes and led Hogan Lovells’ Rome litigation practice.

E&Y’s Italian boost comes as CEO Jim Turley prepares to retire on 30 June after a 12-year stint. He will be replaced by former Bush administration assistant secretary to the US treasury, Mark Weinberger.

Elsewhere, E&Y’s London office also recently announced it intended to boost its in-house legal team, with general counsel Lisa Cameron confirming to Legal Business that it was currently in the process of hiring.

The auditing firm reported global revenues of revenues of $24.4bn at the end of its financial year in June 2012, a $1.5bn increase from 2011 figures, while the headcount was at an all-time high of 167,000.

A spokesperson for Hogan Lovells said: ‘While we are sorry to see Paolo, Gianroberto and Massimiliano move on, our Italian and broader European corporate and litigation practices are very strong market leaders and will continue to expand.’

In other news, Slaughter and May ally and Italian royalty Bonelli Erede Pappalardo has elected two new managing partners following an overhaul of its governance structure.

Employment partner Marcello Giustiniani and tax head Stefano Simontacchi have taken over as joint managing partners from Alberto Saravalle, who served two three-year terms in charge of the firm. Giustiniani will be in charge of internal management, while Simontacchi will oversee strategy.