Linklaters is set to launch a litigation practice in Italy, with the hire of disputes partner Alessandro Villani from leading independent firm Gianni Origoni Grippo Cappelli & Partners.
Villani is expected to join Linklaters at the end of the summer. He will be based in the Magic Circle firm's Milan office; however, the practice will cover the whole country.
Villani has been a partner at Gianni since 2010, prior to which he spent time at Allen & Overy and local legacy outfit Lombardi & Associati.
His move marks a rare defection for the Italian firm and takes the total number of partners across Linklaters' two Italian offices in Rome and Milan to eight.
Linklaters Italy managing partner Andrea Arosio said: "We've been looking at establishing litigation capability in Italy for some time, and we see Alessandro's hire as an important step in the development of the Milan office.
"The new litigation practice, led by Alessandro, will enable Linklaters to offer a more complete service and thereby help the firm to deepen relationships with existing clients and to attract new clients."
Linklaters and Gianni previously shared a five-year alliance that ended in 2004, with both firms admitting that the goal of an eventual merger was "unlikely."
The news comes after Gianni changed its name at the close of last year after hiring an 11-lawyer team from Grimaldi & Associati led by partner Roberto Cappelli.
Milan-based Cappelli is one of the most senior lawyers in Italy and formed part of a five-partner team leading the breakaway of Grimaldi from then merger partner Clifford Chance in 2002.