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Latham & Watkins has poached five partners from an Italian law firm, a coup in a market that hasn’t been seen as welcoming to foreign law firms. Latham has a small Milan office that works on the international aspects of Italian transactions. The new partners mark the beginning of Latham’s practice of Italian law. “What we’ve done is fairly unique,” said Michael Immordino, a Latham partner who splits his time between London and Milan. “It’s the first time anyone has been able to attract a group of partners out of a major Italian law firm.” The additions are timely. There has been a dramatic increase in M&A in Italy, according to an article in The National Law Journal, a sister publication of The Recorder. In 2006, Italy accounted for 48 percent of total M&A activity in Europe and represented more than 50 percent of the top 10 deals by value, the article said. Latham’s new partners come from Italy’s Bonelli Erede Pappalardo, a firm that had previously worked with Latham on numerous transactions, Immordino said. Their expertise includes M&A, private equity, banking and finance. Four of the five new partners will be in Milan, and one in Rome. Largely, Milan is seen as Italy’s commercial center, while the focus in Rome is more on regulatory work. Unlike the majority of European nations, where international firms have made strong inroads in the legal practices, Italy has been dominated by its homegrown firms, Immordino said. “It’s a different culture and people haven’t always understood that,” he said. Currently, some Italian firms are struggling with the leap from first to second generation, he said. “I think they have some problems they need to face on how to make that jump, and how they treat partners,” he said. Latham’s new partners “are very happy coming to a firm like ours that is very democratic, fair and transparent — they like those qualities in our firm,” he said. Few international firms have made strides in Italy. He pointed to U.S. firms such as Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton; Jones Day; and McDermott, Will & Emery as having a presence there. But, mostly, Latham’s competition in that market will be major Italian and some English firms, he said. Latham now has more than 400 lawyers in its European practice.

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