Laura Orlando

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) is set to open an office in Milan next year with the hire of Simmons & Simmons Italy dispute resolution and intellectual property head Laura Orlando.

The base, which is due to open in early 2018, will be HSF’s first in Italy and its tenth office in Europe.

Orlando (pictured) joined Simmons in 2010 from local firm Trevisan & Cuonzo, becoming partner in 2014. She specializes in contentious and non-contentious IP, with a focus on patent and regulatory law in the life sciences sector.

According to Simmons’ website, her exit will leave the U.K. firm without another IP partner in Italy and with one disputes partner. Simmons will not immediately replace her in her management roles.

Two associates and one trainee will join HSF alongside Orlando, with the departures leaving Simmons with 30 associates and 10 partners in its wider Milan office. The firm previously closed in Rome in January 2016 to focus its efforts on Milan.

HSF head of U.K. and U.S. disputes and global head of intellectual property Mark Shillito said: “We decided to start with a specialist IP offering in Milan because there is a clear client demand for it. One of our big areas is pan-European patent litigation, so for the past few years we’ve been thinking about how best to add to a pan-European offering. Laura is someone we’ve worked with for joint clients and referral matters for the last few years and we think she’s the best in the market.”

He added: “London will increasingly support the new office on pan-European work and we expect it to be a busy and profitable part of the practice. At the moment we’re not planning to open in any other practice areas [in Milan] but we are optimistic about future growth.”

HSF chief executive Mark Rigotti added: “We were one of the few international firms of our scale not to have an office in Italy, so it’s always been something we’ve kept under consideration. There are also a lot of strong local firms there, so we had to consider what we could add that wasn’t already there. Why go into a crowded market unless you can stand out?”

The new office is the second launch announced by HSF this year after confirming plans to open in Kuala Lumpur in May, marking the firm’s ninth base in Asia.

In addition to Simmons, firms downsizing in Italy in recent years include Ashurst and McDermott Will & Emery, which closed bases in Rome over the past two years.

However, Linklaters and Fieldfisher both opened offices in the country this summer, with launches in Lecce and Bologna respectively.

Simmons said: “We wish Laura all the best for the future. In the meantime, work will continue through our international IP group.”