The surprise move comes in direct response to the decision by DLA’s Italian ally, De Berti Jacchia, to withdraw from the UK firm’s international alliance, DLA Group, rather than consider full integration.
De Berti’s withdrawal will leave the 45-lawyer firm to practise as an independent despite three years of formal alliance with the UK firm.
In contrast, the Couderts deal was signed in two months, after the firms began talks in July. The merger is DLA’s fourth major move on the European stage in the past 12 months following deals to take over practices in Belgium and Spain and, most recently, last month’s merger agreement with Austrian firm Weiss-Tessbach.
DLA, which in 2002 unveiled an ambitious strategy of becoming a “top five European firm” by 2007, also has formal allies in Germany, France and The Netherlands through the DLA Group.
DLA managing partner Nigel Knowles said, “We do not merely want to be an Anglo-Saxon firm with some foreign offices, we are building a fully integrated European firm.”
The decision of the profitable five-partner Milan office to defect, citing “strategic differences”, is a blow to Couderts’ European network that has seen a number of partner departures this year.