The Italian media have often mentioned Studio Legale Sutti, and interviewed us, in relation to office automation in law firms, and to IT trends in general. In fact, the Firm was among the very first in Italy to establish LANs and digital communication systems in its Offices.
The Firm’s Managing Partner, Stefano Sutti, after publishing a number of articles about these topics in the Italian edition of Pc Week, had a regular column in the Italian PC Magazine from 1990 to 1997, “Pc Studi”, concerning the implementation of IT solutions in law firms and other professional firms. In this respect, Mr. Sutti, who also took part in the activities of the relevant working committee of the Bar Council of Milan from 1987 to 1989, played the role of an “IT evangelist” in the Italian legal community, and contributed to the development of vertical software for lawyers.
Besides being for the Italian media “the” cyberlawyer (see Capital, June 2000, “The Cyberlawyers”; Il Mondo, 23/04/1999, “The Pioneer of the Cyber Law Firm”; Happy Web, April 2000, “I Want to Talk to My Cyberlawyer”; Diritto e Diritti, 15/04/2000, “Profession: Cyberlawyer”), Mr. Sutti is equally well-known among the international OS/2 and Java communities, being one of the founders of the Italian OS/2 Team, and a member of the Java Lobby; and is now considered to be the closest Italian lawyer to the mentality and environment of the so-called New Economy (see again Il Mondo of 05/05/2000, “The Players of the New Economy”).
Moreover, the Firm contributed as such to the development of a number of specialised legal workflow management systems, and to the development and fine tuning of a specialised legal vocabulary for IBM’s Personal Dictation System®, the product which then evolved into Voice Type Dictation (still included in every copy of OS/2 Warp®) and ViaVoice®, after playing the role of testimonials and of beta testers of such products.
Lastly, the London office of Studio Legale Sutti has recently established the first international Open Source project for the workflow, document and knowledge management in law firms and corporate counsel departments, which is called Knomos and is being widely adopted also as an extranet tool.
For a law firm which was also involved in IP, and therefore in matters related to the legal protection of electronic patents and software copyrights, it was natural to develop a deep interest in IT & TLC law and e-commerce, and make it one of the main focuses of its practice.
Besides “ordinary” legal work, this orientation to information technology also led us to contribute to the establishment of LegIT – Specialist in Legal IT – an association of law firms who participated in several EU projects, related to EDI, e-commerce, teleworking,, and the legal safeguards related to the new signal protection methods.
Stefano Sutti has been as well one of the founding members of euroITcounsel, a quality circle of specialised European lawyers dealing with IT and TLC matters which has organised a number of interanational meetings and conferences. We were also especially honoured by the invitation to participate as Italy’s representatives in the European Union EITC 1996, the annual European Information Technology Conference which took place in Brussels (“Trading in Cyberspace. The Legal Frontier”). The same role was played by Stefano Sutti in the First Annual Electronic Conference of the G7 Global Marketplace for SME Project, organised by the European Commission, DGIII, in Bonn on 7-9 April 1997 during the relevant G7 Meeting (in particular at the session “Building the Global Marketplace: Electronic Commerce and the Law”).
Lastly, Studio Legale Sutti is now the global coordinator, after being the first European member, of the Global Alliance for E-Commerce Law, the club of the world’s most important players in the field of e-commerce legal services. More…
As a part of our pro bono work, we accepted the position of Official Counsel for IACT Italia, the association of Italian supporters of the International Alliance for Compatible Technology, a non-profit organisation of IT and TLC users and operators, which is dedicated to promoting the diffusion of multiplatform solutions, open systems, interoperability, and non-proprietary standards; and to oppose, consequently, the establishment of monopolies that stifle technological innovation, and, above all, reduce consumers’ and companies’ freedom of choice with respect to operating systems, applications, hardware and communications technologies.
In particular, a widespread media coverage (e.g., by Computerworld Daily, Idg.net e-mail newsletter, the International Herald Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, Voice, La Repubblica, Il Giornale, Il Mondo, the Italian PC Magazine, Il Sole 24 Ore,Lawyer International, Bloomberg TV, Panorama) has been obtained by the petition filed in October 1998 on behalf of IACT Italia for the abuse of a dominant position against a large software producer with the Italian antitrust authority, the Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato. A renewed attention for the pending Italian proceedings was repeatedly raised by the developments in the parallel cases commenced against the same company in the USA by the federal government and a number of States, and later by the EU Commission, on which we were often requested to comment (see “Round one US, next stop Europe?” published on 15/11/1999 by “The Lawyer”; “Anche in Italia una causa davanti all’Antitrust. Indagano l’Unione Europea e lo specifico organismo a Roma”, by Il Gazzettino, 05/04/2000, and again “Spezzatino solo nel 2001”, ibidem., 09/06/2000).
Eventually, the proceedings before the Italian authority have ended up in court, further to the refusal of the latter to act, on the basis of the existence of a concurrent European case (that in IACT’s view concerns entirely unrelated complaints), and the subsequent appeal against the authority decision before the Administrative Regional Tribunal of Lazio.
It can be easily noted that our current organisation, the kind of services offered and the range of skills and specialisations available among our members appear especially finely-tuned to typical M&A work, with an emphasis on the acquisition of industrial or commercial businesses in Italy or South-Eastern Europe, and on the establishment of incorporated joint-ventures with the latter – an area of practice for which SLS is especially recommended amongst others by The European Legal500, 2002 edition, as we were among the dozen of Italian firms expressly indicated by Global Counsel as having “made the M&A grade”.
SLS has become in 1999 the Italian representative of the International Chamber of Commerce’s “Counterforce”, a network of law firms which offer Intellectual Property and Anti-Counterfeiting services. This is “a unique alliance of highly regarded lawyers dedicated to assisting victims of counterfeiting; launched at the beginning of 1995 the Counterforce network currently embraces more than fifty law firms in forty-eight countries throughout the world” (from the ICC press release). The ICC publishes an annual “Counterforce Directory” of these firms. More detailed hard copies are available free of charge from the Bureau of the ICC Counterfeiting Intelligence Bureau.
The establishment of Counterforce in Italy, and the election of Studio Legale Sutti as its representative in our country, has also been discussed by the Italian economic and general press (see Italia Oggi, 16/09/1999, Il Mondo, 08/10/1999). Italian Counterforce desks have therefore become available in the Head Office of SLS’s IP & Competition Dept. in Milan, and in SLS’s offices in London, Tokyo and Belgrade. On the 18th April 2000 Stefano Sutti himself, in his position of SLS’s Managing Partner, was interviewed on television by Daniela Cuzzolin of TG3, one of RAI TV news services, on Counterforce’s position with respect to a recent decision of the Italian Supreme Court on low-quality counterfeiting.
We remain among the very few, if any, Italian large firms having a substantial debt collection and insolvency practice (which also covers the enforcement of foreign judgments on the Italian territory). Thus, we were especially proud to be the first and only Italian firm to be listed, as per their announcement 17/01/2000, by CRI – Specialist Debt Collection Insolvency Practitioners, in their small directory of debt collection and involvency specialists.
Among other things, since 1990, Studio Legale Sutti has been taking care of debt collection for a large segment of the pharmaceutical industry, coordinated in this respect by a specialised factoring company, against the Italian National Health agencies, for a total amount of more than one trillion Italian liras, something which was discussed in a seminar organised in Milan on 11/11/1999 by Forum Institut für Management GmbH, (“La gestione e il recupero dei crediti nei confronti degli Enti del Servizio Sanitario Nazionale”). Even though debt collection against public agencies has in the Italian jurisdiction a number of peculiarities which have no equivalent in our traditional practice related to ordinary business-to-business debt recovery, this experience undeniably contributed to the enhancement of our capability to manage large-scale mass action legal work – a branch of law which is too often and too lightly snubbed in our jurisdiction – with particular respect to the optimisation of the workflow and of the data exchange with our clients and on-site correspondents.
The role of alleged victims in Italian criminal proceedings has been significantly increased by the reform of criminal procedure enacted in the late eighties. Not only can the victims be represented by counsel during preliminary investigations and at trial, but they may submit requests to the criminal court with regard to the evidence to be collected, to provisional remedies to be taken (such as seizures), and to damages. This has offered a significant edge to the owners of IP portfolios in several recent patent enforcement campaigns, also due to an increased awareness of public prosecutors of the importance of IP-related crimes, and has made our criminal law operation, which is formally part of our Company-Commercial Department., cooperate with our IP & Competition Department even more strictly than it used to. Another important feature of Italian contemporary criminal law is the OCSE and EU-dictated reform which will allow companies and other legal entities to be as such the subject of an Italian criminal indictment and trial (possibly leading to their dissolution). In this respect, Mr. Bulgheroni is recognised as an expert, and has been as such invited to lecture for CEGOS on 12/10/2001 on “Defense Strategies in Italian Criminal Proceedings against Companies” and for IIR on 29/01/2001 on “How To Prevent Possibile Corporate Liabilities for the Commission of Crimes”.
Studio Legale Sutti is increasingly involved in assisting clients in business related administrative law and regulatory matters, with particular regard to public procurement contracts, lobbying, project finance, and debt recovery against italian public agencies. In this respect, the name of SLS was repeatedly reported by the Italian and international newspapers in connection with administrative litigation conducted against the Board of the International Fair of Milan and other public bodies by a number of contractors, before the competent Regional Administrative Tribunal (TAR) and the Italian Conseil d’Etat, up to the EU Tribunal (see Il Corriere della Sera 26/01/1999, Il Sore-24Ore 03/02/1999, La Repubblica 03/02/99, Italia Oggi 03/02/99, and again Italia Oggi 23/09/1999 – “La Fiera nelle mani della Corte UE”, page 41). SLS members were also involved, respectively in the positions of speaker (“The Personal Liabilities of Italian Public Officers in the Light of Last Legislative Reforms”) and of chairman, in the seminar held by IIR about Insuring Public Agencies, on 17-18/11/1999. Other seminars IIR involving the liability of public agencies, governmental bodies and public servants where SLS members presented reports are those organised in Milan on Risk Management and Insurance in the Medical Sector (“Preventive and Litigation Strategies in Defending Health Care Service Suppliers and their Insurers”), on 17-17/07/2002; on Risk Management and Health Institutions (“Professional Negligence and Institutional Liabilities”), on 12-13/02/2002; and on Public Records, Protocols and Public Archives (“Criminal, Civil and Disciplinary Liabilities Related to the Documentary Flow in Public Bodies”).
With regard to commercial property trading, leasing and developing, Studio Legale Sutti’s Company-Commercial Law Dept. has always represented not only the related interests of its corporate clients, but also those of their contractors and of a number of major real estate agents and traders who operate in Northern Italy, and routinely supplies educational and consultative services to franchising networks in the real estate intermediation business. Accordingly, SLS “is well regarded for its knowledge of property and construction work” (Global Counsel 3000, 2000 edition). A similar language is also used by Il Sole 24Ore (Mondo Immobiliare) on 03/03/2003, on its front page, in an article by Katia Ferri which discusses “The Great Property Deals. The Law Firms on the Front Line”. With regard to our involvement in this area, Stefano Sutti has been especially proud to be invited by the Law Society of England and Wales to present a report on “Commercial Property Development in Italy” during the Solicitors’ Law Festival 1999 (Session 8 – Commercial Property: The European Perspective), which took place in Paris at the end of October 1999. Further recognitions of our expertise with respect to Italian real estate, which is very strongly represented also in our London office, has also obtained by the English specialised magazine Square Foot, which invited us to provide a survey on the evolving legal framework of Italian commercial property (“La dolce proprietà immobiliare) and by Vivant, the association of Piedmont aristocracy, whose members convened in the Turin Senate on 21/06/1999 to hear various SLS partners discussing administrative, tax and private law applicable to private real property in our country.
Studio Legale Sutti established, as early as 1998, an ad hoc Task Force to assist its clients in matters related to the Year 2000 Bug and the Euro currency conversion problems of information services. The Y2K/Euro Task Force is composed of internal IT specialist staff and of lawyers from both the IP and the Company/Commercial Law Depts. of the Firm, with experience in due diligence operations, information technology, products liability, financial transactions, litigation, etc. The establishment of the Task Force was mentioned by “interalia”, the July 1998 issue of Lawyer International, which also contains a SLS article concerning Y2K and the acquisition of Italian companies.
Widespread media coverage of our activity in this area was generated when Studio Legale Sutti won Italy’s (and Europe’s) first judgment on the Millenium Bug in the Court of Milan. The full text of such decision has become available on the Web (published by Pomante.com) and various comments and reports were published by Il Giornale (“Bug 2000, i computer a processo”, 04/10/1999), The Lawyer (issue of 11/10/1999), Il Sole 24Ore (“Bug nel software: per il produttore obbligo di risarcire”, 01/10/1999), Il Giorno (“Prima sentenza a prova di Bug”, 07/10/1999), the Financial Times (“Italy Finds US Company Liable for Computer Bug”, 06/10/1999), Lawyer International (“How Italians Really Look at Y2K”, October 1999), Managing Intellectual Property (Section “News”, November 1999), etc.
Besides its billable work, SLS’s Y2K/Euro Task Force has also participated in the organisation of various public seminars and conferences on the Millenium Bug, such as that organised by the Licensing Executive Society for its members, with the sponsorship of UNI – Ente Italiano per l’Unificazione (“Anno 2000 e Millenium Bug “), and that held in Milan by Systech – System Technology Institute, under the title “Y2K – What To Do When It Is Too Late for Technical Solutions”, on the 20/09/1999. Another conference, under the aegis of Fondazione Cassamarca and organised by Professor Tito Ballarino (“The Bug of the Millenium”) took place on the 27/11/1999 in Treviso. Lastly, on the 07/07/2001, Alessandro Galli spoke in Milan, for Camperio.net, on the “Legal and Practical Aspects of Currency Switch to Euro in Italian Companies’ Capitals, Accounts and Balance Sheets”.
Some years ago many Italian law firms started re-focusing their work, marketing and inter-firm partnerships from the USA to Europe, and more specifically to the UK, to the point that a number of journalists have spoken during recent years of the “colonisation” of the Italian legal market by City firms, which actually purchased several not-so-small law firms in our country. While we have been among the very first to establish a direct presence in London, and keep being mentioned in analyses of the Italian legal market following recommendations by London lawyers, we are instead increasing our attention on the American market – which had already led us to participate as members to the activities of the American Chamber of Commerce in Italy since 1991 and, more recently, to be recommendeded by the American Bar Association’s prestigious Guide to Foreign Law Firms to all American attorneys. This view was shared by The American Lawyer in its IP Europe October 2002 supplement, were we are mentioned amongst the leading European IP players as one of the law firms with the oldest and largest patent practice in Italy. Proofs of our growing involvement with the US-originated demand for Italian legal services are also the comments published to this effect by Global Counsel 3000 and the recent invitation to SLS to become the Italian official correspondent of the State Capital Law Firm Group, a group of fifty-three leading American law firms based in the States (and the country) capitals, counting many former Governors among their partners.
Livia Oglio, whose background includes a Master Degree in European Law (obtained from the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium), is deeply involved with her team in all our work related to the European Union legislation and courts, given her current responsibility, within our IP & Competion Department., for the competition and antitrust matters, an area where SLS has recently enjoyed vast media exposure. Competition and antitrust are not, on the the other hand, the only area where advice on European Law and representation before the Community courts and agencies are required; and therefore we are more and more often requested to provide assistance to both domestic or extra-European clients with respect to public procurement matters, or to their wishes to participate in EU Commission’s projects and to profit from the related available resources and incentives. Our interest in the area of European law is also emphasised by the academic position held by Prof. Tito Ballarino in related law school courses of the Catholic University of Milan, which also led us to take position in public conferences on the legal aspects of hot political issues, such those related to the EU sanctions against Austria (see the seminar organised on 20/09/2000 in Klagenfurt on “Die Sanktionen der 14. EU Staaten gegen Österreich” by the Volkswirtshaftliche Gesellschaft Kärnten, whose works were reperted in Italy by Marco Di Blas in Il Gazzettino 22/09/2000, “The European Sanctions against Austria, a Treaty Infringement Case Study”).
Speaking of extra-European countries, we were the first Italian law firm to be directly represented, with our own office, in Japan. Not only do we participate therefore to the life and activities of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce in Italy, including those in Japanese, but SLS’s local office has also been recently elected to the positions of corporate member of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Japan, which comprises the Italian companies and banks having subsidiaries in the country.
The Italian financial press and the international specialised media have discussed for a number of years the peculiar involvment of Studio Legale Sutti with South-Eastern Europe and our plans to ultimately cover the entire region (see Il Mondo, 14/01/2000) and the international legal press (see The Lawyer, 17/04/2000, “SLS Expands into Eastern Europe”; The International Financial Law Review, May 2000). This has already led the firm to become for all practical purposes a Bulgarian-Yugoslavian-Italian firm, following the merger with the leading Bulgarian practice Varadinov & Co. and that with the main commercial practice of the former Yugoslavia, that of Fila Law Office, as it is more extensively discussed in the pages on our Sofia office and our Belgrade office. Moreover, Carmen Denise Togan, who remains listed among SLS’s Associates, has been admitted to the Romanian Bar, and has established her own practice in Brasov, which currently represents Studio Legale Sutti in the country. Bianca Todica, who works in our Milan offices, is also a Romanian citizen, bilingual, and admitted to the Romanian Bar. Analogous plans are at an earlier stage with respect to Albania.
At the end of 2002, a Latin Desk was created in our Head Office in Milan under the responsibility of Dr. Veruska de Prado. Dr. de Prado is Galician, bilingual in Spanish and Portuguese and admitted in Spain, and has always intensely participated to SLS’s work for the firm’s clients and correspondents in those linguistic areas. The new initiative. Which is an absolute first in Italy. Is however especially aimed towards Latin America, a market where Studio Legale Sutti is increasingly involved and is currently expanding and reviewing its long-standing best-friends network. Italy remains, for historical, commercial and cultural reasons a strategic partner for the Latin-American areaand has a very definite interest to protect and develop its business there during the current crisis, also taking into account the very opportunities that the current predicament of the region ends up offering with respect to both trading and investments. A tour of appointments and conferences with entrepreneurs and lawyers in Brasil, Chile, Argentina and Equador is planned for the first months of 2003.
Studio Legale Sutti represents a number of large Latin America corporations in Italy, and is currently dealing with the position of Italian holders of Argentinian bonds, and the related negotiations for the restructuring of the Argentinian relevant private debt.
The establishment of our Latin Desk has been commented by Legal Week 28/11/2002 (“Sutti Sets Up Desk for South America”), Il Mondo 20/12/2002 (“America Latina desiderio di Sutti”), Mondaq Business Briefing 28/11/2002 (“Studio Legale Sutti: Latin Desk Established at Milan Head Office”), Wordlaw Week 08/12/2002 (“Italian Firm Launches Team to Win LatAm Work”), Latin Counsel 06/01/2003 (“Italian Law Firm Sets Up a Latin American Desk”/ “Firma italiana establece Latin American Desk”), The Lawyer 09/12/02 (“Sutti Milan eyes South and Central America”), The European Lawyer 01/02/2003 (“The Passionate Peninsula”).