US employment law giant continues European expansion with Milan office launch

Littler Mendelson is continuing its push to expand abroad, having hired a six-lawyer team for a new office in Milan, Italy – the firm’s fourth new European office launched in the past two years.

The Italian team is led by experienced labour and employment lawyers Carlo Majer and Edgardo Ratti (pictured above, left to right). Majer joins the firm from Italy-based employment law boutique Lexellent, while Ratti joins from Trevisan & Cuonzo in Italy. The two previously worked together at LabLaw, another Italian firm focused on labour and employment law.

In an interview, Littler co-managing director Jeremy Roth said the addition in Italy falls in line with his firm’s strategy of combining with the best labour and employment lawyers who have on-the-ground experience in key European markets.

As we’ve stated many times in the past – and [we] continue to believe in our mission – our goal is to build the best first-stop shop for global employers to call if they have questions on labour and employment law matters across the world,” Roth said.

For the firm, the opening marks the latest in an expansion effort that has put Littler at about 1,300 lawyers spread across 75 offices in 17 countries. The Italian outpost gives the firm a presence in Europe’s fourth largest economy. It comes after recent European additions for the labour and employment speciality firm, starting with Germany in late 2015, later moving into France and, most recently, the UK, where it reached a deal last year with 16-lawyer GQ Employment Law.

The European outposts are part of the firm’s international verein, known as Littler Global, which the firm started in 2013 when it picked up firms in Colombia and Costa Rica. With the exception of Canada, Mexico and Venezuela, most of Littler’s international offices fall under the Swiss verein structure, which allows the outposts to work together and share branding without fully integrating their finances.

The expansions into Latin America and Europe have provided a host of synergies for Littler, said Roth, adding that it has allowed the firm to offer a consistent level of service across offices, and has made it more effective when counseling clients through cross-border issues. Stephan Swinkels, a Littler shareholder who helps oversee the integration of international offices, added that, beyond the global cooperation, Littler’s expanding presence in Europe has helped those offices counsel clients on issues with tentacles in multiple parts of Europe.

“The cooperation with the US and Latin America, and the regional cooperation [within Europe], has been exceeding all expectations,” Swinkels said.

Swinkels also said that he has past experience working with Majer and Ratti. The combination with Littler, he said, allows them to fulfil a long-held ambition of setting off on their own, but also allows them to avoid the challenges of starting a brand new firm, while also increasing Littler’s footprint.

“We are confident that we can strengthen the Littler brand in Italy and give them a flying start,” Swinkels said.

In a joint statement, Majer and Ratti said the combination with Littler offers “an unparalleled platform to counsel Italian countries” and other clients doing business in the country.

“Our deep experience in Italian labour and employment matters, coupled with Littler’s global reach, exceptional reputation for counselling multinational employers, and technological capabilities, will provide significant value to our collective clients,” Majer and Ratti said.