Sunday, 18 September 2011

Alberto Saravalle

Bonelli: Alberto Saravalle
We had a surprise visitor from Milan this week, as Bonelli Erede Pappalardo senior partner Alberto Saravalle was unexpectedly called to London on client business. A perfect opportunity to line up some (very last minute) journalist meetings with national and legal press. So my treat was to spend half a day with this fascinating man.

Continental elite firm Bonelli is an international law firm that happens to be head-quartered in Italy, and although Italian by birth, Alberto is very much a 'global citizen'. Born and educated in Italy, he also studied both at Cambridge and at Yale, lived in Paris for a few years, also in New York where he still has a base, (and is licensed to practise at the New York Bar). He is a world class corporate and capital markets lawyer, but what struck me most in my conversations with Alberto were his views on the importance for lawyers - indeed anyone in a demanding business role - of having a hinterland, a life outside of work and an emphasis on one's own humanity.

His own interests are varied - from extreme sports, to film, to music and to fine art.  Also, in addition to his capital markets practice, he has an unusual specialism in art law, renown as the 'go to guy' (as The Times' Edward Fennell put it) on issues relating to the restoration of artworks after illegal sales - something that the world's major museums, particularly in the US, now realise they should resist. But most of all you see Alberto's philosophy in his descriptions of how he and other senior partners at Bonelli design the professional development and employee engagement programmes at the firm.

"I believe that with any business person who is at the top of his/her game, you will find they are so much more than a perfect technician, smart negotiator etc. They will be a powerful human being as well; the sort of person everyone's attention turns to when they enter a room, who clearly has a lot to say not just on matters of business - for that reason, a person of whom others are always keen to know what's in their mind.."

I can certainly think of a number of clients for whom this is true.  But is this how I see leaders in business, the City and politics generally?  Hmm.  I'm not so sure.  But it's certainly my view of Alberto.

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The wheels of the legal and regulatory machinery are certainly back in motion after the Summer recess. We had the MoJ give us the referral fees ban last week, followed this Monday by the Vickers Report, then later in the week we had more big banking litigation with the news the UK is now suing The European Central Bank over a regulatory change that would be prejudicial to the UK banking community. This week we also saw the brakes slammed on the Law Commission's review of cohabitation rights.
Family law is already so far behind the reality of modern day family life and relationships, this review of cohabitation rights was desperately needed to bring it up to date. The ditching of the review is a massive retrograde step.

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I won't name names, but loved this media tip from the managing partner of a big City firm:  "If my phone rings in a meeting and I see it's a client, I will wait to the end of the meeting to answer; if it's a bank lender, I'll ask my secretary to say I'll call back immediately after the meeting; if it's a journalist, I'll answer the call right away".   No wonder he's such a favourite with the media!

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