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David Boies Looks to Italy for Next Act, Opening Office in Milan

Nov. 8, 2021, 12:59 PM

Prominent American trial lawyer David Boies is looking to Italy’s business and fashion capital for a fresh start for his law firm.

Boies Schiller Flexner is opening its first new office in nearly a decade in Milan, Italy, Boies told Bloomberg Law. The firm could add as many as 15 local lawyers in the coming weeks, a group that includes litigators and general business advisors, he said.

“The Italian market itself is such an important market and Milan is also a good base to do international arbitration in other EU countries,” Boies said. “It is centrally located and the people who do that work here generally are well respected,” he added.

The move is a bet on the firm’s international dispute resolution work that marks a tacit shift away from London, Boies Schiller’s last new office and a bulwark against declining revenue stateside in recent years. It comes some two months after Natasha Harrison, the international litigator considered Boies’ heir apparent, said she would step down from her leadership role at the firm by the end of the year.

Boies said Brexit forced the firm to look elsewhere for an outpost in the EU, where it actively represents global companies in international arbitration. “Over time” the firm will “probably have some additional offices in the EU,” he added.

“I think the London market is still an important market, but with Brexit it became important to have a place in the EU,” Boies said. “When we went into London, we talked about that as sort of the first step in moving to a European operation.”

The firm has seen a parade of prominent departures in recent years as Boies faced criticism for his work for a pair of disgraced public figures: Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes.

Boies Schiller reported a 38% decline in gross revenue last year, trimming profits per partner by nearly a third, according to The American Lawyer. Its attorney headcount has fallen by more than 40% over the last two years to 177 at the end of last year.

The firm’s attorneys have played a prominent role in representing several of the late hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged victims in court battles accusing him of sexual assault, including against underage women. It’s leading an ongoing lawsuit against the U.K.'s Prince Andrew related to Epstein’s alleged teen sex ring.

Boies Schiller could soon see its fortunes improve: a federal judge in Alabama is weighing whether to approve a nearly $630 million fee award for the firm and other lawyers involved in a massive antitrust class action against Blue Cross Blue Shield.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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