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Influences in the Past and the Future

Photo: Maurizio Di Bartolomeo and colleagues celebrating with his ACC Europe Country Representative of the Year Award.


Maurizio Di Bartolomeo, director of legal and corporate affairs and corporate secretary at Giochi Preziosi, won the ACC Europe Country Representative of the Year. We spoke with the newly named representative of Italy about what drove him to in-house law and how he expects it to evolve in the next 20 years.

Maurizio Di BartolomeoMaurizio was born in Rome where he spent part of his childhood before moving to Palermo, Sicily, where he completed his undergraduate studies in law. His father, Giulio, was a qualified solicitor who went "in-house" just after qualifying, and started his career as a civil servant and also acted as a CEO managing a cluster of publicly-owned corporations. Maurizio recalls he was a champion of technological and organizational change and facilitating innovation projects in partnership with major IT players, such as IBM.

Although Sicily's governmental offices in the 1980s were not quite Silicon Valley, Maurizio was influenced by his father's belief that technology can foster change and, ultimately, improve our daily lives. Gabriella, Maurizio's mother, was a French teacher at the high school. Maurizio remembers that she was a natural teacher with the rare gift of being able to teach things she herself was not able to do so, such as riding a bicycle or skiing.

Maurizio's parents were supportive of his choice to study law and were under no illusion that he would remain in Sicily: "Your life will not be here with us; your interests will take you far away" was their recurring encouragement. Maurizio's postgraduate studies took him to King's College London where he graduated in corporate and financial law in 1997.

ACC: Have you always worked in-house and what influenced your decision to do so?

Maurizo: To date, I have divided my career between private practice and in-house. I moved in-house in 2008 after nine years at Clifford Chance Milan (mainly corporate and commercial expertise) and one year in Istanbul, setting up the Italian desk of a boutique project finance law firm. The quality — and quantity! — of workflow in Clifford Chance was outstanding. That same quality was present in the partners, colleagues, and clients who I had the privilege to learn from.

From the outset I felt part of a group of friends; we shared all day together from breakfast to late nights — we called ourselves as the "Clifford Dance" team. Driven first by stock markets and after the real estate boom, from the late 1990s to mid-2000s the legal industry in Milan went through an epochal change passing from a market dominated principally by domestic firms to a super dynamic eco-system of US or UK legal multinationals teaming up with local players and then suddenly splitting in "boutique" firms. I could see all these changes taking place, but at the time I had no conscious desire to change position.

However, I could not completely ignore a sub-conscious voice encouraging change; I did not realise at the time that it was a calling to move in-house. Once I moved in-house, the sub-conscious voice urging change has not revisited! I think the move filled a long-standing unexpressed need; one for a diverse work environment where highly skilled professionals from all over the world with different backgrounds cooperate together and converge to contribute to a corporate story; one in which they believe. I did not experience this in the shining world of a magic-circle London law firm.

The growth of compliance and the legal compliance function means that expectations of the legal department are at an all-time high when time and resources are lacking. The in-house lawyer needs to be flexible and creative.
— Maurizio Di Bartolomeo, Director of Legal and Corporate Affairs and Corporate Secretary, Giochi Preziosi


ACC: What is the highest achievement of your career?

Maurizo: To understand and to practice how to keep calm under pressure and truly feel the importance and value of human interaction in the workplace. This has taken time to master, but it came to the forefront in 2012 when Giochi Preziosi, where I have worked for the last 10 years, faced an insolvency that we hoped could turn into a financial debt restructuring. In the negotiations that followed, I realized how important it is to keep a clear mind and how much people matter in helping to solve what appear to be unsolvable issues.

ACC: If you were giving advice to someone about to embark on an in-house career in 2019, what would it be and why?

Maurizo: I would say that there has never been a more exciting time to be an in-house lawyer and, that equally, there has never been a more challenging time for those in private practice. Why? Looking around me and talking to leading general counsel and law firm partners, it seems to me that the private practice successes and the exponential growth of the '90s and '00s will not recur. Major firms are rapidly adopting technology tools aimed at cutting costs, hiring less people, and meeting an ever-growing demand of more value for less fees from clients. The billable-hours model is under attack for many reasons.

Clients are demanding more transparency and efficiency and many law firms in just a few years are likely to see their clients disappearing due to the pace of technological changes. At the same time, a new generation of advanced IT, low-cost, scaleable, and web-based legal services offered by young entrepreneurs who don't necessarily have a background in legal studies is emerging. Companies are likely to diversify their shopping once more offers are on the shelves.

In this fast-changing environment, the in-house career and corporate legal department, as everyone is now noting, are changing for the better. There's more involvement in the decision-making process, a shift from risk-aversion to risk-management, and — as discussed at an ACC Europe event we recently organized in Milan — [a change] from risk-management to management itself: [Moving up] from lawyer to CEO is no more speculation; it is a reality.

ACC: What in your opinion is the most pressing issue facing in-house counsel today?

Maurizo: The growing expectation you are supposed to be a Superman, even if you don't have Clark Kent's outfit! The growth of compliance and the legal compliance function means that expectations of the legal department are at an all-time high when time and resources are lacking. The in-house lawyer needs to be flexible and creative.


ACC Europe board members

Photo: Maurizio Di Bartolomeo with Hans Albers (left) and Steve Leroy (right), who are also ACC Europe board members and Country Representative coordinators.



ACC: In your opinion what will the role of in-house counsel look like in 2038?

Maurizo: Artificial intelligence will change the workplace. There will be an explosion of intelligent, predictive, self-improving and super sophisticated — not yet imaginable — IT tools enabling an individual to do the work currently done by entire teams. However, people will need to be more self-aware. Technological advances will also mean that ethics, along with the worldwide growing trend and attention for corporate social responsibility, will be even more important than it is currently.

ACC: How has membership of ACC and ACC Europe helped you in your role as legal affairs director of Giochi Preziosi?

Maurizo: When I was working in Clifford Chance offices at the heart of Milan city centre, I took for granted the networking opportunities offered. That changed when I started working with Giochi Preziosi, where its headquarters are in the suburbs of Milan. ACC online resources and the networking offered in my work as a country representative has made a difference. They help when needing to share views on delicate matters or acquire sensitive information or feedback on external legal counsel. Furthermore, in organising events I have had the chance to meet people who are not part of the legal profession such as university professors and other specialists and in different ways. This has helped me as a legal manager.

Technological advances will also mean that ethics, along with the worldwide growing trend and attention for corporate social responsibility, will be even more important than it is currently.
— Maurizio Di Bartolomeo, Director of Legal and Corporate Affairs and Corporate Secretary, Giochi Preziosi


ACC: What do you hope to achieve in 2019 as part of the Country Representative team for ACC Europe in Italy?

Maurizo: Our shared goal is to make our members feel they really belong to a community that delivers value to each of them. A place where they know the door is always open to anyone who wishes to contribute experience, enthusiasm, and ideas to help us grow. We are strongly committed to ensuring that the time our members dedicate to participating in our events should be seen as an investment.

We are considering new ways to differentiate ACC Europe events and resources in Italy from the mainstream alternatives offered by a growing number of law firms or the Italian national in-house association. We have projects in the pipeline such as tailored masterclasses, fostering closer links with universities, industry associations, and much more! 2019 will be an exciting year!
 

ACC: If you could choose to have dinner with one person who would it be and why?

Maurizo: Elon Musk. He has done amazing things, I am closely following his efforts to ensure mankind may compete (or merge?) on equal terms with machines in the not too distant future. Further, I believe he brings to life the well-known "think-out-of-the-box" concept that I am strongly convinced we should practice as much as we can.

About the Author

Annie DunsterAnnie Dunster is the chapter administrator of ACC Europe.


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