How is it like to be a lawyer in Italy? Claudio Ceriani a Milan based lawyer answers questions regarding the choice of a legal career, globalisation and gives guidance to law students. Claudio Ceriani is the founding and senior partner of the SCF Legale Studio law firm and his law firm is a member of the European Law Firm.
ABOWI is a project standing for „Across Borders with Information“ and is aiming to interview 197 lawyers from 197 countries around the world. About the impact of globalisation on the legal profession, experiences and advice to law students.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: Please introduce yourself briefly, in terms of name, origin and how long you’ve been practising the legal profession?
Claudio Ceriani: My name is Claudia Ceriani. I am a lawyer registered at the Bar in Milan. I studied law at Milan State University and have been practicing since 1988. I will always remember the first day I entered into a law firm the second of May 1988. From that day until now I am happy to be a lawyer. Also, I am the founding and senior partner of a law firm based in Milan with the name SCF Studio Legale. We are three partners and fifteen lawyers. That is the average size of law firms in Italy but of course, it is about the quality of the lawyers and not the size of the firm.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: What is your main focus in law?
Claudio Ceriani: I focus on corporate, commercial and international law.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: Why did you choose a legal career?
Claudio Ceriani: I graduated in law but honestly my actual scope of life was to become a diplomat, in order to get into the diplomatic career, you have to take a very difficult state exam. Taking this exam takes at least a couple of years after graduating from law school and then the results are very uncertain. At that time and at a young age I was scared that I was wasting my family’s money on years of study without a secure result. Therefore, I sent my CV to the law firms in Milan saying, I am here, I am young and I am enthusiastic. One of these law firms called me up. So, in the beginning, it was not my decision but the moment I started in the law firm I realised that law is my profession.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: What is this societal recognition of a legal career in Italy?
Claudio Ceriani: As well, as in many other European countries. There is a difference in how the legal profession is considered socially, depending on the size of the city or town. In smaller towns, the legal profession has a very high social recognition. However, in big cities, the legal profession is a profession like many others. The stereotype of lawyers here is that lawyers are not fighting for justice, but fighting for money. Personally, this does not apply to me and our law firm. We work to help our clients and of course, we need to earn money for our families. But when deciding on a legal career money should not be the reason why you choose it. In my perspective, a good lawyer should always respect the law and the meaning behind it, and use his knowledge with social responsibility to help people. Therefore, lawyers who work in this way usually have a good reputation.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: What challenges do you face as a lawyer every day?
Claudio Ceriani: Staying consistent with your principles. Every day you wake up, you go to the office and you meet your clients. You should never forget, why you are getting paid is because you are solving your clients‘ problems. As a lawyer, you take over the responsibility for someone else’s struggles and problems. That can be overwhelming and maybe on some days, you feel so weak that you cannot take anyone’s problems on your shoulders. But this is the challenge and the reason for your clients to hire you. Also, every case is different and every day you need to grow and learn new things which require flexibility.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: You are a local lawyer, but at the same time, you live in a globalised world. But how do you work with lawyers and clients outside of the country?
Claudio Ceriani: Working with an international client usually makes no difference to working with domestic clients. In order to keep up with the international legal world, I attend international congresses and my law firm is a member of an international legal network, which is called the European law firm. Regarding communication, I am fortunate to work with lawyers that speak French and Spanish next to English and of course Italian.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: What is the average English proficiency of Italian lawyers?
Claudio Ceriani: That is the problem of the educational system in Italy. Most Italian schools do not focus on their English teachings. Some are advanced English speakers, however, that usually results from a privileged background paying for them to study abroad. But generally speaking, the Italian school system sadly does not enable people to study English and therefore lawyers that studied in Italy. Of course, generally speaking, a minority can speak other languages as well.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: In your experience how high is the demand for international cases and clients?
Claudio Ceriani: It highly depends on the direction you give to your practice. In our case, I would say 30 per cent are international cases. The international work is usually concentrated in large Italian cities, mainly Milan, also Rom, Genoa, Turin.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: What kind of legal advice is in high demand from your international clients?
Claudio Ceriani: Real Estate and corporate law.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: What advice would you give to prospective law students or current law students?
Claudio Ceriani: Follow this profession to become a lawyer if you are enthusiastic about it. If you have a passion for it. Bearing the responsibility of other people’s problems is not easy and do not do it for money. Do it to help people and solve problems. Getting paid well by helping people is not a paradox. But first, you will have to accept that the responsibility of other people is on you. If you accept their pressure, good. Be a lawyer. Otherwise, you may be brilliant in other fields. Don’t be a lawyer.
I thank my interview partner Mr Ceriani for taking his time to answer my questions so honestly and giving insight into his everyday experiences. Especially, about following his own principles and the responsibility lawyers have. I think that many law students are unaware of this side of a legal career and I admire his clarity towards the reasons for choosing a legal career should not be money.
About ABOWI: Across Borders With Information – ABOWI, an interview series by Josefine Schulte law student from Berlin in Germany. Questions and Answers: A journey around the world revealing differences and prejudices. What moves the lawyers of this earth, Josefine Schulte asks herself from Azerbaijan to Cyprus.