Martino Canal is a labor partner at Ferrari Pedeferri Boni Studio Legale Associato in Milan, Italy, which is also a member of the International Lawyers Network. In this episode, Lindsay and Martino cover the importance of adaptability and communication, the balance between innovation and privacy, and the value of humanity mixed with professionalism. And don’t miss finding out Martino’s secret identity!
Lindsay: Hello and welcome to the Law Firm Intelligence podcast. I’m your host, Lindsay Griffiths. With us this week is our guest, Martino Canal with our firm in Italy, one of our firms in Italy, Ferrari Pedeferri Boni Studio Legale Associato. You, I believe, are based in Milan. Is that correct, Martino?
Martino: Yes, it’s correct. Hi. Hi, Lindsay.
Thank you for inviting me to your podcast. It’s a pleasure and an honor to me.
Lindsay: We’re so happy to have you here. It would be great if you could tell us a little bit about the firm as well as yourself and your practice.
Martino: Ferrari Pedeferri Boni is what is considered a small, medium law firm in Italy. We are about 20 lawyers. Six partners, so 20 lawyers in total, plus some members and staff. We assist, mainly, corporations in every aspect of commercial law and business law, let’s say. From commercial contracts, M&A, data protection, and of course, also, employment matters, which is the area of law that I deal with for more than 20 years now. I am 54. As I mention, I’ve been practicing labor law, well, since the first beginning of my professional career. I choose labor law because I like it since I studied at the university and then I practiced since the beginning of my professional career. I never stopped to do that and it’s 23 years now.
Lindsay: That’s great.
Martino: That’s quite a long period of time.
Lindsay: That’s great. What would you say is something that people misunderstand about labor law?
Martino: Well, I find it always funny that, especially, colleagues working in other areas of law, they say to me, “Oh, you are very lucky as a lawyer because labor law never changes. It’s always the same.” I looked at them and say, “You are crazy.” It’s one of the most complicated areas or areas of law because it’s always changing. In particular, in Italy, well, it is one of the preferred areas of the law of the new governments. As you know, in Italy, we change government every two years on average. One of the first focuses of any new government is labor law.
Changing rules, making them more complicated and then there are judges, the judges that apply the law as they like. Not as lawyers would like, but as the judges would like. It’s very complicated. I find it funny that people think that labor law is simple and most of that never changed. That is crazy.
Lindsay: That is crazy. I don’t know anybody who is busier than a labor lawyer, especially these days.
Martino: Yes. Especially in times of crisis as we are now.
It’s very, very tough. Very tough.
Lindsay: Right. Right. Absolutely. Absolutely. What would you say then is your biggest challenge at the moment and how are you working to overcome it?
Martino: Well, the biggest change at the moment is the uncertainty of the current times. We have, I don’t know, merged a number of exceptional difficulties in a couple of years, including the pandemic. That is not over at all.
The war in Ukraine was something completely unexpected. For us, Europeans, it is something that is happening a few hundred kilometers from our homes. It’s very, very astonishing, and the impact of the war on our economy because the EU has imposed many economic sanctions on Russia. Russia has imposed counter back sanctions on European countries. That has created very big troubles for our economy, for the Italian economy, but for the economy of the entire Europe. There is more, in general, the increasing global economic travels and the political turmoil over the world. All those factors have created a sense of uncertainty, which, to be honest, I have never failed in my life to be… Really, it’s very difficult to make good proposals for the future to think positively about what will happen in the near future. That is very difficult for me as an individual, as a father, and for me as a professional. It’s very, very tough.
How we have reacted at Ferrari Pedeferri Boni? We have thought that in so particular times, we should increase our relationship, our discussions between us, and also, involving the associates. That is a positive thing if you want because we have understood, we have perceived that to find out how the firm should react to the difficult times, to the new challenges, adapt to change, to adapt to this new situation. A good answer, a good method was to discuss between us to talk a lot more. We have organized, on many occasions, to find together, trying to get out of the firm. We have made some evenings out drinking, eating, and discussing in a very friendly way. That is if you want a positive side of this bad situation.
Lindsay: I think that’s wonderful. I think the focus on relationships is really an important one because once we keep the lines of communication open, that’s the only way that we’re going to come to solutions for the modern problems that we have that, as you rightly pointed out, we’ve never seen before in any of our lifetimes, which are facing us today.
Martino: I agree. I agree. The cool thing is that lawyers are very individual. I don’t know if this is the right word in English, and for us, it’s changing to share our thoughts in a so deep, intense way and it’s something new for us, but it’s good, very, very nice.
Lindsay: Absolutely. Absolutely. I agree with you. Lawyers are absolutely very individual. Unique times call for unique solutions. I’m glad to hear that you’re all embracing a more collaborative mindset. I think that promises to be a very positive step for the future. Lawyers, I think, have really positive solutions for their clients already. Who is to say that lawyers won’t have some of the solutions that we need for the future? What has been the biggest surprise that you’ve had over the last few months?
Martino: Well, to be honest, if I think about my personal life, apart from the war that I mentioned before, but from a personal perspective, the recent months have been very, very relaxed. To be honest, I haven’t had any big, special surprises, either negative or positive. That’s okay. I have nothing to tell you about, to be honest.
Lindsay: Sometimes status quo is a good thing.
Martino: Well, at least, as you know, the general environment is very bad, but in my personal life, it is a good moment. Well, it’s okay.
Lindsay: I’m happy to hear that. I’m happy to hear that. What would you say is the biggest area related to your practice or industry? What would you say is the biggest thing that you’re curious about and why is that?
Martino: Well, as I mentioned before, my practice is labor law. What I’m particularly interested in and in what have been particularly interested in recent years is the legal issues related to the use of technology in the workplace. The use of the internet, of electronic devices, of the apps of, well, other electronic devices such as the GPS, for example. That continuously monitors or even guides the activity of workers. Well, they have created a form of huge control on workers that is real and cumbersome on one hand and this particularity is somehow imperceptible. Workers do not understand and do not perceive that they are controlled at any time, at any moment in their working life. Also, now, they are working and their work in life. That situation gives rise to very, very big issues from legal support. Particularly in Europe and in Italy, where, as you may know, laws are very protective of employees.
Ensuring the balance between the need for innovation and improvement of work efficiency and safety, which can be reached with the use of those technological devices. The balance between that could use technology. On the other side, the protection of the fundamental rise of workers to dignity, freedom, and privacy, obviously, is what is one of the biggest challenges for labor lawyers nowadays. That is an area that I like very much because it’s very interesting and very challenging from, a strictly legal standpoint.
Lindsay: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think to your point from earlier where you mentioned that labor law is always changing, technology is always changing and a lot of new technologies come out that allow additional monitoring or employees are always using and employers are always using new technologies that would expand those permissions or different things that I’m sure to make that very interesting as you go forward and are always, I’m sure, pushing the level of the law that, I’m sure, make that very fascinating as you continue to practice.
Martino: What is particularly interesting is that I work with multinational companies. Many of them are based in the U.S. In the U.S., there is a different approach to those kinds of controls or rights of the workers that are less protected as we know. It is particularly challenging to make clients understand that certain thing is going to be done in Italy as they are dying in the U.S. and well, it’s an interesting area of work.
Lindsay: Absolutely. Absolutely. Switching gears a little bit, can you tell us something interesting about yourself that most people don’t know?
Martino: Well, yeah, as you know, Lindsay, my former name was Brad Pitt.
Lindsay: That’s right.
Martino: That’s something that only a few people that attended the island conference in Amsterdam know. That’s my secret. Apart from that, well, the thing that I am most proud of are my three lovely daughters, Beatrice, Victoria, and Bianca. They are the meaning and sanction of my life. Well, it’s not a secret. Probably, I think, it’s something interesting to let people know that I’m a father of three beautiful girls. I am a minority in my home.
Lindsay: Yes. It was very much the same in my house. My dad learned to tune us out and still, sometimes, I have to say his name a few times before I get his attention.
Martino: That’s so good.
Lindsay: Three daughters is really a wonderful thing, but it can get very loud, I know.
Martino: Very complicated to manage all the specific, particularity of any girl.
Lindsay: Yes. I’m familiar with that for sure. It’s fun though. Mostly for the women. Who has been the biggest mentor in your career?
Martino: Well, when I was admitted to the bar in 1999, I started to work with a young and promising labor lawyer who was a very, what do we say, rising star or the labor law. Well, I have been with him for four years, approximately. I had the opportunity to work with him side by side in a very demanding and challenging environment. I remember long hours of work, but also, accumulating such a huge experience that really forged me as a lawyer. It was very tough, indeed, but it gave me the basis on which I built my professional career. I have maintained with him. Well, we had some contrast sometimes and we disputed about how to deal with some matters and so on. Sometimes it was quite difficult to manage the relationship. However, I must say that, really, I have learned the basics of the lawyer I am now can count from that time.
Lindsay: That’s wonderful. How about a client who changed your career?
Martino: Well, it comes from the same period of time that I mentioned before. At that time, it was the biggest steel producer in Italy. For the Italian standard, it was a very, very big company. It had, approximately, 10,000 workers spread all around Italy because they had many plans, offices, and so on. They had huge litigation with workers because the environment was very much unionized. There were a lot of conflicts between the owner of the company and the workers. I assisted Dan for four years in all the contentions matters. I remember that I had to file, every week, three or four new litigations. I had to attend all the court hearings.
Lindsay: Oh my gosh.
Martino: Because in Italy… No, if it is the same in the U.S., but in Italy, the jurisdiction in employment court cases, the jurisdiction is based on the place of work or the employee or the worker. I had to go to the courts in every town in Italy because there were so many offices and plants. I had to travel a lot, work a lot, travel a lot. Well, that was tough, but also very, very demanding, yeah, but in the end, it was that. After four years, I said, “Okay, it’s enough for me.” I changed completely. I moved to an international law firm, where for the subsequent four years, I have never made a trial or court case for the subsequent four years.
I changed completely. I changed completely. There is a funny thing about me going around Italy for trials, for court cases because when I go with my family, with my daughters and wife to every city around Italy, that is new for them, there is always one place. They joke with me, they kid me, because there is at least one place that I always know perfectly where it is, which is the tribunal. Every time I say, “Well, look girls, that is the tribunal.” It’s fine.
Lindsay: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned over your career?
Martino: Well, I’ve learned probably many lessons. Well, I try to say only one, the big one, the mother of all the lessons. Well, when I started my job as a young lawyer, my goal was to become a partner in a big international law firm, and then I objected. Over the years, instead of circumstances barriers, circumstances happen that induced me to change my mind and also, my goal. I have learned one thing things often do not go as you planned. That is crucial to be able to adapt to the circumstances in change to survive. That’s the lesson that I’ve learned. Work for the best, but always be ready for the world, but you have to be strong and change if that’s the one.
Lindsay: That’s a great lesson.
Martino: After 23 years of work that is done, you need to be flexible to survive.
Lindsay: That’s a great lesson. I really like that one. What does being part of the ILN mean to you?
Martino: Well, let’s say, that during my professional career, I have always been a member of international associations or organizations of law firms or lawyers. I have been, for many years, a member of the International Bar Association and of the European Employment Lawyers Association. Also, I have always been working with law firms that were members of an international network of law firms or that were the national, big international law firms that had offices all over the world. I truly love the opportunity to get in contact with lawyers coming from different jurisdictions and the countries. I think that is something that enriches me a lot. At the ILN, I’ve been very, very happy to join Ferrari Pedeferri Boni three years ago because one of the reasons why I decided to join them, was that they were made of an important and huge international network such as the ILN.
What I found, which is particular and difficult to find altogether at the same time, I found at the ILN, great professionalism together with great humanity and values. That is something really, really good. I really appreciated that. I loved very much the conference in Amsterdam. I appreciated very much that I was so welcome. Well, I found it a friendly atmosphere. I was really amazed by the welcome I received from everybody. Well, I think the professionalism and humanity altogether, that’s very, very good.
Lindsay: You did give a great speech, so that helps.
Martino: I hope so. They will remember me for a long time, hopefully.
Lindsay: Yes, for sure. Absolutely. One final question outside of all of these, everything that’s going on right now, what is one thing that you’re really enjoying right now outside of work and everything else going on?
Martino: Well, I am enjoying. I’m enjoying the fact that… Well, difficult to say. I am happy with myself, I don’t know if this can be, with the current situation because I’m a mature professional. The daughters are growing up and so they are a little less challenging to manage. They are getting more independent. I can cover some time for me, for my wife to spend some leisure time, let’s say, that we have lost for many years. It’s a good moment. It’s a good moment for me and I’m happy about that.
Lindsay: That’s great. Well, thank you very much for coming and being my guest this week. I really appreciate it.
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