A (Law)Vested interest

DLA Piper chief Sir Nigel Knowles’ personal investment in alternative business structure (ABS) LawVest was a thorny issue at DLA Piper. As The Lawyer revealed earlier this year, pockets within the firm’s partnership were outraged after learning that Knowles and a number of other partners and directors had personally invested in the ABS without declaring it to the firm’s board.

DLA Piper’s global co-chairman Tony Angel moved quickly to heal the issue, with angry partners being told those with investments had agreed to divest themselves of their interests. If that was the case then it hadn’t been achieved by 27 May – as a Companies House filing now shows.

According to the filing Knowles held – and may still hold – a 0.9 per cent stake in the ABS, along with a number of other partners, former partners and directors in London and elsewhere in the UK who held smaller stakes. Compare that with DLA Piper as a firm holding around a 21 per cent share in LawVest.

Knowles’ stake may have been smaller than some expected, but to others the size won’t matter a jot. As one partner at the firm said, why, if LawVest was such a good investment, wasn’t it available to the whole of the partnership?

Nor will the size of the stake matter to partners in DLA Piper’s regional offices who were the most angry at learning of the private investments. With LawVest and Riverview looking to take on lower-end work more cheaply, regional lawyers may view the ABS as a threat to their business, and the partners with a stake as investing in their downfall.

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