The Lawyer UK 200 Rank1

DLA Piper has a long and complex backstory but the essential components of the firm as it exists today were Alsop Stevens Bateson (Liverpool), Wilkinson Kimbers (London), Dibb Lupton (Leeds) and Broomhead & Neals (Sheffield) in the UK, and Piper & Marbury (Baltimore, MD), Rudnick & Wolfe (Chicago, IL), Gray Cary Ames & Frye (San Diego, CA) and Ware & Freidenrich (Palo Alto, CA) in the United States. A series of mergers reduced these eight firms into three by 1999. The UK

DLA Piper has a long and complex backstory but the essential components of the firm as it exists today were Alsop Stevens Bateson (Liverpool), Wilkinson Kimbers (London), Dibb Lupton (Leeds) and Broomhead & Neals (Sheffield) in the UK, and Piper & Marbury (Baltimore, MD), Rudnick & Wolfe (Chicago, IL), Gray Cary Ames & Frye (San Diego, CA) and Ware & Freidenrich (Palo Alto, CA) in the United States.

A series of mergers reduced these eight firms into three by 1999. The UK one was by that point known as Dibb Lupton Alsop (it rebranded as DLA in 2000), with the Dibbs half of the merger generally seen as the more aggressive and ambitious compared to the more sedate Alsops side.

The new firm had big ambitions for what was essentially regarded as an upstart Northern firm (London office notwithstanding). It announced that it would be a top-10 London firm and a dominant presence nationally by 2002, and then a top-five pan-European player by 2006.

Masterminding all this growth was Nigel (now Sir Nigel) Knowles. He had started out at Broomhead & Neals, becoming managing partner of the newly merged Dibb Lupton Broomhead in 1996. It was Knowles who pushed through the tripartite merger with two American firms in 2005 – by then known as Piper Rudnick and Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich – to form DLA Piper.

Post-merger, the firm became one of the world’s largest – though the business is structured as a Swiss verein with two separate partnerships, DLA Piper International and DLA Piper US, which led to sniping from the profession that it wasn’t a proper merger at all.

In 2011, in one of the most sensational lateral hires in the legal market, DLA brought in former Linklaters managing partner Tony Angel to guide the firm through a major strategic shake-up.

For many outside the firm, and probably quite a few inside, the reason behind Angel’s arrival was simple. He was seen as the hatchet man brought in to effect brutal change and drag DLA up the legal-market food chain. During his four years at the firm it shut down in Glasgow, embarked on its largest-ever redundancy consultation, offloaded the bulk of its defendant insurance practice in Sheffield and Manchester to Hill Dickinson, and ushered a string of partners to the exit door.

Juan Picon took over the senior partner/global co-chair role from Knowles when he finally stepped down, but Picon himself only stayed in position for a year before his shock resignation.

He was replaced by Andrew Darwin in 2018. Darwin had been close to Knowles and his election came as something as a surprise: a step backwards for DLA in plumping for a Brit to replace the charismatic European Picon.

Appointed Global co-chair (Int) Global co-CEO (Int) Global co-CEO (US) Global co-chair (US)
2015 Nigel Knowles Simon Levine Cameron Jay Rains Roger Meltzer
2016 Juan Picon
2018 Andrew Darwin