DLA senior partner retires after Piper star wins top role

DLA senior partner Roger Lane-Smith is to retire as it emerges that his counterpart at US firm Piper Rudnick will take the chairman’s role following the firm’s planned transatlantic merger.

It is understood that under the terms of the merger agreement, Piper Rudnick co-chairman Senator George Mitchell, who was instrumental in brokering the Northern Ireland peace agreement, will take the role of chairman in the merged DLA Piper Rudnick.

Lane-Smith announced his retirement from the partnership on 7 October and indicated that he would not be standing for a third term as senior partner. He will remain at the firm – where he has spent the past 27 years – as a consultant.

Lane-Smith, who turns 59 this week, has been in discussions with firm management about his retirement since April. The move will take effect from 30 April next year.

One DLA partner said: “In the ordinary course of events there would be a tug of war as to who would be chairman, but George Mitchell has an enormous amount of clout and was naturally going to win.”

Lane-Smith has witnessed a period of dramatic growth at DLA, overseeing a spate of mergers and the establishment of the firm’s Asian presence. However, the timing of his retirement is unfortunate, coming just one week after it emerged in a Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT) decision that he had failed to record a meeting in which his client, JJB Sports chairman Dave Whelan, was found to have fixed the price of football shirts.

Lane-Smith has staunchly defended his conduct in the matter, insisting: “I acted perfectly properly.”

There is no suggestion that his retirement is linked to the CAT decision.

Lane-Smith is currently touring the firm’s Asian offices to drum up support ahead of the 4 December merger vote.