DLA Piper brings ex-RBS, Virgin lawyers into the fold

DLA Piper brings ex-RBS, Virgin lawyers into the fold” />Two senior in-house lawyers have resurfaced at DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary after three months in the wilderness.

Former Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) director of group legal services Mark Chidley is joining DLA Piper’s Leeds office, while ex-Virgin legal chief Helena Samaha will join the firm in London. Both have been appointed partners and will be doing fee-earning work.

Chidley joined RBS in 2002 following an 18-year stint as a banking partner at Addleshaw Booth (now Addleshaw Goddard). He launched the legacy firm’s banking practice and enjoyed a spell as national head of banking. He will report to DLA Piper’s Leeds banking head Michael Burton. “He’ll have a strategic role in cementing, strengthening and expanding our key panel relationships,” said Burton.

Samaha joined Virgin from Clifford Chance seven years ago. She comprehensively overhauled the group’s in-house function, slashing numbers and launching its first law firm panel.

As first revealed by The Lawyer (7 February), Chidley and Samaha both made sudden exits from their in-house roles in February, with Samaha’s departure leaving Virgin without a legal head.

DLA Piper managing partner Nigel Knowles said the hires would give the firm a valuable insider’s perspective into the mindsets of leading general counsel. “These hires will ensure that we’re as efficient and effective as possible in responding to the needs of general counsel and always being valuable panel members,” said Knowles.

DLA Piper is a panel firm for both RBS and Virgin. Samaha starts at DLA Piper in September, while Chidley joins the firm next month.

The hires come as DLA Piper’s European and Asian network – the legacy DLA – unveils record results for the 2004-05 financial year. Profit per equity partner leapt by 12.6 per cent to £535,000, up from the previous year’s figure of £475,000. However, only around a third of DLA legacy partners are in the equity.