Sir Nigel Knowles is joint chief executive officer (CEO) and managing partner of DLA Piper. He has been managing partner since 1996 and in that time has led its growth from a regional UK law firm to what is now the world’s largest law firm. Globally, DLA Piper has a turnover of more than £1bn.
Knowles joined Yorkshire firm Broomheads as a trainee in 1978 and was admitted to partnership in 1984, specialising in corporate finance, private equity and mergers and acquisitions. He quickly moved into the management sphere and in 1990 was appointed head of the commercial group at Dibb Lupton Broomhead (following the merger of Broomheads and Dibb Lupton, which took place in 1988).
His career accelerated from there and he was appointed to the board and the role of deputy managing partner in 1995, finally becoming managing partner of DLA Piper in 1996.
Since that time, Knowles has led the practice through a host of successful mergers. From a largely UK presence, the firm has expanded into Continental Europe, Asia and the Middle East. DLA Piper continues to retain a strong regional presence in the UK with a total of eight offices. The Continental European practice has expanded rapidly and now has offices in Austria, Belgium, Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. The Asian practice has grown steadily since opening in Hong Kong in 1988 and now includes offices in Bangkok, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo. In 2006, DLA Piper’s first Middle East office opened, in Dubai, and was swiftly joined by offices in Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Perhaps most notably, in January 2005, Knowles was instrumental in the single largest transatlantic law merger in recent history when DLA Piper integrated with US-based firms Piper Rudnick and Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich. In the same year, Knowles was named Partner of the Year by Legal Week and DLA Piper was named Global Law Firm of the Year at The Lawyer Awards and Law Firm of the Year at the Legal Business Awards.
Knowles is passionate about developing DLA Piper’s reputation for providing high-quality legal advice across jurisdictions and in doing this has also consistently improved year-on-year financial performance. The firm has always delivered against its vision and the major goals it has set itself and Knowles now enjoys working ever more closely with his US colleagues to deliver their joint global objectives.