DLA-Team gets a new leader

Meet Simon Levine – the ‘switched-on guy’ destined to take the co-CEO role 

Who is Simon Levine? The man taking over from Sir Nigel Knowles as DLA Piper co-CEO may not have the same level of entrepreneurial bombast as his predecessor, at least according to some sources, but word is he is the right man to take DLA Piper on to the next stage.

Simon Levine

“He’s not the next Branson but he’s an able bloke and will make a reasonable job of it,” says one source familiar with DLA Piper.

Another is more effusive.

“Right from the get-go, when I first met Simon, I thought that this was a guy who seems to be really switched-on, says DLA Piper’s global co-head of technology Kit Burden. “And my opinion has never wavered.”

Most famously Levine, current managing director for groups and sectors, former head of the firm’s IP and technology practice group and the man who last week was unveiled as DLA Piper’s next co-CEO, led what is still the biggest-ever mass lateral hire move in London when he took 11 TMT partners away from legacy Denton Wilde Sapte and to DLA. Anyone who can do that probably knows a thing or two about management.

While at Dentons, Levine also proved his mettle by effectively shutting down the flagship music practice brought over from legacy firm Frere Cholmeley Bischoff, whose clients included The Beatles, despite the fact that much of his own billings came from it. It was, as one former partner recalls, “a controversial move but a necessary one”.

“Levine is highly regarded as a business generator,” claims one external recruitment consultant who, incidentally, was not responsible for the Dentons move. “He’s been on the board at DLA for years and as head of technology ran what was a £30m business in 2012. He’s one of the best practitioners in the business and also one of the top earners at the firm [sources suggest Levine took home £1.25m in 2011]. He’s also very personable but I don’t think that means he’ll be bossed around by Knowles.”

More recently Levine was posted to Dubai to troubleshoot the office when things for DLA Piper in the region “went horribly wrong”.

“He has a good business brain,” says a former partner. “I suspect he’s been put in charge of a number of managerial projects over the years and completed them with distinction.”

As part of the move, Knowles will replace Tony Angel as global co-chairman, with Americas co-chairman Roger Meltzer stepping up on the US side in the mirror role. Meltzer’s colleague Americas co-chairman Jay Rains will become joint global CEO alongside Levine.

All the moves, which are subject to a partner consultation this year and a vote in September, will be effective from 1 May 2015.

“Nobody’s in any doubt about the way we’re supposed to vote,” quips one partner.

Maybe not that much has changed after all.