Knowles, Nigel – Hot 100

In a year when many of its mid-market rivals stumbled, the DLA juggernaut rolled on, thanks in no small part to its iconic managing partner Nigel Knowles.

2004 saw the firm split with its German ally Görg before raiding that firm to set up its own offices in Cologne and Hamburg. Later, in October, Knowles sealed the biggest mass lateral hire in the history of the UK legal market after securing 11 media and IP partners from Denton Wilde Sapte.

On 4 December, his leadership was reinforced when the firm pushed through the $1.4bn (£730m) tripartite merger with Chicago’s Piper Rudnick and Californian tech firm Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich. Not one single partner on either side of the Atlantic voted against the deal.

Rivals may scoff at this Northern upstart with his cultish ‘visions and values’ and his Napoleonic penchant for international expansion. But DLA may yet have the last laugh. The firm is predicting that average profit per equity partner will top the £500,000 mark this year and the Piper Rudnick merger propels the firm into the global top five.

If nothing else, Knowles deserves credit for having hit on a realisation that many of his competitors have yet to discover: to stand still in the mid-market today is to die.

Nigel Knowles