‘The whole place didn’t collapse, did it?’ So quips Simon Levine, almost six years since he took on the leviathan challenge of succeeding Sir Nigel Knowles as global co-chief executive and managing partner of DLA Piper. Nevertheless Levine, characteristically self-deprecating and garrulous, especially in light of the firm not being razed to the ground, has clearly never shaken off the stigma of the succession being likened by Sir Nigel himself to Manchester United’s legend Sir Alex Ferguson stepping down. As if taking over from a man acclaimed for shaping DLA into what was once the world’s largest law firm over 18 years was not daunting enough. ‘I didn’t want to go the way of Moysey,’ said Levine at the time.
It is rare for opinion to be unanimously glowing about a law firm leader, but it was about Knowles, who in May became chief executive of listed law firm DWF in what may be perceived as arguably an even bigger challenge than what lay before him at DLA.