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DLA Piper’s Knowles to retire after 38 years at the firm

Sir Nigel Knowles (pictured) will retire from DLA Piper at the end of June after nearly four decades at the firm, the vast majority of which he spent spearheading a rapid globalisation of the firm into one of the world’s largest.

Knowles’ retirement will see him vacate his current titles as co-chairman and senior partner of the $2.5bn-a-year law firm at the end of April. He will retire two months later. The decision kick-starts a leadership race that hopes to find a new senior partner for DLA Piper’s non-US businesses by the end of March. 

One of just a handful of commercial lawyers to receive a knighthood in recent memory, Knowles executed a string of mergers that culminated in one of Big Law’s few transatlantic tie-ups in 2005 when the UK’s DLA combined with US law firms Piper Rudnick and Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich. He served as chief executive of international arm of DLA Piper following the merger before stepping down at the end of 2014. Simon Levine succeeded him as co-chief executive.

Knowles said: ‘The creation of DLA Piper is my proudest achievement, and I will always remain close to the firm, but now is the right time for me to stand down safe in the knowledge that I am leaving the firm in very capable hands.’

Levine added: ‘The contribution that Nigel has made to the firm is immeasurable. His vision and leadership over nearly 20 years has played a huge part in the creation of DLA Piper, taking the firm from 6 UK offices to the global firm it is today. We are all extremely proud of everything Nigel has achieved and are very pleased that he will continue to have a very close relationship with the firm.’

For more Legal Business analysis of DLA Piper’s succession see: Simon says – DLA Piper gears up for a life after Nigel.