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Updated: Management shake up for DLA Piper as Knowles takes over as global co-chair and Levine put forward for co-CEO role

DLA Piper’s co-chief executive (CEO) Nigel Knowles is to replace Tony Angel as global co-chairman in a senior management shake-up which has also seen London IP and technology partner Simon Levine proposed as global co-CEO, partners at the firm heard this afternoon (4 February).

Current Americas co-chair and corporate and finance practice head Roger Meltzer has been put forward to sit alongside Knowles (pictured) in the global co-chair role, while, Americas co-chair Jay Rains has been proposed as joint global CEO alongside Levine.

Former Linklaters managing partner Angel will continue as senior partner until his term expires in 16 months as the international managing partner role which Knowles currently holds will be phased out.

Levine’s recommendation, which has been put forward by the executive board, needs to be approved by the international partnership and will take effect from 1 January 2015.

At a meeting today to discuss the changes Knowles said: ‘It’s about putting us in the best possible shape. Like every good global business we’re looking to innovate and evolve. After 20 years it is the right time for me to change my role. You want to go out when you feel you can do something else for the firm and I will be focussing on clients, markets and sectors, which is very much my sweet spot.’

Angel joined DLA in 2011 as the 1,300 partner firm took steps to climb up the value chain. Last year it became the largest firm in terms of revenue with income up 9% to $2.44bn, while profit per equity partner (PEP) was up by 6% to $1.3m.

He has been significant in helping to re-shape the top 10 LB100 firm – which now has nearly 80 offices worldwide – with profit per lawyer (PPL) also up 10% annually to around $150,000 as the number of lawyers decreased by 3% to 4,036 firm-wide.

DLA launched a review of its UK practice in 2012, which led to the closure this spring of its ten-partner Glasgow office and the centralisation of its UK document-production team, which is expected to lead to around 100 job losses.

The partners at today’s meeting were keen to emphasise that the management reshuffle is being put in place now to create a seamless transition. Angel said at the meeting: ‘Large global corporates plan their succession a year out to stay on track with their vision. The board made its recommendations for succession, which we feel is the right approach for us.

‘This is a collective effort and I’m pleased with what we’ve achieved. The work is never done, however.’

While it was always unlikely that Angel would stand for a further term, privately questions have been raised over the sustainability and longterm buy-in among partners of an external senior management appointment such as Angel’s.