Law veteran who turned DLA Piper into a global giant takes over at DWF

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By Thomas Connelly on

Nigel Knowles — the man behind DLA’s ascent from middling Yorkshire outfit to one of the biggest firms in the world — takes over from DWF’s long serving leader Andrew Leaitherland

Sir Nigel Knowles and Andrew Leaitherland

DWF head-honcho Andrew Leaitherland has stepped down as chief executive and managing partner with immediate effect, the listed law firm announced this morning.

Leaitherland spent over 20 years at the firm and oversaw its dramatic expansion from two offices in the UK to 33 offices across four continents. The top lawyer had been CEO and managing partner since May 2006, and helped guide it through its 2019 initial public offering (IPO) — the largest in legal history.

Stepping into Leaitherland’s sizeable shoes is DWF’s chairman Sir Nigel Knowles. Boasting an equally impressive CV, Knowles is the former global co-chair of DLA Piper and the driving force behind the firm’s transition from humble Yorkshire outfit to global powerhouse.

Knowles, who, in 2009, received a knighthood in recognition of his services to the legal industry, retired in 2014, but reappeared on the legal scene at DWF in 2017.

“In responding to the challenges created by COVID-19, the board believes that strong and experienced leadership is essential,” DWF said in a statement. “The board believes that Sir Nigel Knowles, chairman, will provide this leadership and as a consequence, the board has asked Sir Nigel Knowles to assume the role of group chief executive officer with immediate effect.”

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Elsewhere in today’s announcement, DWF revealed that the financial disruption experienced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic had been greater than anticipated, and as a result revenues grew by circa 11% over the financial year. DWF Group’s share price fell by around 15% to 69p after today’s announcement.

Leaitherland commented:

“It has been a privilege to be Group CEO of DWF for nearly 14 years and I am incredibly proud of the progress we have made in that time. It is a fantastic business with great people committed to delivering the best possible service to our clients. I wish Sir Nigel every success in taking the business forward.”

Knowles added: “I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as the group’s chairman and even more honoured to have been asked now to lead the company as its group chief executive officer. Andrew helped build a great business for which we are very grateful and we wish him the very best.”

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