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October 27, 2011 7:04 PM

DLA Poised to Hire Tony Angel as Co-Global Chairman

Posted by Victor Li

During his decadelong run as managing part of Linklaters, Tony Angel turned what had been a U.K.–centric law firm into a global powerhouse that continues to rank among the wealthiest in the industry.

Now, Angel is set to help steer DLA Piper, which already boasts more attorneys than any other firm in the world.

Angel's pending nomination to become DLA's co-global chairman, first reported by various publications on Wendesday, is "moving forward," a source with knowledge of the situation confirms. U.K. publication Legal Week reports that Angel will join DLA Piper on November 7 pending the outcome of an upcoming  partnership vote.

Angel, who joined U.K. law firm SJ Berwin as a nonexecutive director in March, is expected to share duties with Frank Burch, DLA's current global chairman. According to a senior SJ Berwin source, Angel resigned from his position at that firm in order to take on a more substantial management role at DLA Piper.

Both DLA Piper and SJ Berwin declined to comment.

Angel, a 58-year-old Briton, spent almost two decades as a Linklaters tax attorney before becoming managing partner in 1998. According to an a profile published in the October 2007 issue of The American Lawyer, Angel's blueprint for transforming the firm into an international force initially met with internal  resistance, especially when profits stagnated in 2003.

In the end, though, Angel convinced much of the firm's partnership to act on his vision, which included developing a top-notch cross-border transactional practice and opening a New York office. Those who didn't buy into Angel's strategy were forced out. By the time Angel stepped down as managing partner at the end of 2007, his plan had been so successful that Linklaters was one of the world's richest firms, with more than $2 billion in annual revenue and $2.4 million in profits-per-equity-partner. Harvard Law School commissioned a case study of how Angel pulled off the transformation.

After stepping down from his Linklaters post, Angel took a job as executive managing director at Standard & Poors in London in June 2008. He stayed in the post until August 2010, when he became CEO of health care technology company Vantage Diagnostics. Angel continued in the Vantage Diagnostics position even after joining SJ Berwin in March of this year. Vantage did not respond to a request for comment.

Despite becoming the largest firm in the world by attorney head count in March by formally combining operations with DLA Phillips Fox in Australia, DLA Piper still has room to grow through expansion in other countries, says Ward Bower, a law firm management consultant at Altman Weil.

"They've been sniffing around Canada and doing things around Latin America, so they still have some targets out there," Bower says. "I wouldn't be surprised if they went into South Korea." 

(In an interview with the Baltimore Business Journal earlier this month, Burch himself said that the firm was eyeing potential opportunities in Canada and South Korea, among other countries.)

Another law firm consultant, Peter Zeughauser, predicts that Angel will focus on building business in London and Asia, two areas where he has had tremendous success in the past.

"It's hard to get a guy that talented," Zeughauser says. "There just aren't that many people out there who have done what he has done."

Tony Williams, a former Clifford Chance managing partner who is a principal at U.K.–based Jomati Consultants, says that Angel's impending arrival as a fresh set of eyes will be a boon to DLA.

"DLA Piper will look at issues such as increasing development of its core clients, increasing coordination between offices, and continuing to move up the value chain in relation to handling higher-value, more significant matters," Williams says. "This is a great opportunity for DLA." 

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Amazing. they've done really well to get DLA to where it is today. Wasn't long ago it was a little old Bronze Medallion firm up north.

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