Sir Nigel Knowles will step down from his role as global co-chairman on April 30, after 38 years. He will become a consultant to the company.
He became chair of the region’s Local Enterprise Partnership on January 1 after James Newman resigned after five years in the job.
The LEP is in the process of finalising a 30-year £900m devolution deal with government that will include the introduction of an elected mayor.
Sir Nigel 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.”
Born in Stocksbridge, he studied law at Sheffield University before joining Broomhead and Neale in 1978. He led several increasingly valuable mergers over the next four decades to create a global organisation boasting 4,000 lawyers in 80 offices in 30 countries.
Today he is based in London, although he has family, including his mother, in Sheffield.
He said: “I joined a Sheffield firm and never left. I am a big proponent of this region and will use every opportunity to speak up for it.”
Simon Levine, global co-chief executive, said: “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. On a personal note, I would like to thank Nigel for his friendship and all his support since I took on the role of Co-CEO and I look forward to continuing to work with him.”