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Executive Board

The role of the Executive Board is to the lead the operational management of DWF.

Sir Nigel Knowles

CEO
 
Sir Nigel Knowles

Sir Nigel is Group CEO (having previously served as Chairman of the Group from September 2017 to May 2020). He spent over 38 years at DLA Piper, a global law firm, where he was Global Co-Chairman and Senior Partner, and, previously, Global Co-CEO and Managing Partner from 1996 to 2015. During his tenure as leader of DLA Piper and its legacy firms, revenues of DLA Piper grew from £52 million to in excess of £1.5 billion.

Sir Nigel received a knighthood in 2009 in recognition of his services to the legal industry. In 2015, he was awarded the Legal Business “Outstanding Individual Achievement Award” and in 2016 the Financial News “Editor’s Choice” award.

Sir Nigel holds an LLB degree from the University of Sheffield and a Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, Chester. He received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Sheffield and is a Fellow of Harris Manchester College Oxford.

Sir Nigel was admitted as a solicitor by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in 1980 and is a registered foreign lawyer with the Law Society of Scotland.

Matthew Doughty

Group Chief Operating Officer

 
Matthew Doughty

Matthew is Group Chief Operating Officer and a member of the Executive Board.

Background and experience

Matthew is Group Chief Operating Officer with responsibility for our Group's operations, corporate development activities, and post-acquisition integration projects.

Matthew is a corporate lawyer by background with 25 years' experience in M&A and equity capital markets transactions.  He led the project team which delivered DWF's ground breaking IPO on the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange in March 2019.

Matthew holds an LLB degree from the University of Birmingham and completed the Law Society Final Examination in 1993 from the College of Law, Chester.

He was admitted as a solicitor by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in 1996 and is a registered foreign lawyer with the Law Society of Scotland.

Chris Stefani

Chief Financial Officer
 
Chris Stefani

Chris joined the management team of DWF LLP in April 2016 and was appointed to the Board of DWF Group plc in September 2018. 

Background and experience 
Chris has around 20 years of experience in the professional services sector. 

He was previously the Finance Director of Ernst & Young’s EMEIA Advisory business (2014 to 2016), the Global Service Line reporting lead of Ernst & Young London (2013 to 2014), a director in the UK Core Business Services Finance team of Ernst & Young London (2012 to 2013) and the CFO of Ernst & Young Republic of Ireland (2010 to 2011). 

Chris has extensive experience in advising executive boards on all aspects of financial management, control, and performance and profitability improvement, as well as a track record of business optimisation to drive profit improvements and/or cost savings while also supporting revenue growth. 

Chris holds an LLB degree from the University of Strathclyde and was admitted to the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants in 2001.

 

Daniel Pollick

Chief Information Officer
 
Daniel Pollick

Daniel joined the Group in August 2018 as the Group’s Chief Information Officer. He oversees the strategic and operational application of the Group’s IT infrastructure, as well as the development of the business’s data strategy and the Group’s business transformation function.

 

Background and experience

Daniel has over 30 years' of experience in the IT industry. Previously, he served as DLA Piper LLP’s Chief Information Officer, a position he held for more than two decades.

 

Daniel holds a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford. He is currently studying for an MSc at the University of Manchester.

Helen Hill

Chief People Officer
 
Helen Hill

Helen joined the Group in November 2016 as the Group’s Chief People Officer. She is focused on developing the Group’s HR team’s contribution to business growth, performance and profitability by aligning the team’s strategic and operational goals to the Group’s business plans.

 

Background and experience

Helen has more than 20 years' of experience in generalist HR positions across multiple sectors. Previously, she was the HR director at Princes Limited (2012 to 2016) and, prior to that, HR consultant at Townhouse Consulting Ltd (2006 to 2012).

 

Helen holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an HR Specialism from Teesside University and a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development qualification from the Manchester Metropolitan University.

Zelinda Bennett

Chief Marketing Officer 
 
Zelinda Bennett

Zelinda joined the Group in January 2019 as Chief Marketing Officer. She is responsible for shaping our global business development, client engagement, and marketing strategy, across the UK, Europe, Asia Pacific, the Middle East, and America.

 

Background and experience

Zelinda has more than 20 years' experience in law firm marketing and business development. Previously, she was the International Marketing Director at DLA Piper (2008 to 2018) and the Marketing Director of Eversheds Sutherland (2005 to 2007).

 

Zelinda holds a bachelor’s degree in French and German Languages and Literature from Manchester Metropolitan University, a diploma in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a postgraduate certificate in marketing management from Manchester Metropolitan University.

Jason Ford

CEO Connected Services 
 
Jason Ford

Jason joined the Group in January 2017 as a Partner and became CEO of Connected Services in July 2017. He is responsible for delivering the Group’s suite of connected services to clients.

 

Background and experience

Previously, Jason was the Chief Operating Officer at Triton Global Ltd (2013 to 2017), a multi-disciplinary alternative business structure and one of the first businesses to be granted a licence following the implementation of the Legal Services Act. Prior to that, he worked as a partner at Robin Simon LLP.

 

Jason holds an LLB degree from the University of Sheffield and a postgraduate diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, Chester.

 

He was admitted as a solicitor by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in 1991 and is a registered foreign lawyer with the Law Society of Scotland.

Mark St John Qualter

CEO Mindcrest
 
Mark St John Qualter

Mark joined the Group in June 2019 as the CEO of Mindcrest. He leads the development and delivery of our strategy to build a global Managed Services platform.

 

Background and experience
During 18 years within RBS Group plc, Mark held several strategy and business transformation roles. Prior to joining DWF, he was Head of Artificial Intelligence for RBS Group plc’s Commercial and Private Banking business.

 

Mark is also a governor and chairs the audit committee at the Manchester Metropolitan University. He was previously a Council Member of the CBI’s Regional Council for Yorkshire and Humberside.

 

Mark has an MBA from Manchester Business School and a BA (Hons) in Hindi and Sinhalese from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

 

Paul Rimmer

Chief Executive Officer - Legal Advisory
 
Paul Rimmer

Paul is Legal Advisory CEO with responsibility for leading the legal advisory division, which brings together the operations previously within our Group's Commercial, Insurance and International divisions. 

Background and experience
Paul is a corporate lawyer by background, advising across merger and acquisitions, private equity and venture capital transactions. He is ranked as a leading corporate lawyer in both Chambers and the Legal 500. 

Paul has also previously acted as General Counsel of one of the largest pensions funds in the UK, giving him first-hand experience of the role of the General Counsel and a deeper understanding of client needs. 

Darren Drabble

Group General Counsel and Company Secretary
 
Darren Drabble

Darren joined the Group as Group General Counsel and Company Secretary in April 2021. He is responsible for providing senior management with strategic legal advice, while overseeing legal compliance, corporate governance and managing risk. 

Background and experience 
Darren has more than 20 years of private practice and in-house legal experience. Previously, Darren was Group Legal Director and Company Secretary at Radius Payment Solutions, and prior to that was Group General Counsel and Company Secretary of Moneysupermarket.com Group PLC between 2007 and 2019. 

Darren has been a non-executive director at the Halle Concerts Society since March 2019, where he chairs its Nominations and Remuneration Committee.

He practised as a corporate/ commercial lawyer at Addleshaw Goddard LLP, where he trained and qualified in 1999.

Darren holds a BA (Hons) degree in Law and Economics from Durham University, a postgraduate diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, York and a postgraduate certificate in Investor Relations from the Investor Relations Society. Darren is a member of the Law Society of England.

Damien van Brunschot

Regional Managing Partner - Australasia
 
Damien van Brunschot

Damien was a founding partner of the Australian law firm, Kaden Boriss, which was acquired by DWF in 2017. He is also Managing Director of DWF in Australia.

Background and experience
Damien leads DWF's Australian insurance group, with over 20 years' experience in all facets of insurance law. 

Damien has acted for a wide range of insurance clients during his career. With a Masters of Law specialising in insurance litigation and alternative dispute resolution, Damien is recognised within the insurance industry as a leading Australian lawyer, known to be a skilled litigator and negotiator in catastrophic and sensitive high value claims.  

Allison Page

Regional Managing Partner - UK & Ireland
 
Allison Page

Allison joined DWF in 2020. She was previously a partner at DLA Piper for 15 years, where she held the role of office manager partner for Leeds. Allison is also Executive Head of DWF's Leeds office.

Background and experience
Allison specialises in transformational infrastructure projects in the energy, waste and civil engineering sectors.

Allison is a Non-Executive Director at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and a member of the Finance and Investment Committee, Audit Committee, Remuneration Committee and Quality Committee. Allison is also a business representative on the Sustainable Economy and Culture Board of Leeds City Council. In March 2016, she was named in Northern Power Women Top 50 list.

Deborah Abraham

Group Director of Risk 
 
Deborah Abraham

As Group Director of Risk, Deborah advises DWF on Governance, Risk Management and Compliance including leading the Business Excellence Strategy.

Background and experience
Deborah works with the Executive Board and Risk Committee to ensure known and emerging risks are assessed, controlled, all relevant legal and regulatory demands are complied with and processes/procedures are developed to support all aspects of delivering an excellent client service. 

Deborah is an International Risk Management Certificate Member of the Institute of Risk Management, and works closely with our key regulators, having been a member of numerous focus groups and regulatory panels.

Ignasi Costas

Regional Managing Partner - Europe, Middle East and Latin America and Country Managing Partner Spain*
 
Ignasi Costas

Ignasi was a founding partner of Spanish firm RCD which was acquired by DWF in late 2019. Ignasi remains Co-Managing partner of DWF-RCD.

Background and experience
Ignasi leads DWF-RCD's Innovation and Entrepreneurship department, a benchmark in Spain, which includes the practice of start-ups, venture capital, corporate venturing, fintech and academic spin-offs.

An expert in M&A, Ignasi has extensive experience in advising entrepreneurs and investors in the process of negotiations and strategic alliances.

Highly recognised by the most prestigious international legal directories, he has been recognised among the Top 10 lawyers in Spain in 2019 and is a member of the Board of Directors of several technology-based companies, as well as the author of numerous academic articles related to his areas of practice and knowledge. He is also member of the Harvard Law School Centre on the Legal Profession Advisory Board and CodeX Fellow at Stanford University.

*Advisor to the Executive Board

Hilary Ross

Head of Clients & Markets
 
Hilary Ross

As Head of Clients & Markets, Hilary is responsible for implementing DWF's Integrated Legal Management approach across our client base. Hilary has been a partner at DWF since 2011 and prior to the Group's IPO was a member of its Strategic Board.

Background and experience
Hilary was previously Head of the Consumer sector at DWF and the Managing Partner of its London office. She is the lead client partner for a number of the Group's largest Consumer clients and for over 20 years has worked with PLCs to develop compliance procedures to ensure safety of their products, employees and third parties.

Hilary is a partner in DWF's Regulatory team, specialising in regulatory compliance and litigation, with an unrivalled reputation in respect of health & safety and product liability, for a wide range of highly regulated products.

Kirsty Rogers

Head of Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) and Office Managing Partner Manchester*
 
Kirsty Rogers

Kirsty is responsible for developing and implementing a global ESG strategy for the Group. She has been a partner with DWF since 2007 and has previously held management roles, including as a member of the Strategic Board prior to the Group's IPO.

Background and experience
Kirsty is also Executive Head of the Group's Manchester office, the largest office with more than 800 people. 

Kirsty is also an employment lawyer and is particularly known for her expertise in employment litigation, including discrimination and whistle blowing cases and has undertaken extensive High Court injunction work. Kirsty has been recognised by the legal directories for over ten years. 

She is a Governor of a local academy, a trustee of a children's charity, Vision4children, based at Alder Hey and a board member of Girls Out Loud, an organisation supporting teenage girls.

*Advisor to the Executive Board

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