The one-time rival charged with elevating DLA Piper into the top league of global law firms says his staff have a point to prove.

"In a way, people have looked down on DLA Piper for a long time," global co-chairman and international senior partner Tony Angel said, citing a sometimes dismissive attitude by more established competitors towards the younger mid-tier player. "That motivates you to prove them wrong, and there is a very strong strand of that here," he said.

Mr Angel was in Perth for the first time on Monday as part of an extended multi-stop regional trip which will include a conference in Sydney at the weekend for 200 DLA partners from the Asia Pacific.

The Briton has been described as one of the most successful law firm managers of his generation, credited with transforming Linklaters - recently partnered with Australia's Allens - from a Britain-based operator into one of the world's richest law firms during his 10 years as managing partner.

A year ago, he sensationally returned to the profession at the helm of DLA, with a brief to improve its financial performance and hone its global strategy by better leveraging the firm's extensive global network and expertise to attract bigger multi-national clients.

DLA is arguably the world's biggest law firm by number of lawyers, 4200 in 70 offices at last count, its international practice having grown dramatically over the 15 years through dozens of tie-ups, including with the rump of Australia's Phillips Fox in 2006.

The fast expansion is said to have created integration hiccups, but it has also given DLA what Mr Piper says is its greatest asset.

"There's a lot to be done but the foundations that have been laid are quite remarkable," Mr Angel said from DLA's Central Park offices. "The firm has got this phenomenal global footprint. It's what attracted me to it."

The network is still growing, with DLA moving to address gaps in its coverage and bolster its Asian presence.

It recently struck a merger in Paris and has flagged its interest in opening offices in South Korea and Canada, and increasing its offering in Singapore.

Mr Angel said the aim was to build a "consistent level of capability and quality".

"We are a long way down that line, but we are not fully there."

However, he said perceptions about the DLA brand were improving. "It takes a long time for people's perceptions to change, but they are changing as people get more practical experience of the firm," he said.

The firm has got this phenomenal global footprint. It's what attracted me to it. "DLA Piper senior partner Tony Angel

The West Australian

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