The Financial Times is pleased to announce the launch of the submission process for the 2018 Innovative Lawyers report and awards for North America.

FT Innovative Lawyers is a unique programme that assesses lawyers on their innovation for clients and in their own businesses. The programme consists of rankings and awards, based on independent research from RSG Consulting and robust journalism from the FT. The results are announced at an awards event, and the rankings are published in both print and online as an FT special report.

Law firms and in-house legal departments are invited to submit to four broad sections: legal expertise, the business of law, collaboration, and innovative individuals. Additionally, private practice law firms, in-house legal teams, individuals, and any other commercial, public or non-governmental organization are invited to submit to the rule of law and access to justice section.

Why innovation?
Since it was established, the FT report has sought to break with the usual criteria of measuring lawyers by revenues, profits or deal sizes. Instead, it aims to uncover the real value that lawyers deliver to business and reward the lawyers consistently furthering the interests of their clients, their own firms and the profession itself.

How are the report and the awards assessed?
The rankings will be based primarily on submissions received but will also include fresh research, surveys and other qualitative research methods to uncover legal innovation in the region.

The FT Innovative Lawyers programme was established in Europe in 2006, launched in the US in 2010, and in Asia-Pacific in 2014. Over the past decade it has covered legal industry innovation in 50 different countries from over 500 law firms and over 500 company in-house legal departments.

The submission deadline is Friday August 10, 2018. The research process will run from August to October. The report will be published with the Financial Times newspaper on Tuesday December 11, 2018 and launched at an awards event in New York on the evening of Monday December 10, 2018. The awards event will recognise the standout innovations across all categories of the report.

There is no cost for submitting entries but the project will be subject to the terms and conditions outlined in detail below.

The research partner for the FT Innovative Lawyers programme is RSG Consulting, a specialist research and consulting company with decades of experience analysing the legal industry.

The FT Innovative Lawyers programme is supported globally by lead partner, Elevate, and partners, DocuSign, HighQ, Riverview Law and QuisLex.

Categories 2018

Submissions invited from: private practice law firms and in-house legal teams.

Submission limit: A maximum of five submissions may be made to the legal expertise section by any one firm, legal service provider or in-house legal team.

This section will look at lawyers’ work for clients and will recognise lawyers who have developed new structures and products, new legal strategies or new law to meet their clients’ business challenges. We are looking for lawyers who have made a difference to their clients, by enabling them to innovate themselves or through unlocking exceptional value for them. Last year, we saw this done in various ways, such as managing complexity and scale and helping clients to access new markets and capital.

Each submission should focus on a specific matter or legal solution from any practice area. These may involve, but are not limited to, legal matters in the following practice areas: corporate and commercial, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, banking and finance, litigation, arbitration, restructuring, structured finance, project finance, regulatory, investigations, white-collar crime, corporate tax, competition, IP, private client, tax and trust, reputation, privacy, family, employment, real estate, technology, cyber security and data protection.

There are five categories into which law firms and law departments can submit:

  • Managing complexity and scale
  • New markets and capital
  • Enabling business growth
  • Litigation and dispute resolution
  • The final category will derive from the submissions received

■ Business of law

Submissions invited from: private practice law firms and in-house legal teams.

Submission limit: A maximum of five submissions may be made to the business of law section.

Client demands and market pressures are driving law firms and legal service providers to develop new products and services, and new means of delivering those services to provide even greater value.

Lawyers are increasingly using technology and data to create new legal solutions and enhance existing ones. New tools and ways of working allow law firms to be more efficient and more connected. And as the market and world of work changes, law firms are setting new strategies and finding new ways to change behaviours and make the most of the opportunities offered.

This section will assess innovations across any area of the business of law. The categories will include:

  • Data, knowledge and intelligence
  • Use of technology
  • New products and services
  • New or improved business and service delivery models
  • Developing talent to adapt to changing workplaces and society
  • Strategy and changing behaviours

■ Collaboration

Submissions invited from: private practice law firms and in-house legal teams.

Submission limit: A maximum of one submission may be made to the collaboration section by any one law firm or in-house legal team.

New collaborations within law firms, between competitors and with other advisers and clients are frequently the source of new legal and business innovations. In this section, we invite law firms and in-house legal teams to submit an example of a new type of collaboration which has helped to create a new solution or result.

Joint submissions between firms, legal services providers and clients are encouraged.

■ Rule of law and access to justice

Submissions invited from: private practice law firms and in-house legal teams, individuals, and any other commercial, public or non-governmental organisation.

Submission limit: A maximum of one submission may be made to the rule of law and access to justice section by any one firm, legal service provider, in-house legal team, individual, or organisation.

Lawyers are being called on more than ever before to uphold the rule of law and bring access to justice for those who are denied it or forgotten by the system. Lawyers are increasingly agents of social and legislative change. This category covers any initiatives that seek to uphold the rule of law and improve avenues for access to justice.

■ Innovative individuals

Nominations invited from: private practice law firms, and in-house legal teams.

Nomination limit: The lead individual for every submission made to the report will be automatically considered for this category, but law firms and in-house legal teams are also invited to make a maximum of three nominations.

The report will feature the top 10 individuals who stand out in this year’s research as exceptional innovators. We will look for individuals who have come up with the most original ideas, who have shown courage to change the way legal work or business is done, and have had the greatest influence on their firms, industry, business, or wider society.

■ In-house nominations 2018

Nominations are invited for: in-house legal teams and general counsel who are driving innovation in their businesses or the profession.

Nomination limit: There is no limit to the number of nominations which can be made for this category.

In this year’s report, we will publish a list of the most innovative in-house legal teams in the report. This list will be drawn from the teams who have the highest aggregate scores across the different categories in the report.

We are looking for those general counsel and in-house legal teams who are innovating in their operations, and in the delivery of legal, risk and strategic advice to help their businesses navigate an increasingly challenging market. The section will cover in-house legal teams working in companies, government and non-profit organisations. We will also cover individual general counsel who are making the most impact as leaders in their businesses.

How to submit entries

All submissions must be made via the online submissions forms and uploaded as documents (you will be prompted to do this at the final stage of each online submission form).

Each submission should be uploaded as a separate document, named using the following format: “SECTION — law firm or organisation name — short submission title”.

Online submissions and nominations forms can be found here.

PLEASE NOTE: You will first need to register an account before you can access the submissions website. To register an account, follow the link here or email to request login details.

Video content, images or submissions in other formats are also welcome.

Submission format
All submissions must provide the following details and address the criteria set out below. Please note that word limits are enforced in the online entry forms.

  1. The challenge: What commercial problem or business issue was the innovation designed to address? (75 word limit)
  2. Description of the innovation: A brief description of the matter or initiative, including key dates and the firm’s role. (75 word limit)
  3. Originality: Why is the work or initiative innovative? Which elements are most original? (200 word limit)
  4. Leadership: What role did the lawyers, firm, individual or legal department play? For which aspects of the solution, approach, or implementation were the lawyers responsible? How did you arrive at the specific approach or solution that was finally adopted? (200 word limit)
  5. Impact: What was the impact of the innovation for the client, firm or key stakeholders? How can its success be measured? Where did the lawyers deliver the most value? Please include hard evidence. (200 word limit)
  6. References: All submissions must include contact details for at least one internal and at least one client or other external reference who can be contacted to discuss the details of the innovation on a confidential basis. This contact information must be provided in compliance with GDPR. Please see conditions of entry below for more detail.

Nominations for innovative individuals and in-house legal teams need simply to include contact details for the nominee and a brief reason for the nomination.

Rules for submitting

  • Time period: The 2018 ranking will assess innovations from 1 January 2017.
  • Innovations must have taken place in North America or have been led from a North American office. All law firms active in North America, regardless of country of origin, are eligible to send submissions to FT Innovative Lawyers 2018.
  • There is a limit per firm of five submissions to legal expertise, five to business of law, one to collaboration and one to rule of law & access to justice. If these limits are exceeded, only the first submissions within the limit in alphabetical order by title will be considered.
  • Submissions must be no longer than 750 words in total, written in English and answer each of the questions on the entry form.

Assessment of submissions

  • Submissions will be fully researched and will be assessed on their own merits, through extensive interviews with referees. The RSG Consulting research team also uses independent experts in the assessment process. Entries will be judged against other submissions in each category.
  • Innovations will be scored for their originality, leadership and impact out of a total of 30 points.
  • Client referee interviews are a critical part of the assessment process. Contact details for internal and client or external referees must be included on every submission.
  • Submissions, particularly those in the legal expertise categories, should each focus on a specific innovation. The research approach is to examine case studies. Those that are more general and that cover several different pieces of work in one submission will do less well in the scoring process.
  • All submissions are assessed by RSG Consulting, a specialist legal-market research company that uses a process of interviews with clients, submitting lawyers and experts. The submissions are then scored against a bespoke ranking methodology, devised for the FT to assess innovation in law firms.
  • The three key indicators used are originality, leadership and impact. Each indicator carries a total of 10 points. The submissions in each category are benchmarked against each other in the scoring process. The top ranked innovations therefore represent the best out of all the submissions received.
  • The rankings will be based primarily on submissions received but will also include fresh research, surveys and other qualitative research methods to uncover legal innovation in the region.


An awards event on December 10, 2018 will be held at Gotham Hall in New York to coincide with publication of the rankings.

At the awards event, the FT will recognise the top-scoring entries in each category of the report.

  • Innovation in Legal Expertise*
  • Innovation in the Business of Law / Operations*
  • Innovation in the Rule of Law and Access to Justice
  • Innovation in Collaboration
  • Legal Innovator of the Year
  • Most Innovative In-House Legal Team
  • Most Innovative General Counsel
  • Most Innovative Law Firm in North America

*Exact award categories and names will be decided after submissions are received.

Additional awards will recognise regional and industry sector innovators.


  • August 10, 2018 — deadline for submissions
  • November 2018 — awards shortlists revealed
  • December 10, 2018 — awards and report launch event, New York
  • December 11, 2018 — report publication

Contact details

  • For research questions please contact RSG Consulting on +44 (0)20 7831 0300,
  • For editorial inquiries please contact Harriet Arnold, commissioning editor, Special Reports, Financial Times, at (please preface email with ILNA)
  • For advertising opportunities or other research sponsorship opportunities please contact Robert Grange, Global Franchise Development Director at the FT at or +44 (0)20 7873 4418
  • For enquires about the launch event please contact Chelsey Quine, FT Live Conferences and Events,
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