Ten pioneers of new legal thinking: from access to justice to spin-off ventures
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OVERALL WINNER: Martijn Wilder
Head of global environmental markets and climate change practice — Baker McKenzie
Two decades ago, few considered climate change to be a fertile area of law. Not so Martijn Wilder. Now, as head of Baker McKenzie’s global environmental markets and climate change practice, he has built a legal team that focuses on climate change law, international carbon markets and conservation finance.
Mr Wilder, based in Sydney, has been involved in several environmental firsts. He was a founding board member of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, an Australian state lender to the renewables sector. He played an instrumental role in its establishment in 2012 and in the fight to protect it under the more sceptical government of Malcolm Turnbull since 2015. The CEFC has invested more than $6bn in clean energy.
A keen believer that government needs private capital to help provide services, Mr Wilder was recognised in the 2017 FT Asia-Pacific Innovative Lawyers report for his work on structuring the International Finance Corporation’s $152m forest bond. This was underwritten by BHP Billiton, the mining company, using part of the 1 per cent of pre-tax profits that BHP allocates for social initiatives.
Using his knowledge of the UN’s Redd (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) programme, Mr Wilder is expanding the forest bond concept to companies in other sectors.
Pro bono counsel, Asia — DLA Piper
Annette Bain has a long record of pro bono work in the Asia-Pacific region. Before joining DLA Piper, she was the first head of practice in the field at law firm Freehills in Sydney. Here, she helped establish the first “flying lawyer” service for rural areas, sending lawyers by light aircraft to provide legal services.
Ms Bain jointly established the first legal clinic for homeless women in Melbourne; started the first business law clinic in Australia for marginalised people setting up micro businesses; developed partnerships with law school legal clinics in Laos and Vietnam; set up a law firm pro bono practice in Singapore; and linked corporate in-house counsel with opportunities to provide pro bono services.
Her areas of expertise include tackling violence against women and children, homelessness, disability discrimination, and supporting the rule of law. She is a strong advocate of access to justice who implements innovative, strategic responses to entrenched disadvantage in the region.
Ms Bain is also in the forefront of efforts to dismantle structural barriers that prevent access to pro bono legal services in Hong Kong.
Deputy chairman — WongPartnership
Rachel Eng, who joined WongPartnership in 1995, became deputy chairman in 2016. She has helped introduce flexible working arrangements, extended maternity leave, varied career paths and equal pay arrangements at the firm, whose focus on gender diversity has resulted in more than 57 per cent female representation at partner level.
Ms Eng was also behind her firm’s expansion into Myanmar and China, establishing the China practice in the mid-1990s, when foreign firms were not significant players. Armed with a strong working knowledge of law in the People’s Republic of China, she helped many Singaporean companies negotiate investments and joint ventures in China.
She sits on a number of public bodies. These include Singapore’s Committee on the Future Economy, led by the minister for finance, and the Corporate Governance Council formed by the central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
Ms Eng has also been appointed as chairman of the Asean Business Advisory Council working group for business women.
Regional managing partner — Zico Law
As regional managing partner of the Zico Law network, Hanim Hamzah has helped Zico become the first law firm with offices in all 10 Asean countries.
She mandated the adoption of an anti-discrimination policy that has been implemented by all 17 of its offices across the region. The firm’s commitment to diversity is evidenced by its 54 per cent female leadership team and a workforce that is 52 per cent female.
With Asean countries at different stages of economic development, Ms Hamzah has introduced schemes to help unify the diverse network. Examples of this approach include compulsory staff training that covers Asean as well as their local countries and a secondment programme in collaboration with fellow law firms Anderson Mori & Tomotsune and Yulchon. The aim is to cultivate leaders with an understanding of the Asean region’s various nuances and idiosyncrasies.
Ms Hamzah has introduced a wellness programme at her firm that provides access to counsellors and therapists, and advocates the nurture of interests outside work. She herself performs with a jazz quartet.
Chief technology officer — Yulchon
Carl Im has dedicated his career to building “augmented intelligence” platforms that are designed to enhance human intelligence rather than replace it.
As the founder and chief executive of Solomon Strategic Consulting, he developed and patented an algorithmic approach to corporate risk management. With a background in theoretical physics and more than 15 years working for global investment banks, his perspectives as an academic, banker and entrepreneur are helping to put Yulchon’s digital strategy into practice. His eYulchon team recently delivered the firm’s first universal compliance engine, which enables in-house legal teams to produce fully configurable, collaborative compliance process management frameworks for use across the firm.
While not a formally qualified lawyer, Mr Im has played a principal role in Yulchon’s digital transformation. Yulchon was ranked highly in the 2017 report for his work on developing Yulchon’s user-friendly interactive Sandbox and LegalPad applications, which were praised for combining legal and non-legal components to help improve service to clients.
Partner and head of structured finance and derivatives, Asia — Linklaters
Until 2008, more than two-thirds of Chin-Chong Liew’s structured finance and derivatives practice at Linklaters consisted of advising institutions on over-the-counter and primary market financial products, including structured credit, equity and fund-linked derivatives.
When work on retail products dried up after the global financial crisis, Mr Liew led a push at Linklaters to focus on settlement and clearing and to forge links between the regional financial exchanges.
He is recognised in this year’s Asia-Pacific Innovative Lawyers report for his work on developing the contractual framework and structures for the Bond Connect programme, which enables Hong Kong and overseas investors to access and trade in the mainland Chinese onshore bond market simply and efficiently.
Previously, global investors needed approval to invest if they wanted to hold Chinese domestic debt. This also opens the door for mainland Chinese investors to trade in overseas bond markets at a later stage.
Partner — King & Wood Mallesons
Urszula McCormack is a specialist in financial regulation and digital assets, focusing on financial crime, data regulation and emerging technologies including blockchain and fintech.
With more than 10 years of financial regulatory experience, Ms McCormack has developed King & Wood Mallesons’ fintech practice based in Hong Kong, advising on fundraising for new cryptocurrencies and digital asset exchanges. She has been the Hong Kong Association of Banks’ lead lawyer working on regulations aimed at countering money laundering and the financing of terrorism since 2011.
She has also advised the banking industry in areas such as the implementation of technologies to deal with due diligence on customers and sanctions-screening systems. In her work on the OAX initial coin offering, she advised on the online sales of digital tokens in Hong Kong.
Ms McCormack’s interest in social justice has led to her advising on cases related to slavery and human trafficking, including predatory lending and debt bondage.
Director, dispute resolution — Drew & Napier
Mahesh Rai’s commitment to pro bono advocacy has had an impact in Singapore and beyond. He has worked with the city state’s Criminal Legal Aid Scheme on a pro bono basis for eight years.
As a young commercial litigator in Singapore, Mr Rai developed his advocacy skills by volunteering for cases of public interest. He was appointed a young amicus curiae — an independent court adviser — to the Supreme Court in 2014 on a high-profile money-laundering case. At 31 years old, he is a skilled commercial advocate acting for leading multinationals in the Singaporean courts and arbitration centres.
Mr Rai has also developed relationships with organisations such as Home (Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics) and Aware (Association of Women for Action and Research), leading him to challenge laws that disadvantage migrant and refugee workers. He seeks to identify when technology can be used to assist cases, even enlisting a mobile phone app (MapMyWalk) in one criminal case to show his client was innocent of the charge of a violent crime.
Head, technology, media and telecommunications — Rajah & Tann Singapore
In an effort to encourage his firm to use new technologies and establish new revenue streams, Rajesh Sreenivasan this year co-founded Rajah & Tann Technologies.
The venture’s role is to provide legal tech products to clients without the constraints of the partnership model. Mr Sreenivasan is commended in the 2018 Asia-Pacific Innovative Lawyers report for directing Rajah & Tann Singapore’s digital strategy across the Asean region.
His recent work covers regulatory and policy issues in areas such as artificial intelligence, virtual currencies, data analytics, the “internet of things”, telecoms and “over-the-top” media delivered directly over the internet. Mr Sreenivasan is an authority on online privacy and data protection at a policy and legislative level in Singapore, the Asean region and globally.
He has also been engaged by the World Bank in countries in Africa and Asia, including Nigeria and the Philippines, to advise on drafting new laws and policies relating to non-discriminatory digital identity cards.
Partner — Ropes & Gray
Katherine Wang’s career includes her spell as the head of global pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca’s legal department in the Asia-Pacific region. She moved back into private practice to help firms build up expertise dealing with Chinese regulation in the life sciences sector, first for US network Sidley Austin and then for Ropes & Gray in Shanghai.
Ms Wang advises multinational pharmaceutical and medical device companies on strategies for entry into China, regulatory challenges and relationships with local supervisory bodies and distributors.
She is known for her extensive networks in the life sciences sector and close ties with regulators in China, enabling her to help clients to understand and navigate how to do business in the country.
Ms Wang is considered to be an authority in her field. Her expertise ranges from clinical trial agreements and authorisations to informed consent, waiver for registration studies, contract manufacturing of placebos, dealings with contract research organisations, research injuries and dispute resolution.
Profiles compiled by RSG Research
- Rule of law and access to justice • In-house
- Most Innovative Law Firms (International)
- Most Innovative Law Firms (Asia-Pacific)
- Most Innovative In-House Legal Teams
Business of Law
- Australia • In-house
- New business & service delivery models • In-house
- New products & services
- Talent, strategy and changing behaviours • In-house
- Technology • In-house
- Accessing new markets & capital
- Accessing new markets & capital (Asia-Pacific)
- Accessing new markets & capital (International)
- Australia • In-house
- Dispute resolution
- Driving value • In-house
- Enabling business growth • In-house
- Managing complexity & scale
- Managing complexity & scale (Asia-Pacific)
- Managing complexity & scale (International)