Facing forward: lawyers must navigate technical disruption and challenges generated from political division © Getty Images

In recent years, the FT’s Innovative Lawyers report for North America has become something of a barometer for how the legal profession is dealing with unprecedented upheaval — be it a worldwide pandemic, rampant political polarisation, or technological disruption.

It is clear that 2022 has been no different. With a war in Ukraine, the prospect of a prolonged global economic downturn, and mounting tensions between the US and China, our report this year is filled with similar tales of lawyers across North America facing an uncertain world, where the usual arsenal of legal solutions may no longer be of use.

At the same time, in this report you will find forward-looking people, strategies and breakthroughs that law firm leaders believe will stand them in good stead in a time of unpredictability. In the reporting and case studies, you will read about innovations made for, and by, people working in the sector.

First, however, take a look at our analysis of the way law firms’ clients stand almost paralysed in the political crossfire over climate change litigation. As a nation of immigrants, the US relies more than most on its legal system to settle competing claims and, right now, judgments on environmental issues are being sought right up to the Supreme Court.

More on FT.com: Best practice case studies

Read the FT Innovative Lawyers North America ‘Best practice case studies’, which showcase the standout innovations made for and by people working in the legal sector:

Practice of law
Business of law
Social Responsibility

Law firms enjoyed bumper financial success over the past two years — but against a backdrop of changing attitudes to working life among their people. The growing sense that money alone is no longer enough to win the best recruits is explored.

One reward lawyers seek is training in new digital skills that will help future-proof their jobs. Some law firms are hoping they can also lure recruits with digital skills as Big Tech sheds staff. Could the legal industry benefit from Twitter’s travails?

These trends are why our annual ranking of commercial law firms in North America has been significantly expanded and updated. Innovation is still key, but other measures are also reflected — from revenues and profitability to digitisation and human resources. The message: this is what success in a law firm looks like in 2022 — and beyond.

In recent weeks, worries over slowdowns in deal work have been overshadowed by the implosion of crypto exchange FTX, not to mention the humbling of an evangelist for the cryptosphere. Lessons for all are emerging, not least from the absence of all kinds of oversight.

Amid these analyses of new developments, we also have panels of case studies, giving details of those law firms and in-house legal teams doing pioneering work. Each panel identifies a winner, as well as standout and commended examples. They are showcased at an awards event that took place in New York on December 5.

Our thanks go to RSGI which, alongside the FT, compiles this review of innovative law firms, in-house legal teams and lawyers.

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