The FT Innovative Lawyers series has highlighted the innovations of lawyers around the world for more than a decade, including in Asia-Pacific since 2014. This year, with the Covid-19 crisis, lawyers’ innovative skills have been tested on an unforeseeable scale.

In our Asia-Pacific Innovative Lawyers report published last week, we look at how law firms and companies’ legal teams have responded to this new reality. Along with innovations in strategy and clients, and responsible business, lawyers are adapting to the rapidly changing future of work and the pressure to speed up digitalisation.

You can find the full ranking showcasing legal innovation and read some of the fascinating case studies that emerged during the research process here.

The following stories are taken from our Full Disclosure email briefing, sent to FT subscribers in the industry each week, sharing what has been most popular with legal readers on

This week Full Disclosure takes a look at the latest Innovative Lawyers special report, highlighting the lawyers and firms doing exciting things across the Asia-Pacific region.

Asian countries have been rocked by major shocks this year including the first outbreak of coronavirus in China and imposition of a new security law in Hong Kong, all of which has destabilised lawyers’ lives.

The FT’s global china editor James Kynge says Beijing’s imposition of the new law in July registered with the force of an earthquake. Lawyers ever since have been trying to understand how far the aftershocks will radiate.

But there is positive news too, coming from the Asian legal market. The FT’s Shanghai correspondent Thomas Hale looked at the women’s livelihood bonds issued by Singapore’s Impact Investment Exchange, which presented a rare pro bono opportunity for top US capital markets lawyers.

I’m still investigating the role lawyers have to play when it comes to preventing money laundering and the ways in which those safeguards can fail. Get in touch at @katebeioley_FT.

Here are the stories most-read by the legal sector in the past week.

Six law firm leaders with a big impact on their firms and practice of law

Partners including Nick Abrahams at Norton Rose Fulbright and Safir Anand, of Anand and Anand, were showcased in an Innovative Lawyers category for legal expertise, tackling challenges from intellectual property to helping clients develop tech solutions. Take Mr Abrahams:

“His team’s advice on cyber breaches has been increasingly in demand from clients, as hackers seek to exploit the pandemic. The team has also kept busy ensuring clients and colleagues have the tech they need for new ways of working.”

Pandemic speeds up overhauls at law firms

Illustration by Efi Chalikopoulou for Innovative Lawyers Asia Pacific publishing 7th August 2020 on Special Reports.

The crisis has forced Asian firms to rethink how they use their physical buildings and forced the better adoption of technology. Meanwhile business travel has been replaced by Zoom video calls — some changes that could be here to stay, writes Reena Sengupta, founder of RSG Consulting.

“However, it is not business as usual. Anecdotally, firms are reporting that office occupancy is 50 per cent or less and the expectation is that, in the long term, people will still want to work flexibly and from home.”

Can lawyers loosen up in lockdown?

Perfect problem: some lawyers’ tendency to perfectionism creates the conditions for feeling overwhelmed © Getty

Health professionals are bracing for an increase in mental health problems at top Asia-Pacific law firms, blaming a potent mix of stress from the pandemic and perfectionist tendencies of many in the legal profession.

“Berkeley Cox, chief executive partner at King & Wood Mallesons in Australia, says that it is well known that more lawyers struggle with mental wellbeing than people in many other sectors. ‘It’s a function of the nature of the people who are attracted to and do well in this profession,’ he says, adding that the strong service culture and long hours at top law firms are also to blame.”

Covid-19 forces rethink on partnerships, office life and digitisation

Sign of the times: firms are increasing their spending on digitalisation © Getty Images/iStockphoto

The pandemic has exposed the limitations of normal legal methods including signing in pen and paper — once crucial to completing important deals but now being fast replaced by e-signing enabled by technology.

“Although e-signing is readily available to lawyers, they have been cautious to trust it for their most vital work and the most important deals are signed in person. That luxury disappeared when executives could no longer meet in rooms to hammer out contracts and signing documents became a hazard.”

Capital markets lawyers sharpen impact investing skills

Women's Livelihood Bond

The FT’s Thomas Hale looks at the work of capital markets lawyers on Singapore’s Impact Investment Exchange women’s livelihood bonds for which Singapore’s Impact Investment Exchange raised some $12m to improve the lives of women across the region.

“Lorna Chen, Asia regional managing partner at Shearman & Sterling in Hong Kong, says that while her firm remains active on a number of initiatives, new pro bono opportunities are currently difficult to find — a problem also affecting normal, day-to-day work of lawyers globally. ‘On the transactional work side, market activity level is down . . . people just can’t finish their due diligence trips and can’t travel,’ she says.”

Closing argument

One big winner from the new era has been the motorhome. For anyone who has pored over images of Volkswagen Camper Vans, dreamt of languorous road trips across the US, or considered a brief spell as a surfer, the rise of the “glampervan” will be no surprise. There is something endlessly satisfying about perfectly designed tiny spaces. But, as Simon Usborne found out, driving the 3.5-tonne, 7.4-metre long vehicle is not always quite as pleasing.

“The Caravan and Motorhome Club says it is signing up 1,000 more members a week than normal, swelling its ranks to more than 1m. Its sites, whose 19,000 pitches reopened in July, are booked up well into September. Vehicle rentals are flying. At Indie Campers, domestic bookings were up 350 per cent in July compared to last year.”

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