In 2020, we mark the 15th year that the Financial Times and RSG Consulting, its research partner, have been publishing Special Reports that rank and award the legal profession on innovation.

After careful consideration and consultation, we are changing the Innovative Lawyers programme across the three regional reports in Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America. The changes are designed to better chart the evolution of the legal profession and will be presented in a way that is more useful for the FT’s evolving readership.

When we started the FT Innovative Lawyers project in 2006, few law firms or in-house legal departments talked about innovation. Although the word is now ubiquitous, the need for the profession to modernise its approach to practice, people and operations remains.

The changes we propose seek to give better and deeper insight into how the profession is staying relevant and adding value to business, government and society. The reports will look more closely at leadership, the future of work, the client-lawyer relationship and social responsibility. Despite the impact of technology over the past 15 years, the legal profession is at its core a people business. Therefore, the FT reports will include greater examination of the individuals who are influencing and driving the profession forward.

Key points to note

1) The report will now include two distinct sections:

  • one that focuses on private practice law firms
  • one that looks at corporate law departments

The two sections will include different categories to reflect the different roles and innovation areas of the two branches of the profession. In addition, the methodology used to compile the overall rankings of law firms and corporate law departments will differ (see section descriptions below for more information).

2) The criteria for judging submissions to the categories — outlined below — will remain the same as previous FT reports, with each submission able to score a total of 30 points on three indicators: originality, leadership and impact.

3) The rankings will continue to underpin the award shortlists, and we expect to give out at least 20 innovation awards for each report.

Private practice 2020

The FT Innovation Index — most innovative law firm of the year:
The method for compiling the overall list of most innovative law firms at the front of each report will change. As well as using an aggregated score of all the entries submitted to individual categories, the list will be compiled based on a short questionnaire about technology and data, and other indicators of success. The questionnaire will be based on evidence of how the firm is using technology and data and will be available shortly.

Private practice categories

  • Innovative practitioners: submissions are invited from individual practitioners or teams of practitioners working in any legal practice area who can show innovation for clients and in how the law is practised. Submissions can also detail case studies that show innovation in legal expertise. The submissions should show how lawyers have crossed professional sector boundaries, created new standards, delivered outstanding outcomes for clients or created new practice areas. (Five individual/team submissions per firm)
  • Intrapreneur of the year: submissions are invited from individual professionals working in law firms who have contributed to the culture of, or created the conditions for, innovation. These individuals should be able to show how they have worked as change agents, moved their organisations forward or shown the ability to change mindsets and behaviours. (One individual submission per firm).
  • Leadership — individual: submissions are invited from individual law firm leaders (managing partners, senior partners, chairs, chief executives and other leaders in the business) who can show a track record of innovation and impact within their organisations, whether through improving growth and financial performance, diversity and inclusion, or driving digital transformation. (One individual per firm).
  • Leadership — firms: submissions are invited from law firms that relate to leadership initiatives within the organisation that have significantly improved how the firm operates or is perceived in the market. For example, initiatives could cover new strategies, behavioural change, innovation pipelines, business development and branding initiatives. (One submission per firm).
  • Talent and skills: as businesses digitally transform and the workplace changes to accommodate the needs of younger workers the legal profession faces particular challenges. Submissions are invited from law firms that can show how they are rising to these challenges in changing the way they train, nurture, include and progress their staff. (One individual submission per firm).
  • Responsible law firm: submissions are invited from firms that can show how they are becoming more purposeful and socially responsible; and / or different ways in which they help to ensure the rule of law, access to justice or deliver pro bono work. The submissions can either detail specific case studies or can outline the firm’s overall approach to social responsibility. (One submission per firm).
  • Client relationship management: submissions are invited from firms that are rethinking the client-lawyer relationship to make it more rewarding in terms of experience, value and costs for both sides. Initiatives could cover any aspect of the relationship but must show real, replicable changes. Examples could include: an overhaul of panel arrangements; better collaboration between panel firms and the client; better use of technologies; more dynamic communications; or value-driven fee arrangements. The final ranking will recognise both the law firm and the client. (One submission per firm).
  • Open category: submissions are invited from firms that do not fit into the above categories. The innovations could concern digital transformation, change management or any other area where a law firm feels it has made significant improvements. (One submission per firm).

Corporate law departments 2020

Overall in-house team of the year: The overall in-house legal team of the year will be the corporate law department that scores the highest points across all the categories.

Corporate law department categories

  • As thought leaders: this includes cases where in-house lawyers have taken on a lobbying role and changed or influenced legislation, regulation or industry approaches. It also includes promoting greater diversity in the legal sector and other ethical or socially responsible initiatives. (One submission per team)
  • As strategic advisers: this includes cases where the general counsel and legal function has partnered with the business to give commercial and strategic advice that has significantly enhanced the organisation. (One submission per team)
  • As risk managers: this includes how the general counsel and legal department have pre-empted problems or secured the business from threats. (One submission per team)
  • As lawyers: this covers in-house legal teams that have led the advice on major transactions or other matters to make critical contributions to the company’s growth and/or survival. (One submission per team)
  • In talent and skills: this covers how the general counsel and legal team both nurture and develop skills in the internal legal function and influence talent strategies in the wider business. (One submission per team)
  • As operational managers: this includes managing the internal legal function, use of technology, knowledge management systems, purchasing and cost control strategies. (One submission per team)
  • In-house legal intrapreneur of the year: submissions are invited from individual professionals working in corporate law departments (not necessarily lawyers) who have helped to create the conditions for innovation. These individuals should be able to show how they have worked as change agents, moved their organisations forward, or shown the ability to change mindsets and behaviours. (One individual submission per team).
  • Social responsibility: this category will look at how general counsel and legal departments provide advice under the environmental, social and governmental frameworks to further their companies as responsible corporate citizens. (One submission per team)
  • Client relationship management: submissions are invited from law departments that are rethinking the client-lawyer relationship to make it more rewarding in terms of experience, value and costs for both sides. Initiatives could cover any aspect of the relationship but need to show real, replicable changes. Examples could include an overhaul of panel arrangements, better collaboration between panel firms and the client, better use of technologies, more dynamic communications, value-driven fee arrangements. (One submission per team).

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 and North America in 2010, and in Asia-Pacific in 2014. Over the past 14 years it has covered legal industry innovation in 50 countries from more than 400 law firms and more than 465 company in-house legal departments.

The report will be published with the Financial Times on August 7, 2020.

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, Integra Ledger, HighQ (a Thomson Reuters company), Kira, QuisLex, and Allen & Overy for the In-house Lawyers section.

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). Submission documents should be named using the following format: “SECTION — law firm or organisation name — short submission title”.

PLEASE NOTE: You will first need to register an account before you can access the submissions website. To register an account, follow the link, which will be available shortly, 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 is being solved? (75 word limit)
  2. Description of the innovation: A brief description of the individual, team or initiative. (75 word limit)
  3. Originality: Why is the individual, team 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.

Rules for submitting

  • Time period: the 2020 ranking will assess innovations from January 1, 2018 onwards.

  • For the Asia-Pacific law firms categories, law firms in the following countries are eligible to submit in 2020: Australia, China and Hong Kong, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, the Asean countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam. Submissions can cover work anywhere in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • 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 and innovators 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.

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 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.

Assessment criteria will be based on local norms and benchmarks of innovation


The planned awards event in Hong Kong has been cancelled, due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, an online awards event will take place on August 6. The Innovative Lawyers Apac report will be published with the Financial Times newspaper on August 7.


Thursday, February 20, 2020 — deadline for submissions
April 2020 — awards shortlists revealed
August 6, 2020 — online awards
August 7, 2020 — report publication

Contact details

For research questions please contact RSG Consulting on +44 (0)20 7831 0300,

For editorial inquiries please contact Harriet Arnold at the FT at (please put FTILA in the subject field).

For advertising opportunities or other research sponsorship opportunities please contact Robert Grange, global franchise development director and head of special reports at the FT, or +44 (0)20 7873 4418; or Sarah Mohr, account manager, professional services, legal the FT, or +44 (0)20 7873 3195

For inquiries about the launch event please contact

Conditions of entry

There is no fee for entering submissions to FT Asia-Pacific Innovative Lawyers 2020.

The researchers reserve the right to move entries from one category to another if they feel it appropriate. The researchers’ decisions are final and no correspondence will be entered into.

The FT and RSG Consulting accept no responsibility for the loss or damage of material submitted.

The FT reserves the right to publish the names of the firm or lawyers contained in the shortlist of outstanding entries, details and description of all entries and details of winners. All entrants grant the FT a perpetual, non-exclusive licence to publish details and descriptions of entries as referred to, and also agree to participate in publicity reasonably requested by the FT regarding their entry. The FT acknowledges that copyright in all entries remains vested with the entrants.

If you are shortlisted for, or win, an award, then the FT at its discretion allow you to use the relevant FT Innovative Lawyers logo on your marketing materials. You acknowledge that FT is the owner of the logo and all related goodwill and agree that your use of the logo must be in accordance with any applicable FT branding guidelines in force from time to time or any instructions from the FT, that you will not use it as part of a composite mark or logo, and you will not use it in a manner which causes or is likely to cause confusion or a misleading association between your business and the FT, or damage to FT’s goodwill or reputation, or to the validity of any FT trademark. FT may terminate your right to use the logo at any time.

Please do not include any confidential information in your entry that you do not wish to enter the public domain because the FT is unable to guarantee that such information will not be published as set out above. Any inclusion of confidential information in an entry is at the entrant’s sole risk and responsibility and in knowledge of the FT’s request not to do so.

The FT reserves the right to cancel, postpone or suspend FT Asia-Pacific Innovative Lawyers 2020 at any time and to exclude any entries which it considers are inappropriate or do not comply with these terms and conditions. False or deceptive entries will render the entrant ineligible and such entries will be discarded.

The FT and RSG Consulting cannot accept responsibility for, or liability arising from, entrants taking part in the awards. To the fullest extent permissible by law, the FT and RSG Consulting exclude liability for all loss, damage or claim arising as a result of your entry to FT Asia-Pacific Innovative Lawyers 2020.

These terms and conditions shall be governed by and construed in accordance with English law. Disputes arising in connection with the awards shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts.

By submitting an entry, entrants will be deemed to have read, understood and agreed to these terms and conditions on behalf of their firm or organisation.

The submitter warrants that it has obtained all necessary consents required under applicable data protection and privacy laws to allow the sharing of any personal data contained in the submission with the FT. Contact information will only be used for the purposes of assessing each submission and will be processed in accordance with our privacy policy.

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