Financial Times Innovative Lawyers 2019 Special Report

The Financial Times Innovative Lawyers 2019 Special Report landed on Friday 13th September, with Obelisk Support commended in the Innovative Lawyers Europe Awards for Strategy and Changing Behaviours, scoring particularly highly for leadership. The FT judges acknowledged the work we have put in to refine our business model, in order to continue to offer solutions to women lawyers who wish to return to the workplace, and provide flexible and remote alternatives for clients and legal professionals who want to work differently. Obelisk Support have previously been highly commended as Legal Pioneers, and we are delighted to see our work continue to be recognised as we cement ourselves amongst the drivers of change in the legal industry.

The FT Innovative Lawyers Awards and Report is a major highlight in coverage of developments in law. It provides a frontline insight into industry trends by celebrating how individual firms and lawyers are driving change through technology, advocacy, campaigning, education and seed funding, and much more. There are also analysis articles on the key themes that emerged from the year’s judgements, such as tackling stress in the legal industry and how data patterns affect getting legal work done.

As we are not just here to blow our own trumpet, the Obelisk Support blog dived into the European rankings to discover the other legal innovators making waves, focusing on those whose aims and values align closely with our own. We look at the firms who are leaving others in the dust when it comes to meaningful adoption of and investment in technology, the legal tech impacting the business and practice of law in a big way, the ‘intrapreneurs’ getting the industry talking, and the change-makers who have applied their innovative-thinking to social and criminal justice.

2019’s New Intrapreneurs

A brand new list for the FT Awards, the Intrapreneurs’ Top 10 recognises individuals inspiring entrepreneurial change in law firms and legal services. We were pleased to see The Attic interviewee Aine Lyons come out as winner in the legal services category for her pioneering legal operations work at VMware. Aine has also co-created an employment program to increase the recruitment, hiring, promotion and retention of female talent. You can read more here about Aine’s leadership in legal ops and as founding member and European Lead for the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC).

In the law firms category, Allen & Overy partner Shruti Ajitsaria is ranked for her role in setting up Fuse, the company’s legal tech innovation hub, where tech companies, lawyers, technologists and clients collaborate to explore, develop and test legal, regulatory and deal-related technology solutions. Fuse has toured in the US, Europe and Asia-Pacific to educate the firm’s international lawyers and clients.

Lee Callaghan, General Counsel, international markets, and group competition counsel at Aviva, also deserves a mention for the creation of the company’s virtual secondee network, allowing lawyers to stay in their current team while dedicating 20 per cent of their time to a new legal role for three to six months. His focus on exposing lawyers to different areas of business and expertise also led to the Aviva in-house team hack-a-thon, where lawyers had the opportunity to tackle customer-related problems.

The Law Firms Creating Lawyer CEOs

With so many of our own consultants juggling side projects and looking for opportunities to apply their legal experience to new ideas, we love the Ideas Lab by insurance law firm Kennedys, who were the best performing firm in the Innovative Lawyers Business of Law categories and winner of Innovation in new products and services. Kennedys have created an internal incubator for inventive lawyers’ client-oriented product ideas, where employees become chief executives responsible for taking the products to market. If they are successful, the promotions they earn allow for another route into partnership. The initiative also engages clients with discussion around digital developments, something which can all too often be missing in law firms’ digital innovation strategies. The idea of product owning has also been introduced at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer by Charlotte Baldwin.

The Lawyer Using Collaboration for Good

In order to create the future we want, we often have to find ways to redress the wrongs of the past. That is exactly barrister and director of Clann Project Maeve O’Rourke has done as legal representative for the Justice for Magdalenes advocacy group. Justice for Magdalenes helped to establish the Irish state’s role in the detention of women and girls in institutions known as the Magdalene laundries. Clann Project formed a joint initiative with law firm Hogan Lovells, which provided survivors with free legal assistance to allow them to tell their stories. It also produced a 154 page report drawing data from 77 witness statements forming the basis of recommendations by the Project to the Irish government and international human rights bodies for new processes of investigations, redress and reparation and proposals for amendments to the statute of limitations for such cases.

The Legal Tech Wise-Kids

Winners in the technology category, London technology and digital media law firm Kemp Little were awarded for their flagship product 4Corners, a unique proprietary contract analysis tool that combines natural language processing of unstructured data with the firm’s own taxonomy system for legal opinions. Key contract questions about data or products can be easily answered without hunting for the relevant contract, or doing fresh legal analysis.

Pusch Wahlig Workplace Law were highly commended for their workload allocation tool PushCap, enabling lawyers to ask for help and maintain a more manageable workload. The traffic light system tracks how busy lawyers are and they can press a “panic button” for any urgent requests. The key success indicator of the tool according to its creator is the fact that the panic button is now rarely used since its introduction. The company has licensed the app to other law firms, professional services firms and in-house legal teams.

Head to the FT’s Special Report: Innovative Lawyers Europe to find out more about the work of the most innovative lawyers and law firms in Europe, and to see the 2019 rankings for the Asia Pacific region. Congratulations to all who featured in this year’s lists!

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