The China-US trade war may be heating up, but for law firms operating in the Asia Pacific area, the business has been good, in particular the China Belt and Road Initiative, the subject of considerable controversy among most Western countries.
The Initiative, along with the Greater Bay Area Development are two of the major Chinese lead factors helping lift law firm profitability in the Asian arena, where competition has been tough.
Justin D’Agostino, the executive partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, said the projects had created major opportunities, saying it “is like the gold rush for the 21st century. It is massive, and everyone is involved. It is also not reliant on the US”.
The Financial Times, which recently announced its Innovative Lawyers Apac Awards saw Herbert Smith Freehills enter the top spot again, making a “systematic” initiative to develop its diversity and inclusion.
The FT report noted – \
A separate initiative shows how the firm is breaking down the traditional hierarchies usually found in law firms in which partners rule the roost. Junior lawyers conceived and designed a coding course with Melbourne’s RMIT University, a technology and science-focused institution, and persuaded the partnership to support them.
The three-week course teaches HSF lawyers how to use blockchain technologies and get up to speed with smart contracts. The university is considering making the course part of the broader curriculum for all law students.
Australian Firms Showing the Way
The success that HSF has had with its diversity and other programmes has seen the firm ask staff for ideas in order to stay relevant to the key parties – staff, clients, the community.
The suggestions permit the lawyers 10 days ayear to focus on innovation projects. It is this sort of thinking, also characterised by the local award winner Gilbert + Tobin, that has indicated that some of the Australian firms are showing the way to their UK counterparts.
G+T has been heavily focused on dealing with technology with a firm focus on digitising their offerings. Like HSF, the firm permits significant time to its lawyers to work on innovation projects.
Innovation Law Winner
Gilbert+Tobin’s Sam Nickless was recently voted as the most innovative Asia-Pacific individual of 2019, as a lawyer who never practiced law but has helped him develop lawyers as the ‘offensive weapon in the war for clients”.
Gilbert + Tobin came top of the Asia-Pacific headquartered FT innovation rankings, as below –
In an increasingly competitive legal marketplace, seeing the former McKinsey consultant voted into the role was also a development that saw him as an outsider in the role.
Joining G+T as chief operating office following a two decade career in non-law businesses, he was promoted to partner in 2017 when the firm dominated the Asia-Pacific Innovative Lawyers rankings.
Among the projects that have been pushed via G+T’s programme have been the development of project management software and new roles which have permitted some lawyers to split their time between lawyering and innovation.
It has also been a development that has let career paths develop so that lawyers can experience working on new projects apart from the usual mainstream work that would normally be expected of a large law firm.