The judges for the innovative individual award were unanimous in picking Pravin Anand as this year’s winner. But the shortlist was strong, with all those on it boasting impressive achievements, and there was substantial support for several candidates.
Mr Anand impressed with the key role he has played in helping to develop intellectual property law in India, a necessity given the importance of the information technology industry. Because of a lack of trust in IP protection, the number of patents filed in India — 43,000 last year — is just a fraction of the total filed in China.
In his submission Mr Anand said that because of the lack of trust Indian IT companies preferred to work in secrecy. To remedy this he launched no fewer than 138 of the 205 IP cases that have been heard in India, acting pro bono in many of them.
The judges were impressed by Rocky Lee, head of the Greater China corporate practice at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, and his expertise in variable interest entity (VIE) structures. These allow Chinese companies in industries such as technology, media, education and broadcasting to gain access to foreign capital in spite of foreign exchange restrictions.
By means of VIEs Mr Lee has been able to assist leading technology companies such as Alibaba and Tencent.
His submission exemplified a salient feature of the Asia-Pacific Innovative Lawyers awards — the way lawyers have to come up with novel ways of dealing with the demands of contrasting legal systems.
Also highly commended was Bill McCormack, managing partner of the Singapore office of Shearman & Sterling and global head of project development and finance at the firm. He has worked on energy projects in a variety of markets, many of them challenging, including a gas-fired power project in Myanmar, a windpower facility in Indonesia and a hydro project in Pakistan.
Anand and Anand
During his 36-year career Pravin Anand has arguably done more than any other individual to advance intellectual property law infrastructure in India. His firm has been one of the drivers behind a fresh push for IP protection and enforcement in India, originating 138 of 205 damages cases heard in the country. He has personally acted on an impressive list of firsts, including the first Anton Piller order (the right to search premises and seize evidence without warning), the first IP case in which damages were awarded, the first domain name case and the first Indian cases to do with meta-tagging, hyperlinking and trade secrets.
Because of the perceived unreliability of the application process, India files a small fraction of the number of patents applications of China, Japan, South Korea or Taiwan. The process can take eight to 10 years, delaying financing for businesses and putting a brake on efforts to drive innovation.
Mr Anand has taken on many client cases pro bono as tests to effect wide-scale change in law and processes. One recent example is his advocacy for Nitto Denko Corporation of Japan in 2014, which used a simple patent case to push for wider reform.
As a direct result of work on this case, the Indian government has committed to invest $50m to recruit patent office examiners to speed up the applications process and changed its rules to allow the office to assess important and high-value patents more quickly.
Mr Anand has pushed the boundaries to create one of the most innovative law firms in India, a particular achievement in such a traditional environment. The firm has taken a series of unusually creative approaches to promoting awareness of IP law among legal students and the business community. It was one of the first in the country to employ non-lawyer business professionals in management positions and to make significant investments in advanced knowledge management technologies.
King & Wood Mallesons
As the head of King & Wood Mallesons’ derivatives practice, Scott Farrell not only boasts an impressive career in complex work, but has also worked on various projects to create a stable, post-financial crisis system in Australia.
In 2014 he was recognised by the Financial Times for his work establishing the first Australian clearing house for over-the-counter derivatives, acting for the Australian Securities Exchange. In 2015 Mr Farrell is recognised for his work advising the Australian Payments Clearing Association on a new digital payments platform and the creation of the legal structure for the renminbi settlement system, allowing real-time renminbi payments in Australia. To achieve this Mr Farrell and his team created a unique membership scheme for Australia’s leading financial institutions, allowing them to fund development of the digital payments platform.
Mr Farrell has been the Australian legal counsel to the International Swaps and Derivative Association and the Australian Financial Markets Association for many years, playing a key role in derivatives law reform. He advises the main domestic and international banks in Australia, and has worked with the US Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation to achieve the first designated trading representative authorisation in Australia.
Mr Farrell has published widely and is held in high regard by colleagues and peers.
Asia managing partner
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft
Rocky Lee, Asia managing partner and head of the greater China corporate practice at Cadwalader, is recognised as one of the world’s leading experts on variable interest entity (VIE) structures.
These let Chinese companies in restricted industries have access to foreign capital and allow US publicly listed Chinese businesses unable to receive capital from China’s banking system to continue to grow. By connecting US venture and private equity capital to Chinese companies Mr Lee has helped the likes of Baidu, Alibaba, NetEase and Tencent to become regional and global players.
Mr Lee has worked to stay ahead of China’s often unpredictable legal and regulatory changes. When the China Banking Regulatory Commission challenged Alibaba and Alipay’s VIE structure in 2012, Mr Lee negotiated with Chinese regulators and played a central role in creating the “multi-jurisdictional captive company” structure, since known to the market as the VIE 2.0.
The structure facilitates dual-currency funds, thereby allowing Chinese funds to manage parallel renminbi and US dollar portfolios.
Mr Lee describes himself and his team as the righteous “gatekeepers” of China’s emerging technology market. He says he sees his work with VIE structures as a means of ensuring that new and better technologies can transform the lives of China’s people.
Morgan Lewis Stamford
Suet-Fern Lee is considered one of the top mergers and acquisitions lawyers in Singapore and an agent of change in recognition of the steps she has taken to transform the legal market.
Restrictions on Singapore’s legal sector mean that only nine of the 200 or so active international firms have a licence to practise Singaporean law without partnering with a locally licensed firm. Those nine are restricted in their areas of practice and are under strict regulatory obligations.
In 2000 Ms Lee founded Stamford Law as an alternative to the established firms in the Singaporean market. Under her leadership it built top-tier M&A, corporate and capital markets practices. Many clients are attracted to Stamford Law’s long record and reputation for being able to execute solutions that go against expectations.
Recently, in a move unprecedented in the market, Stamford Law merged with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius of the US to become the largest law firm in Singapore and the only one with a truly global footprint. The firm can practise in all areas of law in Singapore, undertaking work prohibited even to Singapore-licensed international firms.
Ms Lee chairs an initiative for the convergence of business laws in Asia, working with governments to improve regional integration and standardisation. The initiative will publicly launch in 2016.
Singapore managing partner
Shearman & Sterling
Bill McCormack has worked at the frontier of Asian energy and infrastructure projects for more than 17 years, completing pioneering schemes in challenging regions. This year he has completed three projects in Pakistan with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Asian Development Bank, Proparco (the French development bank) and others. He is working on three hydroelectric projects in Nepal and several projects in Bangladesh, Mongolia, Myanmar and Indonesia.
His biggest challenge, he says, is developing innovative structures that will not only convince the IFC and leading development banks to take part, but also give comfort to big commercial banks investing in countries where there is perceived corruption or a lack of regulatory clarity. Many of these structures involve complex combinations such as the blending of Islamic finance with conventional loans, bank finance and bond issuances, or dealing with complex intercreditor issues and legal structures.
One of his most demanding projects was the New Bong Escape hydro project in Pakistan, which he described as “a perfect storm of challenges and obstacles”. From its start in 2004 to the commencement of operations in 2013, the project saw the withdrawal of the lead sponsor, the insolvency of the contractor, an earthquake in Kashmir in 2005 and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, former Pakistani prime minister.
While his work has received numerous accolades, he says the greatest satisfaction comes from renewable energy projects that bring economic benefits to developing nations and have a lasting and stabilising influence.
Partner and India practice chairman
Herbert Smith Freehills
As chair of Herbert Smith Freehills’ India group for the past seven years, Chris Parsons has taken an unusual approach to building an international Indian law business. Realising that India is a country where business relies heavily on personal connections and trust, he decided that rather than fly in once or twice a year, he would spend two weeks of every month in India. That would allow him to make connections more easily and commit to social responsibility initiatives.
He has led his firm on some of India’s largest outbound transactions, such as the Bharti acquisition of Zain Africa, and has Tata, Godrej, Aditya Birla, JSW Steel and InterGlobe among his clients.
Mr Parsons has encouraged his firm to hire Indian law students and he lectures at a number of Indian law schools. He has also set up competitions for law students.
His social responsibility initiatives are not confined to the legal sector. He recently walked 30 marathons in 30 days in India to raise money for Indian widows and over the past four years has raised more than half a million dollars for charitable causes.
Robert S Pé
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe
The son of a Burmese exile, Robert Pé has managed to maintain a thriving international dispute resolution practice in Hong Kong while undertaking pro bono work in Myanmar to help develop the rule of law.
Mr Pé is senior adviser on legal affairs to Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader and Nobel laureate. He has handled a broad range of contentious matters, including high-value international arbitrations in Hong Kong, London and Singapore. He has decided multiple disputes arising from private equity investments in Asia.
Aside from writing, speaking and commenting extensively on Myanmar law, he is actively involved in training parliamentarians, lawyers and judges on arbitration. He lobbies for and co-ordinates assistance on pursuing this agenda from international organisations such as the UK’s Department for International Development, the International Bar Association and the United Nations Development Programme.
Mr Pé wrote a proposal to obtain funding to improve the quality of statutes being enacted in Myanmar, mediating between leaders of the legal profession to work towards establishing a strong, unified, independent national bar association, and improve legal training.
Dacheng Law Offices
Frank Qu is a leading figure in China’s futures market, playing a key role in building the necessary trading infrastructure. He has been involved in developing China’s four futures exchanges — the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange (established in 1990), the Dalian Commodity Exchange (1993), the Shanghai Futures Exchange (1999) and the China Financial Futures Exchange (set up in Shanghai in 2006). He is chairman of the futures committee of the Shanghai Bar Association and has written extensively on the futures market in China.
Mr Qu is recognised in the finance rankings of the FT report for his work developing the trading rules and systems for the Shanghai Environment and Energy Exchange to trade carbon emissions.
With no comparable examples to refer to, Mr Qu designed an original regime to allow for both self-operating and comprehensive trading negotiations with the government to satisfy regulatory requirements. The exchange is a crucial step in China’s move to create a national carbon emissions scheme.
Davis Polk & Wardwell
Martin Rogers, a leading litigation and financial services regulatory lawyer, has been effecting change in the Asian financial markets for more than 20 years. His deep insight into local markets comes from his immersion in the region from the start of his career and from advising regulators, government bodies and leading companies.
Through his regulatory practice he has advised and represented clients on complex, high-profile disputes, regulatory enforcement matters and white-collar crime cases.
He has worked extensively with the Hong Kong Futures Exchange and the Securities and Futures Commission, and been involved in pioneering public interest litigation and the issuing of inaugural licences to the big investment banks. He has been influential in the way law firms deliver their services, and insists that the firm’s financial services advisory and transactional lawyers must work together to deliver a cohesive product.
More recently he has focused on developing risk-management tools for financial institutions, corporate governance training in Hong Kong and China, and ways to tackle white-collar crime.
Head of legal services and chief counsel
Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing
Christine Wong brought 22 years of experience in legal and regulatory work with her when she joined Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEx) in 2010. Since then she has made an invaluable contribution to the development of the stock exchange and HKEx, launching projects that have shaped the legal and business landscape in Hong Kong and China.
One of these is Stock Connect, a mutual market access programme that allows investment in eligible Shanghai-listed shares through the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong and eligible Hong Kong-listed shares through the Shanghai Stock Exchange.
Stock Connect aims to unleash China’s vast savings on the global financial markets and allow international investors to access Chinese growth. It also aims to serve as a model of collaboration by exchanges and clearing houses.
Ms Wong has been involved in OTC Clear, launched in November 2013. The first over-the-counter derivatives clearing house based in Hong Kong, it also provides clearing services to entities elsewhere.
An innovative team at HKEx under Ms Wong has delivered groundbreaking projects at a time of increased regulation, including the acquisition of the London Metals Exchange in 2012; HKEx’s first share placing in 2012; and setting up China Exchanges Services, an index development joint venture by HKEx, Shanghai Stock Exchange and Shenzhen Stock Exchange.