The Financial Times Asia-Pacific Innovative Lawyers report — now in its third year — is quickly becoming an essential measure of progress and success for the legal profession in a highly diverse and complex region.
This report has long been a fixture in North America and Europe but now, with Asia-Pacific expected to become the world’s second largest regional legal market by 2018, the report’s expansion is perfectly timed for practitioners and clients alike.
The aim of the report is to showcase the international and Asia-headquartered law firms that have developed exceptionally innovative practices to meet their clients’ needs in a fast-changing environment.
One striking feature of the report is the significant number of standout firms from the region itself. The rise of homegrown law firms highlights the boom in demand for legal services in a region that has traditionally been dominated by large global firms headquartered in Europe and the US.
Of course, with a region incorporating countries at such different stages of development — from affluent Japan to emerging Myanmar, where 70 per cent of the population has no reliable access to electricity — challenges remain.
In many countries, legal frameworks are in their infancy and enforcement is weak. Companies and clients still do not see the value in paying for legal services and collecting payment can be problematic.
Technology is also disrupting the legal profession. A report from Deloitte earlier this year estimated around 114,000 jobs in the UK’s legal sector are at risk of disappearing because of technological advances.
That same technology provides big opportunities for law firms and the skilled lawyers who can never be replaced by algorithms and automation.
Despite the challenges, this is a moment of optimism for the industry in Asia. Surging cross-border investment and acquisitions originating in Asia, and particularly from China, means demand for top quality, innovative legal advice in the region has never been greater.