Innovative Lawyers Asia
8 October 2014 | Natural History Museum

FT Innovative Lawyers: Research Methodology 2014

Content and concept: The FT Innovative Lawyers report consists of ranking law firms on their innovative work and their innovative approaches to running themselves as businesses. The report is divided between the legal expertise categories of corporate, litigation, finance and private client work; and the operational categories of corporate strategy, client service and value resourcing.

Additional sections cover the work of company lawyers working in‐house, continental European lawyers and legal industry pioneers. The latter is an examination of the new entrants into the legal market, specifically those that are taking advantage of the Legal Services Act in the UK. The final section of the report is an identification of the top 10 most innovative individuals who have emerged from the research as lawyers or other professionals who are in some way changing the rules of how legal work is done or how law firms are run.

Definition of innovation: the definition of innovation in any industry is notstatic. Broadly, the FT report uses two definitions to describe innovative lawyers. In the legal expertise sections, the definition of innovation is where a new use of the law or a new legal structure or strategy has achieved significant commercial results for the client. In the operational sections, it is where law firms have devised new ways or significant improvements to old ways to deliver legal services or run themselves as businesses which has either delivered a new value proposition in the market or created and maintained competitive advantage.

The ranking tables are based on individual case studies. Law firms are invited to make submissions which are then researched to test their validity and bench‐marked for their innovation by expert legal research consultancy RSG Consulting. The submissions are scored against three criteria: originality, rationale and impact. Scores are given out of 10. This methodology has been specially devised for the FT Innovative Lawyers report. The scores are derived from client, partner and expert commentator interviews. No law firm innovation, for example, in the legal expertise categories is ranked without a full, independent recommendation from the client. The submissions which garner the highest ratings from clients and have the greatest originality and impact are rated as stand‐out in the FT Innovative Lawyers report. There are three tiers of rankings in the FT report: stand‐out, highly commended and commended.

The FT Awards reward the submissions that are ranked as stand‐out by short‐listing them as finalists for an award. The winning submission is the one that has managed to garner the highest scores against the performance criteria.

The performance criteria against which the submissions are assessed can be explained as follows:

Originality: this relates to how unique the commercial circumstances AND the legal innovation in the deal or matter actually is. In effect, this indicator looks at the legal idea which the lawyers have created or constructed.

Rationale: in a service industry such as the legal profession,the actual activity of the lawyer is crucial to the innovation. Often the innovation may be in the delivery of the service such as the pro‐activity of the lawyer and the ability the lawyer has to anticipate issues for the client. Lawyers who have been able to create their own instructions and really drive a deal or matter forward will score highly against this indicator.

Impact: submissions are judged against the commercial result the lawyer has managed to achieve or enable for their client. If the result is replicable or applicable to the industry or changed the way in which law is practised in that particular area, the submission is scored higher. 

The FT Law 50: the index of the most innovative European law firms at the beginning of the report is an amalgamation of a law firm’s scores through out the report. It looks at how the firm has performed in each category in the current year, in the previous year and also makes an overall assessment as to the firm’s innovation track record and its commitment to being an innovative law firm.

Innovative Individuals: this is the only category for which a panel of judgesis used to decide the winner. The RSG Consulting research team select the individuals who have displayed innovation and who have garnered the most recommendations from the market. The list of ten individuals is then considered by a panel drawn from the FT and other industry experts. Chaired by Michael Skapinker, the FT Reports Editor, the panel deliberates on the individuals to choose the final winner.

European In‐House Counsel: The ranking of in‐house lawyers is compiled by various surveys and submissions. C‐suite executives are invited to nominate their in‐house counsel and private practice lawyers are invited to nominate their clients for consideration. In‐house lawyers are allowed to put themselves forward as well via the submission process. The submissions and nominations are then researched by the RSG Consulting team who benchmark the practices of the in‐house teams against industry best practices. In‐house teams are assessed against four performance criteria: originality, business alignment, value creation and impact.

Legal Industry Pioneers: The RSG Consulting and FT teams take a green‐field approach to finding the pioneers to rank in this category. Whilst firms are allowed to make submissions, the approach is of investigative journalism to identify those organisations that are set to make the biggest potential difference to the way in which legal services are delivered.

Scale of the project: Each year, the FT receives in excess of 600 submissions into the European report. Each one is fully researched. Now in its ninth year, the FT and RSG Consulting have built up a series of bench marks in different areas against which to assess individual innovations. The research team consists of five full‐time researchers for three months who conduct over 600 interviews to compile the FT rankings. The FT fields a team of 10 journalists who take the research to write the analysis and stories that compile the report. The result is a unique view of the value that lawyers deliver to business.