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Gather two or more employees together and they will have little trouble coming up with ideas for how to improve their organisation — for clients, or for the staff.

The challenge is to turn words and ideas into action, which is why the FT Innovative Lawyers awards seek to recognise intrapreneurs. Reassuringly, their expertise stretches widely — from creating space for innovation to encouraging young lawyers, and beyond.

Amid many strong candidates, two stood out for the panel of judges (see list below), as potential winners of the “individual intrapreneur” award. The work of Jason Jones at Corrs Chambers Westgarth highlights the important role of staff who are not lawyers in pioneering groundbreaking legal innovation and taking the lawyers with them.

But the judges felt Genevieve Collins of Lander & Rogers stood out for making change happen through strong leadership in several areas, including workplace culture, wellbeing, the environment and tech innovation.

Profiles compiled by RSGI researchers and FT editors. “Winner” indicates an Innovative Lawyers 2024 award, the rest are in alphabetical order.

Winner: Genevieve Collins
Partner, Lander & Rogers

Genevieve Collins has been chief executive partner at Australian law firm Lander & Rogers since 2018. Under her leadership, the firm has acquired a reputation as a preferred workplace among Australian lawyers.

Collins has attempted to keep the firm ahead of rivals commercially by establishing its iHub to improve the delivery of services to clients. Lander & Rogers also launched its Lawtech Hub in 2019, aimed at start-ups and encouraging tech innovation in the legal profession more broadly. Then, last year, it set up its AI Lab to keep ahead on artificial intelligence.

Collins has also pursued policies to improve diversity, encourage pro bono work, and protect mental health across the firm. Last year, the firm reached an equal split between men and women in partners.

Rebecca Chew
Partner, Rajah & Tann Singapore

Since her arrival at Rajah & Tann in 1992, as a junior lawyer, Rebecca Chew has witnessed its growth from a small operator to a recognised full-service firm covering Singapore and south-east Asia.

She has developed and expanded her expertise to become the head of medical, healthcare and life sciences and the co-head of China-related investment disputes at the firm, covering joint ventures and projects in the mainland.

In 2022, she stepped down as deputy managing partner to become chair of the firm’s charitable arm that aims to support the disadvantaged through donations and pro bono work. Her ambition is to expand its existing services and foster a wider culture of volunteerism within the firm.

Philip Hardy
Partner, Ashurst

As risk advisory leader in the region, Philip Hardy has driven the firm’s efforts to offer a broader service to complement traditional legal services.

His practice, established in 2020, covers the dangers of cyber attacks, data breaches, financial crime, ESG litigation, and more general workplace and third-party risks.

Hardy began developing his skills at a Big Four accountancy group two decades ago, handling internal and external projects at Deloitte, before his switch to Ashurst.

His mission is to drive revenue growth by integrating risk management skills across Ashurst, to help it offer broader ancillary services to clients. Hardy, based in Melbourne, has also helped expand the risk advisory business outside Australia.

William Howe
Partner, Clayton Utz

William Howe’s broad experience in data analytics and investigations has made him particularly suited to taking a lead role in driving adoption of artificial intelligence and other technologies at the Australian firm.

With experience in Canada, London and Sydney, Howe joined Clayton Utz to lead its data analytics practice in 2022 and was confirmed as partner this year.

His brief is to develop systems to automate and streamline tasks, often incorporating AI, both for clients and the firm itself. He is used to dealing with a range of regulatory challenges.

His previous work has included remediation of wage underpayments at universities, reviews of invoicing fraud for public sector contractors, and advising banks on complaints reporting and financial crime data assurance.

Jason Jones
Director of client and digital solutions, Corrs Chambers Westgarth

Jason Jones has helped his firm to introduce AI into its legal operations, alongside a range of bots, apps and dashboards, building on previous experience in streamlining work practices.

Over a 23-year career at the firm, he has risen to the role of director of client and digital solutions, based in its Brisbane office. In this role, he aims to help the firm stretch beyond traditional legal services to deliver broader services to clients.

A recent focus has been on monitoring global precedents to anticipate regulatory changes in Australia’s digital landscape, and assessing the opportunities and dangers of adopting AI, as well as broader cyber security threats.

Kerryn Underwood
Head of legal project management, King & Wood Mallesons

Kerryn Underwood’s growing team is responsible for modernising the handling of workflows across practice areas. Since taking on the role of head of legal project management in 2019, she has led the rollout and improvement of systems that are now well embedded into the firm.

Achieving uptake of these new systems, despite the natural caution and resistance of some lawyers, has demanded a three-pronged approach. Her department works closely with legal teams to help manage large and complex matters using the new tools, before monitoring the adoption and providing support.

Jonathan Voo
Senior manager of innovation, Asia-Pacific, Mayer Brown

Jonathan Voo’s role is to play a proselytising role in implementing new tech at the global law firm.

Among his initiatives is a drive to encourage “innovation hours”, which allow lawyers to dedicate time to creative projects where new tech tools can improve efficiency.

As a key member of Mayer Brown’s 60-strong global generative AI task force in the Asia Pacific region, which was established last year, he is helping drive the firm’s approach on how best to adopt AI and other legal technologies.

Voo joined the firm in his current role after six years working as an innovation architect and technologist with Baker McKenzie in Hong Kong.

Pete Zhang
Partner, JunHe

As head of his firm’s IT committee, Pete Zhang’s role is to manage systems development, including the assessment and rollout of AI products and other new technologies and equipment.

In common with lawyers in other jurisdictions, a crucial concern for JunHe and other firms in China is ensuring that any pilot work done to exploit AI systems and other digital apps does not compromise client confidentiality.

Zhang’s team has been using “desensitisation” systems that identify and replace sensitive file information, to improve the efficiency of data processing while reducing the risk of leakage.

So far, AI systems are focused on secure document summarisation and translation rather than on drafting documents. However, Zhang anticipates more AI products covering more tasks will be adopted at the firm.

Judging panel

Harriet Arnold, assistant editor, FT Project Publishing (panel chair)
Amy Bell, commissioning editor, FT Project Publishing
Michael Kavanagh, FT Project Publishing contributing editor
Yasmin Lambert, managing director, RSGI
Rebecca Lim, general counsel, University of Wollongong
Paul Neo, chief operating officer and chief financial officer, Singapore Academy of Law
Brian Tang, executive director, LITE Lab, University of Hong Kong
Paul Walker, Emea technical director, iManage

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