WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: Protesters Celina Scott-Buechler (R) and Lisset Pino (L) demonstrate against U.S. President Trump's travel ban as protesters gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court following a court issued immigration ruling June 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The court issued a 5-4 ruling upholding U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban imposing limits on travel from several primarily Muslim nations. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
As the justice system becomes a political battleground, Americans sense their sacrosanct ‘apolitical judiciary’ is in danger © Getty

A year ago the Financial Times reported that the US justice system, one of the most sacrosanct institutions in American democracy, had become a political minefield. In the past 12 months, that partisan struggle has only intensified as US president Donald Trump and his Democratic opponents have turned to the courts at all levels and on nearly anything, turning the legal system into a political battleground. “The president, the Congress and even the courts themselves are all responsible for their constitutional irresponsibility,” says one legal expert.

Few legal areas show the nature of that fight more than immigration, where civil liberties groups are going after a president who vowed to “put America first” over a raft of anti-immigrant policies. These advocates see the courts as the place they can go to reimpose the rule of law at US borders.

The Trump administration’s efforts to deconstruct the regulatory state has also been met by fights in the courts, where state attorneys-general have sought to fill the gap through lawsuits. “Their targets are big consumer companies and state consumer protection laws are their weapons of choice,” is the verdict of a leading litigator. Faced with newly aggressive state government action, one law firm is pioneering use of predictive patterns to show which documents enjoy legal privilege. Just as important, it is relatively affordable, so even a smaller client will feel less pressure to waive legal privilege.

Although the politicisation of the legal system remains the overarching challenge to American lawyers, it is not the only big question facing the legal sector that we outline in this year’s report. All share a theme, however: the pressure to break down professional silos and work with other disciplines. The most innovative individual lawyer has bridged law and medicine, for example. He made it his mission to improve medical research by facilitating shared clinical trial data at a time of growing public concern over data privacy.

The interdisciplinary drive extends to in-house lawyers, as they push to be more active in developing new business ideas — “instead of being that function you visit when you’ve had a problem”, as one of them puts it.

This year we introduce the new category of “legal intrapreneurs” to salute individual trailblazers who have brought about significant change in their organisations — and some are not even lawyers.

The table below ranks partnerships between law firms, in-house legal teams and other organisations for the FT Innovative Lawyers North America awards

Rank Organisation Description Originality Leadership Impact Total
STANDOUT Hogan Lovells; Cognia Law; FTI Consulting; and Elevate Partnered with management consultancy firm FTI Consulting and law companies Cognia Law and Elevate to create a service to transition clients to the new overnight borrowing interest rate regulation from the previous Libor system. Financial institutions will need to review and amend volumes of legal agreements. The approach combines legal expertise and project management from the law firm with artificial intelligence from FTI Consulting and document review technologies from Cognia Law and Elevate. (Elevate is a sponsor of the Innovative Lawyers report) 8 9 8 25
HIGHLY COMMENDED Mayer Brown; Skadden; and Debevoise & Plimpton In 2018, these three law firms worked as one “virtual law firm” to achieve two major settlements for financial institution Société Générale, which was under investigation by US and French authorities for allegedly manipulating interest rates and for bribing elected officials in Libya. The co-ordinated work allowed the bank to negotiate simultaneous resolutions with the authorities, and reduce public relations and financial damage that might have accompanied a protracted investigation. 7 8 8 23
HIGHLY COMMENDED Arnold & Porter Worked with firms Peterreins Schley, Simmons & Simmons, Brinkhof and Taliens to reach a global settlement for client Boston Scientific in a patent dispute with Edwards Lifesciences over a heart valve technology. The firm worked with international counterparts to enforce patents and recover damages in the US as well as three European jurisdictions, securing a $180m settlement. 7 7 8 22
HIGHLY COMMENDED Baker McKenzie Led the creation of a protocol to allow thousands of claimants and carmakers ongoing access to Takada Corporation’s data and documents relevant to a recalled car airbag component after the company became insolvent. Collaborated with 23 other law firms and corporations that were part of the ongoing litigation to have the protocol approved by courts in Japan and the US. 7 8 7 22

Explore the Innovative Lawyers North America rankings 2019


  • Most innovative law firms
  • Most innovative in-house legal teams
  • Rule of law and access to justice
  • Collaboration

Business of Law

  • Technology and data
  • New business and service delivery models
  • New products and services
  • Talent, strategy and changing behaviours
  • Diversity and inclusion

Legal Expertise

  • Accessing new markets and capital
  • Creating a new standard
  • Enabling business growth and transformation
  • Litigation and disputes
  • Managing complexity and scale
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2024. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Follow the topics in this article