From risk manager to change agent – what makes an innovative lawyer in North America?

The Financial Times today announces the winners of the FT North America Innovative Lawyers awards, in partnership with RSG Consulting, founder and research partner of the report and award series. The event and publication recognises the most innovative and entrepreneurial lawyers, original thinkers in private practice and in-house legal departments in North America.

As the region’s business practices change to adapt to a shifting landscape, the role of lawyers and legal frameworks has equally evolved. “Besides this technological disruption, we are living in unprecedented times of political and economic uncertainty,” says Reena SenGupta, CEO of RSG Consulting. “Times in which the usual ways of conducting government, trade and business have been turned on their head. Innovation, as we all know in the legal profession, is not just about the automation of legal services or hiring legal engineers. It is also about being the best legal professional you can be, the one that is most appropriate to what society needs.” The report celebrates the best of these strategies.

This year’s edition is the biggest North American report to date, featuring expanded coverage of the region’s in-house operations – we have received more submissions and ranked a greater number of teams in North America than ever before.  The report also features a dedicated chapter focusing on Canada, providing an in-depth analysis of the legal market. The top honours were awarded to Wendy Butler Curtis, (Orrick), named Most Innovative Lawyer; Orrick, named Most Innovative North American Law Firm; and Honeywell, named Most Innovative In-House Legal Team. The ceremony was hosted in Gotham Hall, New York, last night. We would like to congratulate all the winners and runners-up and all those who participated. We would also like to thank our sponsors Concord, Elevate, HighQ and Quislex, as well as our in-house section sponsors, White & Case.

The themes and winners from this year’s programme are summarised in the FT Innovative Lawyers 2018 North America report which can be found here.


  • Most Innovative Law firm 2018 – Overall: Orrick
  • Most Innovative Law firm 2018 – Business of Law: McGuireWoods
  • Most Innovative Law firm 2018 – Legal Expertise: Cravath, Swaine & Moore
  • Most Innovative In-House Legal Team: Honeywell
  • Most Innovative Lawyer North America: Wendy Butler Curtis, Chief Innovation Officer, Orrick
  • Most Innovative General Counsel: Horacio Gutierrez, General Counsel, Spotify


  • Rule of Law and Access to Justice: Arnold & Porter and Public Interest Law Center
  • Collaboration: McCarthy Tétrault, Uber, Revenu Québec
  • Strategy and Changing Behaviours: Seyfarth Shaw
  • New Business and Service Delivery Models: Reed Smith
  • Managing and Developing Talent: Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
  • Technology: Fenwick & West
  • New Products and Services: Orrick
  • Data, Knowledge and Intelligence: Orrick
  • Enabling Business Growth and Transformation: Morrison & Foerster
  • Managing Complexity and Scale: Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher
  • Creating a New Standard: Latham & Watkins
  • Accessing New Markets and Capital: Pillsbury Winthop Shaw Pittman
  • Dispute Resolution: Cravath, Swaine & Moore

CATEGORY WINNERS – In-house Legal Teams:

  • Strategy and Changing Behaviours: Accenture
  • New Business and Service Delivery Models: General Motors
  • Managing and Developing Talent: HPE
  • Technology: Walmart
  • Data, Knowledge and Intelligence: Avis
  • Enabling Business Growth and Transformation: PayPal
  • Managing Complexity and Scale: Honeywell
  • Accessing new markets and Capital: Spotify


  • Most Innovative Law firm in Canada – Legal Expertise: Stikeman Elliot
  • Most Innovative Law firm in Canada – Business of Law: Gowling WLG
  • Most Innovative lawyer in Canada: Dale Ponder, National Co-chair, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt

Methodology FT Innovative Lawyers North America 2018 is a rankings report and awards for North America-based lawyers. Shortlists for the awards comprise the top-scoring submissions in each ranking. The Financial Times and its research partner, RSG Consulting, have devised a unique methodology to rank lawyers on innovation. Law firms and in-house legal teams were invited to make submissions. For the FT Innovative Lawyers report for North America 2018, we received over 500 submissions and nominations from 94 law firms and 105 in-house legal teams. Research was conducted by RSG researchers between August and November 2018. We conducted interviews with more than 500 clients, senior lawyers, executives and experts to arrive at the final rankings. Each entry is scored out of 10 points for originality, leadership and impact for a maximum score of 30. They are then benchmarked against each other to arrive at the final rankings.

About the FT Innovative Lawyers series:

The FT Innovative Lawyers Programme is a joint venture between the FT and RSG Consulting, a specialist legal research and strategy agency. The programme is based on a rigorous research process that includes expert analysis, market surveys and hundreds of interviews with legal professionals. The awards cover legal professionals and departments across The United States, Canada and Mexico.