ZHENGZHOU, CHINA - APRIL 28: Martial art students suspended on the 80-metre-high wire perform Kong Fu during their rehearsal for Shaolin Zen Music Ritual ahead of May Day holiday at Dengfeng Shaolin Temple on April 28, 2018 in Zhengzhou, Henan Province of China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
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Welcome to the fifth Financial Times Innovative Lawyers report for the Asia-Pacific region. The report aims to show the true value provided by the legal sector and to recognise those lawyers who consistently advance the interests of their clients, firms and the profession itself.

A combination of geopolitical flux and clients with international operations requires increasingly complex work by lawyers in the region. China is inviting overseas investors into its bond markets while a greater number of big deals in the region mean lawyers with private-equity expertise are in high demand. The region is also home to frontier markets, such as Bangladesh, where the economy is growing but financial deals lack sophistication — for now.

Ambitious clients are looking for general business advice, prompting lawyers to experiment with different ways of working and new services that use technology, such as artificial intelligence and blockchain. “Rather than starting from the law, we started from the data,” as one innovator says.

This year, for the first time, we are highlighting Australia’s legal sector, recognising that some of the innovators in legal expertise, business strategy and new thinking lead their peers across the globe. At a forum hosted by the FT in Sydney on May 31, top Australian and international law firms, in-house leaders, academics and alternative legal service providers met to discuss next steps. Those, as Jamie Smyth writes, will inevitably involve greater convergence with the Big Four accountancy firms. Notably, when looking for the Australian leaders and innovators of the future, 10 women stood out.

For this report, we received 550 submissions and nominations, from 65 law firms and 94 in-house legal teams. After extensive research, a total of 57 law firms and 34 company legal teams were ranked across the report. We also publish here our annual selection of 10 exceptional individuals.

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