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The FT’s list of young legal innovators is drawn from lawyers working in-house or in private practice. The candidates come from new sectors, such as digital media and financial technology, but also from an organisation, the Crown Estate, whose history stretches back nearly one millennium.
The judges chose Lise Damelet as the overall winner for her achievement in the particularly hard task of convening thinkers and starting an incubator to push for change in France’s conservative legal market.
Recognising young innovators in this year’s report, we pay a posthumous tribute to lawyer Mark Hornor, who championed legal innovation at Vodafone and Axiom. Mr Hornor drowned in July trying to save his young daughter Mina when they were swept away by waves on a family trip to Hawaii.
Winner: Lise Damelet, senior associate, Orrick Rambaud Martel
Lise Damelet is co-founder of the Paris Bar Incubator. The group was set up in 2014 to foster innovation, support legal start-ups and connect lawyers, academics and legal directors to plan and campaign for change in the profession. Its projects include lobbying for legal partnerships in France to be opened up to non-lawyers.
Panos Giannissis, partner, Giannissis & Partners
When capital controls were imposed during the Greek financial crisis last year, Panos Giannissis helped clients to stay in business by converting some of their working capital to bitcoin, the virtual currency. He also led the development and implementation of the information systems at his firm.
Rob Booth, general counsel and company secretary, the Crown Estate
On joining the Crown Estate in 2012, Rob Booth helped to expand the energy portfolio of the British sovereign’s public estate. He then started working with the chief executive, Alison Nimmo, to overhaul the 950-year-old company’s governance, executive and committee structures.
Luís Roquette Geraldes, lawyer, Morais Leitão, Galvão Teles, Soares da Silva & Associados
Luis Roquette Geraldes launched Team Genesis, which supports technology start-ups in their early stages. He leads a team of 13 lawyers with ambitions to help expand Portugal’s start-up and venture capital sectors. Team Genesis clients have provided work for nearly 50 of the firm’s lawyers.
Ali Ramadan, partner, Bird & Bird
Ali Ramadan is co-creator of Bird & Bird’s Digital Growth Accelerator, which helps early-stage technology businesses grow faster by enabling them to access commercial and legal support and further funding. Mr Ramadan has also led on a joint venture between three entertainment companies to establish a one-stop shop for music licensing across Europe, covering more than 250,000 songwriters.
Kerry Westland, senior manager, Addleshaw Goddard
Kerry Westland broke with standard practice in 2014 when she opted to spend her training period on Addleshaw Goddard’s transactional services team, rather than going through the traditional rotation. She was responsible for streamlining the firm’s operations.
Jeremiah Wagner, partner, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft
Jeremiah Wagner has focused on the alternative finance sector since the financial crisis. He has worked in particular on developing affordable ways for smaller businesses to access finance products designed for larger companies and on the emergence of online peer-to-peer lending platforms in Europe.
Sara Blanco de Morais, managing associate, PLMJ
Described by clients as entrepreneurial and tenacious, Sara Blanco de Morais put on a construction hard hat as part of her legal work for a bankrupt Portuguese client, which had met several obstacles when trying to sell a landholding. She secured a five-fold increase in the sale price of the land.
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