Gilbert + Tobin has won the Most Innovative Law Firm in Asia-Pacific (Asia-Pacific headquartered), Legal Innovator of the Year (Sam Nickless) and Innovation in Technology (for dd) at the annual Financial Times (FT) Innovative Lawyers Awards held in Hong Kong.

The trio of awards places G+T at the forefront of Innovative law firms in the region and reflects the firms relentless pursuit of innovation and technology to drive efficiency and client deliverables.

G+T has always been a disruptor and an innovator, but Sam Nickless (partner and Chief Operating Officer) has challenged the way things have been done to take G+T’s innovation to a new level.

In accepting his award as the most innovative Asia-Pacific individual of 2019, Sam commented that the changes he has driven at G+T have been an “offensive weapon in the war for clients”. These changes have ranged from developing cross-functional teams spanning legal project managers, data analysts and design thinking experts, to elevating operations professionals to partners. In bringing lawyers and other professionals closer together to deliver G+T’s client service (in a way that is unique in the market), Sam has constantly sought to blur the line between different professionals. He has led a number of initiatives that have established G + T as one of the leading proponents of legal innovation in Australia and beyond. 

More recently, he instigated the firm’s investment in start-up LegalVision, a technology-focused alternative legal service provider. His vision and enthusiasm for embracing disruptive change ensured buy-in across the firm, as well as a unique approach to risk management that saw the partnership using an investment trust structure to fund the new venture. He has also developed initiatives in value-based billing and investments in staff. He takes particular pleasure in spotting talented people who have been overlooked, encouraging the firm’s teams to “lift them up and give them a chance to shine”.

Sam was also instrumental in establishing dd, G+T’s re-engineered mergers and acquisitions due diligence platform. This platform won the award for Innovation in Technology. G+T's corporate and innovation teams developed dd in 2016 with a US start-up, to manage due diligence, record legal reviews and automate reports. dd provides an overview of legal due diligence, informed by real-time data visualisations and information. It standardises reviews, automating tasks which would ordinarily take hours. This consistency and transparency allows lawyers to easily collate information and produce reports and enables lawyers to manage complex due diligence projects efficiently and effectively. The latest version was released in 2018, integrating two years’ of feedback into dd.

The firm was a finalist for five categories in total. In addition to winning the three awards mentioned above, G+T was also a finalist for:

  • Innovation in legal expertise: accessing new markets and capital – Yancoal IPO and dual listing. In conjunction with Freshfields (Hong Kong) G+T designed the novel structure that facilitated the Hong Kong IPO.  This was achieved through a structure that involved an accelerated renounceable entitlement offer (AREO). The most important feature of the AREO was the renunciation of the accelerated “institutional” component by Yancoal’s major shareholders, with that renounced portion representing the Hong Kong IPO. The transaction itself, and the way in which the transaction was structured and implemented, are world firsts.
  • Innovation in the business of law: new products and services – G+T Innovate. G+T Innovate is an in-house counsel’s partner in legal operations, technology and innovation. It provides bespoke consultancy services covering: corporate legal strategy and change management, legal technology advisory/delivery, legal project management, capability development, and design thinking and process improvements.
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