Hong Kong

Introducing the winners of this year’s awards to recognise legal providers that go above and beyond in the service of their clients.

The importance of client service lay at the heart of our thinking when putting together the criteria for the Visionary External Providers of the Year. That, and the importance of reflecting the changing landscape of legal services, which is no longer the sole preserve of the legal partnership structure.
General counsel have shared with the In-House Community that the three prevailing challenges they face on a day-to-day basis are: managing costs and evaluating value- added; talent and career management; and positioning the legal department within the company.

By reverse-engineering these key challenges, we asked legal service providers – from anywhere on the new spectrum of legal services – to demonstrate that they can truly stand inside the shoes of their clients and provide them with inspiring service. So, rather than asking firms how much they pay their senior equity partners, we asked them to quantifiably demonstrate the following:

  • budget-orientated project management for a client;
  • advice to a client regarding productivity and efficiency; and
  • exceeding client expectations (inclusive of client testimonials).

The awards were judged by David Miles and Evangelos Apostolou. A seasoned legal professional, Apostolou was general counsel, Asia Pacific, and partner, Ernst & Young; and general counsel, Asia Pacific, British Telecom. He is currently president for EMEA at SirionLabs. Miles is a former partner, executive committee member and Asia chairman for Latham & Watkins. He is currently chairman of Asia Community Venture.


Visionary International Law Firm

Winner: Eversheds

The past year has marked a defining period for Eversheds as the firm reached a critical mass in Greater China, across Asia more generally, and the world.
One of its signature innovations in Asia emerged in Hong Kong in October at the inaugural summit of the Eversheds Asia-Pacific Alliance – an initiative led by Asia managing partner Stephen Kitts. The alliance provides clients with access to 20 of the leading firms in Asia Pacific and takes the traditional concept of a best-friend network into a much more client-focused direction, with Eversheds assuming all responsibility for client service, quality of legal advice, billing and other practices, meaning that clients only have to deal with one Eversheds contact for instructions, billing and service enquiries – and only receive one bill regardless of the number of jurisdictions involved in a matter.

Another innovation came from the Asia employment team, which launched an app to help clients keep abreast of the increasingly frequent changes to laws and regulations across the many countries in the region. Written in plain English, it allows users to compare laws in different jurisdictions, access information while out of the office and share with colleagues.

Matthew Kendrick of Daimler China presents the Visionary International Law Firm of the Year award to Veronique Marquis of Eversheds

Matthew Kendrick of Daimler China presents the Visionary International Law Firm of the Year award to Veronique Marquis of Eversheds

In terms of client matters, the firm advised on the extremely complex and ground-breaking US$40 million Falcon Ma’an solar photovoltaic power project in Jordan, and the funding and construction of the US$3.15 billion Facility D integrated water and power project in Qatar, featuring a fully customised procurement programme.

It agreed a deal to merge in Singapore with Harry Elias Partnership to create a firm with more than 90 fee-earners, including 26 partners, and offices in Singapore and Brunei, making it one of the largest international firms in Singapore. It also boosted headcount in China by over 23 percent – at a time when some international law firms are retreating.

More broadly, the combination between Eversheds and US-based Sutherland Asbill and Brennan was the largest law firm merger of 2016, creating a truly global player with over 4,000 employees, including more than 700 partners, and 62 offices in 30 countries.


Visionary Law Firm Asia

Winner: Yulchon

Korea’s Yulchon earns this recognition thanks to its deliberate development of a culture of innovation and collaboration, which have long been hallmarks of its approach to legal service.

On the tech front, the firm offers a platform of interactive mobile applications that are aimed at delivering cost-effective solutions for clients. In particular, the eYulchon platform addresses some key structural issues of client-law firm engagement, such as the hidden-cost problem. The firm offers a series of apps, for example, that clarify business issues before elevating a matter to the in-house lawyers, reducing the time – and therefore the hidden cost – that the legal team needs to spend understanding an issue.

Yong-Pyo Yeom of Yulchon is presented with the Visionary Law Firm Asia award by Matthew Kendrick

Yong-Pyo Yeom of Yulchon is presented with the Visionary Law Firm Asia award by Matthew Kendrick

Yulchon has also demonstrated its willingness and ability to structure advice to a budget, including a recent case where it recovered claims against Lehman Brothers on a success-fee basis after the clients were ready to abandon the case due to the lengthy, expensive and unsuccessful efforts of the original deal team. Yulchon delivered a substantial recovery in just two months.

Teamwork and collaboration across multiple disciplines allow the firm to design innovative solutions to even the most complex matters. Involving the expertise and experience of professionals from the firm’s M&A, finance, tax, antitrust, real estate, IP and labour practice groups, the firm helped one client navigate Asia’s largest ever leveraged buy-out transaction and Korea’s largest M&A transaction to date – MBK Partners’s US$6.1 billion acquisition of Homeplus, Tesco’s Korean retail business.


Visionary Legal Services Provider – Non-Law Firm

Winner: KorumLegal

KorumLegal is a boutique legal consultancy that delivers on its promise of providing innovative, flexible and client-centric legal services. Its solutions cover people, processes and technology – such as secondments, legal consulting and legaltech solutions – in a way that is focused on providing value for clients. “We don’t have ivory towers and therefore don’t charge traditional law firm rates,” it says. “We offer fixed rates which are at least 50% better value than law firms.”

The self-funded startup’s founding principle is to disrupt a legal services industry that continues to be expensive, inaccessible and complex. It has embraced technology such as cloud infrastructure, customer relationship management systems, data analytics and artificial intelligence to enable its “lean law” model

IHC Counsel of the Year Awards 2017 (95)

Visionary Legal Services Provider – non-law firm: KorumLegal’s Titus Rahiri (right) receives the award from Matthew Kendrick of Daimler China

“The team at KorumLegal offers a unique model in the delivery of legal services,” said Jeremy Platt, chief compliance officer at Zwoop, a tech startup that hired Korum to help with its establishment, review its business model for launch and act as virtual in-house counsel. “They are flexible in their engagement and provide special value without any sacrifice to quality. Backed by years of experience, KorumLegal consultants understand the challenges faced by start-ups.”

Korum’s model allows it to provide the kind of service that big law firms rarely can – for example, legal consultants who are senior, flexible and not prohibitively expensive – and it can do this thanks to low overheads and a nimble, bespoke approach. Providing value is its core mission.


External Counsel of the Year – South Asia

Winner: Yozua Makes of Makes & Partners

IHC Counsel of the Year Awards 2017 (139)

Yozua Makes (right) receives the External Counsel of the Year – South Asia award from David Miles

Yozua Makes, the founder and managing partner of Makes & Partners, was chosen as External Counsel of the Year -South Asia, by in-house counsel who took part in the voting. “Yozua Makes provides a great service,” said one respondent, while another added: “Makes and his team don’t just solve current problems, but as much as possible, also mitigate potential future issues.”


Most Responsive Firm of the Year

Winner: Baker McKenzie

Baker McKenzie was the overwhelming winner in this category, having been voted most responsive firm by in-house counsel in China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

For a full a write-up of 2017’s Counsels of the Year ceremony click here.

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