A look back at the celebration, and what we learned from our winners

IHC_Awards&Celebration_(square)_2018#IHCawards2018 (@InHouseLegal)

By Patrick Dransfield

Our third annual In-House Community Counsels of the Year Awards, attracted more than 100 submissions from in-house counsel across Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

The awards recognise dedication, innovation, efficiency and value-add, integration, encouragement and improvement, and corporate social responsibility. These criteria were inspired by our white paper, The Six Biggest Challenges, which was based on responses from more than 70 general counsel who identified challenges such as:

  • Working out the optimal legal and/or compliance department structure — with the right people, with the right skillsets, at the right level;
  • Measuring the performance and value-add of the legal department; and
  • Changing non-lawyer colleagues’ perception of the legal function from being a barrier to being a business partner.

Watch the Awards highlights

And by unanimous agreement of our five independent judges, the winning Asia team of the year, Telstra, excelled across the board, with its ThinkSmart software designed to triage urgent client requests and automate confidentiality agreements, thus saving 6,500 lawyer hours and, perhaps echoing Daimler China’s Swarm approach that featured in 2017, a so-called All Roles Flex solution that allows stakeholders to be served independent of location or time.


Kirsty Dougan of Axiom (second left) presents to Marcus Crachi and Lauren Ellison of Telstra International, with In-House Community director, Patrick Dransfield (right)



Kirsty Dougan (second left) with Pieter Badenhorst, Robyn Van Heerden and Botha Ernst of AFGRI Group



Andrew Cooke of Flash Entertainment FZ

You may have been forgiven to think that, with over 100 team submissions, the judges may have found pause when considering the short list for the coveted In-House Counsel of the Year. You would be wrong — each judge presented three preferred candidates (see below), but eventually chose Valerie Velasco of NetApp in another unanimous vote.


Vivian Ng of NetApp picks up the In-House Counsel of the Year Award on behalf of her colleague, Valerie Velasco from  Kirsty Dougan


Valerie Velasco

Valerie Velasco


In-House Counsel of the Year Shortlist

  • Christopher Stephens, ADB
  • Jeffrey Koch, Dell
  • Andrew Cooke, Flash Entertainment
  • Ferheen Mohamed, Hong Kong Exhanges & Clearing
  • Wei Wen Wang, Intercontinental Hotels Group
  • Gladys Chun, Lazada
  • Michael Ting, Manulife (International)
  • Tim Sung, Melco Resorts & Entertainment
  • Valerie Velasco, NetApp
  • Varsha Gupta, Reckitt Benckiser


The judges, impressed by NetApp’s team submission (it won the Risk Management Practice Award), were particularly struck by how Velasco approaches the extremely difficult task of team management, including teaching yoga as a certified instructor to her colleagues. As the importance of the In-House Counsel role becomes more appreciated by other stakeholders — and hence by society at large — the need for mindfulness and wisdom will become more important. Talking about the impact of technology more than 40 years ago, the late Bernard Levin, British journalist and author, predicted: “The silicon chip will transform everything, except everything that matters, and the rest will still be up to us.” Congratulations to Valerie for leading the way.

The goal of the In-House Counsel of the Year Awards is not only to shower our winners with well-deserved praise and recognition. By sharing some of the innovative solutions pioneered by in-house counsel and external providers uncovered through the awards process, we also hope to help fertilise and stimulate the entire in-house community.

Perhaps the stand-out innovation in 2018 on the technological front was the Parker Chatbot by International Visionary Service Provider Law Firm of the Year, Norton Rose Fulbright. Parker, built in-house by the firm using the IBM Watson artificial intelligence platform, is the world’s first AI-enabled data privacy chatbot. This provides in-house teams with a high-value, one-stop approach to the vital area of data privacy compliance. The judges noted that: “The chatbot Parker is one part of a tangible and largely successful effort by Norton Rose Fulbright to distinguish itself in both the UK and North American market.”

The single biggest challenge facing in-house counsel is people management. Hong Kong’s CLP Holdings won the Talent Management award on the basis of its recent practice of seconding a legal team member as chief executive of a joint venture company in Vietnam. As we predict that many general counsel are destined for the C-suite (some of you are already there), this proves a neat way to ensure team members acquire the necessary skills.

The alignment of the legal department with the goals of the business is another important and challenging aspect of the in-house role. Increasingly, private practice lawyers are becoming aware — and not a little jealous — that the fabled role of “trusted adviser” is not being awarded to them, but to their in-house colleagues. Many of the latter have the scars to prove that they have truly been in the trenches with their non-lawyer colleagues. The outstanding team in the category of Integration was Aboitiz Equity Ventures, which had grappled with the knotty problem of litigation and developed a process through which the legal department proves to be the barrier at the top of the hill rather than the ambulance at the bottom by developing a shared Legal Risk Impact Criteria for prioritising litigation cases with the business units. A problem shared is more than halfway to being a problem solved.

Within the Innovation category, we also include technological innovation. The Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing legal team are clearly helping Hong Kong’s bourse remain at the top of its game, with a peak market capitalisation of more than US$4.28 trillion in 2017, making it the seventh-largest exchange in the world. The team had been instrumental in implementing Bond Connect — the aligning of CFETS, PBOC, HKMA, SFC and CMU on a single trading platform — and also did some exemplary work with the London Metals Exchange regarding gold futures.

As the legal team’s expertise goes beyond the strictly legal, a plethora of new non-law legal providers are now able to assist the discerning legal department. The winner of the non-law firm Visionary Client Service Firm of the Year was Australia-based Lawcadia, which digitises existing processes and improves the ways that legal departments and their law firms engage, communicate and collaborate on matters, pricing, scoping and spend management. If the aim of external law firms is truly to become that trusted adviser, then software solutions such as Lawcadia’s are essential. As the judges noted: “Lawcadia was the outstanding candidate and particularly stood out as it is providing platform rather than bespoke solutions. Our IT department did due diligence on their product and it truly stands up.”

One law firm that truly impressed the judges regarding its embrace of client-service related technology was Yulchon. Our regional winner in 2017, the Korean firm has evidently gone from strength to strength, providing a coterie of innovative services for clients, including AlgoCompliance, a client-facing digital compliance software using AI to provide each client with updates regarding legislation that is directly relevant to them. And also Fresenius-Kabi Korea, an automated compliance surveillance document centre with more than 8,000 key fields to provide day-to-day applications that embody company-specific risk.

No chatbot or AI solution is going to replace the wisdom and integrity of individual attorneys and it is with great pleasure that we honoured the eight commended external counsel of the year that joined us for the evening, and especially our External Counsel of the Year 2018, Mohamed Ganie.


Evangelos Apostolou of Major Lindsey & Africa presents to Warwick Walsh of Lawcadia …



Evangelos Apostolou with Jeremy Coleman, James Parker, Anna Gamvros and Declan McDaid of Norton Rose Fulbright

With regards to Corporate Social Responsibility, our winner was the Malaysia-based team of Maybank. Not to be outdone, Lee Chin Tok from rival Malaysian bank CIMB outbid Maybank to win the charity action’s grand prize, a fabulous luxury weekend for two at the Malaysia Peninsula luxury resort Tanjong Jara [www.tanjongjararesort.com], ably assisted by the indefatigable Evangelos Apostolou. The evening proved successful in demonstrating the charitable nature of the legal community by generating over HK$55,000 for Malaysia-based charity Yokuk [www.yokuk.org].logo yokuk

Evaluating risk is perhaps the single most important value-add that an effective in-house counsel brings to the table. The diverse Asia region throws up significant risk, especially in its frontier and emerging markets. The Visionary Client Service Provider of the Year, Asia Emerging Markets was chosen by the judges in their appreciation of the importance of consistent and timely delivery of intelligent and business-oriented advice from markets such as Myanmar and hence DFDL Myanmar won this category.

Similarly, the in-house community awards team was delighted to receive submissions from Africa-based in-house counsel teams and this year we saw the expansion of the club to include the very worthy in-house team of Afgri as In-House Team of the Year, Africa.


Mohamed Idwan Ganie accepts his award


Dr Xi Zhang of Bayer China presents to Tan Loke-Khoon of Baker McKenzie

Looking forward

As we have already received enquiries about submissions, we expect even more candidates vying for the top awards in 2019. And this is important in that the awards provide an opportunity for in-house counsel to not only demonstrate their worth to their present employers and burnish their careers, but also become a deposit of best practice from which others can learn.

Congratulations to our winners and to all who took part to make this year’s awards so meaningful — and fun!

See below for a full rundown of our 2018 winners.

With thanks to our headline sponsors:


For sponsorship opportunities for the 2019 awards, click here.

Full List of Winners

Industry Awards Category

In-House Legal Team of the Year – Banking


  • Axis Bank
  • CIMB Group – Winner
  • DBS Bank
  • ICBC (Asia)
  • Kotak Mahindra Bank
  • Malayan Banking Group
  • Nomura International (Hong Kong)
  • Reserve Bank of India
  • UBS AG

In-House Legal Team of the Year – Conglomerate


  • Aboitiz Equity Ventures – Winner
  • Daimler Greater China
  • Godrej Industries
  • Hyundai Heavy Industries
  • MMC Corporation
  • Seah Holdings
  • Sinochem International
  • Unilever Indonesia

In-House Legal Team of the Year – Energy & Natural Resources


  • Aboitiz Power Corporation – Asia Winner
  • AFGRI Group – Middle East/Africa Winner
  • CLP Holdings
  • DNV GL Group
  • Schlumberger Indonesia
  • Sinochem Petroleum Exploration & Production

In-House Legal Team of the Year Financial Services – ex-banking


  • Asian Development Bank – Winner
  • CCB International
  • Haitong International Securities Group
  • Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing
  • Sinovation Ventures

In-House Legal Team of the Year – Insurance


  • Aditya Birla Sun Life Insurance
  • Sun Life Malaysia Assurance
  • Taikang Insurance – Winner

In-House Legal Team of the Year – Life Science & Pharma


  • Bayer (China)
  • DKSH Vietnam
  • Sanofi (China) Investment – Winner
  • Sun Pharmaceutical Industries

In-House Legal Team of the Year – Manufacturing & Engineering


  • ABB China
  • Aecom Indonesia
  • Akzo Nobel (China) Investment
  • Alstom Transport
  • Anheuser-Busch InBev, Asia-Pacific North Zone
  • Astra Honda Motor
  • China Machinery Engineering Corp. (CMEC)
  • Continental Korea
  • Corning China (Shanghai) Regional Headquarters
  • Harman International India Private
  • KONE Elevators
  • Schneider Electric – Winner
  • Unilever
  • United Technologies Climate Controls & Security

In-House Legal Team of the Year – Other Industries


  • Accenture – Joint Winner
  • Black & Veatch
  • Kuehne + Nagel MEA
  • Nord Anglia Education
  • Rekso Group
  • SATS – Joint Winner
  • Tharawat Saudi Arabia

In-House Legal Team of the YearProperty, Infrastructure & Logistics


  • China International Marine Containers (Group)
  • COSCO Shipping Ports
  • edotco Myanmar – Winner
  • Far East Organization
  • FedEx Express International
  • Hyundai Engineering & Construction
  • Swire Pacific Offshore Group

In-House Legal Team of the YearRetail & Healthcare


  • Aditya Birla Retail & Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail – Winner
  • Aeon (Malaysia)

In-House Legal Team of the YearTechnology, Media & Telecoms


  • Alibaba Group Hong Kong
  • Alibaba Group International
  • Dell
  • Dolby Laboratories
  • FIS Global
  • Lazada Group
  • LG Display – IP Division
  • NetApp
  • Singtel
  • Sony (China)
  • Telstra International – Winner
  • Tencent Holdings
  • twoFour54
  • Viacom18 Media Private

In-House Legal Team of the YearTravel & Leisure


  • Flash Entertainment – Middle-East Winner
  • InterContinental Hotels
  • InterGlobe Aviation
  • Melco Resorts & Entertainment – Asia Winner
  • The Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels

Best Practice Management Category

In-House Legal Team of the YearChange Management


  • Aditya Birla Sun Life Insurance – Winner
  • Dell
  • ICBC (Asia)
  • InterContinental Hotels
  • UBS AG

In-House Legal Team of the YearCorporate Social Responsibility


  • Maybank – Winner
  • Sanofi (China) Investment

In-House Legal Team of the YearDiversity


  • CLP Holdings
  • Continental Korea
  • Dell – Winner
  • United Technologies Climate Controls & Security
  • Schneider Electric

In-House Legal Team of the YearInnovation


  • Anheuser-Busch InBev, Asia-Pacific North Zone
  • Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing – Winner
  • Nomura International (Hong Kong)
  • Telstra International

In-House Legal Team of the YearIntegration


  • Aboitiz Equity Ventures – Winner
  • CIMB Group

In-House Legal Team of the YearRisk Management


  • ABB China
  • Aboitiz Power Corporation
  • Corning China (Shanghai)
  • DBS Bank
  • NetApp – Winner

In-House Legal Team of the YearSmall Team


  • Aecom Indonesia
  • Black & Veatch
  • DNV GL Group – Winner
  • Dolby Laboratories
  • Rekso Group

In-House Legal Team of the YearTalent Management


  • Axis Bank
  • CLP Holdings – Winner

In-House Legal Team of the YearTransactional


  • Aboitiz Equity Ventures
  • Tencent – Winner

Most Responsive Law Firm of the Year

  • Baker McKenzie

Client Service Category

Attending Commended External Counsel of the Year 2018

  • Jose Tensuan, Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz (ACCRA Law)
  • Dr Mohammed Idwan Ganie, Lubis Ganie Surowidjojo.
  • Loke-khoon Tan, Partner, Baker McKenzie
  • Patricia-Ann Prodigalidad, Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz (ACCRA Law)
  • Hong Bui Ngoc, LNT Partners
  • Bagus Buwono, Partner, Bagus Enrico & Partners

Full list of Commended External Counsel of the Year 2018 can be viewed here.

External Counsel of the Year 2018 – Winner

  • Dr Mohammed Idwan Ganie, Lubis Ganie Surowidjojo.

The attending 2018 Commended External Counsel of the Year: Dr. M Idwan Ganie of Lubis Ganie Surowidjojo, Jose Martin R. Tensuan of Accralaw, Loke-khoon Tan of Baker McKenzie, Patricia-Ann Prodigalidad of Accralaw, Hong, Bui Ngoc of LNT Partners and Bagus SD Nur Buwono of Bagus Enrico and Partners with Evengelos Apostolou

Visionary Client Service Law Firm of the Year 2018


  • Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas
  • DFDL Myanmar – Asian emerging markets Winner
  • Jingtian & Gongcheng
  • King & Wood Mallesons
  • Lee & Ko
  • MHP Law Firm
  • Rajaram Legal
  • Siam City Law Offices
  • Yulchon – Asian mature markets Winner
  • ZICO Law

Visionary Client Service Law Firm of the Year – International


  • Clifford Chance
  • Eversheds Sutherland
  • Norton Rose Fulbright – Winner
  • Reed Smith

Visionary Non-Law Firm Legal Services Provider


  • AWA Asia
  • Korum Legal
  • Lawcadia – Winner
  • ZICO Group

In-House Team & Individual Awards

In-House Counsel of the Year 2018


  • Christopher Stephens – Asian Development Bank
  • Jeffrey Koch – Dell
  • Andrew Cook – Flash Entertainment
  • Ferheen Mahomed – Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing
  • Weiwen Wang – InterContinental Hotels Group
  • Gladys Chun – Lazada
  • Michael Ting – Manulife (International)
  • Tim Sung – Melco Resorts & Entertainment
  • Valerie Velasco – NetApp – Winner
  • Varsha Gupta – Reckitt Benckiser

Africa In-House Team of the Year 2018

  • AFGRI Group – Winner

Middle East In-House Team of the Year 2018


  • Dubai Islamic Bank PJSC
  • FedEx Express International
  • Flash Entertainment – Winner

Asia In-House Team of the Year 2018


  • Accenture
  • Asian Development Bank
  • edotco Myanmar
  • Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing
  • NetApp
  • Sanofi (China) Investment
  • SATS
  • Taikang Insurance
  • Telstra International – Winner

About In-House Community and the Counsels of the Year awards

A community of practice for 20 years, the mission of the In-House Community is to strengthen legal and ethical compliance for the benefit of all.

One aim of the In-House Community Counsels of the Year awards is to provide a benchmark of excellence so that in-house teams can measure their performance among their peers, as well as to help shine a light on the work that in-house teams do, particularly for other stakeholders within the organisations they represent.

The awards judging panel comprised Evangelos Apostolou of Major, Lindsey & Africa; Kirsty Dougan of Axiom; Cherine Ghali, formerly of Dubai Group; Michelle Gon of McDermott Will & Emery; Crystal Lalime of Credit Suisse; and David Miles from Asia Community Venture.

A short video of the Awards evening can be seen on YouTube here,


For more information on submitting a nomination for our 2019 Counsels of the Year Awards, please contact Yvette Tan (yvette.tan@inhousecommunity.com)

For more on sponsorship opportunities click here, or contact Rahul Prakash (rahul.prakash@inhousecommunity.com)



Datin Suliana Shamsuddin (right) Chairperson the charity, YOKUK talking with In-House Community’s Tim Gilkison







full room


Crystal Lalime of Credit Suisse




Thanks to our the Charity Award sponsors

Tanjong Ara

Tanjong Jara Resort, Malaysia


John Masters Organics Logo

John Masters Organics


Slapsh Hong Kong

Splash, Hong Kong


Patrick Photographs

Photographs, courtesy of Patrick Dransfield


Stefan Gannon Green Door

The Green Door, by Stefan Gannon


Early Music Society

Early Music Society of Hong Kong

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