From Client to Employer: My Axiom Story
By Axiom Law
Axiom lawyer Teri shares her unique experience as a part-time attorney and mother of two who turned her “temporary” engagement into a rewarding full-time career
Reevaluating what matters most in life
Teri was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. She went to New York University for undergrad, worked for a couple of years as a paralegal, and then returned to NYU for law school. She had initially planned to pursue public criminal defense but pivoted to Biglaw in an effort to pay down her law school loans as quickly as possible.
After graduation, Teri left her type-A, work-obsessed personality back in law school. While she has always strived to do excellent work and to please colleagues and clients, becoming a mother revealed that having a life outside of work and being engaged as a parent is most important to her. Thus, Biglaw started losing its appeal:
“I resented the late nights, long weekends, and canceled vacations. I reduced my hours and went off the partnership track, which got me closer to a sustainable balance. But when one of my clients asked me to go in-house, I felt ready to leave the law firm life behind.”
Unfortunately for Teri, her first in-house role would turn out to be just as demanding as her Biglaw one. Along with her team, Teri supported a large, rapid-growth retailer with facetime requirements and limited resources, which once more put a strain on that desire for work-life balance: “I like to work, truly, but I was working too much.” She goes on to debunk the idea that “going in-house is magical,” clarifying that many in-house lawyers work 50-60 hours per week. “I found myself having to outsource a lot of parenting, which I hated, and I was mentally drained. So, when daycare closed [due to the pandemic], I took that as a sign to step away for a bit.”
As a mom of two kids under the age of three at the time, Teri opted out of balancing her work and family life and, instead, decided to leave the workforce altogether. After devoting close to a decade of her legal career to Biglaw and in-house jobs, she relished the time away.
When daycare reopened, Teri wasn’t in a rush to get back to her former lifestyle, but she needed a professional outlet: “Once my kids were back in school, I did start to get a bit bored.”
When she was ready to jump back into the workforce, she interviewed with a couple of locally based companies for in-house roles, but with each interview, she came to the realization that she either wasn’t ready or wasn’t really interested in a mentally demanding, full-time, in-person role. So when she was contacted by Axiom, she decided to learn more about her options, hoping to find something remote and part-time with the company.
Finding the perfect balance with Axiom
Teri shares that her experience with Axiom has been a bit unique compared to other Axiom talent: “All our Axiom experiences are unique, but Axiom itself was my first (and only) Axiom client. Our Chief Legal Officer (CLO) needed support on employment matters.” Because she wasn’t backfilling a prior role, it was easy to set the expectation that she would work part-time. She reflects that part-time can be tricky when in-house, “especially if you are the only subject matter expert for your practice area.” For lawyers with such expertise, it’s hard to say “no” when issues that require immediate attention arise. But that was not the case with Axiom. For Teri, “coming to Axiom was a breath of fresh air.”
“I had no plans to stay with Axiom long-term. I had initially hoped to find part-time engagements to get me through the pandemic. I was still juggling regular daycare closures due to COVID and knew I wouldn’t be able to give 40+ hours a week until I had access to steady and reliable childcare. I also viewed Axiom as an opportunity for me to confirm whether in-house was the right place for me, or whether I wanted to explore going back to a firm or even transition to another career completely. As things turned out, Axiom has become my long-term plan. I love it here!”
At Axiom, she’s able to prioritize what is important to her—being present with her kids—while also fueling her passion for legal work. “Balancing being a mom and a lawyer requires constant effort and results in frequent failures,” but working for Axiom has gotten her to as close of a balance as she could hope: “My colleagues are respectful of the boundaries that I set. I keep a meticulous calendar and any open time is up for grabs, so long as people observe when I am ‘off the clock.’” As Teri’s work slowly ramped up over the first year, she was excited to move into a full-time position. She became more embedded in Axiom’s business, and people started to call on her more frequently for assistance. Before she knew it, she had “converted” to Axiom’s HQ team, where she was fully immersed in the internal legal department.
Celebrating the boons of change
Since coming to Axiom, Teri has found boons in places she never expected: an incredibly supportive Chief Legal Officer (CLO), respectful colleagues, and the best commute. “My CLO is amazing. I learn so much from her. Our legal team is comprised of both full-time members of Axiom’s HQ team and lawyers and allied legal professionals from Axiom’s deep bench of talent. We are small, but we work passionately, efficiently, and collaboratively.”
One of her favorite perks has been working remotely: “In my former Biglaw life, I switched firms so I could work in the same building as my children’s daycare. I scheduled my life in 6-minute increments, and I was spending roughly 400 hours a year commuting when I could have spent that time billing or parenting. As you progress toward partnership, client demands increase, and as my kids transitioned into toddlerhood, they needed more of me. So, lateraling to a firm that would reduce my commute felt like a no-brainer.”
“Now, I am not sure I could ever go back to the ‘traditional’ in-person office setting,” Teri explains. “Our team is entirely remote with each of us logging in from a different location across the globe. We occasionally meet up in New York or Chicago for meetings and to socialize, but, for the most part, we all do what we need to do from the comfort of our home offices.” For Teri, working from home makes it easier to be there when her kids and husband need her.
Encouraging her peers to embrace the Axiom family
After finding a role with Axiom that balances both her family life and her love of legal work, Teri encourages other lawyers to do the same: “You have nothing to lose, so give it a try. I see only the upside. You get great exposure to interesting clients, allowing you to expand your network, gain experience, and better understand what it is that you like (or don’t like) about practicing.”
Teri has seen countless success stories and states: “In many cases, success means picking up Axiom engagements while simultaneously supporting your own clients; investing in hobbies; or fulfilling parent care or childcare obligations.” To Teri, the Axiom experience is “truly whatever you make you of it.”
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