Experienced derivatives and structured finance lawyer supplements his consulting work through Axiom
By Axiom Law
Jack Chen is enjoying his first assignment with Axiom as a transactional lawyer at one of the largest insurance providers in the world. As a professional with experience working in law firms as a transactional lawyer and on the business side as a ratings analyst and COO for asset managers, he enjoys keeping his skills sharp through his current work, while also finding the time to balance his other pursuits.
Before starting his first engagement, Jack was pleasantly surprised at the number of high-caliber positions presented to him through Axiom. The opportunities have been “substantive, meaningful, and often cutting-edge.” He knows the clients are valuing partners like Axiom because they themselves are reacting to market conditions. He gives the example of LIBOR: “It’s not theoretical—it’s real—and attorneys who want to get involved in that work have a lot of competition, but their chances are probably higher going through Axiom than through LinkedIn. How do you stand out from the other 5,000 applicants for a high-caliber client? It’s a law of numbers, and it’s part of relationships. At Axiom, you get tapped into that network with these top-tier clients. It’s a no-brainer.”
Working as an Axiom attorney appealed to Jack due to it being a less risky commitment for both the talent and the client. “The lawyer gets to try out the client, and the client gets to try out the lawyer. If it works out great, but if not, it’s easier for a client to trial an Axiom lawyer instead of searching for a permanent hire and then onboarding them over several weeks, especially if it doesn’t work out. Meanwhile, in my current engagement, it was only about two weeks from my interview to my start date. If the client is motivated, has the time-sensitive need, and the attorney is available, things can happen very quickly. There’s no way a permanent attorney could start that quickly.”
Currently, Jack is working on transactional matters in a fast-paced environment, which is what he enjoys doing. “What I love most about my engagement with this client is from day one, I hit the ground running and was assigned major deals. The work is substantive and complex and fits my skill set perfectly.” The client also appreciates his subject matter expertise. In fact, he recently gave a presentation on legal issues in structured finance to their in-house lawyers.
Flexibility allows Jack to balance multiple business ventures
Jack recalls as a transactional lawyer within a law firm, he always required a lot of support. “The ratio when I was there was four or five support staff for every attorney, and it was a very intense kind of work environment. We needed a lot of infrastructure to support the quality of work.” When he left the law firm to work in-house as a legal analyst, he worked on transactions because his skills were a mix of both legal and business. It allowed him to apply the skills he learned in the law firm in a new context.
The timing couldn’t have worked out better for Jack when approached about joining Axiom. He had just decided to launch his own tech company and his consulting work was slowing down when someone reached out to him for a meeting. He thought, “You know what? This could be a good way to keep my legal, transactional, and Wall Street experience fresh, but at the same time allow me to pursue my other interests as well. I really bought into the model, and it was just a matter of timing to get me into my first assignment.”
Jack began interviewing with different clients through Axiom, but for him, flexibility with his schedule was crucial in determining when he could accept an engagement. Scheduling is a big part of why the Axiom model fits Jack’s working lifestyle, because he owns a consulting practice that is, at times, very intense or sporadic in its needs. “Whenever the consulting practice seems like it might slow down, I reach out to Axiom. When my current client’s opportunity came up, it fit really well with my schedule, but also fit with what the client was looking for as far as the experience I could provide them.”
Jack explains how the Axiom model is a win-win for both him and the client. “At the end of this engagement, I would absolutely continue working through Axiom, if it fits the client’s needs and can coincide/sync with my consulting business and my tech startup, as it allows me to balance my commitments. This is a testament to how a model like Axiom works well for someone like me. I have these side projects and interests, and I’m able to work remotely, so the model allows me to be more productive and more efficient, while also able to help out my clients.”
Appreciated as part of the team
For Jack, the only perceivable difference in how he works with his current team is when he asks about logistics, like getting tech support. But mostly, he just wants to know what the client cares about and looks to understand the client’s preferences and way of doing things. Other than the basic learning curves that come with understanding procedural differences, he has found the team embraced him, appreciated his experiences, and his skills helped him fit right in.
“The client actually told me they were very impressed with the talent pool from Axiom, and that the attorneys presented to them were very competitive with what they were finding in the permanent applications for in-house candidates.” They were surprised at the quality of candidates Axiom provides, and while he’s just the first Axiom attorney they’ve hired, he certainly won’t be their last.
When asked about advice for an attorney on the fence about joining Axiom, Jack notes that in addition to the high-caliber clients, there is never a shortage of interesting work if you’re open to trying new things. Even during his current engagement, he was able to spend a few hours on a unique assignment with another client. A winemaker needed a Chinese translator for a bottle label and hired Jack to review the translation for accuracy and the label itself for cultural sensitivity. “You never know the kind of work you get with Axiom! That was a fascinating assignment.”
Jack’s perspective on the horizon for the legal industry
“The legal industry is always resistant to change, but I think there are a number of factors that are forcing the change. One is obviously cost. In the derivatives and finance fields, which are my two main areas of legal practice, a lot of the market on the business side is shifting to volume with lower margins, which is creating a corresponding pressure to the legal field. Two, I think clients are thinking of multiple ways of staffing, because they must.
Change is coming, whether people like it or not. Change in the forms of pricing, but also in remote work. Also in talent sources, like Axiom. Because if it wasn’t for Axiom, I wouldn’t be working for my current client and that client wouldn’t be seeing my resume because of my other commitments. I wouldn’t have even put myself in the candidate pool. Players like Axiom are making the pool of candidates wider and deeper. That’s a function of market conditions, but also people conditions. People like me want to dip into different things while keeping their transactional skills sharp.
I think the law firms are realizing that they need to progress. For me, personally, I approach my work as a consultant instead of a lawyer, per se, because I recognize I’m in the service industry where customer satisfaction is really important. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, or a lawyer or consultant, because many lawyers don’t see themselves as a provider of customer satisfaction. It’s about communication and ensuring the client’s needs [are] being met. You can’t hide. You have to be available and visible to take on work. The skill set that’s important not just for [an] Axiom lawyer, but for any in-house lawyer is constant communication with the client. Are you getting what you need? Is this what you are looking for? Any other issues you have? It might be overcommunicating, but I found it’s helpful to say I’m available for anything you need. At the end of the day as an Axiom attorney, I want to be there to help if I can do something else. It’s important to raise your hand. That’s why we’re there. That’s how we’re different.”
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