International Trade Compliance Lawyer Offers High-Caliber Clients Her Unique Skills
By Axiom Law
“Honestly, I used to be such a planner, but now I do what is right for me and my family. I plan to work for Axiom for the foreseeable future as I cannot imagine a job that is a better fit. I am continuing to expand my skill set while being able to be present in my personal life. In a world that is ever-changing, Axiom has been supportive and allowed me to adapt to the new normal, whatever that ends up being.”
Jennifer Liu has almost two decades of legal experience in trade compliance, regulatory law, international law and policy, and immigration and visa law. She has worked in various legal industries, including government, law firm, and in-house, and now serves as an Axiom lawyer. Currently, she’s working with a global conglomerate holding company in the Fortune 100, where she provides international trade compliance support.
Experiencing various avenues of legal services before landing at Axiom
Jennifer spent most of her career serving as in-house counsel for the Visa Office at the U.S. Department of State. In that role, she managed a number of legal portfolios and became the first Visa Sanctions Coordinator. She worked with others within the department and the interagency to implement economic sanctions in the visa context. Because she really enjoyed regulatory compliance work and economic sanctions, Jennifer decided to transition to the private sector and work on sanctions from a financial institution perspective. She served at Citibank as an Assistant Vice President and Senior Sanctions Analyst. After two years in this role, Jennifer wanted to broaden her depth of experience in trade compliance, so she made the move to a big law firm, where she could work with clients from various business sectors and move into other trade compliance areas like export controls.
After working for two years at a prominent international law firm, the pandemic hit, causing Jennifer to reflect on what was important to her in both her career and her personal life. She had heard wonderful things about working for Axiom, most notably the flexibility and interesting work the company offers, so she decided to give it a shot.
Joining a flexible staffing provider in the middle of a pandemic was not an easy decision, but Jennifer is glad she took the risk: “I can continue doing trade compliance with a variety of clients, but also can work fewer hours if necessary and work from home for a variety of personal reasons (including the lack of a long commute) while still performing high-caliber work.” As many legal positions move back to a hybrid, mostly in-person model, Jennifer knows she made the right choice for her flexibility and career path. She enjoys working with in-house legal departments and learning first-hand how trade compliance impacts companies in different business sectors. It’s a win-win situation – she can continue doing the trade compliance work she loves while still being flexible.
Providing her clients with unique experiences and skills
Jennifer’s first Axiom project was a secondment engagement providing leave support for an in-house export counsel at a multibillion-dollar medical device company. She jumped right in and was surprised to be so quickly immersed in every project the in-house counsel managed. The client was in the process of building out its compliance program, in which Jennifer had unique experience from her law firm days, so she picked up right where the full-time counsel left off.
She drafted trade compliance procedures and trainings and answered daily operational trade compliance questions. Her engagement ended at the close of the year, and the client was able to seamlessly continue its work without any pause in operations.
Excited about the work she performed for her first Axiom client, she eagerly jumped right into her next engagement with a major multinational conglomerate holding company. With a focus on how sanctions and export controls apply in the shipping arena, Jennifer partners with the client’s team to develop their compliance program and draft processes and training courses related to the implementation of sanctions and export controls laws. She has pivoted to work more on export controls, particularly in the technology space. Jennifer is a part of the client’s team and appreciates the challenge of adapting her expertise to serve the client’s needs and learn about an entirely new sector. Axiom provides a unique opportunity for lawyers like Jennifer to see first-hand how different companies approach trade compliance issues and then apply that experience to better understand and serve its clients.
Axiom offers Jennifer the “best of both worlds”
“I suppose I am part of the Great Transition versus Great Resignation. Even before the pandemic, I knew I needed greater flexibility after having kids. I left the government in part because I needed more flexibility with work from home and a more flexible work schedule.” Jennifer ultimately ended up at Axiom, where she feels the pay is commensurate with her skillset and she can find the right engagement that works for her and her family. “Axiom offers me the best of both worlds – even with a pandemic, it offers commensurate pay, but also the flexibility and the opportunity to have interesting work.”
“Many people think flexible legal work doesn’t offer good opportunities or a career, but with Axiom, I can get a variety of in-house experience without actual job-hopping,” Jennifer says. She goes on to mention there’s less pressure than being outside counsel, and the work is still interesting and exciting. The hours are predictable and rarely require weekend work.
She also notes another concern about working at Axiom was that she worried she would spend too much time on the “beach,” waiting for her next assignment, but was surprised and happy to find she had no downtime between engagements. In addition, she says Axiom has been “so good about making sure what I’m looking for in the project is a good fit for what I’m looking for at the time. I’ve had such a wonderful experience so far.”
Jennifer loves working on different assignments in the trade compliance space because the issues really vary depending on the engagement. It helps the client learn new ways of building processes, while also providing her with more fun and engaging experiences: “Each sector and company has unique trade compliance issues, so you’re always changing the way you look at different laws and regulations. These skills are useful for any future job, whether it be back in the government, a law firm, etc.” Any company would benefit from her information and skills, as she has experience in drafting trade compliance processes in the corporate and government setting, as well as commenting on draft laws, regulations, and executive orders in the government setting.
In the area of trade compliance, Jennifer says the opportunities should continue to increase as these issues are becoming even more relevant: “As the geopolitical environment rapidly changes and companies are having to adapt to new sanctions and export controls restrictions, there is an increasing number of opportunities for lawyers to jump in and help.”
A long-term career choice
Jennifer enjoys working on different projects for different clients and says she’s always challenging herself, learning about different companies, and meeting different people:
“I’m so happy here, so I’d like to continue this path so long as I’m happy. A lot of people are afraid of leaving a law firm because they worry that they will close that door, but I don’t think that’s the case. I still get calls about law firm job opportunities. I think that the pandemic has only opened more doors as it seems more attorneys have resigned, taken time off, or switched roles temporarily.”
Jennifer’s advice to anyone on the fence about leaving their current position, whether at a law firm or in-house, and joining Axiom? “There are so many ‘nontraditional’ career paths these days, with people ending up in jobs they didn’t anticipate. It seems nontraditional paths are more of the norm. I focused on international trade and international law in law school but ended up in trade compliance by pursuing job opportunities at State and in the private sector that were exciting and fulfilling. I think that if people focus on what makes them happy and balanced, doors will open with opportunities that are more fulfilling than the path they had originally envisioned.”
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