Debunking the Myths and Misconceptions of Working for a Flexible Legal Talent Provider
By Sara Morgan
A conversation with Axiom attorney Elena V.
We’ve all heard the myths about working for a flexible legal talent provider: I can’t build my career, there are no benefits, and it’s just a quick fix between jobs.
The reality, however, is quite the opposite.
Axiom attorney Elena V. shared her experience working for a flexible legal talent provider during a recent webinar. Elena has over 18 years of experience and concentrates her practice in securities, corporate law, and finance law. She has worked at law firms, had her own private practice, has been engaged by legal departments at multiple companies including a multinational bank, and has called Axiom home for the past six years.
Myth: The work I do will be chosen for me and won’t be engaging.
Reality: Axiom attorneys can decide which opportunities they’d like to take, and the Axiom team makes every effort to ensure assignments are engaging for talent.
“I felt that I had the choice at all times,” shared Elena, when she was asked whether she felt like her work at Axiom was chosen for her and whether she found it engaging.
“My first interaction with Axiom happened in 2011, when I was coming to the end of my law firm career. At the time, I had the idea of starting my own practice, but I also didn’t want to jump all the way into that without having a backup plan with Axiom. Axiom was very patient and very flexible.”
Elena also explained she didn’t feel compelled to accept work that wasn’t appealing to her. “Several projects have been presented to me. Some were very intense and were not really my cup of tea. My first project was amazing. It’s exactly what I wanted.”
To ensure Elena’s happiness and success on her first assignment, her Axiom representative kept regular communication with her. “They wanted to know whether I was happy, whether the work was challenging, and whether I was keeping up. They were getting very thorough feedback about the demands that were being placed on us. So that was a very happy first experience.”
After her first Axiom assignment, Elena decided to switch gears and focus on her own private practice. She continued though to take opportunities with Axiom throughout the years at her discretion, selecting opportunities she found exciting including a six-month regulatory project. In 2016, she began her current assignment through Axiom and hasn’t looked back.
“I jumped on the opportunity, and I’ve been working on that same project for six years now. I always say to people, ‘this is the best job of my life because I just do law.’ I work with intelligent colleagues, and I don’t really have to worry about any of the administrative stuff. I don’t have to worry about the management stuff. Basically, I do what I do best, and everybody else – including Axiom – does their job, which is finding the right opportunities and projects and so forth. So I’m pretty happy.”
Myth: I won’t be able to build my career or have any relationships with colleagues or clients.
Reality: Working with a flexible legal talent provider, like Axiom, allows attorneys to continue to build their career while enjoying meaningful relationships with colleagues and clients.
Elena acknowledges why some attorneys may fear they won’t be able to build their career or have any relationships with colleagues or clients if they work for a flexible legal talent provider.
“I understand the concern, because when you come in as a negotiator into a large corporation, you’re not part of the corporate ladder. You are there on a project, and the interaction is fairly horizontal.” This isn’t always the case, as some attorneys working for a flexible legal talent provider may eventually make the decision to permanently move to a similar in-house role. However, that has never been of interest to Elena.
“I think many people who choose Axiom enjoy the horizontal quality of the work. I am not the one to climb the corporate ladder. It’s never been my priority, and I think it’s a wonderful thing that Axiom does not expect me to do that. Meanwhile, I can focus my energy on building my relationships in depth and also study the demands of the workplace around me to try to learn how to best serve the needs of the client.”
Elena feels that it’s this freedom from the pressures of climbing the corporate ladder that best allows her to grow professionally. “I just focus on my core area of expertise, my true interest. And I must say, the colleagues I have on my current assignment are the reason why I’ve stayed there so long. I have been offered other projects, but every time I looked around, I was like ‘these are the people who I love working with.’ They are competent, respectful, and driven. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people.”
Myth: There are no benefits, and engagements are only contract work.
Reality: Axiom attorneys are Axiom employees, not contractors. They enjoy traditional benefits, including access to health insurance, a 401k, and more.
By working with Axiom, Elena feels like she gets the best of both worlds. As an Axiom attorney, she receives a predictable salary, health insurance, and paid time off.
“I ran my private practice for a few years, and as rewarding as it was, it was challenging. And now all I have to do is legal work, and I have a salary. I love it. That peace of mind is so important.”
Like many other Axiom attorneys, Elena places high value on the flexibility and work-life balance a flexible legal talent provider affords her. “Flexibility definitely jumps out at me,” she shared when asked what career driver is most important to her. “There's no better match for me than Axiom, in terms of combining work-life balance, our ability to work from home, all of that. That's the number one. But at the same time, the compensation through Axiom is awesome.”
As an Axiom attorney, Elena no longer has to worry about sending out invoices or whether her clients have paid her. She also has access to other benefits, such as Axiom’s employee assistance program, CLEs, and other resources, such as diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) and other trainings.
“There's a whole community at Axiom, and there's the whole parallel universe of the issues that are important to us as Axiom attorneys,” explained Elena. “Diversity and inclusion, pro bono work, all of that is also being run by Axiom talent managers. That is just another component of the things that I needed to do on my own when I was running my private practice, but at Axiom, I can just lean into the resources that are already available to me. And the resources are enormous!”
Elena elaborated about how she has found Axiom’s DE&I efforts to be more authentic than she has experienced at other companies.
“There is a huge emphasis on inclusion of all kinds and also communication, which I think is very telling. Both the diversity and sexual harassment training are so high quality. It's not a performance. It's interactive, and it's good. It's actually pushed into my inbox fairly often as a refresher, and that's the tone at the top. It's not just checking a box, as I've seen at other companies.”
She continued, “We could all be better from one day to another. There’s just so much to learn, and I applaud Axiom for making an effort to take it to the next level every single time, which is not an easy thing for anyone. It's personal work that needs to be done over, and over, and over. It's never done. It's like brushing your teeth; you're always doing it.”
Myth: A flexible legal talent provider is just a quick fix until I get a real job at an in-house client.
Reality: Working for a flexible legal talent provider is a career choice more and more lawyers are making each year.
When Elena was asked whether she ever felt like Axiom was just a quick fix until she found another job, she responded, “This is the lifestyle that I've chosen. I know that if the project I’m working on ever ends, there will be more. Axiom will find me yet another fun project. There's always more.”
She continued, “This arrangement is a very, very good fit for me because I get to be a lawyer, do what I do best, and let everyone else at Axiom do what they do best, too. We’re all working in the same direction. That's the part I like the most.”
Elena certainly isn’t alone on the career path she’s chosen. In fact, according to a recent Axiom survey, almost all respondents (97%) said they were at least a little bit interested in one day joining a flexible legal talent provider, and more than half (61%) are very or extremely interested.
She’s never felt stigmatized by working for a flexible legal talent provider either. “I came to my current assignment on the coattails of other Axiom attorneys who created a really good reputation for all of us. It was an easy fit, and if anything, it's given me an advantage. Not a stigma. I can't say enough about the positivity of my experience.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of working with Axiom, connect with us to explore ways of joining our team of dynamic lawyers.
Sara Morgan serves as Executive Vice President, Head of Global Legal Talent at Axiom, leading an international team and network of more than 6,800 lawyers and legal professionals who provide legal services to clients across all major industries and practice areas. She joined the Axiom team in 2009, where she quickly rose through the ranks of leadership after many successes, with most recently leading her team to 24% year over year growth in 2020 as Vice President of North American Sales. She moved into her current role in 2021 and has since considerably expanded the caliber and quantity of Axiom lawyers across the globe, reengineering the team and the way in which Axiom attracts and retains its market-leading, high-caliber talent. Prior to joining Axiom, Sara was a commercial litigation lawyer acting for major banking and actuarial companies at an international law firm. She graduated with her Bachelor of Laws from Cardiff University and received her LPC from Nottingham law school in 2004.
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