UK Lawyer Continues Leading Legal Teams Through Axiom
By Axiom Law
With more than two decades of experience in various practice areas, from commercial and contract law to banking, financial services, and data privacy, Jenny supports her clients by combining skills she acquired at DLA Piper, along with experience as Head of Legal at a financing subsidiary of one of the world’s largest automobile manufacturers. She is currently leading a team of Axiom lawyers at a leading UK bank.
Jenny’s unique journey to Axiom
After graduating in Manchester, Jenny trained and then took a position with DLA Piper in Leeds and then in London as a banking and finance lawyer, primarily working on sports-related, asset-based, and development financing, acting for both large banks and major sports clubs. She then went on to work on matters for several VC and bank-funded MBOs, before joining Mayer Brown JSM in Bangkok, Thailand. There, she worked on foreign investments and managed an international credit committee of 140 financial institutions in, what was at the time, at USD 3 billion, the largest restructuring of the Thai petrochemicals industry.
After her time in Asia, Jenny moved back to the UK to lead the legal department for GMAC Commercial Finance, PLC. As Head of Legal, there were several times when Jenny wished she had flexible legal talent to support her team. Until she read an article about Axiom in the Financial Times, she thought her only option was to add a temporary lawyer from a law firm, and she was concerned that she wouldn’t receive the flexible quality expertise she needed. After discovering Axiom and its unique model, she realized there were other, more efficient, and cost-effective options for hiring quality legal professionals to support the business. She also decided if she ever wanted to make a career transition, she would consider Axiom.
That time came in 2010 when Jenny’s company was dismantling. After supporting the transition, she went straight to Axiom. At Axiom, she knew she could sharpen her skills, work with different clients, and try new experiences: “I really could see the benefits personally of working with more businesses. I had also already experienced various ways of working in different countries and organisations, which I could continue to build on and then offer each client.”
Experiencing different projects makes her a more well-rounded lawyer
Jenny believes she will only improve as a lawyer professionally if she continues to try new services and practice areas: “For my career, I decided I wanted to go into a number of high-quality businesses and do my job in order to improve my service to clients.” Through Axiom, she has experienced opportunities like asset sales, deputy GC work, large-scale global data privacy realignment post-GDPR, and international regulatory inventory builds, in addition to her previous experience in the financial industry.
“[Other lawyers] think ‘oh, I’ve done data privacy all my life, I’ve got to stick to that. I can’t do anything that takes me away from that.’ But for me, I had a skill in being able to turn my hand to different things and be able to view how projects are carried out in various companies. Different subject matters, but similar projects.” What does this mean for Jenny’s clients? It means that her clients have immediate access to her vast knowledge of what contributes to the successes and failures of similar projects. Simply put, her perspective of approaching projects from different angles helps the client improve their business strategies; “It makes me feel like I’ve added a lot of extra value, even if it’s not just strictly legal value.”
The Axiom model is a win-win for both Jenny and her clients
One of the unique aspects of the Axiom model is the opportunity for clients to hire either one lawyer or a group of lawyers to consult on a specific project or need as it arises, instead of hiring law firm secondees who just bill by the hour. Recently, Jenny has been working more on projects, and she enjoys it: “I’m sent in to do a particular project with a clear start, middle, and end, and I like that.”
That’s what’s appealing about Axiom – lawyers can choose when and how they work, and clients can choose what types of solutions work best for their legal needs: “So many lawyers or potential clients are of the mindset that you use a managed resource like a straightforward secondee, but that’s not the case. There’s a lot more we can offer.”
Leading businesses use a mix of flexible legal talent and external law firm support to supplement their in-house legal departments. Each serves its own purposes, and Jenny describes how each group differs: “The project I’m working on now involves Axiom, external legal counsel, internal legal counsel, and obviously the internal client. The advice we get from external counsel is technically good, as they are the specialists, but our ability and our knowledge of how to take what they’ve produced and turn it into something that’s more useful for the client in-house is where I thrive, and that’s one of the differences.” She finds it shocking what some law firms offer for advice and how often it may take a significant amount of refinement for it to be in a format that can be used with the business. She thinks it’s due to a lack of understanding of how legal advice is perceived and presented in an in-house environment.
Supporting the in-house team
While the Great Resignation is impacting so many major businesses around the world, Jenny has found that’s not the case with her client’s in-house team. Her client’s core legal team in EMEA hasn’t been as affected as some in-house teams, which she finds quite impressive. The team has embraced the Axiom model and is open and forward-thinking in terms of their relationship with the Axiom team: “They really make us feel welcome and like part of the team; there is a mutual respect, trust, and understanding for what each party can offer, which means the team feels valued and contributes to the overall success of the relationship.”
“My client contact, who is a lawyer and who is responsible for me, agreed on the best way for us to work together and structure our relationship. Together, we keep the project work on track whilst taking the burden off the permanent team.” This strategy helped when there was a massive project that would otherwise materially disrupt the team’s usual delivery. She and her client contact decided to keep their workloads separate from the legal team’s workload, so the team could be laser-focused on their day-to-day jobs: “There’s absolutely no way the legal team could have been able to do this on the side. It’s imperative they had a flexible, scalable, and experienced model like Axiom to help.”
Could the client have just outsourced the legal support to a law firm? They’re specialists, after all. But from Jenny’s experience, there was no way a firm could have delivered what the client wanted within the budget: “We are a constant, yet entirely flexible, resource that outside counsel may have found difficult to staff. We are hugely cost-effective, and even after outside counsel has added in their own cost-saving initiatives, the Axiom model still remains hugely competitive. With our model, we have ensured the client delivers on time and within budget. Time itself a major cost.”
Turning Axiom into a long-term career choice
While she says she is not averse to ever moving out of Axiom, she’s very happy where she is and with the career choices she’s made thus far: “Just last year, someone came to me with a permanent role that was really interesting, and I was seriously tempted. But then I stepped back and looked at the benefits of Axiom and weighed that against the other things coming across my desk, and it just comes out in favor of Axiom. I get quality, stimulating work, and flexibility. It’s a win-win for me.”
Specifically, she loves that she can take more time off when it works for her family, which she could never do so easily in-house or at a law firm: “When my son was three years old, we took almost a year off to travel through Central America, some of North America, and some of Asia. You can get sabbaticals in a permanent role, sure, but you wouldn’t be able to take so many blocks of time off. Here and there I’ve taken off two or three months. A few times I worked part-time, but now that my son is older, it currently suits me to work full-time with fewer breaks. It wasn’t a career choice – it was a lifestyle choice that impacted my career decision.” Jenny has found Axiom offers her the perfect balance: allowing her to fulfill her passion for providing high-caliber legal services while also spending quality time with her family.
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