One of the most exciting opportunities for a young lawyer is to be hired on by a global technology company and work side-by-side with an experienced legal team that’s tackling everything from M&A and regulatory issues to the business of law in an era of digital transformation.
Betsy Cantrell, a recent law school graduate, was determined to get a head start on her corporate law career and took a staff attorney position with Tripwire, a cyber security monitoring firm. “I worked with a small five-person legal team and had a lot of interaction with our GC on a daily basis. I admired her and was intrigued by the role of GC,” says Betsy. “I realized that you’re not just an attorney: you’re a business person with a law degree.”
Cantrell set her sights on becoming a GC herself. “My ultimate goal is to become the GC of a startup, but I felt like I needed to work for a big technology company first to gain the right legal experience.”
Cantrell already had an advantage over many of her colleagues in that she worked in-house. The typical path to a corporate GC role starts with five to seven years in the trenches at a Big Law firm and then 10+ years in-house to gain the targeted expertise attorneys need to lead their particular company.
Cantrell didn’t want to wait that long. “I got an email from Axiom on LinkedIn about a new program -- the Emerging Lawyer Program -- that Axiom was managing for Intel. I thought it was a fantastic way to get experience at a big company that wouldn’t even look at me because I didn’t have the right background. I didn’t even know opportunities like this existed in the tech industry.”
That’s because they haven’t to-date, but Intel is committed to using new strategies to build a more sustainable legal team that considers the company’s diversity and inclusion goals.
“Intel’s legal team is known for being one of the best in the industry,” states Matt Swafford, Vice President and Associate General Counsel. “Our culture is a key reason that employees build long-lasting careers with us. However, that has resulted in a very senior legal team with little turnover. We’re interested in new approaches that can bring us the creative, diverse talent we need to succeed.”
Swafford and Trevor Jones, Director and Associate General Counsel, sought to develop a broader talent legal bench which will enable the company to meet changing business needs, while maintaining a strong focus on quality and cost.
As Associate General Counsel, Swafford wanted to augment the traditional hiring approach – of recruiting seasoned lawyers from big law firms – to help the legal department evolve more quickly. Big law firms and corporate legal departments train lawyers to mitigate risk, and young talent often works on components of large deals rather than “business as usual.” Intel operates in a marketplace that requires constant innovation: Developing new talent that has a more holistic view of the business and can balance risk and reward will help the company continue to grow and thrive.
Swafford realized he needed to pioneer a new approach to building a sustainable legal talent pipeline – developing lawyers internally. However, hiring, training, and creating work rotations for emerging talent would impose a significant burden on Intel’s busy legal department. It would also create business risk and result in lost time and opportunity if lawyers weren’t a fit. Was there a better way to meet Intel’s goals?
Intel has partnered with Axiom to introduce an Emerging Lawyer Program that provides promising early-career talent with the hands-on experience they need to succeed in the fast-changing technology industry.
In Intel’s Emerging Lawyer Program (ELP), two lawyers per class participate in two sequential rotations within different areas of the legal team, gaining exposure to Intel’s business over a period of 18 months. Axiom vets high-potential candidates, including women and underrepresented minority lawyers, with two to five years of practice experience and a business-minded approach – who Intel interviews and selects.
Axiom is responsible for the success of the program: providing program management and oversight, managing ongoing training, coordinating mentoring, and facilitating client input and reviews. At the end of the program, Intel can hire the experienced lawyers, engage with them as secondees through Axiom, or have them return to Axiom’s bench.
Betsy Cantrell and Bridget Lynn comprised the first ELP class at Intel. “Initially, it was a little intimidating,” says Cantrell. “Intel is such a big company that it takes a lot of time to get up to speed. Every time you switch
to a new business unit, it is like starting a role at a new company. I started out supporting Intel attorneys in the Software Group, and it took a year to understand their tools and playbooks. After that, I could go into negotiations with big players and know Intel’s fallback positions off the top of my head.”
“I gained confidence as I progressed through the rotations,” Cantrell says. “I would sit in on corporate negotiations and listen to the Intel attorneys’ strategies and compare their different negotiation styles. After the calls, I would redline documents based on what was discussed. When I did my own negotiations, the Intel attorneys would debrief, share what they would have done, and how I could improve.”
Cantrell’s second rotation was in the Data Center Group, where she served as the primary attorney for a sub-group of 200 to 300 employees. Cantrell relished the increased responsibility and chance to practice what she’d seen and learned with the Software Group.
“Now, as an Intel employee, I’m the business unit attorney for the Client Research and Development Group and the Virtual Reality Group,” says Cantrell. “This role gives me the experience I was looking for: It’s like being the GC of the two groups, which have 1,500 people. That’s a good size.”
The ELP program is a natural fit for Axiom, which hires more lawyers than any firm in the world.
Since Axiom provides a liquid, legal workforce for Global 500 business needs, the company has become an expert at onboarding, developing, and managing legal talent at scale. In 2016, Axiom hired more than 450 lawyers to work across its multiple business areas and help clients address the complex challenges posited by digital transformation, marketplace change, and increasing regulation.
In addition, Axiom has had a long-time partnership with Intel, demonstrating its ability to find legal talent, build team leadership and structure, and empower lawyers with the standardized processes they need to deliver high quality work and prove rapid value to in-house teams.
“The Emerging Lawyer Program created by Intel and Axiom gives us a new way to access the talented and diverse early-career attorneys we need to build the legal department Intel needs now and into the future,” says Swafford.
“I was really excited to be selected for the Intel ELP program,” says Cantrell. “I knew that as long as Intel had an open position that I would ultimately earn it. I was so motivated to win that role. Intel had a hiring freeze, and they made an exception to hire me and Bridget, the other ELP participant. They wouldn’t have made time to mentor us if they weren’t willing to move mountains to make sure we stayed at Intel.”
Cantrell and Lynn join a company known for its commitment to diversity and inclusion. In January 2015, CEO Brian Krzanich announced that Intel would invest $300 million over five years to build a more diverse workforce. Between 2014 and 2016, the company overall has made significant strides, boosting the number of female new hires from 24.8% to 35.1% and underrepresented minorities from 9.0% to 14.2%, with promises that the best is yet to come.
“I think Intel is a pretty diverse place,” says Cantrell. “I feel like they try to foster women’s development and keep them moving up the corporate ladder. Intel is very supportive of work-life balance, which is often what keeps women from moving up into higher positions. Intel has found a way to support that and promote gender, ethnic, and other kinds of diversity.”
Cantrell concludes: “This is my dream job, and I’m able to do it years before my peers can even think about taking on a role like this. The ELP program is such a great idea because it lets young lawyers take on big challenges that are a little bit scary and beyond their pay grade. That is when you learn the most and prove your value, even when your resume doesn’t show it. This program is a great way for new lawyers to get their foot in the door and get the experiences they need to grow and succeed.”