Axiom’s London office is conspicuously un-law firm like. Situated in a five story-building in trendy Clerkenwell, where neighbours include cutting edge architects and new media companies, the vibe is modern, creative and techy – the opposite, basically, of the fusty legal profession vibe of yore.
Business team members chat on brightly coloured couches in chill out areas, or get down to work on open-plan terminals in a space full of natural light courtesy of the large warehouse-style windows. None of Axiom’s lawyers are in their offices; as all of them work on secondment at client sites for large in-house corporates.
The firm dates back to 2000, when it was co-founded in New York by entrepreneur Alec Guettel and former Davis Polk & Wardwell associate Mark Harris. At the time their stated objective was “to put law firms in a wind tunnel and strip away the inefficiencies.”
Axiom began to expand internationally and set up in London in 2007, before coming through the 2008 financial crisis unscathed. Since then it has thrived, proving to be well ahead of the game as a legal market innovation pioneer. Lately Axiom has been embracing lawtech to an ever greater extent, and is now the world’s largest provider of tech-enabled legal, contracts and compliance solutions for large companies, including over half of the FTSE 100. But people remain at the heart of the firm’s approach, and it now has over 2,200 employees working across 18 offices in eight different countries. The London office has grown exponentially, from 20 lawyers in 2008 to 130+ today.
The firm attracts some very good lawyers, many former associates from the leading City of London law firms who fancy working across different clients and industries, and who value being able to work to their own timetable – but with the security of being employees. The work is good quality; hence the calibre of the rookies that Axiom is able to consistently attract. But assignments can be selected flexibly, according to lawyers’ interests and other things they have going on in their lives. Most involve working on a project for a leading in-house legal department. Clients include Intel, Coca-Cola, eBay and PayPal, as well as top global investment banks.
Equally as important is the lack of two major solicitor bugbears: billing targets and hierarchies. Axiom, which has no partners, has neither, ensuring that the un-law firm-likeness of the place is more than skin deep.