It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
Yogi Berra
Yet that never stops us from asking our “crystal ball” questions to our guests like Axiom’s Chief Commercial Officer, David Pierce. Some of the traits that David believes will make for successful businesses and people include:
  • Emphasis on creativity and great imaginations
  • Make it clear that everyone’s health and safety are top priorities through clear communication and transparent efforts
  • Be flexible on work environments with clear policies
  • Lay out clear business missions and objectives and make it clear what role each person plays in helping accomplish that mission
We also dive into Axiom’s mission and the role that David has played over the past few years. As well as David dropping some knowledge about Yellow Loading Zones he learned in law school.

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Contact Us
Twitter: @gebauerm or @glambert.
Voicemail: 713-487-7270
Music: As always, the great music you hear on the podcast is from Jerry David DeCicca.


Marlene Gebauer  0:15

Welcome to The Geek in Review, the podcast focused on innovative and creative ideas in the legal industry. I’m Marlene Gebauer.

Greg Lambert  0:22

And I’m Greg Lambert. Well, Happy New Year, Marlene and

Marlene Gebauer  0:26

Happy New Year.

Greg Lambert  0:28

I have to say I am very happy to have left that previous year behind. I won’t even say what

Marlene Gebauer  0:34

my god yes.

Greg Lambert  0:35

And so looking forward to

Marlene Gebauer  0:37

the year that shall not be named.

Greg Lambert  0:40

The first rule about 2022 is we don’t talk about other

Marlene Gebauer  0:43

you don’t talk about other years.

Greg Lambert  0:44

Yeah. So so how did you enjoy your winter break?

Marlene Gebauer  0:49

I enjoyed it very much. I got to spend some time at home in New Jersey with friends and family. I had a lovely spa day in Edgewater, New Jersey. So I highly recommend SoJo, if you haven’t been there before, fantastic. All I’ll say is an infinity pool overlooking the Hudson overlooking the New York skyline.

Greg Lambert  1:12

That’s not bad.

Marlene Gebauer  1:13

You know, I didn’t I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to see because of the many many COVID exposures that popped up between when I got there and just a few days later. But we did connect via phone and text and video. And I did not set any resolutions. I don’t do resolutions. But I did set some mindfulness intentions, like, you know, remembering to move around during the day, I tend to basically plop myself down at the desk and not go anywhere for the entire day. Writing in my gratitude journal and carving out time for more experiences. So I already did a night kayaking trip, which was pretty cool. And I did a visit to some historic areas around Schulenburg, Texas. I’m also trying to be more mindful of the time spent on social media. So you know, you may see me less on there. But you know, when I do post, I assure you the content will be fabulous. So how was your break?

Greg Lambert  2:15

Mine was pretty decent. I before we get to mine, I do want to mention that you are the second person today that I heard well actually third person today, that said they don’t set resolutions they they set intentions and it’s the difference between what you want to do and how you want to live. So yeah, so maybe maybe this year also I’ll set some intentions as well. So but over the over the break, I get to go out to a friend’s wedding in New Orleans. So that was a that was a lot of fun. Did some dancing and

Marlene Gebauer  2:53

I saw that

Greg Lambert  2:54

Yeah, I danced all night and with him by all night. I mean we left at 10.

Marlene Gebauer  3:02

That’s that’s how all night goes.

Greg Lambert  3:06

At my age 10 o’clock is all night so but I was also one of those unfortunate people who while being fully vaccinated and boosted still somehow or another contracted COVID over the break. And I’m telling you this this Omicron variants super sneaky. But luckily I think because being fully vaccinated and boosted I had super mild symptoms, and I think most of the rest of the family got got away from contracting it. But the good side of that was while I was isolating I got to read and I read a lot of old comic books that I always wanted to read like Alan Moore Swamp Thing, but never actually

Marlene Gebauer  3:50

Is Swamp Thing from New Jersey something

Greg Lambert  3:52

no he’s a Louisiana so I think there’s two variations one he’s in Florida one he’s in Louisiana, but

Marlene Gebauer  4:00

I’m trying to figure who I’m thinking of. Maybe a Toxic.

Greg Lambert  4:02

Maybe me Man Thing. Yeah, the Toxic Avenger?

Marlene Gebauer  4:07

Man Thing? What’s Man Thing?

Greg Lambert  4:08

That’s a Marvel DC thing.

Marlene Gebauer  4:08

I didn’t know that.

Greg Lambert  4:11

We don’t even have enough time to get into but yeah, the Toxic Avenger that sounds like a New Jersey superhero.

Marlene Gebauer  4:20

Yes, it does.

Greg Lambert  4:22

So like like the story says, you know when the world gives you lemons, you know, go read some comic books. Well, this week we talk with Axiom’s David Pierce about his work there at axiom as well as who he predicts will come out of the pandemic and the great resignation better position to handle the legal marketplace and the demands from across the spectrum of legal talent. You know, I do love the fact that he invokes the the great philosopher Yogi Berra, when he says that prediction is really difficult, especially if it’s about the future. So but I have to say I think he’s pretty spot on on what he Thanks, it’s gonna happen.

Marlene Gebauer  5:03

We’d like to welcome David Pierce, Chief Commercial Officer at Axiom. David, welcome to The Geek in Review.

David Pierce  5:09

Hey there, Marlene. Hey, Greg, excited to be here.

Greg Lambert  5:11

David, I want to just start off because as we were prepping for this, I was telling us that people, either a really know Axiom, or they kind of just know of Axiom. And so before we dive in it, can you just give us a little bit about your role there? And maybe even just a little bit of history of Axiom itself?

David Pierce  5:34

Totally. I’m happy to do I have to say, I really enjoyed hearing prior versions of this podcast. There are a number of them I listened to. The one that stands out is the one you talked about working the mainframe computers and the giant red button. You were always super tempted to press.

Greg Lambert  5:50


David Pierce  5:51

I didn’t even know what that button was. But by the way you described it, I really wanted to press it. So anyway, happy to be here.

Greg Lambert  5:57

It just said press me.

David Pierce  6:00

That’s all it had to say, fan of the program. So let me answer the questions in reverse. If that’s okay. The Axiom story is a little cooler than my own personal stories of how I got there, and into the role I’m in, so I’ll cover my own background quick. And then we can get into the fun stuff. So law school is the only grad program that I know of where you don’t need pre-recs. You can just apply. So I was a bio major and I was in farming. After college, I was always kind of drawn to law. So I took the LSAT and applied and I graduated law school with a full loan package just like my wife did. So we did what most law students do when you have to pay down heavy debt. We went to big firms. So I was at O’Melveny. She was at Gibson. And that was right before the bust, I should say that was right in the middle of the, boom, mid 90s, it was a great time to be a lawyer. Because mid level associates were dropping right and left to take flyers on startups. And you got to step in a really cool work with big and visible clients. I know you both remember those days because I think we’re all kind of contemporaries. Yes. So a few years in, I went in house to an imaging company in Silicon Valley and a few years after that I went to Lucasfilm as the GC of the tech division.

Marlene Gebauer  7:11

I have so many questions. We’re gonna do this offline.

David Pierce  7:15

I know there’s so many we could spend the whole hour on that. I used to say to people that it was a movie magic division of Lucasfilm, and I still kind of believe that. So then I switched from a GC role in Lucasfilm THX to a GM role. I was running the business for a while. And I did that for five years. I’m going to skip a really interesting startup adventure in the year 2009. And tell you that I heard about Axiom in 2010 from a search firm, who said they were looking for someone who knew something about business and legal, and would be interested in a new kind of law company. And I met the people. And back then I met nearly all the people because we were really small back then. And you know, and the rest is history. So I started as a practice leader in SF, then I moved into a management role on the west coast and in North America. And two years ago, I stepped into a global role as Chief Commercial Officer. And in a few months, I will have been here 12 years. Time flies.

Greg Lambert  8:10

it adds up doesn’t it?

David Pierce  8:12

It adds up, you blink. So now we can get to the fun part unless Marlene, you really want to ask about Lucasfilm or farming because we could do that so that I can get

Marlene Gebauer  8:20

you get the Axiom story. First, we’ll see how much time we have at the end.

David Pierce  8:25

Yeah, okay, we should budget accordingly. So there was no such thing as an ALSP in the year 2000. I think both of you would attest to that. There were firms and there were in house departments. But even those departments were sort of a fraction of the size that most in house departments are today. And the law firm model had not really evolved in a century. We used to say that law firm and client equation was broken, meaning that no one in the formula was really as happy as they should be, except for the partner who’s making bank on armies of associates. It was back then sort of medieval fiefdom, more or less –  mahogany walls, instead of stone castles – but the economics are kind of the same. I think we could all stipulate to that. So Axiom’s mission was to give clients and great lawyers a better bargain. That’s how we described it. We had a lot of expressions that we used. We said we were a law firm in a wind tunnel. We said we were a modern interpretation of a firm. But the heart of it, we were just trying to give clients great quality legal professionals with more cost efficiency, and more flexibility. And we were trying to give lawyers a way to practice with great clients without a forced compromise in how and when they worked or who they did that work for. So there was a ton of skepticism. That should probably shock no one, and ours is not an industry famous for quick or rapid movement. And I still tell us the story of a meeting that our founder led with a GC of a Fortune 500 company, I think it was 2001. I wasn’t there, but I tell it like I was which always makes it more fun. And he sat across the table from this GC who was a very polite gentlemen. And they had a half an hour discussion. And at the end of it, so maybe a week later, our founder who is Mark Harris got a letter from him. It looked like it was typed up and dictated by him to his secretary. So this is, you know, this is a different era, it was probably issued on a word processor, or a typewriter. And the letter said, Dear Mark, and it was very polite. Dear Mark, thank you for spending time with me and sharing your vision for Axiom. While I appreciated the time, and I think it said exactly this, I don’t have it – I’m not reading from it – But I remember well, it said, , I just don’t see that any self-respecting lawyer would ever choose to practice Axiom’s way. True story, verbatim. So here we are 20 years later. So we’re at 6500 lawyers and legal professionals, we’re on three continents and we serve not just that Fortune 500 company, by the way, but half of the rest, all the top 10 of the world’s largest financial institutions, life sciences companies, 1000s of mid-market businesses. I don’t think a lot of companies can say they were category creators, and market leaders 20 years after the fact. So it feels kind of special to say that, and obviously, you know, you can imagine we’re always trying to improve and perfect the experience that we give clients and lawyers. It is not either or for us, it’s actually a really important point, in my view, it’s not either client or lawyer: you have to equally prioritize both to build the kind of business that we want. So I can pause. It’s a bit of a mouthful, but I can kind of get one level deeper into I think, Greg, your real questions which is what we’re doing today, I’m happy to keep going,

Greg Lambert  11:40

Although I do want to make the comment that I bet the attorney that wrote that letter, has completely forgotten about that letter and tells everyone I was there when they first started off, and I helped kinda guide their success.

David Pierce  11:56

Well, you know, it’s funny, I hope he does. But in many ways he really did inspire us. Because when you get the kind of skepticism, it just really fuels you, you want just really dig in.

Marlene Gebauer  12:06

I’m going to show that that’s incorrect.

David Pierce  12:08

Yeah, you dig in. Yeah, how many great victories and advances were done because someone wanted to dig in? You know? So on the client side, just to kind of come back to your question, Greg, we give clients access to in-house lawyers on a flexible basis, which I think most people know us for. But we also work with them the way that a law firm would, by connecting them to subject matter experts in a range of disciplines across just about every major practice area, either on an hourly or matter-based structure. I think, you know, many companies know us only for flexible talent that we pioneered way back when, but the law firm level work is a growing part of our business for super obvious reasons. The work isn’t shrinking, and the budgets aren’t getting any bigger. So I’d say, if nothing else, if I had a chance to speak with someone who was asking about Axiom, and really want to know what was new, I would talk heavily about that, because I think most people get we have great high caliber lawyers, and make them available to clients on a flexible basis. So that’s the client side. On the lawyer side, the way I think about it and the way describe it if given 30 seconds in an elevator, is that although no one’s in elevators anymore.

Marlene Gebauer  13:20

30 seconds on a Zoom call.

David Pierce  13:20

30 Seconds going from living room, the bedroom? Yeah, yeah, that’s right. That’s right. Someone said to me the other day that they every time they leave a day of Zoom, they feel like they’re exiting a matinee blinking.

Greg Lambert  13:33

That’s a perfect segue. So

David Pierce  13:34

That person, by the way, was our senior client advisor named Charlie Sandel, former GC of a big public retailer, we were talking yesterday and I said, Charlie, I said, I’m going to use that line. So there you go, Charlie, that ones for you. So we give lawyers and legal professionals access to great work and a means to practice the way they want. And a route to that, to do those things beyond the traditional realms of law firms and full time in-house roles. Right, and we’ll have hired about 1,000 lawyers by the time the year is up. And even notwithstanding that, we’ve kept the bar on quality really high. We hire roughly one in 20 who apply, almost 1000 come from AmLaw 100 firms, 1500 of them have Fortune 500 in-house experience. And you know, I think it’s really important to the lawyers and legal professionals that are with us that we keep that bar high. You know, we are, listen, I won’t get into kind of competitive positioning, this isn’t an Axiom commercial. I get it. But I feel one thing that sets us apart is that we are the only company of our kind that is purely totally focused on legal talent. We’re not opening up delivery centers in low cost locations. We’re not going to start slinging technology off the shelf and license it in a box or through a download. Right? We are a purely talent focused business. We are using technology to drive that value proposition. I’m sure we’ll get a chance to talk about that later. But I like to say that, because I think it’s a commonly, I think people sometimes take for granted how pure our focus on talent is.

Marlene Gebauer  15:07

So David, the sort of theme of this loosely, this podcast is about talent management, particularly now after pandemic and the Great Resignation. So I did a little research before the podcast. And so this past September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July with a record breaking 10.9 million open jobs at the end of July. And I don’t think the great resignation has gotten any better since then. So you know, what are you seeing as the trends?

David Pierce  15:45

So first of all, I totally agree with you. I don’t think that the story has been fully written. I think it’s not over. I think a lot of people are totally still reflecting on what comes next for them. I think you probably saw the news about PayPal’s GC resigning and how she framed that. I also think, you know, it’s funny, I think resignation, the Great Resignation is I think one way to put it, I always think about it as the Great Reflection. Because people are taking longer and harder looks at their careers, where they are, where they’ve been, where they want to go, you know, who they want to be at any stage of career and resignations are the byproduct of reflection, right? So like, I think about it as a reflection, and then it’s a resignation triggered as a result. I think the only thing, Marlene, that would screech the trend to a halt is just a massive swing in the economy and in the job market. Because when things get bad, I think we all know people generally lose the guts to leave the shore. And you know, look for new horizons. So by the way, there’s a sailing analogy for you, I get carried away with analogies, sometimes – that’s a growth area for me and you’ll know that by the end of the call, I’m sure  – But I would say this when it comes to trend and this I feel really passionate about the remote/on site thing – totally get it but it’s getting kind of very played out. Everybody gets it. People want more freedom. They want to work where they want to work. Some companies will offer it, some companies won’t sometimes, we’ll make kind of Solomon-like declarations to split the baby on hybrid approaches based on job types, seniority and roles, but this is this the point I really would love to make. It seems ridiculous to me to think that the sum total flexibility that people want, comes down to where they sit in a chair. You know what I mean? That there’s so many more dimensions to flexibility and autonomy than that. Where do you want to work? Who do you want to work with? What kind of team, what kind of industry? You know, what kind of manager? On what schedule? When do you want to be busy? Why do you want to take a break? Like and obviously, you know, Axiom exists to help solve for these sorts of things and to give people means to get that autonomy on all those dimensions. But I think more companies are going to start doing that. And that’s a really great thing for not just kind of the legal profession, but every workforce, people want more autonomy than they’re getting. And I believe that the companies who get this right, are going to find and keep the best talent and the ones that don’t or I should say the opposite might also be true.

Greg Lambert  18:04

Yeah, so

Greg Lambert  18:05


Greg Lambert  18:07

It makes perfect sense. Yeah, I did want to follow up with you on a couple of things. We thought it was really going to be hard, leaving the office and going remote in March of 2020. And but I predicted months ago that it’s going to be so much harder, coming back to the office and trying to reestablish that. You know, looking at your experience on this. I just want to say, you know, what, what are some of the things that you were set up to to handle and and what were some of the things that maybe you had to you had to really kind of struggle with and make sure that you maintained while everyone was working. And now as we’re trying to get back to some sense of what’s next?

David Pierce  18:57

Yeah, it’s such a great question. First of all, to the beginning of the question, Greg, I think that we were all far readier to be productive remotely, than I think most pundits predicted. Right? It was relatively easy for lawyers to start doing really tricky, complicated big deals, you know, from their pajamas, you know, in their home offices, if they had a home office, and even if they didn’t in a local spot where they could do some work. I also agree. And by the way, our own business proved that. We saw a lot of clients who had insisted on on-site as a requirement and move quickly and with no friction to remote engagements. On the other part of your question. I totally agree that there are a lot of challenges that people have not been prepared for, you know, and it’s part of this is just like the obvious stuff, right? Who knew that you would have to navigate really tricky vaccination requirements, or plexiglass, or you know, have to discover and share health and information that would otherwise have been a HIPAA violation, right, and how to navigate that. That’s why so many of our clients are asking us more and more for labor and employment help, the kind that would typically go to outside firms, and no one right now, no big company that I know of has enough L&E lawyers on staff to tackle the wave of questions they’re getting, you know. So preparing for that is just one thing that companies are doing to kind of navigate the return to offices or return to work as you want to put it. But I’ll tell you this, just speaking from personal experience, at Axiom, I think, you know, we have gotten very focused on tons and tons of real time updates, communication. You know, we and I think this is such an obvious statement, right, Greg, and Marlene, but it has to be really clear to your employees, to your talent, that you’re going to prioritize their safety and health. First, foremost, full stop. Has to be super clear, has to be clear in the words but in the actions, you know, and I think there are basic, you know, logistics decisions that people are struggling with: do you open up an office and ask people to go back if you all have to be masked up? Do you wait, you know, how do you ensure that someone who chooses not to go into the office isn’t hurt career wise, or impacted in terms of promotability as a result? How do you handle support, navigate, help people who are struggling with all kinds of life events, or circumstances that the pandemic’s full grip has amplified? So I feel like all those things, you’re kinda gonna get a sense of a pattern with me. A lot of the stuff that we are taling about, it’s really just kind of common human sense, right? Like when we talk about trends in the industry, what people want, what kind of work they want, you know, people want to work with good people, they want to do work that interests them, they want to be challenged in the right way. They want to have a good leader, they want to connect to the mission of a company, and they really want to understand the part they play in bringing the mission to life. Now, I don’t think you need an MBA or a JD to nail all that stuff. It’s just it’s hard work to get it right, though. You know, it’s a simple premise, hard sometimes to execute anyway. long winded riff.

Greg Lambert  22:06

So I know in the legal industry itself, I mean, we we consider ourselves unique and special. And and we’re the snowflakes. No one can do it quite like us. But I would say as as we’re looking at return to work. What do you think that what do you think is going to be kind of the thing that or the trait that a really good law firm or legal service provider is going to do well? And what do you think we’re obviously just going to screw up?

David Pierce  22:50

Really tempted to talk about the screw up part first.

Marlene Gebauer  22:51

You can answer any way you want.

David Pierce  22:52

I think a lot a lot of what we talked about, right, I think it’s a lot of the common sense stuff, the over communication, the meeting people where they are, the transparency, the clarity in the minds of your talent, that you are going to prioritize their health and safety first, the granting of autonomy, you know, the commitment to ensuring that people have the tools they need to do the job, they have to do all that stuff. So I feel like that’s kind of obvious. But again, it’s kind of where the rubber meets the road. That’s when it becomes hard. I will say this. So Greg, I feel like when I’m looking at uniqueness and trends, I think that even within legal – let’s talk about legal versus everybody else. Even in legal, I think the spectrum of trends is super wide. Think about the way most tech companies are handling remote work and return to offices versus the way manufacturers are doing it, Life Sciences companies, financial services, all those companies have legal teams, right. And most of them have general counsels, even within the tech industry, I think you both remember this, even within the small circle of trillion dollar enterprises, we’ve seen a range: some companies were super quick to say, hey, it’s the end of 2020, we’re coming back. That’s where we’ll be most productive. Some company said, we’re pushing it out. And I’m making a decision. Some companies said work from home forever. And those were a bit of the outliers but even within tech, there’s a lot of discrepancies. So I think it’s challenging to make big kind of calls on industry approach. I don’t want to generalize too much. Some of this comes down to CEO point of view, you know, state policies where the headquarters are located, industry specific stuff. But here’s the other thing, I would say this comes back to the uniqueness point Greg GCs to me. So first, you know that I’m a lawyer. And I do think it’s a really noble profession. I think the things that we stand for, advocate, pursue, they’re all really important and I don’t just mean lawyers, I mean, legal professionals, knowledge managers, you know, like legal ops professionals, compliance professionals, ethics officers. So I feel like the GCs that I engage with, and legal leaders everywhere, I think we’re very quick to explicitly and loudly prioritize the health and safety of their teams. And to make sure that it was really clear, that was the thing that we’re solving for. So I feel like in many ways, our industry was a little unique, because there was never a question that we were going to do that.

Greg Lambert  25:29

Now we’re going to get to the fun part, but what are we going, what are we just gonna screw up?

David Pierce  25:34

Okay. What are we going to screw up? You know, it’s really funny. I got one, I got one, Greg, we’re going to screw up making predictions that we’re really confident about. There’s this quote, I love when Yogi Berra said, predictions are really hard, especially when they’re about the future. Such a great quote. And I think that the worst thing we could do is be rigid and inflexible. And this, by the way, just like soars right into Axiom’s, mantra theme, you know, core principles: you have to prepare for change, you have to navigate and be ready to navigate more change. It comes back to the Labor and Employment example. I’ll give you another one. What legal department 18 months ago, thought they would have to renegotiate and reassess their entire office footprint? Did you have enough real estate lawyers on site to do that? Or did you need to go outside, if you hire a real estate lawyer to do that, you may not need that person in a year and a half. And then you’re gonna have an unhappy exit or ask that person to retrain and learn an entirely new skill, which they may or may not be interested to do. If you go to an outside firm that focuses on real estate, you’re going to spend a ton of money and your CFO is going to be pissed. So I just, I think Greg, to make a really simple summary of this riff, you can’t predict stability, you have to predict that things will remain in flux, right? Anything surprise you there on what they’ll screw up?

Greg Lambert  27:02

I was thinking wider. But no, I thought that was? Well, I figured that was like a super easy question. That’s like, Yeah,

David Pierce  27:14

We could get we could get a little more detail off the record.

Greg Lambert  27:18

Yeah, well, and I think some of the other things that that I think we’re going to screw up is we’re going to, we’re going to lose sight of all of the trust that was built over the past two years. And that’s all going to fly out the window. And I think that’s going to hurt minority and female lawyers, more than more than anyone else, I think employers or employees are going to see right through employers who are saying one thing and doing another or that are making it much more difficult than necessary, say, for example, you know, it, yeah, you can work wherever you want, but then not giving you the support, you need to work where you need. Yeah. So I think I think people will see right through that.

Marlene Gebauer  28:13

Yeah, I mean, I’ll agree with with what he has said. You know, I will also say that I think there’s there’s going to be still a lot of discussion about is, you know, the health and welfare coming first? You know, I’m glad to hear you saying that, you know, you think that that is going to be the trend, but I, you know, I feel there’s still gonna be a lot of discussion about what is, you know, what that entails? Like, what, what does that mean? Because I think, you know, you have people who are saying, Look, I don’t want to go back to, you know, the office unless everybody’s vaccinated. And, you know, are we going to have those types of requirements? And if we don’t, you know, are people going to feel that, you know, whatever firms are saying, you know, is, is, in fact, you know, in their their best interest in terms of health. I also think that this whole maneuvering of back to the office is going to be a challenge for folks, in terms of you’d mentioned earlier about getting exposure, you know, how are we going to be able to make sure that folks get the exposure that they need? I know, there’s a lot of discussion among associates, you know, everybody was clamoring to get back to the office because they wanted face time. And if you know if that how do you how do you maneuver that particularly people who may need to work more remotely because of their personal situation?

David Pierce  29:38

Yeah. And people who are early in their career and really want to learn by sitting next to someone who does the job, they’re learning to do. I second what you said and I also think Greg used the word trust and kind of retain that trust. I actually think about imagination, Greg, we’ve seen a lot of imaginative solutions

Marlene Gebauer  29:57

out of necessity, out of necessity.

David Pierce  30:00

Clients who believe they would need to have lawyers on site….. Yes out of necessity? Well, you know, crisis always kind of breeds innovation. Right. And, and Greg, I just think that the creativity,  I guess I’d say innovation, I think it’s a very overused word these days, the innovation unleashed by the pandemic, I think it’s a wave, it’s gonna keep washing over legal and every other industry, by the way,

Marlene Gebauer  30:25

we’ve talked about all of these, these potential considerations and trends that, you know, we’re seeing, I guess, if we’re looking at the bottom line, and we’re looking at the fact that that people are reflecting and are leaving for other types of jobs and roles. Is the turnover actually impacting business in legal?

David Pierce  30:51

Yes. Yes, it is. It’s hard. It’s really hard to lose talent.

Marlene Gebauer  30:57

Like how, how is it impacting, you know, what do we have numbers? How is it impacting.

David Pierce  31:01

That was a super succinct answer, though! Marlene, you know, simple answer. Yes, it is hard to lose talent, tribal knowledge, you know, you’re losing people who really understand the business, you know, they know where the bones and the treasures are buried. It’s really hard to lose those people. And it’s, it’s even harder to do it when the market is as tight as it is because it takes longer to find talent. And even when you do, you’re competing with multiple other employers for that talent. Right. We see it everywhere right now. And other perks and red carpet kind of accoutrements. You know, we see clients who are experiencing this with junior lawyers, mid level lawyers, senior lawyers, all leaving for different sorts of reasons. We saw, as we said before, the GC of PayPal left for reasons that she described in an article I think I saw in Corporate Counsel Magazine, I think that, so no question it’s a challenge, I feel like the companies who were navigating this well are the ones who really built in contingencies. You know, they’re planning for ebb and flow and types of work. They have core groups of permanent team members, they have relationships with companies like Axiom, they have a concentrated group of traditional firms, they don’t have their eggs in one basket. And by the way, I think this is true in legal and this is probably true in any industry, you have to be prepared for continued change, not just to kind of see people go, but to be ready to onboard and ramp people really effectively. You know, if you ask me what GCs thought a lot about, I think they obviously think about holding on to their people. They’re more attuned to the morale and engagement level of their teams than they ever have been. But I think the best ones are also really focused on ramping new people quickly, immersing them in the culture, making sure they understand and feel excited about the business that they know who to go on what and where, like that kind of roadmap, it’s really hard to do that when you’re not sitting in the same physical space. So I guess I’d say, yes, it’s definitely impacting legal and every other industry. But the thing we can do that we can control is you can make sure we find people that we give them quick paths, and that we’re doing everything we can, everything we can to hold on to top talent. I think that’s such an obvious statement. But I think we’d all agree that there’s always something more most companies can do to make that happen.

Greg Lambert  33:20

Will this change the way that law firms recruit, especially out of out of the law schools, the OCIs? Which I think we’ve we’ve talked to this, about this on on previous episodes, which is a an archaic structure that is so bent toward people that are already well connected, just being getting more connected, and punishing people that normally will so I’m, you know, I’m, I myself am looking for something to disrupt that process. Do you think this will do it?

David Pierce  33:56

I mean, absolutely. I do. I still remember those OCI interviews, Greg, I remember kind of going out and spending like 150 bucks on a suit that didn’t look terrible, and showing up and convincing someone that I could do the job.

Greg Lambert  34:10

That was good money in the 90s.

David Pierce  34:12

That was that was, that was a lot back then that was like a $2,000 suit today. Yeah, I remember thinking that. First of all, OCI is really limited to grades, right? If you have certain grades you make the cut to OCI interviews, and that alone is very limited. You immediately narrow the funnel of people who become great lawyers out of the gate.

Marlene Gebauer  34:30

I think and there’s studies that say that doesn’t even it doesn’t correlate and whether you’re

David Pierce  34:34

I think you know, it does Marlene. It’s a little bit of a riff here but like listen, grades, academic performance pedigree, very important. And a lot of people are very focused on that. But here’s what I think is a real litmus test for who would make a great in house lawyer and then Greg, we can get back to the law firm question. You would make a great in-house if you are good at speaking plain language. You are comfortable working with people who aren’t lawyers. You are able to act like your hair’s not on fire even when it is and you are comfortable in areas of gray. That right there is a great litmus test and also you’re a good, collaborative, engaging and accessible person. That last part is to me is important. I think some people think it’s a nice to have, I think it makes you a really good lawyer because that’s when you really find out what you need to coach people on. So I think that’s a great OCI process, we should invent an OCI process that tests for those things and send those people right to in house roles, or to Axiom because I think you’ve heard we’re hiring. So listen, it’s been a while since I’ve been in a law firm environment. And that was at O’Melveny, and that was almost 20 years ago, actually, over 20 years ago. And I think there are some who are doing this really well and focusing more than ever on people and people experience. I think some that are continuing to learn that this is important. But I do sorry, Greg, it’s a it’s a riff. But I do think that the process is going to change and not just legal. I just read an article about what the CEO of Citibank is doing in redefining the culture of the bankers and the early career people that she’s hiring, really worth a read for anyone who wants to see kind of an interesting view on people policy, in what has traditionally been a very tough industry. I think that’s really worth the read. Everybody’s thinking more about the human experience of their talent.

Greg Lambert  36:21

Well, speaking of talent and recruitment, we all know, lateral hiring is just white hot right now. And I think there, I’ve seen half million dollar retention bonuses to people to stay on. Hiring bonuses are skyrocketed, salaries are way up. But I want to I want to get off of that. And

David Pierce  36:44

Everybody knows that. Let’s talk about some new stuff. Yeah.

Greg Lambert  36:46

What opportunities are available now in in the recruitment process when it comes to talent? That may not have been there two years ago?

David Pierce  36:58

Let me try to answer that with a couple different lenses. One, I want to talk about new lawyers, early career folks, people who are third year law students who know your podcast and are listening to this right now. I want to make sure that they get something of value in what I’m about to say that it’s useful. And second, I want to talk about lawyers who are in roles, but who want to transition skills. Because a lot of your audience, I imagine they’re not necessarily early career, maybe they’re mid career, maybe they’re senior, you know, maybe their general counsel of public companies. But I want to make sure that the information I’m giving you in response to that question is useful. So first of all, if you’re a third year law student right now, and you pulled me aside and said, Hey, David, where should I focus? I would say ESG, environmental, social governance, is a huge burgeoning area, I think ESG now is where privacy was 20 years ago. Not a lot of people are really talking about it in recruitment. It’s a headline in the Journal. It’s a regulatory inquiry. You know, it could be a number of things, but there is a huge growing, swelling wave of ESG related work. Just feel it in my bones.

Marlene Gebauer  38:04

You’re seeing related roles. You’re seeing those types of roles, you know, not not only for for attorneys, but also for, you know, support professional support people as well.

David Pierce  38:13

Yep. Yep. And by the way, Marlene, when I talk about lawyers and legal professionals, like I really want to, I want to think about it in a in a really broad way. I’m talking about lawyers, legal professionals, legal operations people, compliance people, paralegals, contract managers. I learned to be a lawyer in 1998, from a paralegal who taught me everything I needed to know in my first two weeks, at O’Melveny – not everything, the partners, they would say they taught me some things too –  and they were right. But like I can’t overstate the importance of allied legal professionals to this industry. So saying everything I say here applies everyone who is in a legal career, or in a budding one, I would focus on, I would continue to focus on privacy, because that’s not going anywhere, anytime soon. No one saw 20 years ago, how much demand we’d have in privacy. I would focus on product type counsel roles. And I think we both know what that is. But when I say the word, I mean mini GCs for product launches, usually at tech companies, but not exclusively. And just to kind of bridge the question. Also M&A lawyers, if you’re an M&A lawyer right now, you’re probably pretty busy, that’s more of a near term trend. I mean, we’ll see if that business level will sustain. But the flip side of M&A is bankruptcy anyway, so you know, odds are if you have one of those two things, you’re going to be pretty busy.

Greg Lambert  39:25

If you got an m&a department and a bankruptcy department, you’ll never you’ll never stop working

David Pierce  39:30

Yin and Yang. Perfect supplemental staffing. But let me answer the question through the lens of someone who is mid career. So I really believe that, I’m just gonna talk specifically about product counsel for a minute because again, I think you could both agree that word those words did not exist 15 years ago. What we saw is great commercial lawyers who knew a little bit about licensing and marketing and IP and venture funding  and start joint ventures and corporate work, who kind of knew a little bit about everything became very effective at helping companies launch products, because they could issue flag across a range of disciplines. That’s how they became product lawyers. So I think if you’re a lawyer right now, and you are a great commercial lawyer, and you know something about marketing, and you’ve got decent IP, or licensing background, and you’ve been adept, and a robust issue spotter, you could really become a great product lawyer. And that job title is not going away anytime soon, those roles are important, and people need them more and more. So I’m saying all this stuff, because whenever someone asked me a question like that, I just want to make sure that what I say is useful, and helpful, and actionable. Because that, you know, we all three, we three know that there is a lot of amorphous guidance on how to think about a legal career. And not all of it is super helpful and tactical. And we spent a lot of time thinking about how we can be useful to incoming lawyers to lawyers who we’ve known for a while, like I would love, I would love to think that every Axiom lawyer gets access to this kind of perspective, not just from me, but from people who are even closer to the trench than I am these days.

Marlene Gebauer  41:11

David, Axiom professes its model is a High-Tech/High-Touch service model. And I think those are your words that you shared with us can can you explain what that means and why you think it’s appealing to job seekers and clients particularly now.

David Pierce  41:29

So let’s talk about lawyers and legal professionals first, so near the beginning, we talked about our positioning for lawyers and our positioning for clients and what we give each segment of our population. So when I think about lawyers and legal professionals, and every time I say lawyers or legal professionals, Marlene, just shorthand like full spectrum, legal professionals.

Marlene Gebauer  41:51

All of us.

David Pierce  41:52

Yeah, all of us high tech and knowledge managers, by the way, should have started with that one, given the audience, all of us, high tech means we give them access to the right kind of information, digitally, when they want it, right, we make it easier for their backgrounds to be discoverable for our business development, and our talent engagement teams and make it easier to search and sort skill sets and experience levels to make the right sort of matches. We make it easier for legal professionals to adjust the aperture on what they want to hear from us about, you know, what sort of work is exciting what sort of industry, when they want to work, how much, when they want to take a break. The more we digitally enable that interaction, the easier it is for them to give and get the right kind of information. Tech makes us better able to reach out to lawyers, engage their interest in opportunities. And then also this is a really important part, ensure that we have the fullest and most current picture of their backgrounds, a lot of that is done through human touch. But a lot of that increasingly is done through tech tools, which I think people find intuitive and you know, and easy.  For the business team, so for my team, you know, account manager sellers, talent engagement specialist, tech gives us the ability to be quicker and more accurate when we’re making connections between lawyers and clients. We have tools now, it’s actually pretty cool. And I don’t know how many people know about this, we have tools that help us quickly sort by client background. So we know that you are working with ACME Corp. So if I’m a Business Builder, I’m working with ACME Corp. And we know that ACME Corp counts a number of XYZ alums in their in house team, or that they lean heavily on ABC firm to handle, you know, certain kinds of work, we can say to that client: Hey, did you know we’ve got dozens of alumni of those firms that are represented in our talent population right now. That really has helped establish credibility and opens all sorts of doors. And then we have other stuff that I probably I’m not sure we have time to get into, but tools that enable our sales and talent engagement teams, to find tech driven similarities in skill sets, this goes back to the kind of translatability between skill sets. So we may have a wonderful lawyer who is unavailable for an engagement. But these tools help us find similar lawyers with similar or translatable skill sets in our population of 6000 plus, even if human eyes might be slower to detect that connection. And I think that’s a really very tactical way to answer what we mean by high tech. So I would just say this: this is really the beginning of our journey on digital interaction. If you go to our website, and by the way, I definitely want to talk about the high touch thing because that’s part of the questions. I’ll come back to that. But if you go to our website now you’d see some things that are new, we have given people the ability to search our network and inquire about specific professionals on their own. We’ve given clients the ability to interact digitally with our legal professionals provided they register and we establish Axiom credentials. And this is, this is like the most obvious statement ever but there’s nowhere in the world where interaction is becoming more analog and less digital. Everybody wants more digital action. And I just don’t think that legal will be the one industry sustaining now to stave off this trend. You can pick surgeons through digital platforms right now. Right? We’re talking about people who have literal hearts in their hands. So yeah, I think at some point, more clients want to find and engage corporate legal talent, digitally, and we’re going to continue to build that.

Marlene Gebauer  45:27

Yeah. I just love the flexibility of this model. Because you know, you don’t, you don’t have that in like a firm model. It’s like you sort of have what you have. And this is like, okay, I can pick and choose based on the skill sets, and put these all together in a way that makes the best sense for me.

David Pierce  45:44

Well, it’s funny that the firm model, I always say that when we when we started the Axiom journey, we were trying to break the lawyer/law firm client equation apart, like use the pieces that made sense and reinsert those pieces into a new equation. So here’s one example where I think there’s a piece that law firms have that I think is actually really good. They have good connection, high touch personal relationships, between partner and client, you know, that client thinks I can reach this person. So when we talk about the high touch part, we will never abandon a world where we’re not focused on world class customer service for client and lawyers. Never going to happen. If anything, we’ll just keep trying to hone and perfect that we want our lawyers to feel that we really know their backgrounds, we know their aspirations, were attuned to their experience. We want our clients to feel great about service level, to have access to relationship owners who are totally committed to their business, and to great client outcomes. So high touch doesn’t always have to mean human touch. But for large chunk of our clients, you know, human touch is really important. Greg, I hope that answered the question.

Greg Lambert  46:48

I think Marlene asked that question.

David Pierce  46:51

Oh, sorry, Marlene. It was a better question.

Greg Lambert  46:57

I have no arguments with that one. Your discussion about PayPals, GC, Louise Pentland, resigning. And basically I think she’s just going kind of on a on exploring the world and finding herself.

Marlene Gebauer  47:16

She’s going on a walkabout?

Greg Lambert  47:17

She’s going on a walkabout and God bless her for for doing that. Let me ask you personally, since this seems to resonate with you a lot, what do you do to keep yourself from reaching that point where you’re like, I got to step away from this and find myself How do you? How do you keep from being overwhelmed?

David Pierce  47:39

I’m gonna, you know, I’m going to try too hard to answer that question without turning it into an Axiom commercial, because I don’t think that your audience tuned in for that today.

Greg Lambert  47:46

We’ll have to charge for that.

David Pierce  47:47

That’s right, that’s right send, please send me the bill. But I will tell you, I get really energized and inspired by seeing the people that drive this business every day, by hearing the stories from our lawyers, by seeing the kind of courage and guts of our business builders to bring an industry forward. By just interacting with the people I get paid to work with, you know, from the executive team, to our most junior early career hires. And I’m always amazed by the caliber of people that we continue to bring into this business. So I will tell you, this is again, sound so obvious, right? People make the difference in every business. And I think that’s really the case for me and Axiom has been in a lot of businesses in the 12 years I’ve been here and it’s been easy to stay engaged and inspired. And I really think we’ve been skating on the ice all this time to use a hockey analogy, told you my analogies were an issue. But we’ve been skating on the ice all this time to where we thought the puck was going to be. And I feel like we’re finally hitting that point. And it feels a great moment. But I will say on a more personal note. I’m actually a very introverted personality, believe it or not unusual for a commercial leader, but I get a lot of energy just by going for walks. I try to exercise, I try to constantly look at things read things, learn about things that make me feel inspired. And I think everybody would probably do well to find those things in their own, you know, professional and personal lives. Can’t speak for everyone but that that’s what worked for me.

Marlene Gebauer  49:14

That makes perfect sense. You know, I’m listening to you and I’m like, Yeah, I do a few of those things myself. So that’s great.

David Pierce  49:21

You watch Marvel movies and Ted Lasso, so.

Marlene Gebauer  49:23

I do that, and I kayak and, you know, do a few other things. And I will say it’s like I think you get jazzed about seeing people in your organization, you know, really into what they’re doing. And there’s there’s an energy there and you know that that helps. 100%

David Pierce  49:44

Yeah, and also like seeing people with problems you’re helping to solve, like that’s a great, all we want at the end of the day as professionals is to feel useful.

Greg Lambert  49:51

Yes. I laughed when I was in law school. I took a tax class and I mean, I nailed it. I got a solid C in it, but

Marlene Gebauer  50:00

Well done.

Greg Lambert  50:01

I will tell you that one of the things that I found rewarding and I’ve kind of applied this on a daily basis is, every time I left that class, I felt like I learned something that I had accomplished something. And I tried to try to talk with with my staff as like, what I want is, maybe not every day, but I want most more days than not, I want you feel like you’ve walked out of here, and you can point back and say, you know, I did something today I made, you know, I made something that made a little bit of a difference, or again,

Marlene Gebauer  50:10

I made an impact.

Greg Lambert  50:27

I got recognition, I got, you know, something like that. And I think that that’s a good motivator,

David Pierce  50:39

And that you try that you exerted effort that you gave your best. And I’ve never been a great athlete, mediocre athlete at best. But I almost imagine it’s like leaving a field at the end of the game where you feel like you did everything you could do. But best thing I learned in law school was from a professor who said, Hey, you want to know something that’s really important. Yellow loading zones, you can park it on every day after six. And all day on Sunday. There you go. I just I just I just shrunk the number of available yellow loading zones across the audience pool by a ton, but it was worth it. I hope everybody uses that. So there,

Marlene Gebauer  51:12

If you’ve learned nothing else.

David Pierce  51:14

Yellow loading zones.

Marlene Gebauer  51:15

This this is a practical, this is a practical tool. Okay, so we are at our crystal ball question. All right. So is it too soon to predict who’s winning? Regarding the management of job continuity and disruption? You know, what are the entities and people that are embracing the situation as an opportunity?

David Pierce  51:37

Yeah, I would say so I’ll keep it kind of macro and say that the people who win are the people who will do all the things that we three have discussed in the prior hour, they will have great imaginations, they will make really clear to people that their health and safety will always be fully prioritized, full stop, period. They will be flexible with people who need that, they will open office environments, where it makes sense and ensure that anyone who wants to be on site can where they create policy on on site remote or hybrid, they explain really clearly and transparently, why they’re doing it and no matter what, no matter what, they’re really clear with everyone on the mission of the business and the part that each person plays to bring that mission to life. The companies who nail that almost no matter industry, right? Are going to nail it. And the opposite is also true.

Marlene Gebauer  52:34

Well, I think we’ll probably leave it at that. Thank you, David Pierce for joining us. This has been a great, great conversation. And I’m sure you’re taking.

Greg Lambert  52:44

I’m gonna look around, see if I can find a yellow parking zone somewhere around here.

Marlene Gebauer  52:50

Good luck next time I drive downtown.

David Pierce  52:52

Wait till 5:59pm in local time. Not a minute before, because they’ll ticket you.

Greg Lambert  52:59

Alright. Thanks, Dave.

David Pierce  52:59

Great to meet you both.

Marlene Gebauer  53:01

Thank you.

Greg Lambert  53:05

Well, I think we probably could have talked to David another hour.

Marlene Gebauer  53:09

Yes. At least at least, there were so many different, you know, streams that we could have. We could have like dove deeper. And I wish we had the time.

Greg Lambert  53:20

Yeah, yeah. And unfortunately, we didn’t record our favorite TED Lasso quotes.

Marlene Gebauer  53:24

We did not we did not

Greg Lambert  53:25

We’ll have to save that for another episode, there were a couple of things that they did want to want to hash back on. And that was, I love the recommendation of the up and coming for the ESG practice in legal, I can tell you from experience, that is a big deal. And anyone that’s watching any of the articles that are coming out, that are written by law firms, ESG is taking up a larger and larger percentage of those articles. So you can tell that is the there’s a lot of discussion and work around that area. So good advice.

Marlene Gebauer  54:08

Yeah. And I mean, I liked our discussion in terms of, you know, who’s who’s who are going to be the winners and who are not? And and what are the things that you need to, you know, that you need to consider in order to do that, because I think it’s a very different, you know, some of these things we’re talking about, you know, like the health of your, you know, of your employees. I mean, that’s not really something that that, you know, not not to this extent that that firms had to think about, and they really kind of have to think about that and how a you know, hybrid sort of situation is going to work, you know, if you’re going to have people coming in, how are they going to come in? How are we protecting their health? How are we you know, how are we training them? How are we you know, making sure that you know, they have a seat at the table I mean, all of those things. It’s very, very complicated. And, you know, it is going to be a real challenge, I think for, you know, an industry such as ours to kind of get our, you know, get our arms around it.

Greg Lambert  55:13

Yeah. Well, I think the the successful firms will will do well at this and vice versa. Great. Well, thanks again to David Pierce, from Axiom for coming in and having a great conversation with us.

Marlene Gebauer  55:26

Yes, thank you, David. And of course, thanks to all of you for taking the time to listen to The Geek in Review podcast. If you enjoyed the show, share it with a colleague. We’d love to hear from you. So reach out to us on social media. I could be found at @gebauerm on Twitter.

Greg Lambert  55:41

And I can be reached at @glambert in the yellow parking zone on Twitter

Marlene Gebauer  55:46

or you can leave us a voicemail on The Geek in Review Hotline at 713-487-7270. And, as always, the music you hear is from Jerry David DeCicca Thank you, Jerry.

Greg Lambert  55:57

Thanks, Jerry. All right, talk to you later Marlene.

Marlene Gebauer  55:59

Okay, bye bye!