Elena Donio, Axiom CEO

Alternative legal services provider Axiom is embarking on a new hiring spree that could make the company a bigger player on the legal technology market—and more of a rival to some law firms.

The company is planning to open a new research and development facility in Seattle, and over the next 18 months it will likely more than double its number of technology employees, including engineers and data scientists, CEO Elena Donio said in an interview this week.

On Monday Axion tapped Doug Hebenthal, a tech industry veteran who has worked for Microsoft and Amazon, to serve as its first chief technology officer.

Axiom assigned Hebenthal, who took up his post on Oct. 2, the job of setting up the new Seattle R&D outpost, as well as expanding the company’s automation and artificial intelligence capabilities.

Doug Hebenthal

The new tech center also will rely on outside providers of specific tech products and services, according to Hebenthal, who most recently served as chief networking engineering officer at Change Healthcare, a software provider, and prior to that served as director of engineering for Amazon’s e-commerce payments platform.

Since it launched more than 15 years ago, Axiom set as a goal shattering the traditional delivery of legal services. It began in 2000 lending lawyers to law departments—or “insourcing” them, a novel proposition at the time.

These days, the company employs 1,200 lawyers who are available for insourcing. One-third of the company’s revenues, however, come from its automated contract drafting and analysis services, Donio said.

The hiring of Hebenthal reflects the company’s expectation and strategy that the automated side of its business model will continue to grow, Donio said.

“This is about breakthrough. We envision a world where we can create a contract without writing it and understand a contract without reading it.” Donio said.

“I would like to see us shake the trees on what we could be doing as an industry,” she said.