Last year, Legal Week Intelligence, in association with Fulcrum GT, profiled 20 innovators driving change in the legal sector. We focused on what inspired these figures to shift their views and how this bred innovation. In 2017, we look at the innovations themselves.
The Top 20 Legal IT Innovations report aims to get to the heart of what innovation means by illustrating how new ways of doing things, large or small, local or global, have shaken up a sector often characterised as slow moving and resistant to change.
As a key pioneer in providing alternative legal services, Axiom has become a byword for excellence in the breadth and depth of its capability. Without partners or billing targets, it offers lawyers attractive working conditions instead. The company’s annual revenues now surpass $300m (£231m) – a compound annual growth rate of 45% since its launch in 2000 – and it employs more than 1,200 lawyers and 2,000 staff, labelled ‘teammates’, serving over half of the Fortune 100 internationally.
Last November, Axiom’s co-founder Mark Harris stepped down after 16 years as CEO to become executive chairman, while Elena Donio (pictured) joined as the new CEO. Ambitious growth and amplification of Axiom’s mission to modernise the delivery of legal services are the twin targets of her ambition. On joining, she went on an extensive world tour covering multiple markets and clients. “The client base has been phenomenal,” says Donio. “Sitting down with a client that wants to throw their arms around you and say: go faster, do more, what else can you take, what else can you do?”
So is it hard to continue to be a successful disruptor as well? “Yes, it can be,” she concedes. “But there are so many companies that have got past that $300m mark to $1bn, $2bn and continue to innovate. It’s about being dissatisfied with the past, and continuing to make sure that our investment is supporting ideas. You’ll continue to see us in high teens to twenties growth over the next few years.”
That means investing in new areas, as Donio explains: “Finding a way to leverage our path, and then turn it into solutions at real scale.” Work from the traditional alternative model – or talent platform – is still about 70% of their business. Over time, she adds, this has enabled Axiom “to create the organisation, tools, technology, process, playbooks, methodology and a staffing model that allows us to execute on large scale semi-repeatable types of work, via our delivery centres in Chicago, Belfast, and Warsaw.”
Growth “has naturally led to the more tech-enabled part of our business,” she says. This part of the business lends itself to increased scale and accelerating growth. “Everything we do has a legal bent, so we call ourselves tech enabled, but services led,” she explains. “As technologies get better and better, we no longer have to think about hiring a whole army of data scientists, we get to pull some of that capability off the shelf.” The key, she suggests is “adding more and more value.”
Donio cites an example: “We’re working on solutions for clinical trials in pharma and life sciences. We take the same technology, a lot of the process, and tailor it, creating a fit-for-purpose set of tools capability technology to go after new and unique use cases. In that way, we continue to disrupt. We always have something in the lab that represents a new set of capabilities that we’ll launch into the market.”
Underpinning the Axiom brand are two distinct qualities, argues Donio: “The first is trust, which comes from quality of service and client care; the second is innovation, which comes from breaking the status quo and taking a fresh approach. We look for innovation to happen inside and outside, and continue to embrace those efforts as we continue to disrupt and delight our clients.”
So where next? “We have a strong presence in the US and the UK, we’re opening up Germany, we’re in Switzerland, we’re in Hong Kong. We’ll continue to assess global expansion based on size of opportunity and our readiness to scale.”