The Geek in Review Ep. 142 – Axiom’s David Pierce on Talent Recruitment and Flexible Working-Models Amid Shifting Industry Expectations

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The Geek in Review Ep. 142 – Axiom’s David Pierce on Talent Recruitment and Flexible Working-Models Amid Shifting Industry Expectations
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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Transcript

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, Merlin. 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. Greg, I listen to the one that stands out is the one we talked about working the mainframe computers and the giant red button. You were always super tempted to press.

Greg Lambert  5:50

Yes.

David Pierce  5:51

I didn’t even know what that button was. But But by the way you described it, I really want to address 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 stores a little cooler than my own personal stories of how I got there, and into the role I’m in so 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 dot.com bust, I should say that was right in the middle of the dot.com, boom, mid 90s, there 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 invisible 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 infuse after that I went to Lucasfilm as the GC of the tech.

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 we could spend the whole hour on that. I used to say to people that it was a movie magic division, Lucasfilm, and I still kind of believed that. So then I switched from a GC role and look at Lucas on 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 but 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 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 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 actual 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, would attest to that. There were firms that 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 axioms 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 use, 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 had more fun. And he sat across the table from this GC was 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. That was it looked like it was typed up and and dictated by him to its secretary. So this is, you know, this is a different era, it’s probably 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, he said, I just don’t see that any self respecting lawyer would ever choose to practice Axiom’s life. True story, verbatim. So here we are 20 years later. So we’re at 6500 lawyers and legal professionals on three continents we serve, not just that Fortune 500 company, by the way, but half of the rest, all the top 10 Sorry, all top 10 of the world’s largest financial institutions, life sciences companies, 1000s of in-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 get clients and lawyers. It is not either one 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 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, 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 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 structures. You 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 said, 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. We get lawyers the way I think about it 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. Like there’s a really great way.

Greg Lambert  13:33

That’s a perfect segue. So

David Pierce  13:34

So wasn’t it, wasn’t it that 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, 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 had a run in walkthrough, 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 listening, I won’t get into kind of competitive positioning. This isn’t an Axiom commercial. I get it. But But I feel one thing that sets us apart is that we are we are the only company of our kind that is purely totally focused on legal talent. We’re not opening up delivery centers and 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 purely talent focused business. We are using technology to drive that value proposition. I’m sure we get a chance to talk about that later. But it was 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, the byproduct of reflection, right. So like, I think about it as a reflection, and then it 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 the 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 the remote this is this I feel really passionate about the the remote on site thing totally get it 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 interior approaches based on job types and already role but but this is the thing that I really like this point I really would love to make. It seems ridiculous to me that 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 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 the 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

Absolutely.

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 are 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 it didn’t, you know, in a local, you know, 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’s why so many of our clients are asking us more and more for labor and employment help the kind of a typical get go, you know, 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. 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 promote ability? As a result? How do you how do you handle support, navigate, you know, help people who are struggling with all kinds of, you know, life events, or circumstances that the pandemics kind of full grip has amplified? So I feel like all those things, you know, it’s really probably gonna send a pattern with me a lot of the stuff that we talked 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 simple premise, hard sometimes to execute anyway. long winded.

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…

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 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, I feel like that’s kind of obvious. But again, kind of 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 I think even within the legal so 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 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 counsel, 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 company said work from home forever. And those were a bit the outliers but even within tech, there’s a lot of descrepancy. So I think it’s really 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 but but here’s the other thing, I would say this comes back to the unique this point Greg GCs to me. So first, I know that I’m a lawyer. And I do I do think it’s a really noble profession. I think. 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 you both, legal ops professionals. compliance professionals, ethics officers. So I feel like we 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. And I think 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 fun. I got one, I got one, Greg, we’re going to screw up making predictions that we’re really competent about. There’s this quote, I love when Yogi Berra he 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 and more change 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? Do you think that you 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 to 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, make 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 will be what they’ll screw up question or

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 detailed 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 use the word trust that kind of retain that trust. I actually I think about imagination, to Greg, we’ve had 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 answer. Yes out of this? Well, you know, crisis crisis always kind of breeds innovation. Right. And, and Greg, I just think that the creativity, the the the, I guess I’d say innovation events, I think it’s a very overused word these days, the innovation unleashed by pandemic, I think it’s gonna wave, it’s gonna keep washing over legal and every other industry, by the way, you know,

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 succinct answer, though! Marlene, you know, simple answer. Yes, it is hard talent, to tribal knowledge, you know, you’re losing, you know, 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 every year right now across all your price. Yes, exactly. 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 on 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 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 the people. They’re more attuned to the morale and engagement level or the teams than they ever have been. But they I think they’re also the least 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, you know, who to go on what you know, 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 pass, 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 could all 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 and make the cut to OCI interview, 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 I list 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 great in hustler. If you are good at speaking plain language. You are comfortable working with people who are lawyers. You are able to act like your hair’s not on fire even what it is and you are comfortable in areas of gray. That right there is a great litmus test and also your a good, collaborative, engaging and accessible person. That’s that last part is to me like, it’s 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. But 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 continue to learn that this is important. But I do sorry, Greg, it’s a it’s a rip. 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 of the bankers and the early career people that she’s hiring, really worth a read anyone who wants to see kind of 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 very clear, maybe their mid career, maybe they’re senior, you know, maybe their general counsel 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, 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 in my gut.

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, and 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 ally legal professionals to this industry. So saying everything I say here applies everyone who is a legal 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 many 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, and 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 ba