Leading alternative legal services provider Axiom Law is entering regulation in England and Wales after winning approval for an alternative business structure (ABS).
The news comes in the wake of its ABS in the US, Axiom Advice & Counsel, going live this week.
The operation received an ABS licence in Arizona last May – it was the first US state to ditch the ban on non-lawyer ownership of law firms.
Axiom Advice & Counsel received its ABS licence from the Solicitors Regulation Authority just before Christmas but is not up and running yet.
Since spinning off its contracts intelligence and managed services divisions in 2019, Axiom has focused on providing on-demand lawyers, of which it has around 6,000 globally. Since its launch in 2000, a stand-out feature has been the fact that it is not a regulated law firm.
Setting up In Arizona enables it to deliver legal services itself and means it can work with smaller companies that do not have in-house legal departments to supervise the work. The law firm operates independently from Axiom’s main business.
Catherine Kemnitz, Axiom’s chief strategy and development officer, said Axiom Advice & Counsel continued “a 20-plus year track record of legal services innovation”.
She continued: “Axiom Advice & Counsel’s approach to the law firm model provides clients with better value for every dollar spent on outside counsel, and the [Arizona] ABS license allows us to prioritise the client and lawyer experience instead of partner billing, leverage the right legal talent for the right legal matter, and utilise data and technology to improve overall efficacy and efficiency.
“While we are still considering the best way to proceed with launching under an ABS structure in the UK, our strategic goals and priorities for reimagining the archetype of the modern law firm to the benefit of both clients and lawyers will remain the same.”
Axiom’s chief executive, David McVeigh, added: “We’ve long described the ideal legal ecosystem as a combination of a core in-house team, flexible legal talent, and outside counsel. Historically, outside counsel has been the most expensive legal cost – and it’s only getting more so.
“Despite the looming recession, law firm rates are anticipated to jump between 7-8% this year, representing the largest increase in at least 15 years.
“With the launch of Axiom Advice & Counsel, Axiom is now positioned to help GCs bring down the cost of legal support across the board, while still maintaining the highest standards for quality, efficacy, and positive outcomes.”
One of Axiom’s advisers is Crispin Passmore, the one-time head of policy at the Solicitors Regulation Authority who is now a specialist business and regulatory consultant for the legal market.
Writing on his website, he explained how Axiom’s “global roster of legal talent, deeply embedded with in-house legal departments will give its ABS a clear route to growth”, first in the US and then in England and Wales.
“When Axiom Advice & Counsel launches in England and Wales it will do so with good relationships with clients, a strong talent bench and a proven track record in delivering certain types of work at the quality, pace and price that clients demand.”
He said the advantage for Axiom and another alternative provider, Elevate, which already has ABSs in both Arizona and England and Wales, and those that follow in their wake, “is that they don’t have the barrier of law firm partners controlling sales”.
Mr Passmore explained: “For genuinely bespoke work, a partner lead makes sense but for the ‘run the business’ part of the market, some partners’ resistance to fixed prices, value, technology, process, pace, standardisation and non-lawyer delivery prevents law firms from utilising even the capabilities that they have built.
“Axiom will go to market through dedicated sales teams – people that understand the client’s needs and constraints and deploy whatever part of the Axiom toolkit, be that flexible talent, regulated lawyers or some other offer, is best suited to the problem.
“They will fill the gap between bespoke big law and what in house terms are well set up for.”
Axiom and Elevate were “moving up the value chain”, he continued. “They may not get to the elite litigation or ‘bet the farm’ merger work but they have clear routes to growth.”