This boutique with a “startup” vibe is a firm to put your antitrust in.
BORN in the 90s, this millennial boutique has a special interest in antitrust and intellectual property. Co-hiring partner Jeremy Lowe describes the firm as being “very much like a startup company. Everyone's excited about the growth and direction of the firm.” Head count has grown steadily in recent years, from under 60 attorneys in 2015 to over 70 in 2018. Associates describe Axinn as “a very small firm that works on very large matters" in the specialist areas it operates in. In New York, matter value tends to be in the range of a few 100 million dollars, or just over a billion at most. Chambers USA ranks Axinn for antitrust work in both DC and New York and commercial litigation in Connecticut.
Antitrust and IP are the firm's twin specialties: the former practice is home to around 45 attorneys, the latter to around 30. One area of expansion for Axinn is biotech. Outgoing managing partner Jim Veltrop tells us that “Northern California is a major biotech hub,” so don't be surprised if the firm opens a new office here in the near future. Lowe elaborates: “The West Coast provides us with a great opportunity to grow in up-and-coming areas of litigation.”
Axinn's antitrust and IP groups take on the bulk of new starters, but the general litigation practice takes on a handful each year too. However, co-hiring partner Daniel Bitton tells us: “The division is not as crystalline as it may seem. The groups are very integrated and there's a lot of cross-pollination.” Juniors' work is allocated formally via an assigning partner “who makes sure we get to work with a good variety of people.”
“It has a David vs Goliath feel to it.”
In the antitrust department, “we do all kinds of antitrust work – deals, litigation and providing counsel.A lot of people are either focused on deals or litigation but everyone gets a little experience of everything.” The work is predominantly litigious. Cases cover “a number of industries: pharmaceutical, healthcare, insurance, manufacturing…” The client list includes diverse and well-known national names like Google, Airbus and Stanley Black & Decker. A junior told us of their work: “On one case I was primarily responsible for the initial draft and formulation of an argument.” Another added: “On a day-to-day basis I manage contract attorneys handling doc review, speak to clients and make sure we meet discovery deadlines – I'm making sure all the trains leave the station at the right time!” Associates also tend to be “responsible for working with experts and putting the advocacy together.” The work can make forays into strategy on some cases. “You can have a crack at the first draft of FDA white papers and presentations,” a source reported.
The IP team works on patent litigation: “In the overwhelming majority of cases we are representing generic drug companies, challenging other producers to get generic versions of pharmaceuticals on the market.” On such cases, associates “draft pleadings, look over documents, and get the opportunity to depose witnesses and prepare experts for depositions.” Juniors enjoyed working on something that has “a real-world impact. If you end up winning, that company can make lower price drugs for consumers. It has a David vs Goliath feel to it!”
Up to 100 pro bono hours can count toward associates' billable target. However, many of our junior interviewees had exceeded that amount. Regular emails are sent out listing opportunities, which range from veterans' rights affairs to housing discrimination matters to asylum cases through the International Rescue Committee. Attorneys in New York had worked for Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, which involves representing “low-income artists in copyright and trademark cases involving creative work.”
Associates heralded Axinn's pro bono as providing them with “a lot of autonomy." For example, one told us: “I got to conduct a deposition. There was a partner who was overseeing it, but I did all the client calls, initial drafting and drafting of the agreement.” One source observed: "There’s never been a time when a partner said we were spending too much time on pro bono.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 3,113.2
- Average per US attorney: 35.4
Training & Feedback
Rookies have a few days of orientation when they start at the firm. “It covers what you need to function here – technology, software, the helpdesk, memos, working at Axinn in general.” After this, “you're basically put straight on a case and you learn by doing. There's a steep learning curve and you're expected to catch up as you go.” Associates agreed that “it definitely was scary and intimidating at first – that's the idea, as it helps instill a fire in you. People won't be hard on you if you have trouble at the beginning, but if there are candidates who want hand-holding, they might not be a good fit here!”
“You're expected to catch up as you go.”
There is a firm-wide training program, however. Jim Veltrop tells us: “We have a two-year cycle to cover each aspect of litigation. We have a week-long trial workshop – everyone puts their pencils down and works on their trial skills in a comfortable environment.” Associates found the training beneficial: “We drafted openings and closings, did cross-examinations of witnesses and also got to play the witnesses! We had one-on-one feedback, so it was as helpful as it was interesting.”
Culture & Offices
Jim Veltrop describes Axinn's culture as “the kind you see at a lot of startups outside the law. We're really trying to instill openness: for example, we have an intranet with features like a Facebook-type page where people can talk to each other.” An associate said: “I like that we're small, a growing enterprise. We're a really close-knit bunch.” However, when it comes to the working environment, “it's very intense, very serious. There's not much time for small talk.”
There is time to relax with colleagues outside of work though. The whole firm went on a 20th anniversary celebration trip in 2017 –“we went to Mohonk Mountain House for the weekend. It has a huge spa and hiking trails right out the door. There was no business side to the trip whatsoever!” More regular social events on offer include barbecues, theater trips and basketball games. An interviewee reflected: “Your relationships run deeper when you've sat next to someone at a ball game, rather than just saying 'hi' in the office every morning.”
“They're doing a good job keeping everyone sociable as we grow.”
The New York HQ is in a prime location. “We've got Times Square on one side and the Rockefeller Center on the other,” observed one source. The office itself is “minimalist – it has lots of monochromatic artwork and modern photography.” In the nation's capital the office is near Chinatown, with the interior being “admittedly a little bare. It reflects the somewhat relaxed environment round here!” DC associates also praised “the best receptionist in the world, Angela. She's super friendly and always great with clients and guests. The best!” As for Hartford, associates dubbed the city “rather sleepy – it's a great place to raise kids, but not a place with great nightlife!” This is reflected in the building's “more traditional feel – a dark-wood, older aesthetic.”
Associates revealed that the atmosphere differs between offices. “We all work equally hard but relative to New York, Hartford and DC are more casual and even-paced.” Although there are three offices, many associates pointed out that “because it's a small firm you really get to know everyone." Despite expansion, we didn't hear of any growing pains. Sources said that the firm is "doing a good job keeping everyone sociable as we grow.”
Hours & Compensation
Associates need to bill 2,000 hours to be eligible for a full bonus, and 1,800 for a smaller portion, though “the firm hasn't been 100% transparent – it's not entirely clear to me how it works.” However, associates agreed that they “don't feel a lot of outside pressure to hit the target.”
DC and New York associates typically get in around 9am or 10am, with Hartford attorneys coming in earlier at around 8am – “I receive emails from them when I’m still in bed!” a New Yorker joked. Hartford and DC associates tend to leave around 6pm or 7pm, while New Yorkers typically stay till later. However, across the offices many “tend to log back on at home and work until about 9pm or 10pm.”
We heard that sometimes there are some more extreme working patterns. “I had two months during which I was working from waking up till going to bed," one source reported. "But then there were two months when I wasn't doing much at all. By the time you think 'oh my god, can I really do this?', it slows down again!” The hours pressure is helped by “a new formal policy whereby you can work from home two days a month, without question." Are people making use of the new policy? Yes, we hear, "but the office hasn't become a ghost town yet!”
“The majority of my office is white and male,” one associate said bluntly. “I only recently heard that we even have a diversity committee!” The diversity committee has historically been small, but has recently more than doubled in size. We heard that it's "becoming more active and working to become visible inside the firm and outside. We're meeting more regularly, trying to go to more events about diversity and trying to reach more diverse candidates.”
“The firm is heading toward a more diverse future.”
Hiring partner Jeremy Lowe is also the chair of the diversity committee. “We have a number of diversity initiatives," he tells us. "The next summer class is the most diverse we've ever had and this year we've joined the Minority Corporate Counsel Association and their law firm affiliate network.” The firm attends events such as the National Black Law Students Association career fair and the Lambda Law Diversity Networking Reception at George Washington Law School.
In a relatively small firms like this, small changes can be significant. In the most recent promotions round before our research, all three individuals promoted to partner or counsel were women and one was Asian American. “It's really had an impact on us," reflected one source. "It gives us hope and makes me think the firm is heading toward a more diverse future.”
“We have a serious work-based summer program – it's not a party bonanza!”co-hiring partner Daniel Bitton tells us.“It's basically like being a first-year. Summers don't rotate through practice groups and their work goes directly to partners or clients.” However, he adds, “I don't want to make it seem like we're just making people work. We have a lot of fun activities: a private tour of the MoMA after hours, table tennis and karaoke.”
The firm seeks to hire from the top 5 to 10% of classes at the top schools. It attends OCIs mostly on the East Coast though it also goes on campus at Berkeley, Stamford, Chicago and Michigan. Daniel Bitton says recruitment from West Coast law schools is likely to increase if the firm opens a California office.
For its antitrust practice the firm likes to hire candidates with an economics background or those who have interned at federal or state-level agencies (thought this is not a requirement). Aspiring IP associates need a background in science, with a bachelor's degree at least. Co-hiring partner Jeremy Lowe tells us: “I've been on a hiring spree on the biotech side recently. Because this field is complicated – there's a lot of technical nomenclature – having a PhD or biotech background is beneficial. It allows you to communicate effectively with our clients, who usually have incredible knowledge, and with trial lawyers.”
Daniel Bitton adds: “We look for candidates who are self starters – we're a growing firm and relatively young, so entrepreneurial spirit is important to us.” Lowe adds: “It's thrilling to work for an entrepreneurial firm that's still young. I look for people who find that idea exciting too.”
OCI applicants interviewed: 248
Interviewees outside OCI: 3
Applicants invited to 2nd stage interview: 70
Notable pro bono opportunities (schemes, client affiliations etc.)
Axinn attorneys produced approximately 2,400 hours of pro bono work in 2017 – a twenty percent increase over 2016. Through twenty-two active matters, Axinn attorneys made significant contributions to their communities that is the equivalent of nearly $1,300,000 of billable time.
At Axinn, pro bono work gives associates the opportunity to sharpen their legal skills while helping others. A few selected examples include:
- Jarod Taylor first-chaired two pro bono trials last year in which he had exposure to every relevant trial advocacy skill.
- Seth Heller, Bill Rose, Mike O’Mara and Brandon Boxbaum worked on a First Amendment-excessive force case against five Montgomery County Maryland Police Officers and Montgomery County. They gained substantial litigation experience, including complaint drafting, an opposition to motion to dismiss, oral argument and depositions.
- Drew Hillier negotiated a favorable settlement with opposing counsel on behalf of the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities in a national origin discrimination case against Yale University.
- Carol Liu And Kail Jethmalani worked on an asylum matter from Human Rights First that gave them opportunities in writing and research, client contact and responsibility and oral advocacy before an administrative agency.
Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider LLP
114 West 47th Street,
- Head Office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 3
- Partners (US): 25
- Associates (US): 40
- Main recruitment contact: Rachel Rosado (email@example.com)
- Hiring partners: Daniel Bitton, Jeremy Lowe and Thomas Rohback
- Diversity officer: Jeremy Lowe
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 7
- Clerking policy: Case by case basis
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018: 9 2Ls: 9
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office: New York 4, Washington DC 3, Hartford 2
- Summer salary 2018: 2Ls: $ 3,461 per week
- Split summers offered? Case by case basis
Main areas of work
Berkeley, UChicago, Columbia, UConn, Duke, Fordham, George Mason, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, UMichigan, NYU, UPenn, Stanford, UVA, Washington University in St Louis, Yale
Recruitment outside OCIs:
We visit various diversity and practice group focused job fairs, including NEBLSA and the Patent Law Interview Program.
Summer associate profile:
Axinn is a top tier boutique practicing in antitrust, IP and high-stakes litigation. It seeks students who have achieved academic excellence and are entrepreneurial. Candidates must be among the top 25% of their law school class. Top 10% class ranking, law review and moot court experience is preferred. For the antitrust group, Axinn prefers that candidates have an economic or finance degree/background. Science or engineering backgrounds are preferred for candidates who wish to work in IP. Patent bar admission is a plus for IP candidates.
Summer program components:
During their summer with Axinn, associates attend internal meetings and seminars to familiarize themselves with lawyers, clients and a range of projects that comprise our practice. In addition, Axinn attorneys and outside professionals provide training in such topics as legal writing, litigation strategy and how to effectively utilize firm resources and support services. Each training experience emphasizes “learning by doing” and serves to enhance opportunities for summer associates to develop, exercise and build confidence in their skills. Each summer associate is assigned a partner and associate mentor, who are available to prioritize assignments and act as a sounding board. Axinn combines the prestige of a large firm with the collegiality of a boutique. Summer associates are invited to join events such as wine tastings, theater, sporting and museum outings and cooking classes.
This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
District of Columbia
- Antitrust (Band 5)
- Antitrust (Band 2)
USA - Nationwide
- Antitrust (Band 4)