Less is more at this New York-based boutique: specializing in all things antitrust, alongside IP and litigation, Axinn's associates get "great responsibility and lots of client and partner contact!”
Axinn is a case study in not judging a law firm by its size. Founded in 1997 by three ex-Skadden partners, Axinn swiftly rose through the ranks, and is now known as one of the strongest antitrust firms in the country. “We are a boutique firm with just one hundred lawyers, yet many of us practice antitrust day in, day out; the level of skill is unparalleled,” a junior boasts. Dotted in NY, San Francisco, DC and Hartford, this firm channels its expertise into three main areas: antitrust; intellectual property; and litigation. Axinn has won an impressive collection of clients, such as Google, Dell, Thermo Fisher and Johnson & Johnson. Typically, Axinn will be working across the table from some of the biggest firms in the US.
“We are a boutique firm with just one hundred lawyers, yet... the level of skill is unparalleled.”
Many of the associates we spoke to flocked to the gates of Axinn for these exact reasons: its boutique size and antitrust prowess. And, with Axinn letting newbies apply directly to their desired department, many felt that the firm just “fit the bill.” “I wanted the benefits of a small firm while being in one of the biggest antitrust departments in the US,” one enthused. Another chimed: “I was attracted to the great work while having an intimate culture.” Axinn picks up a handful of Chambers USA rankings, most of which are antitrust in both NY and DC. Connecticut also receives a round of applause for its litigation expertise.
Strategy & Future
"We view ourselves as the best of breed and we keep our efforts narrowly focused on our core practice areas – antitrust, IP and high-stakes litigation," Axinn managing partner Matt Becker says of the firm. “Our primary goals at this point are to grow our core practices; in 2019 we focused most of our growth in antitrust and IP." How has COVID-19 affected plans? "During the pandemic it was important for us to maintain momentum," Becker notes. "We’ve still managed to have a productive year, it’s been very busy for us and fortunately we’ve not had to make any layoffs, furloughs or compensation adjustments." Whatever the future holds, Axinn attorneys can be sure they'll be kept in the loop. Becker explains: "We try and be as open as we can about the business of the firm with all of our employees. We communicate to our associates and professional staff on how the firm is doing - we do this so our employees are equally as invested in the firm; this creates an incentive among everyone." For the full interview, check out Bonus Features.
"During the pandemic it was important for us to maintain momentum."
At the time of our research, all the juniors were based in New York and DC, sitting in either antitrust or IP. The firm also maintains a slighter litigation department. Newcomers are recruited directly into their desired department; this suits the more focused first-years: “I didn’t want to do a rotation; for someone who knows what they want to do it’s a good system.” However, juniors outside of antitrust often worked on antitrust matters, due to the group being so expansive. Matters are filtered down to juniors via their assignment partner, who distributes work evenly depending on associates' estimated hours for the week. An interviewee noted: “In my experience getting work is pretty organic.”
Bucking the 2020 trend for a slow in transactional and therefore antitrust work, Axinn's antitrust department has been firing on all cylinders. One of the many work highlights of the year includes the firm’s representation of Google in the pending antitrust investigations into its ad technology business. Newbies we spoke to got to act for pharmaceutical clients and tech giants: “I was surprised at how much client contact you get so early on.” Aside from glamorous M&A deals, the group works on litigations and criminal investigations, and provides client counseling. One source added: “Companies will come to us and ask us for our views; we get to dive into the market, calculate market shares and analyze those transactions.” Juniors also got to grips with preparing for trial, legal research, drafting responses and motions for summary judgment.
Antitrust clients: Google, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Stanley Black & Decker. Axinn served as counsel for Google, working on its ad technology business. The Department of Justice issued a CID to Google’s advertising products. Axinn gave legal expertise to the strategy, advocacy and CID compliance.
“Interesting practice area with great responsibility and lots of client and partner contact!”
Over in IP, the group handles its clients' patent cases, IP portfolios, product launches and litigious issues. The group offers its skills to industries such as life sciences, chemicals, mechanical, electronics and tech. Patent litigation is a big part of Axinn’s business; many cases center on the production of generics (the cheaper versions of otherwise patented drugs) and the litigations between pharma companies that want to produce them or own the patents. This often falls under the bracket of Hatch-Waxman litigation. A junior working on a ‘Hatch-Wax' litigation explained their role: “My stance was more organizational; I made sure the local rules were being followed, managed the communication on email lists and gave the last review on a lot of the documents that go out to counsel.” One interviewee summarized their experience in IP: “It's an interesting practice area with great responsibility and lots of client and partner contact!”
IP clients: Par Pharmaceutical, Wockhardt and Novitium. Axinn represented Par Sterile Products in a patent litigation relating to five patents covering Precedex Premix Injectables. Consent judgment and stipulated dismissal was filed.
Culture & Diversity
At specialized firms like Axinn, lawyers are committed to and connected by their work. Then slap an intimate headcount on top of that and what do you get? Maximum collegiality! As a source put it, “the culture is seamless across offices, I’ve worked with the associates from all of the offices.” Another felt as though every face at the firm was a friendly one: “You are never a stranger in the hallway, everyone is friendly with everyone.” Under normal conditions, Axinn also hosts a colorful array of social events, like karaoke, dinners, and foodie events. "We went to a Parisian chef to teach us how to make crêpes.”
“You are never a stranger in the hallway, everyone is friendly with everyone.”
Axinn has a diversity committee that arranges initiatives and events, chaired by partner Jason Murata. The committee has put on a program where speakers come into the firm monthly and talk about a variety of topics – recently voter disfranchisement and unconscious bias. The firm also has a ‘Media of the Month club’ where members discuss a piece of media that prompts open discussions about diversity. "We have very interesting discussions; we’ve done it for pride month and Hispanic heritage.”During the pandemic the firm has held regular town hall meetings to give an update on what they are doing to help attorneys, such as "those struggling with childcare, and answer any questions we have. They make sure everyone is maintaining a healthy headspace."
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 2,000 target
To receive the full bonus, associates need to hit the billing target, yet if times have been a little slow, 1,800 is enough to remain in good standing. Associates are never left short-changed, with Axinn compensating its lawyers with a market rate salary “in line with some of the top law firms.” Hours differed depending on what practice area or location our interviewees were in. Generally New York associates went on a little longer than those based in DC.
“The hours are never crazy.”
In DC, sources' days ran from around 9:30am to 6pm. Even on busier days, “I rarely work past midnight, the hours are never crazy.”Some interviewees from DC felt fortunate to have such “a good work/life balance.” In NY, the average day wasn’t drastically longer, running from around 9:30am to 7:30pm, but many associates we spoke to were very familiar with 12-hour days. Like many firms, 2020 created disruption in hours: “Since the pandemic the boundaries between work and personal life are less structured.”But the same attorney reassured us: “Still, the firm is very supportive, and I love the people I work with.”
Associates have a 100-hour limit on the pro bono work that can count toward their billable target, but the firm applies this rule pragmatically, working with associates on a case-by-case basis. The firm supports causes such as immigration and asylum matters, veteran cases, prisoner civil rights matters and child custody disputes. Pro bono matters are published during quarterly meetings, where “we talk about the different projects we have on at the moment.” Pro bono opportunities are circulated to juniors through their designated pro bono partner.
Recently, sources have been giving a helping hand toward the impact of COVID-19, which has meant working with clients and small business leaders, providing guidance to navigate the uncharted waters of the COVID-19 world. Although, with their work schedules already so full, some sources felt they didn’t get as much of a chance to undertake pro bono work: “I’m nervous taking anything extra on, especially when dealing with vulnerable clients; I would want to be able to commit myself.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US offices: 3,397
- Average per US attorney: 62
“Because Axinn is a boutique firm, it's super focused on client development,”an associate told us. At least once a quarter the firm holds a skills course spanning a day or two. Our interviewees spoke of brushing up their skills on “consultancy and writing, how to present to court, how to be an effective communicator and how to do depositions.”
“Axinn gives you the tools you need to chart your own professional success.”
Juniors are provided with both an associate and partner mentor, and meetings tend to occur monthly: “We chat and write down our goals.” Many found this system a useful process, especially when just starting out: “It's comforting knowing you have a designated associate and partner you can reach out to.”
The firm's mentorship program comes in various forms, including Friday teatime. “We all take half an hour to chat and ask questions regarding our development.” Juniors are also given a budget for networking. The common refrain from sources was, “the training is really impressive.” But the firm doesn't spoon-feed juniors; “Axinn gives you the tools you need to chart your own professional success.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 313
Interviewees outside OCI: 13
Axinn conducts OCI at 19 schools, attends four job fairs and participates in resume drops at several additional schools each season. At each location, interviewers meet with 15 to 25 students. The firm attends the following job fairs: NEBLSA, Bay Area Diversity, Lavender Law and the Loyola Patent Fair. Additionally, Axinn participates in Google’s Legal Summer Institute, a unique in-house and law firm experience where underrepresented 2L law school students are invited to spend the first week of the program at Google followed by a full summer internship with an outside counsel law firm.
Our Interviews are conducted by partners or associates who are typically alumni of those schools. Hiring partners at the firm tell us interviewers look for “bright, motivated and team-oriented” individuals who have a demonstrated interest in the firm’s practice areas: IP, antitrust and litigation. Candidates will be asked behavioral-type questions, such as describing a situation where they proved to be a reliable teammate.
Top tips for this stage:
“Having a summer internship at the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, or the state equivalent of those goes a long way to demonstrating an interest in antitrust.” – a junior associate
“We look for someone who’s interested in what we’re interested in. When big decisions come out of the DC Circuit, people here are tracking it. Not just because our work is in it, but because we’re interested in it and love it.” – a junior associate
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 80
This year, successful candidates are invited to interview remotely with four to five half-hour interviews with partners and associates. Here, interviewers will be gauging “candidates’ ability to think analytically, their interest in our practice areas, and their fit within a team-oriented work environment.” Hiring sources continue that “candidates should be prepared to discuss one of their writing samples in detail, examine legal issues they have studied or analysed from all angles, and provide examples of how they embody the attributes we value.”
Top tips for this stage:
“They like to see there’s some real intellectual interest in antitrust. My interview was a lot like that – they were making sure I had the chops!” – a junior associate
“Be knowledgeable, be passionate, be engaged, be yourself.” – hiring partners Ted Mathias, Nick Gaglio and John Tanski
Successful candidates are hired directly into their desired practice group in the firm’s summer program, which will run for eight weeks from mid-May to mid-July in 2021. Summer associates typically get work assignments within their respective groups, but there can be opportunities to work on projects outside of their group as well. Work is assigned by the recruitment staff, but attorneys at the firm can also assign tasks directly.
Summer associates are assigned two mentors and get regular training programs. Social events range from virtual smaller team-building events to larger office-wide programs. During in office working times, our summer associates can expect to travel to other offices and have ample opportunities to attend depositions, court hearings and trials. Summer associates receive offers directly from their chosen practice group, and they tend to stay in that group throughout their career at Axinn.
Top tips for this stage:
“We encourage summer associates to seek out opportunities of interest, such as working on particular matters of interest (including pro bono opportunities) and sitting in on depositions.” – hiring partners Ted Mathias, Nick Gaglio and John Tanski
Interview with managing partner Matt Becker
Chambers Associate: What would you identify as Axinn’s unique characteristics?
Matt Becker: “First of all, we view ourselves as the best of breed and we keep our efforts narrowly focused on our core practice areas – antitrust, IP and high-stakes litigation. Pretty much all our partners are trial lawyers, and we receive a very high number of cases given the size of the firm. When a case goes to trial, we do not switch teams, our lawyers can handle our cases through to the end which is quite unique. All our lawyers are great at what they do - we staff our matters leanly and so we have compact yet capable teams .”
CA: The associates we spoke to took pride in the culture of the firm. How has this culture been created and maintained?
MB: “We’ve always had a culture at the firm that places respect for our co-workers above all. For us, this means a senior partner will treat a new member of staff just as he or she treats one of their fellow partners. We are a productive firm because we’re working with people we genuinely like working with. I also think the size of our firm is a real advantage culturally, it means we all get to know each other on a personal level. During the pandemic, we’ve tried to maintain our close bonds. Although, one of the challenges of the pandemic has definitely made socialising a little less organic, with Zoom, everything must be scheduled. What we try and do is keep that spontaneity through picking up the phone and calling a co-worker, unscheduled just to see how they are doing or chat about something we might have in common.”
“Another component to fostering our culture is that we try and be as open as we can about the business of the firm with all of our employees. We communicate to our associates and professional staff on how the firm is doing - we do this so our employees are equally as invested in the firm, this creates an incentive amongst everyone. I often do Town Hall discussions with associates and professional staff to report on the firm to update them all on any new exciting cases that have come in or new lateral hires. During the pandemic, we’ve accelerated our meetings to make sure people stay connected and involved with the firm.”
CA: What is the firm’s five-year plan?
MB: “Our primary goals at this point are to grow our core practices, these are antitrust, IP and high-stakes litigation. Last year, we focused most of our growth in our antitrust and IP practices. We also recently opened an office in San Francisco and added 4 new lawyers in that office just last year– during the pandemic it was important for us to maintain momentum. We’re always considering growth opportunities in terms of adding great talent and we are always looking at expanding our areas of practice if the right opportunities come along. Still, we are very proud of being narrowly focused on our core areas and we do not intend to do anything that would dilute that expertise.”
CA: What has the firm done to mitigate the impact of COVID-19?
MB:“In terms of mitigating the impact of the pandemic, we went fully remote in March so now all of our employees are working from home on a regular basis. We’ve tried very hard to keep everyone connected with social calls, happy hours, coffee hours, check-ins, of course all over video. We’ve tried our best to accommodate all our employee's needs, whether it be parents or associates living in suburban areas. From the standpoint of the firm, we’ve still managed to have a productive year, it’s been very busy for us and fortunately we’ve not had to make any lay-offs, furloughs or compensation adjustments. Not to say there weren’t stressful times during the Spring but in terms of productivity and growth, the year turned out well. Since last year, we saw a twenty-percent growth with seventeen new lawyers joining us during the pandemic. We have also promoted several lawyers to partnership and counsel positions too.”
114 West 47th Street,
- Head Office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 4
- Partners (US): 34
- Associates (US): 52
- Main recruitment contact: Rachel Rosado (email@example.com)
- Hiring partners: Nick Gaglio, Ted Mathias and Don Hawthorne
- Diversity officer: Jason Murata
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 13
- Clerking policy: Case by case basis
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 16
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: New York: 5, Washington DC: 6, Hartford: 3; San Francisco: 2
- Summer salary 2021: 2Ls: $3,654 per week
- Split summers offered? Case by case basis
Main areas of work
Antitrust, intellectual property and complex litigation.
Axinn combines the skills, experience and dedication of the world’s largest firms with the focus, responsiveness, efficiency and attention to client needs of the best boutiques. The firm was established in the late 1990s by lawyers from premier Wall Street firms with a common vision: provide the highest level of service and strategic acumen in antitrust, intellectual property and high-stakes litigation. Axinn’s lawyers have served as lead or colead counsel on nearly half a trillion dollars in transactions and, in the last 10 years alone, have handled more than 250 litigations.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2021: Antonin Scalia, Berkeley, Columbia, Duke, Georgetown, George Washington, Harvard, Howard, Fordham, New York University, Stanford, UPenn, Washington University in St. Louis, University of Chicago, University of Connecticut, University of Michigan, University of Virginia, Yale, UCLA
Recruitment outside OCIs: We visit various diversity and practice group focused job fairs, including NEBLSA, Lavender Law, Bay Area Diversity Fair and the Patent Law Interview Program.
Summer associate profile: Axinn looks for candidates who are not only bright and motivated, but have the attitude of ‘thinking like an owner.’ Axinn is not just a place to work, but a place to start your career with sophisticated practices that require being team oriented, a self-starter, analytical, resourceful and innovative. Axinn seeks students who have achieved academic excellence and are 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.
Recruitment website: www.axinn.com
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
District of Columbia
- Antitrust (Band 4)
- Antitrust (Band 2)
USA - Nationwide
- Antitrust (Band 3)