Antitrust and IP go hand in hand with high expectations at this smart boutique.
IF you need a recipe for responsibility, consider a small firm that’s taken a swift route to the top. Axinn is exactly that, and associates found that “you’re treated as a business owner from day one.” Founded in 1997 by three Wall Street partners, Axinn quickly became one of the top antitrust firms in New York and the country. It’s by far the smallest practice achieving high Chambers USA rankings, and benefits both from its pervasive business-minded spirit and from a singular focus on the intersection of antitrust, IP and litigation. The firm’s other established offices, in DC and Hartford, also do well for their size in antitrust and IP. A San Francisco office, opened in 2018, rounds out the firm’s footprint.
Even in the 20 or so years it has been operating, Axinn has quickly amassed some impressive clients. Lawyers take on crucial matters for top players in the pharmaceutical profession, like Johnson & Johnson, and tech wizards like Google. Associates had noticed the two worlds colliding recently as the firm “has expanded beyond our traditional set of clients to new medical devices companies.”
Strategy & Future
Managing partner Matthew Becker outlines Axinn’s plans for the years ahead: “We are focused on increasing in our core areas: antitrust, IP litigation and litigation.” No change there then. Becker reveals that “in the past two years we have grown more than any time in our history, with about a 10% increase in revenue and lawyers each year.” The firm has looked to larger firms to swell its ranks, taking advantage of the career blocks put in the way of talented lawyers by large firms’ narrow partnership structure.
“The firm kickstarts your career.”
But growth is a dangerous game for successful firms of this size. It risks diluting the special sauce that got them to this point in the first place. Our sources hinted that the firm “wants to have 100 attorneys by 2020,” but Becker assures us he knows Axinn’s place. “We are a boutique firm. We do not aspire to be a 1,000-lawyer firm. We expect further growth, but we don’t want it to be so expansive that we lose sight of our culture and core values.” Axinn has built itself as a place where entrepreneurialism and creativity are encouraged and collaboration is easy. “Axinn works as one large office split across four locations; we have a very seamless culture.” Becker believes “there are many lawyers who are willing to work the long hours, but the very finest lawyers I have encountered in my career have remarkable passion for achieving the very best results for their clients. That passion is really the difference between a good lawyer and a great lawyer.”
Fortunately Axinn’s associates felt the firm provides work to be passionate about. “Axinn is a place where you get engaged in higher-level matters faster. The firm kickstarts your career." The antitrust and IP teams are home to most of Axinn’s juniors, with a small portion in the litigation department. At the time of our research, the majority of juniors were based in New York and DC. Most of the work is handled cross-office. “It's rare to have a matter staffed with folks from just one office.”
All Axinn’s associates have an assignment partner who allocates work. “At the beginning of the week you provide an estimate of your hours. The assignment partner then distributes the work equally. If you want more work or are particularly interested in a matter you can request it.” It sounds well organized, but our interviews suggested a level of informality remains: “Sometimes you’ll get assignments from people you pass in the hallway.” And this informality punched some worrying holes in the system. Sources disclosed that “better management could have prevented late nights, and in some cases a weekend of solid work. Partners sometimes forget about our schedules and well-being.” Another associate added: “When an associate asks an assigning partner for more work, partners just send out emails to everyone. You go from not having any work to being bombarded.”
Antitrust attorneys found themselves occupied with “mergers and acquisitions, antitrust clearance, antitrust litigation and counseling for clients.” The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that “in antitrust you have the ability to work on both litigation and deal work. You get a taste of both worlds.” Daily tasks for an antitrust junior could consist of “drafting motions, preparing witnesses for government depositions and drafting white papers.” Another attorney told us that it's “not uncommon for first, second and third years to be involved in meetings with the government. We help prepare presentations and develop ideas.” It is, as associates claim, a more interesting range of tasks than you’ll find at many firms.
Antitrust clients: Google, Thermo Fisher Scientific and The Ball Corporation. Acted as counsel and subject matter specialists for Google’s advertising business.
For IP at Axinn, read patent litigation. “Patent litigation is the bread and butter of the IP work.” The only variety is added by a small amount of trademark and copyright work – “there are some partners focused on building that part of the practice” – some inter partes reviews, and “portfolio evaluations, which are liability assessments.” Though patent prosecution work is very rare, if potential IP associates want to take part in IPRs and post-grant proceedings, they will need to be licensed by the Patent and Trademark Office (note that the firm doesn't require associates to have the qualification; it might just be advantageous). Work here is pharma dominated. Many cases center on the production of generics (the cheaper versions of otherwise patented drugs) and the squabbles between pharma companies that want to produce them or own the patents. This often falls under the bracket of Hatch-Waxman litigation, after the law governing the approval process for generics. Associates’ role in this team was slightly less rounded than antitrust, involving “a lot of legal research. I’ve been searching for scientific references to invalidate a patent. Junior associates have a big role in finding and choosing expert witnesses too. We’re heavily involved in the discovery work.” Juniors said they didn’t receive too much meaningful client contact. “We are given the opportunity to interact with clients but it's more of a supportive role.”
IP clients: Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Alvogen. Defended Par Pharmaceutical in a lawsuit filed by Impax Laboratories and AstraZeneca.
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 2,000 target
An unpredictable workload meant our interviewees’ hours were a bit of a mixed bag. “There have been months where I’ve billed over 300 hours and some where I’ve billed 140,” a junior explained. A more average day is from 8:30am to 7pm, with most associates “logging on for a couple of hours during the evening.” One associate told us: “I’ll often choose to work until 9pm to make sure my weekends are free.” These hours drew one interviewee to reflect. “I knew I was going to work long hours; I didn’t think I’d be working until midnight three days in a row. It's more stressful than I expected.” Being positive, this ratcheting up might be due to the firm’s recent growth. The firm also pays its associates a market salary, the same amount paid to lawyers at firms with a more… ahem… intense reputation for hours. One source also saw the silver lining: “There are 90 or so attorneys, and because there are fewer attorneys there's more work to go around. This means longer hours, but it also means more experience. If you're being overworked you can call the mentors directly, we aren’t anonymous associates.”
As associates continually lauded the responsibility they gained, they also praised how the firm supported their endeavors. Antitrust associates spoke of a three-day program where “you’re taught how to do a deposition and an opening statement.” There’s training to help develop attorneys’ profiles too. “This past year we had a business development presentation teaching us how to build up contacts.” This is something that is stressed by the firm. “They encourage associates to publish and get our name on articles, and to attend conferences.” Juniors are given a budget for networking too. “They want us to keep in touch with our law school friends – it’s important for the firm that you have connections.”
“It’s small enough where we are a little bit like a family.”
Associates felt sure that partners here “don’t want to hold your hand or baby you.” As associates learn to walk, Axinn sets out a path to partnership which is clear. “After eight years they look to move an associate to a counsel position, see how they get on, and then move them up to partnership.” The firm told us some high-achieving associates do move directly up to partner.
Culture & Diversity
Most juniors commented on the fluidity of the firm’s culture across locations. “There are a lot of visits, and every day you’re in contact with folks from other offices.” Associates described the atmosphere as “family-oriented, progressive and hard-working. It’s small enough where we are a little bit like a family. It’s very rare that you don’t know something about what a person does outside of work.” An associate from the New York office agreed: “You have very casual relationships. I’ve never felt intimidated by anyone – they treat you like peers. They want to hear your ideas and they’ll give you attention if you need it.” Associates could reel off a list of social events too: “We have quarterly social outings, we had a baseball game, a hockey game, a summer pool party, a trivia night. Every summer one counsel at the firm has a giant barbecue.”
Although described by associates as being a “predominantly white firm,” Axinn is taking some steps to address the issue. The firm has a diversity committee and female affinity group. Sources had also attendedunconscious bias training. Lateral hires have also helped to bring in more women at partner level, and sources felt they’d seen more diverse summer intakes recently. Diversity among the associate group isn’t the issue, however: Axinn’s diversity statistics at the partner level make poor reading. The firm isn’t Mansfield Rule 2.0 certified, and in 2019 only 4% of the firm’s partners were from a minority ethnic group; only 19% were women. Things do seem to have improved, with a 9% ethnic minority and 24% female partnership achieved in 2020.
Associates have a 100-hour limit on the pro bono work which can count toward their billable target. However, the firm is flexible. “The firm is willing to work with you on a case-to-case basis. Some associates last year spent 700 hours of pro bono on one case. You’re not required to do pro bono work, but it’s there if you want it.” When looking for pro bono opportunities, juniors “have a designated pro bono partner who actively sends us opportunities via email,” and there are quarterly meetings to publicize pro bono cases. An antitrust associate said the firm tends to focus on “immigration work, but we also have opportunities to do corporate pro bono, there’s a lot of flexibility.” Recent work has come from Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts, while the firm won an award for a case alleging excessive force and First Amendment rights violations against Montgomery County police officers.
Pro bono hours
- For all US offices: 3,041
- Average per US attorney: 61.8
- Axinn's 2020 summer program will be hosted virtually.
- The program will last at least six weeks with the possibility of extending to allow in-office work if restrictions allow.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 303
Interviewees outside OCI: 5
Axinn conducts OCI at 19 schools, attends three job fairs and participates in resume drops at several additional schools each season. At each location, interviewers meet with around 15 to 20 students. The firm attends NEBLSA, Bay Area Diversity Fair and Lavender Law Job Fair. The Loyola Patent Job Fair is also an important source of candidates for Axinn – a larger number of IP students from that program tend to receive callback invitations. Two IP attorneys conduct interviews at this fair.
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: 117
Successful candidates are invited to three or four half-hour interviews with partners and associates, before a lunch with two associates. Here, interviewers will be gauging “candidates’ abilities 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 analyzed 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 Don Hawthorne
Successful candidates are hired directly into their desired practice group on the firm’s summer program. which runs for ten weeks from mid-May to the end of July. 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 smaller team-building programs to larger office-wide outings. Hiring sources tell us “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 Don Hawthorne
Interview with managing partner Matthew Becker
Chambers Associate: How would you describe Axinn’s current market position?
Matt Becker: The firm’s market position is very strong. We are focused on increasing in our core areas: antitrust, IP litigation and litigation. In the past two years we have grown more than any time in our history, with about a 10% increase in revenue and lawyers each year. We continue to be on an upward trajectory in terms of performance and brand recognition in the cases we handle. The firm’s market position is strengthening every day.
CA: Which practices have been performing especially well recently?
MB:Our antitrust practice has been performing extremely well; we have always had a very nationally prominent base in the merger clearance practice. We have expanded our antitrust and litigation capabilities – this expertise is now being used to handle very high-profile cases. We have had a series of antitrust litigations that have been high stakes and complex matters.
CA: What’s your long-term vision for the firm?What do you hope the firm will look like in five years' time?
MB:I would expect that in five years' time the firm would be moderately larger than it is now. We are a boutique firm. We do not aspire to be a 1,000-lawyer firm. With this growth, we will focus on retaining our core culture and values. Axinn works as one large office split across four locations; we have a very seamless culture. We are a very entrepreneurial firm and our lawyers are business development minded. We like to introduce our lawyers to very challenging work – we don’t practice in large teams to make sure our associates receive meaningful responsibility on cases. We hold the high level of work we do and collegial atmosphere as something very special to Axinn. When you are working day in day out with the same people, it is imperative you enjoy the people you work with. And so, we expect further growth, but we don’t want it to be so expansive that we lose sight of our culture and core values.
CA: When did you decide to become a lawyer? Why?
I decided to become a lawyer in the late 1980s. I came from a background in chemistry. Two things really appealed to me about the practice of law. One was the human interaction and the other was the different types of intellectual challenges lawyers face. There is a very strong logical reasoning required as a lawyer, particularly when practicing in the science sector.
CA: Looking back at your career and the knowledge you've gained, what advice would you give to students who are about to enter the legal industry? What would you say to students who’re interested in Axinn?
MB: I would say to practice law with a passion. There are many lawyers who are willing to work the long hours, but the very finest lawyers I have encountered in my career have remarkable passion for achieving the very best results for their clients. That passion is really the difference between a good lawyer and a great lawyer.
114 West 47th Street,
- Head Office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 4
- Partners (US): 34
- Associates (US): 51
- Main recruitment contact: Rachel Rosado (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Hiring partners: Nick Gaglio, Ted Mathias and Don Hawthorne
- Diversity officer: Jason Murata
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2020: 13
- Clerking policy: Case by case basis
- Summers joining/anticipated 2020: 14
- Summers joining/anticipated 2020 split by office: New York 8, Washington DC: 5, San Francisco: 1
- Summer salary 2020: 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 2020: Antonin Scalia, Berkeley, Columbia, Duke, Georgetown, George Washington, Harvard, 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, 2020
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
District of Columbia
- Antitrust (Band 5)
- Antitrust (Band 2)
USA - Nationwide
- Antitrust (Band 3)