Partner, Kirkland & Ellis LLP
If Atif Khawaja was not a trial lawyer, he would be a journalist because he loves telling other people’s tories. This approach has served him well in litigating high-stakes suits.
He has successfully handled a broad range of commercial and intellectual property disputes. He enjoys
challenges and regularly litigates matters as complex as patent infringement, antitrust, fraud, breach
of contract and fiduciary duty, trade secret theft,
consumer misrepresentation and unfair competition.
He has won restructuring disputes, class and mass
actions, employment and administrative law disputes
before courts and arbitrators across the country.
It’s his mother who inspired him to become a
litigator. “My mom inspired me to become a litiga-tor. She is tough as nails and blazed many trails in
her life, including by teaching in many countries. At a
young age, she impressed upon me the importance of
an open mind and a clear argument. Growing up was
full of lively discussions, and it was best to keep quiet
if you couldn’t string together a credible argument
with conviction. I did not know any lawyers then, and
it was those discussions and her example that led me
to where I am,” Khawaja said.
Beyond his busy and broad law practice, Khawaja also co-chairs Kirkland’s diversity and inclusion
committee and sits on its recruiting, associate review
and pro bono management committees. He also finds
time to oversee the pro bono program for the firm’s
New York office.
Even though his work finds him regularly repre-
senting well-known companies including United,
Dow, Honeywell, Expedia, IBM, Pfizer, and Hess, as
well as the world’s largest hedge and private equity
funds, Khawaja is closely vested in the outcome of
every client he represents. “The trust of a client is a
very satisfying reward. It doesn’t matter if that client
is a large company or a pro bono individual, it is
tremendously gratifying and humbling to stand up in
court on behalf of a client,” he said. He tries to keep a
level head in the face of adversity. “I love my job, but
when there are setbacks, I think about the mentors
I have had and the values that they drilled into me
empathy, humility and service. Those values keep me
going,” he said.
Khawaja earned his JD from the Boston Univer-
sity School of Law, magna cum laude, and his BA
in biology and religious studies from the University