Kirkland & Ellis LLP at a Glance


  • “No face time”
  • “The autonomy you have to determine the type of work you want”
  • “Outstanding compensation”


  • “Not enough people to do all the work”
  • “’Wild west’ of individual partners sharing a pool of associates”
  • “Everyone is slightly manic about their work”

The Buzz

  • “Chicago leader”
  • “Top restructuring practice”
  • “Shark tank”
  • “Fake partners”

About Kirkland & Ellis LLP

Kirkland & Ellis has a strong reputation in private equity, M&A and other complex corporate transactions, litigation, restructuring and intellectual property that stretches worldwide.

Extra, Extra!

In 1909, fresh-faced attorneys Stuart Shepard and Robert McCormick struck up a partnership in Chicago, laying the foundation for the growth of one of the world's largest and most successful law firms. McCormick descended from money and influence (his grandfather founded the Chicago Tribune), and he used this sway to funnel business to the nascent firm. He eventually became so involved as outside counsel with the Trib's business endeavors that he left the firm in 1920 to become the paper's publisher-a move that he used to send more business the firm's way, tapping Kirkland trial lawyer Weymouth Kirkland to defend the Trib in defamation suits.

Kirkland soon eclipsed the firm founders as the face of the outfit, carving a legacy defined by his defense of newspapers in significant free speech and libel cases (the University of Chicago actually named its moot courtroom after him). As for the other half of the current firm's nameplate, Howard Ellis came on board in 1915. Ellis was a champion of the "fair comment" defense, a privilege that protects published or spoken opinions directed at public officials and figures.

Spruced Up

Kirkland's next act began in 1938, when the firm lured a young DOJ trial lawyer into the private sector: Hammond Chaffetz. According to the firm's website, Chaffetz "ushered in the modern era of the firm," placing a newfound emphasis on recruiting and grooming of promising candidates at top law schools. The firm boasts an impressive roster of partners and alumni, including Thomas Yannucci, a defamation soldier who was once named one of Washington's most-feared lawyers; Jay Lefkowitz, the former special envoy for human rights in North Korea; business, nonprofit, and government leaders across the globe spanning organizations from Apple, Facebook, the DOJ, Uber, Walt Disney, Twitter, NBC, The Nature Conservancy, and Amazon to the Executive Office of the President of the United States.

But Kirkland isn't just about recruiting the best-the firm focuses on development too. Through its open assignment system, associates have the freedom to develop their careers by selecting their areas of interest and assignments. This independence is supported by hands-on, practice-specific training-known as the Kirkland Institute-including extensive litigation training with the Kirkland Institute for Trial Advocacy ("KITA"), which features a mock jury trial that spans two days.

Investing in the Future

Kirkland has made headlines for its hiring in recent years, bringing in high-profile partners in areas like M&A, energy, intellectual property, and government investigations and enforcement work, and expanding its presence around the world, notably in New York, London, and Hong Kong. The firm opened its twelfth office in Houston in 2014, and expects to have 90 lawyers there by the end of 2016. Kirkland has also been lauded for helping its lawyers leave. Its alumni program is one of the most comprehensive of its kind in BigLaw. The program aims to create lifelong relationships with Kirkland attorneys, and involves networking events, mentoring, CLE programs, an alumni website, and career coaching and job banks to help lawyers past and present land new opportunities.

Patron of the Smarts

For more than 30 years, Kirkland has provided significant financial support to leading law and business schools. In 2015, Kirkland made a gift nearing $5.5 million to endow a fund to support the University of Chicago Law School's Corporate Lab, which provides students with real-world experience and teaches the "building blocks" of corporate law. The program hosts conferences, speaker series, and the Transactional Challenge, an annual competition in which rising 2Ls compete against one another in a series of "real-world" corporate exercises. In 2011 and 2012, Kirkland partners also made large-scale financial contributions to Stanford Law School, the University of Michigan Law School, Northwestern University School of Law and Columbia Law School. In addition, the firm sponsors a Diversity Fellowship Program which every year provides approximately 10 law student recipients with a $25,000 stipend and a salaried summer associate position at one or more of the firm's domestic offices.


I. Declare. Bankruptcy.

Kirkland has continued to make a name for its premier bankruptcy and restructuring practice by guiding major clients through Chapter 11 proceedings, out-of-court restructurings, debtor mass torts and distressed asset sales. The firm represents Energy Future Holdings in the sixth largest bankruptcy by debt and eighth largest by assets in U.S. history, and Caesar's Entertainment Operating Company in its ongoing Chapter 11 case, among the 25 largest Chapter 11 cases ever filed in the United States. The firm also represents a number of Chapter 11 debtors in the energy industry, including Sabine Oil & Gas, Samson Energy, and Midstates Petroleum Co. Kirkland has also taken its bankruptcy prowess across borders, handling international restructurings in Europe, Asia, Canada, and Latin America.

Magnum P.E.

Kirkland has one of the most active and highly regarded private equity practices in the world, routinely handling leveraged buyouts, growth equity transactions, recapitalizations, going-private transactions, and the formation of investment funds on behalf of more than 400 private equity firms in every major market around the world. Mergermarket has ranked Kirkland as the most active legal adviser to private equity buyouts every year since 2010. Recent private equity work includes representing Madison Dearborn Partners and Ikaria in the $2.3 billion sale of Ikaria to Mallinckrodt, representing Vista Equity Partners in the $1.9 billion joint venture with Raytheon to create a new cybersecurity operation, and representing Warburg Pincus in its $1.8 billion sale of Coyote Logistics to UPS.

Merger Mania

Kirkland handles some of the most high-profile, complex, and coveted transactions. The firm's M&A practice strength is reflected in the market and through Kirkland's rankings in league tables, including the firm's #1 rating on Mergermarket's 2015 ranking of legal advisers for global and regional M&A, as well as the firm's ranking as #1 counsel to principals (by M&A deal volume) in The American Lawyer's Corporate Scorecard for 2014-2016. Recent work includes the representation of biopharmaceutical company Baxalta Inc. in connection with its agreement to combine with Shire, a $32 billion transaction announced in January 2016.

January-March 2016
¡Hola Puerto Rico!

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico hired Kirkland to seek U.S. Supreme Court review of a Puerto Rico Supreme Court decision that the U.S. Constitution's Double Jeopardy Clause precludes prosecution under Commonwealth law for the same offense for which a defendant has been convicted under federal law. The case questions whether Puerto Rico is a separate "sovereign" from the United States that may prosecute the same offenses without raising double jeopardy concerns. Kirkland argued at the Supreme Court in January 2016 and a decision is expected by June. Kirkland also represents the Commonwealth in a separate case concerning its newly enacted municipal debt-restructuring law; the firm argued at the U.S. Supreme Court in March 2016.

January 2016

Kirkland represents General Motors in multidistrict litigation arising from its voluntary recall of allegedly defective ignition switches. The firm achieved an unprecedented trial victory in January 2016, when the first of six bellwether cases abruptly ended with the plaintiffs dismissing their case after Kirkland demonstrated that the plaintiffs were attempting to commit a fraud on the court. The firm achieved favorable outcomes in the subsequent bellwether cases; two remaining cases are schedule for trial later this year. Kirkland also represents GM and certain of its officers in a purported securities fraud class action and in eight shareholder derivative actions.

November 2015
High-top Heroes

In one of the most significant trademark matters ever litigated before the International Trade Commission, Nike (parent company of Converse) asked Kirkland to step in as co-counsel to Converse in a lawsuit suing Wal-Mart, Kmart, and more than 30 other retailers and apparel companies for copying the design of its iconic Chuck Taylor sneaker. Several of the companies settled, and Converse prevailed in trial against four respondents.

- Show Less + Show Full Description

Kirkland & Ellis LLP

300 North LaSalle
Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: (312) 862-2000


  • Employer Type: Private
  • Management Committee Chair: Jeffrey C. Hammes
  • Hiring Partners: Nader Boulos & Shelly Hirschtritt (Chicago); Anthony Speier (Houston); Diana Torres, Hamed Meshki & Tana Ryan (Los Angeles); Jason Kanner, Lauren Casazza & Nicole Greenblatt (New York); Elizabeth Deeley & Jeremy Veit (Palo Alto/San Francisco); Daniel Donovan & Edwin U (Washington); Jesse Sheley & Li-Chien Wong (Asia); Ashley Young & Jane Scobie (London); Markus Feil & Christian Zuleger (Munich)
  • Total No. Attorneys 2016: 1,699

  • Base Salary
    All US offices:
    1st year: $180,000
    2nd year: $190,000
    3rd year: $210,000
    4th year: $235,000
    5th year: $260,000
    6th year: $280,000
    Summer Associate: $7,500 semi-monthly

  • Summer Associate Offers
    135 out of 135 (2Ls) (2015)

  • Major Departments & Practices
    Antitrust & Competition
    Intellectual Property
    International Trade & National Security
    Government & Internal Investigations
    Mergers & Acquisitions
    Private Equity
    Real Estate
    Tax, Benefits & Estate Planning

Major Office Locations

  • Chicago, IL
  • Houston, TX
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • New York, NY
  • Palo Alto, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Washington, DC
  • Beijing
  • Hong Kong
  • London
  • Munich
  • Shanghai
- Show Less + Show More