Kirkland & Ellis LLP at a Glance


  • “High compensation”
  • “The autonomy afforded by the open assignment system”
  • “A lot of early responsibility and substantive work”


  • “Competitive”
  • “Hard to take vacation”
  • “Very long and inconsistent hours”

The Buzz

  • “High-end private equity work”
  • “Best in Chicago”
  • “Cutthroat”
  • “Factory”

About Kirkland & Ellis LLP

Chicagoans are (famously and resolutely) loyal to their own, so within its hometown, Kirkland & Ellis ranks tops for prestige-but the firm's reputation in litigation, restructuring, intellectual property and corporate work stretches far beyond Chitown.

Extra, Extra!

In 1909, fresh-faced attorneys Stuart Shepard and Robert McCormick struck up a partnership, laying the foundation for the growth of a behemoth firm that has never forgotten its roots. 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. Today, the firm remains active in defending media outlets.

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; failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork; and Kenneth Starr-former Solicitor General and Independent Counsel during the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky scandals of the Clinton administration.

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, 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 white collar 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.

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.



Blooming 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. Additionally, Kirkland represents Caesar's Entertainment Operating Company in its ongoing Chapter 11 case, which is among the 25 largest Chapter 11 cases ever filed in the United States. The firm has also taken its bankruptcy prowess across borders, handling international restructurings in Europe, Asia, Canada and Latin America.

Engines Revving
Kirkland is representing General Motors in more than 50 class action lawsuits consolidated before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York arising from its voluntary recall of ignition switches. The firm is also representing GM and certain of its officers in a purported securities fraud class action and in eight shareholder derivative actions.

March 2015

A Delicious Merger
Kirkland advised 3G Capital and H.J. Heinz Company on Heinz's merger with Kraft Foods Group to create The Kraft Heinz Company in a deal announced March 25, 2015. The transaction forms the third-largest food and beverage company in North America and the fifth-largest food and beverage company in the world with revenues of approximately $28 billion.

January 2015

A Long-Awaited Victory
On January 13, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued what is likely the final substantive decision in the more than 40-year-old patent dispute-one of the longest-running of its kind-between medical device manufacturers C.R. Bard and W.L. Gore & Associates. The court confirmed its earlier finding that Gore's infringement was willful. The decision reaffirms Bard's entitlement to $1 billion previously won in the case, as well as to hundreds of millions more dollars in ongoing royalties, making this one of the largest civil cases in history.

September 2014

Fighting for Equality
In fall 2014, Kirkland achieved a significant victory for marriage equality. The firm and Lambda Legal represented same-sex couples who argued that Indiana's same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional. A district court granted summary judgment, and on September 4, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the decision. Same-sex couples began marrying in October after the Supreme Court denied Indiana's petition for writ of certiorari.

- 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
  • Total No. Attorneys 2015: 1,598

  • Employment Contact
    Please visit for office-specific email addresses.

  • Base Salary
    All US offices:
    1st year: $160,000* * Kirkland’s compensation is non-lockstep after the first year. The firm does not disclose summer associate salaries.

  • Summer Associate Offers
    103 out of 104 (2014)

  • Major Departments & Practices
    Antitrust & Competition
    Intellectual Property
    Government & Internal Investigations
    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

Get Our Career Newsletter

Interview, resume and job search tips emailed directly to you.