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