2019 Vault Rankings
- New York#11
“Quality of work”
“Very intense clients and expectations”
“Pressure to always be available for work”
“Number of hours”
Kirkland & Ellis, one the world’s most elite law firms, is recognized for its private equity, M&A and other complex corporate transactions, litigation and dispute resolution/arbitration, restructuring, and intellectual property work. With 2,200 lawyers in offices on three continents, the firm is regularly recognized as one of the most successful in the world.
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 promising candidates at top law schools, and turning them into shrewd lawyers. 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; former Solicitor General Paul Clement; former federal judge and Acting Attorney General Mark Filip; and former White House Counsel to President Obama Neil Eggleston. Kirkland’s alumni include business, nonprofit, and government leaders across the globe spanning organizations from Apple, Facebook, the DOJ, Uber, Walt Disney, Twitter, NBC, Legal Aid Society, 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/private equity, energy, intellectual property, government investigations and enforcement work, litigation, tax, investment funds and debt finance. In 2016, Kirkland made a splash by bringing on top appellate litigation boutique Bancroft PLLC, adding Clement and firm founder Viet Dinh to its ranks. Kirkland opened its thirteenth office in Boston in 2017 and continues to expand its presence around the world, including offices in Houston, New York, London, and Hong Kong.
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. Kirkland partners and the Kirkland & Ellis Foundation have also recently 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 2L Diversity Fellowship Program. Applicants must apply to and receive an offer to join the summer program at one of Kirkland’s offices. Each Fellowship recipient receives a $25,000 stipend.
IN THE NEWS
Kirkland's top-ranked transactional practice handles complex transactions for companies and private equity firms worldwide. The firm handles more M&A deals and financings than any other law firm in the world. Recent work includes advising on the sale of Scripps Networks, owner of HGTV, Food Network and Travel Channel, to Discovery Communications for $14.6 billion; advising tronc, Inc. on its sale of the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and other titles; representing Au Bon Pain on its sale to Panera Bread; and advising Boardriders, Inc., owner of the Quiksilver, Roxy and DC Shoes brands, on its acquisition of Billabong.
Kirkland's bankruptcy and restructuring practice continues to guide major clients through Chapter 11 proceedings, out-of-court restructurings, debtor mass torts, and distressed asset sales across a variety of industries. In the past few years, the firm has represented Energy Future Holdings and Caesars Entertainment Operating Company in their Chapter 11 cases, among the largest ever filed in U.S. history. Kirkland has also represented many Chapter 11 debtors in the energy industry, including GenOn Energy, Linn Energy, Seadrill Limited and Ultra Petroleum Corp., and distressed retailers, including Toys “R” Us, Nine West, Gymboree, Payless ShoeSource, Charming Charlie, BCBG Max Azria, and rue21.
Kirkland scored two huge copyright victories on the same day for clients Fox News and Nike. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit sided with Fox News in a case against TVEyes Inc., which copies and provides news content to subscribers. The court found that TVEyes’ actions did not constitute fair use. About an hour later, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that Nike’s iconic “Jumpman” logo did not infringe a photographer’s copyrighted image of Michael Jordan.
In a case spanning 10 years, Kirkland scored a groundbreaking victory for its pro bono client, The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, in its lawsuit against the State of Maryland for its failure to dismantle its formerly segregated system of higher education. The plaintiffs alleged that the state unfairly permitted traditionally white colleges and universities to duplicate academic programs developed by historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The November 2017 ruling ordered the appointment of a special master to oversee the creation of a new, unique academic programs for HBCUs.
Over the past two years, Kirkland has secured victory after victory for the Chicago Cubs and the team’s owner in a widely reported lawsuit brought by two rooftop buildings and businesses neighboring Wrigley Field. The businesses alleged that the Cubs’ new videoboard in right field would obstruct their rooftop views into the field, and they accused the Cubs of breach of contract, antitrust law violations, deceptive trade practices, consumer fraud and defamation. Last fall, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the case and denied the rooftop owners’ bid for a rehearing.
After Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, Kirkland prioritized responding to community needs. Houston-based attorneys and staff assisted with rescues, volunteered at shelters, and opened their homes to colleagues, friends, and strangers who were in need of a place to stay. Firm employees worldwide donated to Kirkland’s Disaster Relief Fund, the American Red Cross, and Team Rubicon. The firm also offered up its Houston office space to displaced local charities. And to show its support to Houston’s emergency crews, the firm donated Astros tickets to the children of first responders.
Talent, drive and enthusiasm - that’s what makes a Kirkland & Ellis attorney. We believe in creative solutions fueled by teamwork, and we are dedicated to providing our clients with superior results. With lawyers coming from the world’s finest law schools, Kirkland & Ellis is known as an industry leader in recruiting, retaining and advancing the brightest legal talent. Our reputation for excellence is recognized globally.
Employer Type: Private
Management Committee Chair: Jeffrey C. Hammes
Hiring Partners: Stephanie Berdik & Matthew Cohn (Boston); Nader Boulos & Shelly Hirschtritt (Chicago); Anthony Speier (Houston); Diana Torres, Hamed Meshki, & Tana Ryan (Los Angeles); Jason Kanner, Lauren Casazza, & Ashley Gregory (New York); Jeremy Veit (Palo Alto/San Francisco); Daniel Donovan & Edwin U (DC); Li-Chien Wong (Asia); Sarah Jordan, William Burke & Matthew Elliott (London); Achim Herfs & Wolfgang Nardi (Munich)
Total No. Attorneys 2018: 2,200
All U.S. offices:
1st year: $190,000
2nd year: $200,000
3rd year: $220,000
4th year: $255,000
5th year: $280,000
6th year: $305,000
Summer associate: $3,654/week
255 out of 256 (2Ls) (2018)
Los Angeles, CA
New York, NY
Palo Alto, CA
San Francisco, CA
Intellectual Property Litigation