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Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Kirkland & Ellis
Headquarters Chicago, Illinois
No. of Offices 9 total, 3 international
No. of Attorneys 1,316 (2007)
Major Practice Areas General practice
Revenue $1.15 billion (2006)
Date Founded 1909
Company Type Limited liability partnership

Kirkland & Ellis LLP is an international law firm with headquarters in Chicago, known for its profitability[1] and its renowned litigation, bankruptcy, and intellectual property departments.[2] Kirkland & Ellis is currently ranked as the tenth most prestigious law firm in the United States by Vault.[3] As of 2008, it was the seventh largest law firm in the U.S. and the 11th largest in the world by revenue. Kirkland has offices in Chicago, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Munich, New York, Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C..



The firm was founded in 1909[4] by attorneys Stewart G. Shepherd and Robert R. McCormick, who would later become the publisher of the Chicago Tribune. The firm's modern namesakes, Weymouth Kirkland and Howard Ellis, joined the firm in 1915. In 1938, former United States Department of Justice lawyer Hammond Chaffetz joined the firm. The firm now consists of approximately 1,500 attorneys in several domestic and foreign offices, with particular strength in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Palo Alto and Washington, D.C.

In 2007, Kirkland had revenue in the amount of $1.3 Billion. The American Lawyer and other publications consistently rank Kirkland as having one of the top litigation practices in the nation. Kirkland also has top-ranked bankruptcy, private equity, and intellectual property practices.[5] The 2007 Lawyer Awards named Kirkland as the "International Law Firm of the Year." The 2008 Vault Survey of law firm partners ranked Kirkland #1 for litigation. And Chambers & Partners, publishers of well-regarded law firm evaluations, named the 2004 Litigation Department of the Year. [6] Chambers describes Kirkland as follows:

Aggressive and fiercely intelligent, this firm consistently justifies its reputation as the best litigation outfit in Illinois, if not in the country. Taking on high-stake and prominent cases for the most illustrious clients, it brings a depth and breadth of lawyering to be marveled at.[6]

The firm had gross revenue of approximately $1.15 billion in 2006, an 18% increase from 2005, making it the 7th largest law firm in the U.S. by revenue.[7] Kirkland is also one of the most profitable law firms in the country, with estimated profits per partner of $2.12 million in 2005, a 7.3% increase from 2004, making it the 8th most profitable in the nation. Kirkland is the only of the top ten most profitable firms that is not based in New York City.[8]

In 2007, Kirkland was named for the sixth year in a row the #1 Go-To Firm for Litigation in the Corporate Counsel survey, "Who Represents America's Biggest Companies." [9] Similarly, Kirkland ranked among the top four law firms in the nation in the National Law Journal's "Who Represents Corporate America" survey, representing some of the biggest companies in the combined areas of litigation, intellectual property, corporate transactions, labor and employment, and corporate governance.[10]

The firm has represented a number of high-profile clients, including United Airlines in that company's Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. Other major clients of the firm have included General Motors, Brown & Williamson, Motorola, Conseco, Honeywell, S. C. Johnson & Son, Raytheon, Schering-Plough, Samsung Electronics, Siemens AG, Charter Communications and Westinghouse Electric Company.


General Commercial Litigation Bankruptcy/Creditor's Rights Intellectual Property Private Equity Mergers & Acquisitions
Practice Area Rankings
(as voted on by partners of peer firms):
Best in Practice
(as voted on by all attorneys surveyed):
Chicago New York City Washington Southern California
Regional Rankings
(as voted on by peers at regional firms):
Overall Prestige Pay Formal Training
Other Rankings


  • 2008 Litigation Department of the Year[12]
  • 2008 IP Litigation Department of the Year, Finalist[13]
  • 2006 IP Litigation Department of the Year, Finalist
  • 2004 Litigation Department of the Year, Finalist
  • 2004 IP Litigation Department of the Year, Finalist
  • 2002 Litigation Department of the Year, Finalist


  • Deal of the Year - Singapore M&A Deal of the Year
  • Deal of the Year - Singapore Deal of the Year


In September 2009, The Wall Street Journal reported that Kirkland laid off more than 20 associates in New York and an unknown number in its other offices -- the first reported attorney layoffs since September 2008.[15] It was subsequently reported by the Chicago Tribune and Above The Law, a popular legal blog, that at least twelve associates were laid off in the Chicago office.[16]

Above The Law reported associate layoff rumors in February[17] and March 2009[18] and on the cutting of certain associate benefits in May.[19] It was reported in January 2009 that Kirkland laid off a number of non-equity partners, which would be classified as senior associates at most other large firms.[20] In addition, 80 non-attorney employees were reportedly terminated in April 2009.[21] It has been reported that the firm will start the class of 2009 in November.[22]

Associate Compensation

Like most top law firms, Kirkland sets associates' base salaries according to a lockstep compensation scale. Unlike most top law firms, however, Kirkland determines bonuses individually—not only according to the number of hours each attorney bills in a given year but also according to a merit-based grade given to each associate at fiscal year-end. The base pay scale is reflected in the following table:

Seniority Base Salary Bonus (median in 2006)
1st year $160,000 Merit + Hours (median: $52,000)
2nd year $170,000 Merit + Hours (median: $68,000)
3rd year $185,000 Merit + Hours (median: $75,000)
4th year $210,000 Merit + Hours (median: $95,000)
5th year $230,000 Merit + Hours (median: $110,000)
6th year $250,000 Merit + Hours (median: $125,000)

The bulk of the first-year associate class is recent graduates of the nation's top law schools who were hired as summer associates for the summer between their second and third years of law school. In 2007, Kirkland's office in Chicago made an offer of permanent employment to each of its 70 summer associates.[23] Summer associates (mostly second-year law students) are paid the same base rate as first-year associates, or roughly $3,100/week. Incoming associates are given a $10,000 stipend.[24]

Political Contributions

Kirkland, through its employees, was a top 20 contributor to Barack Obama in 2008, giving at least $493,735.[25] Despite the firm's reputation as a conservative firm (see "Notable former and current lawyers" below), the firm's attorneys lean heavily (77%) Democratic in their political contributions, which are substantial ($579,976 as of 10/29/07, in the 2008 election cycle).[26] The firm also has its own Political Action Committee (PAC), which gave 97% of its contributions to Democrats in the 2008 cycle, as of 12/7/07.[27] The firm's members have given more money to Illinois Senator Dick Durbin (by some measures the most liberal Democrat in the Senate)[28] since 1989 than donors from any other company or organization.[29]

Diversity Fellowship Program

Kirkland has a "Diversity Fellowship Program" at some of the nation's most prestigious law schools. Under this program, Kirkland 'Fellows' are identified from among the law students who have been offered a salaried summer associate position in one of the firm's U.S. offices after the recipient’s second year of law school (summer associates are paid about $3,077 per week). In addition to the summer work experience with Kirkland, the Fellowship provides a $15,000 stipend during the recipient's third year of law school.[30] In 2008, the program was expanded to encompass all aspects of the firm’s commitment to diversity. Instead of just awarding the Fellowship to candidates with diverse ethnic status, applicant are asked to submit a personal statement about the contributions he or she would make to Kirkland’s diversity mission as a whole. Since its inception, Kirkland has awarded 68 fellowship grants totaling $1,020,000.

On October 10, 2007, Kirkland & Ellis was included in a ranking of law firms by the national law student group Building a Better Legal Profession.[31][32] The organization ranked firms by billable hours, demographic diversity, and pro bono participation. The results can be found on the organization's website,[33]

Diversity Networking Forums

The Firmwide Diversity Committee recently announced a new addition to its diversity programming, Diversity Networking Forums. The main purpose of the Diversity Networking Forums is to provide an informal, visible network for attorneys to exchange ideas, provide support, and develop relationships.

There are four Diversity Networking Forums:

  • Asian Diversity Networking Forum
  • Black Diversity Networking Forum
  • Hispanic/Latino Diversity Networking Forum
  • LGBT Diversity Networking Forum

Support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender causes

The Firmwide Diversity Committee also has a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Subcommittee "to ensure that all issues of concern to GLBT lawyers are addressed and that the Firm actively supports GLBT-related activities."[34]

True to its word, Kirkland supports financially a large number of LGBT advocacy groups. In 2006, the Kirkland & Ellis Foundation contributed more than $1,593,000 to the sponsorship of nonprofit organizations, foundations, and programs that directly or indirectly benefit diversity-related initiatives (including LGBT groups). This represented a 46 percent increase over comparable financial support in 2005.[35]

These efforts are paying off. In 2008 and 2009 Kirkland received a perfect 100 percent score on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) 2008 Corporate Equality Index and Best Places to Work survey. The Corporate Equality Index is a tool used by the HRC - the nation's largest advocacy group for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Americans - to rate companies on how well they treat their LGBT employees, consumers and clients.[36]

Also, in March 2009, Kirkland, along with firm client The Boeing Company, received the first annual "HRC Innovation Award for Workplace Equality". The Innovation Award specifically recognizes programs or initiatives that make a positive difference to LGBT employees. Kirkland received the award for their innovative ALLSA Initiative which pairs Kirkland attorney liaisons with diverse law student groups (including women's, minority/ethnic and LGBT affinity groups) across the country.

Endowed professorships

The firm has endowed professorships in the firm's name at four prestigious law schools:

Notable former and current lawyers

Among its most well-known current and former lawyers, including three of the last ten U.S. Solicitors General, are:

  • Kenneth Starr, Dean of the Pepperdine University School of Law, former U.S. Solicitor General, former Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and former independent counsel that investigated President Bill Clinton and current New York Senator Hillary Clinton in the Whitewater scandal;
  • Robert H. Bork, Yale Law School Professor, former U.S. Solicitor General, former acting U.S. Attorney General, and former Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit;
  • Paul D. Clement, past U.S. Solicitor General;
  • Brett Kavanaugh, current Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and former Associate Counsel to the Independent Counsel under Kenneth Starr;
  • Steven G. Bradbury, former Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice;
  • Jay Lefkowitz, former Special Envoy for Human Rights in North Korea and formerly a domestic policy advisor to President George W. Bush;
  • Jack S. Levin, often credited as the "father of private equity law"; and
  • John H. Morrison, former President of the Association of American Rhodes Scholars
  • Raja Krishnamoorthi, current Democratic candidate for Illinois Comptroller.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ url=
  5. ^ Page Not Found
  6. ^ a b Chambers and Partners : Chambers USA Guide Editorial
  7. ^ The American Lawyer - 2007 Am Law 100: Eleven Firms Break the Billion-Dollar Mark
  8. ^ The American Lawyer - 2006 Am Law 100: Partner Profits Remain Strong
  9. ^ Chambers and Partners : Chambers USA Guide Profile
  10. ^ Page Not Found
  11. ^ Vault Guide to the Top 100 Law Firms 2009,
  12. ^ American Lawyer Litigation Award 2008,
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ Jones, Ashby, "Kirkland & Ellis Lays off More than 20 Associates in New York", Wall Street Journal Law Blog, 2009-09-02,, retrieved 2009-09-08  
  16. ^ Mystal, Ellie, "Nationwide Layoff Watch: Kirkland & Ellis Chicago", Above The Law, 2009-09-08,, retrieved 2009-09-08   Sachdev, Ameet, "Kirkland & Ellis lays off associates nationwide", Chicago Tribune - Chicago Law, 2009-09-08,, retrieved 2009-09-08  
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ NALP: DLE - Directory of Legal Employers
  24. ^ id.
  25. ^
  26. ^ Top Contributors to Federal Candidates and Parties: Lawyers/Law Firms
  27. ^
  28. ^ The Swamp: Dick Durbin, most liberal U.S. senator
  29. ^ Dick Durbin: Campaign Finance/Money - Contributions - 1989-2006
  30. ^ List of Fellowship Recipients
  31. ^ Amir Efrati, You Say You Want a Big-Law Revolution, Take II, "Wall Street Journal", October 10, 2007.
  32. ^ Adam Liptak, In Students’ Eyes, Look-Alike Lawyers Don’t Make the Grade, New York Times, October 29, 2007,
  33. ^ Thomas Adcock and Zusha Elinson, Student Group Grades Firms On Diversity, Pro Bono Work, "New York Law Journal," October 19, 2007,
  34. ^ Kirkland & Ellis LLP > LGBT Subcommittee
  35. ^ Kirkland & Ellis LLP > Supporting Diversity Initiatives
  36. ^ Kirkland & Ellis LLP > Press Releases
  37. ^ IPR People: Dorothy Roberts

External links



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