2021 Vault Rankings
At a Glance
“Sophisticated, complex work and responsibility early.”
“Pressure can be intense.”
“Unclear requirements to make share partner.”
About Kirkland & Ellis
Kirkland & Ellis, one the world’s most elite law firms, is recognized for its corporate, intellectual property, litigation, M&A, private equity, and restructuring work. With more than 2,700 lawyers, 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. McCormick’s grandfather founded the Chicago Tribune, and McCormick 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. 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.
Megafirm, Mega Practices
Counseling in four main areas—IP, litigation, restructuring, and transactional—Kirkland lawyers work across more than 60 practice areas. Some of the biggest names around call on the firm for their most complex issues, including Abbott Laboratories, Ares Management, Bain Capital, Blackstone Group, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Boeing, BP, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Cisco, Dow Chemical, Facebook, General Motors, IBM, Intel, KKR, Nike, Oaktree Capital, Vista Equity Partners—and the list goes on.
Kirkland has a booming transactional practice. The firm is a private equity powerhouse—with more than 450 private equity firms among its client list—and is the No. 1 firm in Vault’s Private Equity ranking. The firm handles all aspects of deals from fundraising through exits. And its M&A lawyers are among the best in the industry. Nestled within the top five firms of Vault’s M&A ranking, Kirkland advises on some of the biggest deals around. The practice brings interdisciplinary experience, with lawyers from antitrust, executive compensation, finance, IP, regulatory, and tax collaborating with the M&A team.
The firm is also home to an all-star restructuring team, that works in such wide-ranging industries as automotive, energy, entertainment, health care, manufacturing, media, real estate, retail, telecommunications, and transportation. The firm’s litigation department is a force as well—and we mean force. The firm has more than 700 litigators around the globe, handling everything from consumer fraud to ERISA to product liability to securities litigation, and so much more.
Colleagues for Life
There’s no such thing as burning bridges at Kirkland—lawyers who retire or who pursue outside opportunities are considered “colleagues for life.” The firm’s career support program CareerLink—which was recognized by Financial Times’ North America Innovative Lawyers Awards in 2016—provides the firm’s lawyers and alumni access to one-on-one, confidential career coaching, a job search “playbook,” a job board, and job-search tips on everything from resumes to interviews to networking. Alumni also have access to a comprehensive directory, networking events, concierge services, and free CLEs.
News & Awards
In addition to Kirkland’s existing wide-ranging philanthropic efforts, partnerships and pro bono work, the firm is committed to focusing additional resources on organizations committed to promoting tolerance, ending racism, fighting bigotry and stopping injustice. As part of this effort, Kirkland is pledging $5 million over five years to organizations dedicated to this important mission.
Kirkland and 34 other law firms are joining together with the Lawyers for Good Government Foundation to help small business owners secure support through the federal government’s COVID-19 stimulus package. The clinic, based in New York, will help guide small business owners in determining what help is available through the package that passed the U.S. House of Representatives in March of 2020 and also assist them in filing for grants and loans available through various federal, state, and local programs.
In 2019, Kirkland attorneys contributed a record 164,000 pro bono hours to more than 2,000 different clients, including veterans, individuals living in poverty, immigrants, members of the LGBTQ+ community, children, nonprofit organizations, entrepreneurs, and others. In particular, Kirkland dedicated substantial time and resources to immigration-focused pro bono work—defending asylum seekers, immigrant teenagers, families affected by the separation crisis, and individuals detained in workplace raids.
Kirkland launched a pioneering Wellbeing Program that proactively works with lawyers on issues related to mental health and substance misuse—two crucial issues in the legal community. The initiative offers education and dialogue centered on resilience, connection, and fitness/nutrition and will identify ways to support those dealing with substance misuse or other mental health concerns.
- Achieved a $125 million jury trial victory for EagleView in a patent infringement case against Xactware Solutions, Inc. and Verisk Analytics, Inc.
- Advised Bristol-Myers Squibb on its $90 billion acquisition of Celgene—the largest-ever acquisition of a pharmaceutical company and 2019’s largest M&A transaction.
- Represented FullBeauty Brands Holdings and Sungard AS Capital, Inc. in the two fastest Chapter 11 cases in history, emerging from bankruptcy in 90 hours and 48 hours, respectively.
- Advising 11 of the 24 large public company debtors who have filed for bankruptcy in 2020.
- Advised Blackstone Partners in multiple transactions including the $11 billion acquisition of Ultimate Software, the $22 billion merger of Kronos Incorporated and Ultimate Software, and the $1.24 billion sale of Cloverleaf to Americold Realty Trust.
- Corporate Equality Index (100 percent), 2020—Human Rights Campaign
- North America Innovative Lawyers Report, 2019—The Financial Times
- Best Law Firms for Women, 2019—Working Mother
- The A-List, 2019—The American Lawyer
- Practice Groups of the Year, 2019: Fund Formation, Mergers & Acquisitions, Private Equity, Project Finance, Tax, Trials—Law360
Management Committee Chair: Jon A. Ballis
Hiring Partners: Stephanie Berdik and Matthew Cohn (Boston); Ryan Bennett, Nader Boulos, and Shelly Hirschtritt (Chicago); Anthony Speier (Texas); Hamed Meshki, & Pippa Bond (LA); Lauren Casazza, Jon Davis, and Chris Greco (NY); Jeremy Veit (Palo Alto/San Francisco); Ragan Naresh and Bridget O’Connor (DC); Li-Chien Wong (Asia); Sarah Jordan, William Burke, and Matthew Elliott (London); Achim Herfs and Wolfgang Nardi (Munich)
Total No. Attorneys 2020:
2.5K - 3K
No. of Partners Named 2019:
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
Please visit the firm's website
for office-specific email addresses.
No. of U.S. Offices: 9
No. of International Offices: 6
Los Angeles, CA (DTLA and Century City)
New York, NY
Palo Alto, CA
San Francisco, CA
*See firm website for complete list of practice areas and industries.