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Kirkland & Ellis

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Kirkland & Ellis
Kirkland & Ellis logo.png
Headquarters Chicago (IL)
Number of Offices 13
Number of attorneys 2,000
Practice Areas General practice
Annual Revenue $2,650 million
Kirkland & Ellis Pay Scale
(all numbers in thousands of dollars)
First year salary180
Second year salary190
Third year salary210
Fourth year salary235
Fifth year salary260
Sixth year salary280
Seventh year salary
Eighth year salary
Ninth year salary
Tenth year salary

Kirkland & Ellis LLP, founded in 1909, is the world's second-highest grossing law firm, with $2.65 billion in annual revenues.[1] Kirkland is widely considered to be one of the world's most elite law firms, and its private equity, restructuring, and intellectual property groups are largely regarded as industry leaders.[2] Kirkland & Ellis is also known for a globally recognized litigation practice, aimed mainly at large corporate clients that go to trial. Kirkland has offices in Beijing, Boston, Chicago, Hong Kong, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Munich, New York, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Shanghai and Washington, D.C.[3]

Kirkland is the fifth most profitable law firm per partner, with estimated profits per equity partner of $4.1 million.[4] Kirkland is also known for paying associates above-market salaries, through performance based bonuses that exceed those offered by peer firms.[5] The starting salary for first-year associates is $215,000.[6]

Kirkland was ranked #2 in the AmLaw 100 rankings in 2017, a ranking based on financial metrics,[7] and #2 in the 2017 ATL Power 100 Law Firm Rankings.[8] Vault's 2018 rankings, based on ratings of associates at peer firms, placed Kirkland as the #1 most prestigious firm in Chicago, and the #8 most prestigious firm in the U.S.[9]

Kirkland & Ellis headquarters at 300 North LaSalle in Chicago

Firm history

Kirkland & Ellis's New York office, at 601 Lexington Avenue

In 1909, two young attorneys, Stuart G. Shepard and Robert R. McCormick, teamed up to form the Chicago-based partnership that would eventually become Kirkland & Ellis. McCormick was the grandson of Joseph Medill, the founder of the Chicago Tribune. McCormick was an "innovative and forceful lawyer"[10] who had also served with distinction in World War I. By 1920, McCormick had become so active in the business affairs of the Chicago Tribune that he left the Firm to take over as the Tribune's publisher.

As a consequence of McCormick's outspoken, crusading editorial policy the Tribune soon required the services of a first-class trial lawyer to defend against a slew of defamation cases. McCormick turned to Weymouth Kirkland, who had joined the firm in 1915. Over the course of his career, Kirkland attracted some of the firm's largest clients. Often described as a brilliant trial lawyer, he served as chief counsel to the Tribune and other newspapers in various cases that became landmarks in free speech and libel law.[10]

Kirkland's partner, Howard Ellis, was a pivotal contributor to the firm's early history. Ellis joined the firm as a young associate in 1915. Ellis assisted Kirkland in many of his most famous trials, in which they defended clients such as Standard Oil Company, the Associated Press, the Chicago Board of Trade, among others. The duo made legal history in a landmark libel suit brought by Henry Ford in 1919, during which Ellis pioneered the defense of "fair comment," which is today a basic right of free speech.

In 1938, Kirkland and Ellis hired young trial lawyer Hammond E. Chaffetz from the U.S. Department of Justice. Chaffetz is noted for ushering in "the modern era of the firm".[10] As skilled lawyer and leader, Chaffetz employed a personal touch in his recruiting efforts, often taking outstanding law students to dinners and walks to bring them into the firm. In his six decades at the firm, Chaffetz's techniques were noted for helping the firm grow to about 780 lawyers, making it one of the top 30 largest in the country.[11]

Although Kirkland & Ellis began as a firm focused on freedom of the press and antitrust litigation, the firm has grown into an international, full-service law firm with approximately 2,000 attorneys and 13 offices around the world.[10]

Kirkland & Ellis' London office at 30 St. Mary Axe, popularly known as the Gherkin.

Notable clients and cases

Notable attorneys and alumni

Political contributions

Kirkland, through its employees, was a top-20 contributor to Barack Obama in 2008, giving at least $493,735.[23] The firm's attorneys leaned heavily (77%) Democratic in their political contributions during the 2008 election cycle, which were substantial ($579,976 as of 10/29/07).[24]

The firm has its own Political Action Committee (PAC), which gave 97% of its contributions to Democrats during the 2008 election cycle, as of 12/7/07. The firm's members have given more money to Illinois Senator Dick Durbin (by some measures the most liberal Democrat in the Senate)[25] since 1989 than donors from any other company or organization.[26]

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Kirkland & Ellis was one of the top law firms contributing to federal candidates during the 2012 election cycle, donating $2.49 million, 59% to Republicans.[27] By comparison, during that same period Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld donated $2.56, 66% to Democrats,[27] while oil conglomerate ExxonMobil donated $2.66 million, 88% to Republicans.[28] Since 1990, Kirkland & Ellis has contributed $9.83 million to federal campaigns.[29]

Endowed professorships

The firm has endowed professorships in its name at four of the leading law schools in the United States:


  1. [1],
  2. Kirkland & Ellis Vault Profile:, Vault
  4. [2],
  5. Associate Bonus Watch: Cravath Scale Blown Away By Rival Firm, Above The Law
  6. Chicago-Based Biglaw Giant Gives Raises To All U.S. Associates,
  7. [3],
  8. Shepherd, David Lat, Elie Mystal, Staci Zaretsky, Kashmir Hill, Marin, Mark Herrmann, Jay The ATL 2017 Power 100 Law Firm RankingsAbove the Law
  9. Kirkland & Ellis LLP,
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Kirkland & Ellis LLP > Firm History,
  11. Johnston, David Cay H. E. Chaffetz, 93, Lawyer On Antitrust and Price FixingThe New York Times  (2001-01-17)
  12.  Meet the lead attorneys involved in the BP oil spill
  13. Volkswagen hires BP oil spill lawyers to defend emissions cases,
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Litigation Powerhouse: Kirkland & Ellis LLP - Law360,
  15. Litigation Powerhouse: Kirkland & Ellis LLP - Law360,
  16. 2015 Practice Group of the Year: M&A,
  17. 2015 Practice Group of the Year: M&A,
  18. 2015 Practice Group of the Year: M&A,
  19. 2015 Practice Group of the Year: M&A,
  20. 2015 Practice Group of the Year: M&A,
  21. 2015 Practice Group of the Year: M&A,
  22. [4],
  23. Sen. Barack Obama: Campaign Finance/Money - Top Donors - Senator 2008 - OpenSecrets,
  24. Agribusiness,
  25. National Politics - Chicago Tribune,
  26. Dick Durbin: Campaign Finance/Money - Contributions - 1989-2006
  27. 27.0 27.1 Lawyers & Lobbyists: Top Contributors to Federal Candidates, Parties, and Outside Groups,
  28. Energy/Natural Resources: Top Contributors to Federal Candidates, Parties, and Outside Groups,
  29. Organizations: Kirkland & Ellis,
  30. Klarman, taking Kirkland & Ellis Chair, examines 'Racial Equality in American History' (video) - Harvard Law Today, Harvard Law Today
  31. Permanent,
  32. Chicago firm endows Law School professorship,
  33. Clark, Sherman J. - University of Michigan Law School,
  34. Eric Posner,

External links

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