2023 Vault Rankings
At a Glance
“The perks, pay, and people.”
“Quality of work available, autonomy, flexibility.”
“Hours and lack of transparency.”
“Stress and potential for burnout.”
About Kirkland & Ellis
Kirkland & Ellis, one the world’s most elite law firms, is known for its corporate, intellectual property, litigation, M&A, private equity, and restructuring work. With more than 3,000 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, BP, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Cisco, Dow Chemical, Meta (formerly 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 500 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, as well as job searching tools for those looking to exit, including a “playbook,” a job board, and 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
- On a pro bono basis, Kirkland represented students and alumni from Maryland’s four historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) who sued the state for failure to dismantle the remnants of its former segregated higher education system. After 12 years, two trials, five mediations, a Fourth Circuit appeal and three legislative hearings, the case culminated in a $577 million legislative settlement in March 2021 — one of the largest pro bono settlements in history. Kirkland donated the $12.5 million it received in attorney fees to seven HBCUs and civil rights organizations.
- Kirkland advised Bristol-Myers Squibb in its US$90 billion acquisition of Celgene, the largest biopharmaceutical deal in history by transaction value.
- Kirkland litigators represent General Motors in federal and state multidistrict litigation involving personal injury cases, consumer-fraud class actions and related bankruptcy proceedings arising from ignition switch recalls. Kirkland has won defense verdicts in three bellwether trials as well as dismissals of hundreds of personal injury claims.
- Kirkland has one of the largest private equity practices in the world, serving more than 450 sponsors from the bulge bracket to the middle market and regularly representing many of the world’s largest private equity firms. The Firm has ranked first in Mergermarket’s private equity buyouts league tables by deal count in the U.S. and globally for the last 12 years.
- Top 10 Most Prestigious Firms, Vault 2022
- Named one of the Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality, Human Rights Campaign, 2008-2021
- Named one of Working Mother’s Best Law Firms for Women, 2012-2021
- Recognized in Financial Times North America Innovative Lawyers Report, 2020
- Named to The American Lawyer’s A-List, 2021
300 North LaSalle
Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: (312) 862-2000
Management Committee Chair: Jon A. Ballis
Firmwide Chairs: Lauren Casazza, Jonathan Davis, Christopher Greco and Julian Seiguer
Local Chairs: Stephanie Berdik, Amanda Border (Boston); Ryan Bennett, Nader Boulos, Shelly Hirschtritt, (Chicago); Anthony Speier (Texas); Sierra Elizabeth, Nisha Kanchanapoomi and Christopher Lawless (LA); Christopher Greco, Stefan Atkinson, Laura Sullivan and Nicole Washington (NY); Travis Nelson (SLC); Vlad Kroll and Brandon Brown (Palo Alto/San Francisco); Ragan Naresh (D.C.); William Burke and Matthew Elliott (London); Achim Herfs and Wolfgang Nardi (Munich)
Total No. Attorneys (2022):
3K - 3.5K
No. of Partners Named 2021:
Base Salary (2022)
1st year: $215,000
2nd year: $225,000
3rd year: $250,000
4th year: $295,000
5th year: $345,000
6th year: $370,000
Summer Associate: $205,000 or $3942/week
for office-specific email addresses.
No. of U.S. Offices: 11
No. of International Offices: 7
Los Angeles, CA (DTLA and Century City)
New York, NY
Palo Alto, CA
Salt Lake City, UT
San Francisco, CA
*See firm website for complete list of practice areas and industries.