Open main menu

Kirkland & Ellis LLP is an international law firm founded in Chicago in 1909. The firm has been ranked among the most prestigious law firms. According to a 2016 study, which evaluated the political ideology of the top 20 American law firms, Kirkland & Ellis is among the most conservative.[2]

Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Kirkland & Ellis
No. of offices15
No. of attorneys2,500
Key peopleJeffrey C. Hammes, Chairman of the firm's Global Management Executive Committee
RevenueUS$3.165 billion (2017)[1]
Date founded1909; 110 years ago (1909)
Company typeLimited liability partnership
Chicago office at 300 North LaSalle


Firm historyEdit

London office at 30 St Mary Axe, popularly known as the Gherkin

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"[3] 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.[3]

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, and 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".[3] A skilled lawyer and leader, Chaffetz employed a personal touch in his recruiting efforts, often taking outstanding law students to dinners and on 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 30 largest in the country.[4] Kirkland currently has offices in Beijing, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Hong Kong, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Munich, New York, Palo Alto, Paris, San Francisco, Shanghai and Washington, D.C.[5]

In recent years, Kirkland has stood out as the most consistently growing Am Law 200 firm. The firm's revenue increased by 147 percent over the last 10 years.[6] Between 2009 and 2016, Kirkland was one of nine Am Law 200 firms to have posted growth in six of the seven years in revenue, revenue per lawyer, profit per lawyer, and profit per equity partner.[7] Of those nine, Kirkland posted the best cumulative growth in each of those four areas.[7] In September 2016, Kirkland & Ellis hired all of the attorneys from the firm Bancroft PLLC.[8] In 2017, the firm grew revenue by 19 percent.[9]

New York office at 601 Lexington Avenue


The American Lawyer named Kirkland the 2018 Law Firm of the Year.[10] Kirkland is the world's highest-grossing law firm, with US$3.76 billion in revenue.[11]

Kirkland is the second-most-profitable law firm in the world, with an estimated profit per equity partner of US$5.03 million.[11] The firm pays a base salary of US$190,000, with above-market bonuses, for first-year associates.[12] Kirkland was ranked second in the 2017 ATL Power 100 law firm rankings.[13] Vault ranks Kirkland as the most prestigious firm in Chicago and the number-one firm in the U.S. for private equity, restructuring and business outlook.[14]

Notable attorneys and alumniEdit

Political contributionsEdit

Kirkland, through its employees, was a top-20 contributor to Barack Obama in 2008, giving at least $493,735.[31] 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).[32]

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Kirkland, through its employees, was one of the top law firms contributing to federal candidates during the 2012 election cycle, donating $2.49 million, 59% to Republicans.[33] By comparison, during that same period Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld donated $2.56 million, 66% to Democrats,[33] while oil conglomerate ExxonMobil donated $2.66 million, 88% to Republicans.[34] Since 1990, employees of Kirkland & Ellis have contributed $9.83 million to federal campaigns.[35]

Endowed professorshipsEdit

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


  1. ^ "Kirkland Overtakes Latham as World's Biggest Firm by Revenue".
  2. ^ Sen, Maya; Chilton, Adam S.; Bonica, Adam (2016-12-01). "The Political Ideologies of American Lawyers". Journal of Legal Analysis. 8 (2): 277–335. doi:10.1093/jla/lav011. ISSN 2161-7201.
  3. ^ a b c "Kirkland & Ellis LLP > Firm History". Retrieved 2016-12-12.
  4. ^ Johnston, David Cay (2001-01-17). "H. E. Chaffetz, 93, Lawyer On Antitrust and Price Fixing". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-12-12.
  5. ^ "One of the country's highest-grossing law firms opens Boston office". Retrieved 2017-05-25.
  6. ^ "Wrecking Ball" (PDF). August 2018.
  7. ^ a b "Kirkland and Latham: Two Different Paths to Success |". Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  8. ^ Lat, David (September 12, 2016). "Kirkland & Ellis Hires Paul Clement, Viet Dinh — And All Of Bancroft's Lawyers!". Above the Law. Retrieved July 2, 2017.
  9. ^ "What Is the 'New Normal' for Kirkland & Ellis? |". Retrieved 2018-10-02.
  10. ^ "Kirkland & Ellis Named Law Firm of the Year at American Lawyer Industry Awards".
  11. ^ a b Cite error: The named reference was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  12. ^ "Kirkland Has Spoken… Can We Now Declare The Salary Wars Over?". Above the Law. Retrieved 2018-06-15.
  13. ^ Shepherd, David Lat, Elie Mystal, Staci Zaretsky, Kashmir Hill, Marin, Mark Herrmann, Jay. "The ATL 2017 Power 100 Law Firm Rankings". Above the Law. Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  14. ^ "Kirkland & Ellis LLP". Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  15. ^ "Meet the lead attorneys involved in the BP oil spill trial". Retrieved 2016-12-12.
  16. ^ "Volkswagen hires BP oil spill lawyers to defend emissions cases". Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  17. ^ a b c d "Litigation Powerhouse: Kirkland & Ellis LLP - Law360". Retrieved 2016-12-12.
  18. ^ "Litigation Powerhouse: Kirkland & Ellis LLP - Law360". Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  19. ^ "2015 Practice Group of the Year: M&A" (PDF).
  20. ^ "2015 Practice Group of the Year: M&A" (PDF).
  21. ^ "2015 Practice Group of the Year: M&A" (PDF).
  22. ^ "2015 Practice Group of the Year: M&A" (PDF).
  23. ^ "2015 Practice Group of the Year: M&A" (PDF).
  24. ^ "2015 Practice Group of the Year: M&A" (PDF).
  25. ^ Brown, Julie (November 29, 2018). "How a future Trump Cabinet member gave a serial sex abuser the deal of a lifetime". Miami Herald. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
  26. ^ "Kirkland & Ellis Fondly Remembers Former Partner Robert Bork".
  27. ^ Johnston, David (1991-11-21). "Barr Is Confirmed on Voice Vote As 77th Attorney General of U.S." The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-02-05.
  28. ^ "Trump Chooses Bolton for 3rd Security Adviser as Shake-Up Continues". The New York Times. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  29. ^ Flint, Joe (2018-09-17). "Viet Dinh to Become Chief Legal Officer of the New Fox". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2018-10-02.
  30. ^ "Ex-S.E.C. Official, Robert Khuzami, Joins Manhattan U.S. Attorney's Office". Retrieved 2018-10-02.
  31. ^ "Sen. Barack Obama: Campaign Finance/Money - Top Donors - Senator 2008 - OpenSecrets". Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  32. ^ "Agribusiness". Archived from the original on 9 April 2008. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  33. ^ a b "Lawyers & Lobbyists: Top Contributors to Federal Candidates, Parties, and Outside Groups". Center for Responsive Politics.
  34. ^ "Energy/Natural Resources: Top Contributors to Federal Candidates, Parties, and Outside Groups". Center for Responsive Politics. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  35. ^ "Organizations: Kirkland & Ellis". Center for Responsive Politics. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  36. ^ "Klarman, taking Kirkland & Ellis Chair, examines 'Racial Equality in American History' (video) - Harvard Law Today". Harvard Law Today. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  37. ^ "Permanent". Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  38. ^ "Chicago firm endows Law School professorship". Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  39. ^ "Clark, Sherman J. - University of Michigan Law School". Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  40. ^ "Eric Posner". Retrieved 23 September 2015.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit