With more than a decade of rapid expansion behind it, this global firm is now focused on maximizing cooperation across its vast platform.
“THE tentacles of the firm go back 150 years when you look at our constituent legacy firms,” says K&L's recruitment and integration partner Craig Budner. While that description may conjure up images of some rampaging creature from a 1950s B-movie, we assure you that there's nothing to fear here – unless you're terrified of global law firms that is. For K&L Gates has a much gentler disposition than its formidable size (which encompasses 45 offices worldwide) might imply, as global managing partner Jim Segerdahl explains: “There are lots of moving pieces and interrelated parts. But as complex as it is, it really boils down to an organization populated by people dedicated to working together to deliver great service to clients from what I regard as an amazing platform. We constantly emphasize teamwork and collaboration, and bringing together the best resources to deal with our clients' challenges – that is what we do day-in and day-out.”
Segerdahl took the reins from long-serving managing partner Peter Kalis in 2017; Kalis had overseen the firm's growth for two decades and helped to spearhead the 2007 merger between Seattle's Preston Gates and Pittsburgh's Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, which gave us the K&L Gates we know today. While there has been a change in leadership, Segerdahl confirms that “our basic mission as a highly integrated global firm has remained the same.” Chambers Global certainly acknowledges K&L's capabilities across Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.
On its home turf, K&L picks up an array of Chambers USA rankings across the markets it operates in. Top awards at a state level go to the firm's corporate/M&A & private equity, general commercial litigation, healthcare, bankruptcy/restructuring and environment expertise. Its nationwide nods, meanwhile, include energy, government relations, insurance disputes, investment funds and transportation work in the shipping sphere.
Strategy & Future
Given its recent history, will K&L be getting even bigger any time soon? “I think it’s not likely that any firm could keep up with quite the expansion pace that we've been on over the last ten years,” Segerdahl reflects. “It has been a remarkable run. We are fortunate to have reached the point where we’re on five continents, so I think it’s fair to say that the pace of expansion does not need to be on a par with the track over the past ten years or so.” However, Segerdahl is quick to qualify: “That’s not to say we will ignore positive strategic opportunities as they arise; indeed, we will always embrace and pursue opportunities to strengthen our positioning.”
Juniors are assigned to a primary practice, but can also select up to five secondary practices to take on work from. “You do have a legitimate opportunity to seek assignments from other groups – it's quite free-flowing.” A free market system exists across groups, but there are some checks in place to ensure that juniors are getting enough work: groups in Seattle have official workflow coordinators to “keep a handle on things and make sure that major projects get staffed,” while others elsewhere simply have “partners who coordinate and manage it among themselves; they get on the same page and know who's available.” Sources reported varying levels of success in the free market, but appreciated the opportunity to move around: “You may be doing something for partner A who then has a lull, so you just go over to partner B who's super busy.”
K&L's complex commercial litigation and disputes (CCLD), corporate/M&A, and investment management groups housed just over half of the juniors on our list. CCLD covers several types of litigation, including securities, real estate, toxic tort, class action, government enforcement and environmental matters. Our sources here had often worked on the defense side of cases, for clients in a range of industries, from oil and gas to financial services. “In the first year my tasks were more piecemeal,” one source reported, charting their progress. “I supported people writing motions, did research tasks for arguments, and interpreted case law. Now I have control of at least one of my own cases. I do doc review, but typically in anticipation of depositions.” Other second-years had also played a prominent role during cases: “I’d write and spearhead everything and come up with the strategy. I didn’t get to take the deposition, but I managed it – the questions I wanted asked got asked. I wasn't being a potted plant!”
“It was a great way to jump in and get my name out there.”
Corporate juniors had worked on a mix of M&A deals, securities offerings and commercial lending transactions, as well as some general corporate governance matters. In the beginning, “you mostly assist with due diligence projects, but you soon get to start managing those projects, and get a chance to revise portions of agreements.” Sources found that venture capital and emerging growth-oriented work came with “lots of client contact,” and were pleased with how quickly responsibility levels ramped up: “I got to be the sole associate on a $50 million asset purchase. I participated on calls and saw the project through from beginning to end. It was a very enjoyable experience and it happened a lot earlier than I thought it would.”
K&L's investment management practice has a sizable presence in DC and Boston, and we heard that there's currently a push to grow it in New York. Associates found the work to be cyclical: “Over the summer it’s very slow, so there’s more research, reading and training. During the fall and winter it's busier, so we update filings – there’s a lot of reviewing comparative documents to see what was done last year versus what the client wants to do now.” One highlight was “helping towrite a client alert with a pretty senior partner. They let me work on it like two months after I started; I know that at some places they don’t put juniors’ names on the byline, but my name was in. It was a great way to jump in and get my name out there.”
Training & Development
Associates have midyear reviews and “more formal” annual evaluations too. For the latter, “you write a self-evaluation based on the firm's associate competencies for your level, and select partners/seniors you've spent more than 25 hours working with to review you. You then get a written consensus message based on those reviews.” Sources praised this system for being “a two-way dialogue; they'll be other partners in the meeting with you, and they want to get your thoughts.”
“...constant in-house CLEs on every subject you can think of!”
There's certainly no shortage of formal training on offer: “There are constant in-house CLEs on every subject you can think of!” In addition, “they also put on special programs from time to time. For example, they hosted an associate pitch competition once, where everyone got materials to help us become acquainted with client development-type activities.”
Hours & Compensation
To bag a market-rate bonus at K&L associates have to meet a target of 1,950 hours. Those who “bill beneath the threshold can still receive a bonus, but it's just not at market rate, sigh…” one junior commiserated. Perceptions of how achievable K&L's billing target is varied across our interviews. Litigators found it “pretty achievable,” while those in investment management went ten steps further and confidently described it as “extremely achievable.” Corporate juniors, on the other hand, said that it's “relatively rare to hit it, mostly because you have a couple of months where the work's jammed in and then a couple of months where nothing much is happening.”
This unsurprisingly translates into some see-sawing hours for corporate associates: “When it's not busy I get in by 10am and hopefully leave by 7pm, but on a busy day I'll get here by 8am and sometimes don't leave until midnight.” Investment management sources also mentioned staying until “3am once a quarter or so,” while litigators worked fairly standard ten to twelve-hour days. Associates appreciated being able to work remotely in the evenings, especially those with children. We spoke to several men and women with young families who felt supported by the firm, and were encouraged by recent changes in maternity and paternity policies: “They now offer 18 weeks paid maternity and six more unpaid. They’ve extended paternity leave too – it was six weeks paid, now it’s twelve.”
“I think it is unique,” one Pittsburgh-based source commented when discussing K&L's culture, “because despite being a big firm it actually feels small, as we have a more tight-knit environment here; people know what's going on in their co-workers' lives, and in my group we interact with the partners all the time.” Other interviewees across the network also felt that their offices boasted a more intimate feel, with one DC resident homing in on K&L's “emphasis on cooperation: there's not a cutthroat feeling at all, and even the really busy seniors are always willing to sit down and explain something to me. They care about your world outside of the office, and if it's obvious that you're stressed they'll tell you to take care of yourself. I feel cared for, and that's rare.”
“...despite being a big firm it actually feels small.”
Juniors also appreciated the “honest feeling that you get from people; when I interviewed here I didn't get the canned responses that I got elsewhere. The partner said that 'yes, sometimes we work crazy hours, but when we don't have to we don't just sit around in the office.' He said that he was going to hang out with his kids that afternoon as his trial had been canceled.” And so while “work is extremely important, so is family.” Therefore “people are pretty respectful of your time outside of the office – they don't make up deadlines that aren't real, and they'll work with you if you have obligations beyond work.” This approach means that “while the firm does set aside money for social events, which is nice, we don't have the kind of culture that you see at other firms where everybody hangs out together all the time – people generally like to go home and do their own thing.”
K&L Gates has too many domestic offices to describe individually – a whopping 23 that line both coasts and dot a fair few markets in between – but they do have something in common: “They're all decorated in line with the firm's branding and colors. They’re all white and spacious – a bit like an Apple store!” The Pittsburgh HQ was home to the largest contingent of juniors on our list, but the firm's Seattle, DC, Chicago, New York and Boston bases also took on a significant proportion each. Associates had worked out of other locations on occasion and appreciated that when they did “everyone very much saw me as a distant relative who’d come to visit. The same goes the other way too – I treat visitors like that and take them out to lunch or drinks after work.”
“Everyone very much saw me as a distant relative who'd come to visit.”
K&L has a further 22 offices around the globe. How much juniors get to interact with their overseas colleagues depends on their practice group, sources felt: “Transactional folks working on cross-border deals probably have more contact. On the litigious side it varies; the construction group does a lot of international arbitration work in Dubai, so they second people to the office there, while the insurance group sends people to London.”
We spoke to a number of diverse associates, including people of color and LGBT juniors, and the feedback was unanimous: “You can be yourself at work.” A number of these associates flagged the firm’s commitment to diversity as one of its draws. Across the offices, female sources praised the Women in the Profession (WIP) group: “Theyhold monthly lunches and usually bring in a speaker; we've had talks on topics like public speaking, effective communication and financial planning.”
“You can be yourself at work.”
The LGBT group in Pittsburgh is particularly active, as this junior explained: “We've hosted internal events with the WIP group; we organized a joint happy hour and theater trip with one of the firm's major clients; and following the Pulse tragedy in Orlando we hosted a fundraiser, which the firm sponsored. We also have quarterly videoconference calls with LGBT representatives from across the network to touch base.”
All pro bono hours count toward K&L's billing target. Our interviewees had found it “pretty easy to take it on in addition to billable work – the firm definitely encourages it.” This encouragement was borne out in the fact that some of our sources had billed around 400 pro bono hours within a year.
“...a lot of people are very passionate about it.”
Every office has its own pro bono coordinator, but juniors also told us that they'd been able to launch their own projects: “People bring in things – one associate established a program to assist asylum seekers with their applications, while someone brought in a project to guide transgender folk through the legal process that enables them to change their names.” Our sources had also worked on matters tied to educational services, veteran assistance programs, prisoners' rights cases and anti-trafficking initiatives. “The options are quite varied to say the least,” one junior confirmed. “One of our programs combats 'revenge porn'; we've formed an alliance and a lot of people are very passionate about it.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 49,138
- Average per US attorney: 42
Get Hired: Interview with K&L Gates' recruitment and integration partner, Craig Budner
Chambers Associate:What are your entry-level recruiting plans for the next couple of years?
Craig Budner: We think it’s critical to maintain a presence at the leading law schools in the country. We find that we do very well with students from a wide variety of schools. In some cases, the top regional schools provide us with excellent candidates, and in others we look outside to more national schools to provide us with our entry-level associates.
CA:What kind of person would you say thrives at K&L Gates?
CB: We are a firm that emphasizes more of an entrepreneurial spirit, so we look for candidates who will be excellent lawyers with high integrity, but also those who have exhibited leadership skills and can demonstrate an ability to think outside the box. By that I mean that they've showed an ability to get outside of their head and think about things from the perspective of a new audience; they’re not afraid of the challenges that come with learning new skill sets.
As our juniors get more mature in their practice, we want them to work with our clients in order to provide them with collaborative solutions. What we’re hearing more and more from clients is that (at every level) a lawyer needs to understand the client’s business and be able to not just offer solutions in their narrow area of interest, but also to demonstrate a broader appreciation too. So we especially value candidates who show that they have a thirst for learning new areas, as well as a willingness to connect with people.
CA:What makes somebody stand out in an interview? Do you have any anecdotes that you'd like to share?
CB: One of our existing associates would drive around the States in an Oscar Mayer Weiner car and meet people and connect with them. It made for a very interesting discussion point, but more importantly it really showed how he was able to connect with people of all types, and that is so important at a global law firm. You may think you’ve mastered the culture around you and then end up dealing with a client who may be from a different country or have a completely different background. Somebody who shows themselves to be very nimble in connecting with people is always impressive to me.
I like authenticity. The interviews are very short, and sometimes hard. Students can be nervous, but I like those who don’t think about the end goal of an offer, and focus more on having a real conversation. One candidate who impressed me was a student who went to the University of Virginia Law School. He was originally from the UK, but he was applying for the New York office. I kept asking the same question, and couldn’t understand why he wanted to work in New York. His family was all in the UK and it was clear that was his end destination. Eventually he got real with me and said, ‘My goal is to go to the UK but I never thought it would be possible.’ So I said, ‘I don’t know either, why don’t we find out?’ He ended up joining our London office and has been an incredibly productive member of that office, so I think it helps the candidate when they’re authentic. Say what you really want as opposed to what you think we want to hear.
One thing that turns me off a little is when a candidate hasn't really thought through where they want to be and why. It’s wonderful to be open-minded and to keep your options open, but if somebody is willing to work in any locality, hasn’t thought about why they want to be in a particular office (or at our firm at all!), and doesn’t have any understanding of what makes us different, it always disappoints me.
CA:Associates were very encouraged by the diversity of incoming classes – what does the firm actually do to encourage diversity in recruitment?
CB: It’s an emphasis that you can see in everything we do as a firm. It includes how we develop clients, how we staff client teams, and how we give leadership responsibilities – so our diversity initiatives aren't just focused on the recruitment stage. We invest in a number of ways to increase diversity. We sponsor diverse leaders within our firm so that diverse lawyers can see examples of success. We all have to do our part. Ten years ago, my wife and I founded a program in Dallas for inner city students (so largely a public school and highly diverse student base) which gives them resources to debate public policy issues. Last night, they debated the concept of sanctuary cities. Typically those young high school students end up thinking that advocacy is a good thing, so they matriculate into colleges, then hopefully into law schools. We’re starting to see that happen now. We have to take a holistic view of this issue. We’ve got to create opportunities for diverse students, so that they want to become lawyers and can see how their participation will benefit the entire profession. When we have diverse lawyers join us, we have to show them examples of success and make it clear that they’ll have the resources they need to succeed at our firm.
CA:What does K&L Gates offer young associates that is unique?
CB: The tentacles of the firm go back 150 years when you look at our constituent legacy firms, but we’re really an eleven-year-old brand with the name K&L Gates. We came together as the product of various regional firms that were outstanding but also needed an integrated collaborative offering in order to meet the (increasingly global) needs of their clients. Because we’re fully integrated and because we’re a product of that history, I think the offices around the world are not just dots on a map for us. One third of our work is sourced in one office but done in another; we’ve created a system that stimulates the workflow across offices, countries and continents. For aspiring lawyers who really want a career working with people outside of their zip code or chosen practice, K&L Gates presents them with a fantastic opportunity.
Additionally, we encourage entrepreneurialism. We’re not a firm that has a hundred mainstay clients and doesn’t want to take on representations from any other clients. We encourage younger lawyers to learn how to listen to clients, learn about their industry, and present them with solutions. And because we do that at an early stage, I think our lawyers have a better opportunity to develop and perform well as they progress – they’re not going to find themselves making partner and then asking questions like ‘Ok, now what do I do? How do I bring in clients and generate revenue?’ They will have been afforded opportunities to learn those business development skills along the way. I think K&L Gates is a really great firm for entrepreneurial lawyers who want to be part of an integrated global platform.
Interview with K&L Gates' global managing partner, Jim Segerdahl
Chambers Associate:You've almost been K&L Gates’ global managing partner for a year now. How have the last twelve months been?
Jim Segerdahl: It’s been a fascinating year. It really has reminded me of what a complex organism our firm really is. There are lots of moving pieces and interrelated parts. It’s global, diverse and deeply embedded in multiple markets. But as complex as it is, it really boils down to an organization populated by people dedicated to working together to deliver great service to clients from what I regard as an amazing platform. I like our people, I like our platform and I like working in teams to deliver the service clients expect. So it’s been a real pleasure taking on my new role. While we’ve had some changes in leadership over the past year, our basic mission as a highly integrated global firm has remained the same. While we seek constantly to improve and evolve as our clients’ needs evolve, we feel as though we are well positioned geographically and with respect to our key practice areas. We constantly emphasize teamwork and collaboration, and bringing together the best resources to deal with our clients' challenges – that is what we do day-in and day-out.
CA:Associates felt that the firm is coming to the tail-end of its expansion period – would you agree with that?
JS: I think it’s not likely that any firm could keep up with quite the expansion pace that we've been on over the last ten years. It has been a remarkable run. We are fortunate to have reached the point where we’re on five continents, so I think it’s fair to say that the pace of expansion does not need to be on a par with the track over the past ten years or so. That’s not to say we will ignore positive strategic opportunities as they arise; indeed, we will always embrace and pursue opportunities to strengthen our positioning.
CA:What was behind the closure of the Anchorage office last year?
JS: We continually evaluate our locations and practices in light of client need. As things evolved, with respect to our Anchorage office, which had only a handful of lawyers, we believed that we could service our clients’ needs without a physical presence in Anchorage. That has turned out to be the case.
CA:Looking ahead at the next couple of years, what are the firm’s immediate priorities?
JS: Our basic priority of delivering great client service is never going to change. We’ve talked about continuing to enhance our culture, because we believe it is one of our firm’s greatest assets. Our people are drawn to an interesting and dynamic place to work for interesting and dynamic clients with interesting and dynamic colleagues. The people who succeed at our firm tend to be bright, ambitious and willing to embrace our ethic of teamwork and collaboration and the value of diversity. Beyond that, it is a constant priority to ensure we can deliver what clients want and need, and that means being open to change, and continually exploring opportunities for innovation that will deliver value to clients and that will enhance the professional experience.
CA:And do you ensure the culture is uniform across K&L Gates’ many offices?
JS: That is important to do, and it is certainly a challenge. One means toward that goal is through the hiring process. I think that the people who are drawn to our firm are people who believe in the same things we believe in – again going back to quality work, teamwork, collaboration and diversity. Our people enjoy working with each other in a firm that spans continents. So that’s one way to do it. We also try to communicate our cultural values as much as we can, and our people are used to hearing about the importance of these cultural values across the firm. At the same time, it is not unusual for each office to have its own 'personality,' although always consistent with our overriding values.
CA:What is your long-term vision for K&L Gates?
JS: The legal profession is evolving. What matters is client needs and how we can add value. Our goal is to meet those needs and add that value. Our view is that we must continually improve everything that we do all the time. That is the one constant. Sitting still is not an option. We feel we have achieved an enviable place on the legal stage in terms of our practice offering and our geographic positioning. But we have no intention of just sitting on it; we will be guided now and in the future by what our clients require of us, and that will dictate what we do and where we go.
CA:Which practice areas are changing right now?
JS: Technology is certainly increasingly impacting each and every practice area, and how legal services are delivered. We’ve made it a priority to keep up with the advances that affect client expectations and needs. The emergence of artificial intelligence resources will continue to have an impact. In some settings, the pace of technological advances changes the way service is delivered to very traditional practice areas, such as corporate and litigation. In other settings, new practice areas are emerging as technology and commerce intersect – fintech, for example, is an area, or set of evolving issues, on which our clients increasingly seek advice. Other practice areas all have their developments, although most of them have something to do with technology and clients’ drive for efficiencies and value.
CA: How has the firm changed since you joined?
JS: I started as a summer at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart (as it was known then in the summer of 1986) and joined as a full-time associate in September 1987. The firm has changed quite a bit in terms of size, scope and reach. I like to think, though, that our basic values and mission haven’t changed that much. The feature of our firm that I liked best when I started – the people – is the same feature I like best now. There are just a lot more of them now in a lot more places than I would have imagined back when I started.
CA:Do you have any words of wisdom for student readers trying to enter the profession at the moment?
JS: I would say that hard pursuit of quality with integrity always wins out. Those are foundational characteristics. If you keep them front-of-mind going forward, you’ll be well served.
K&L Gates Center,
210 Sixth Avenue,
- Number of domestic offices: 23
- Number of international offices: 22
- Worldwide revenue: $989,861,000
- Partners (US): 591
- Associates (US): 474
- Main recruitment contact: Dyana Barninger, Director of Talent Acquisition and Development (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Hiring partner: Craig Budner, Global Client Development, Recruitment and Integration Partner
- Diversity officer: Valerie Jackson, Senior Advisor to the Management Committee and Firmwide Director of Diversity & Inclusion
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 51
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018: 1Ls: 8, 2Ls: 39
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office: Boston: 5, Charleston: 2, Charlotte: 3, Chicago: 3, Dallas: 2, Los Angeles: 3, Miami: 1, New York: 3, Orange County: 2, Palo Alto: 2, Pittsburgh: 6, Raleigh: 2, Seattle: 7, Washington, DC: 6
- Summer salary 2018: 1Ls and 2LS: $ [number] Varies by market 2Ls: $ [number] Varies by market
- Split summers offered? Case by case
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No
Main areas of work
American, Berkeley, Boston College, Boston U., Catholic, Chapman, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Duquesne, Florida, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Houston, Howard, Illinois, Loyola Los Angeles, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Northwestern, Notre Dame, NYU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn, Penn State, Pepperdine, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Seattle, South Carolina, Southern Methodist, Stanford, Texas, UC - Irvine, UCLA, UNC, USC, UVA, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Washington, Washington & Lee, William & Mary
Recruitment outside OCIs:
We welcome applicants who attend law school at campuses other than those we visit for OCI. Please visit www.klgates.com/careers to apply.
Summer associate profile:
Our summer associate program is designed to give law students a full picture of the firm and our culture, all the while giving us the opportunity to get to know and evaluate current law students as a potential associates following graduation. We look for smart, imaginative and hard-working people with diverse backgrounds, experiences and ideas.
Summer program components:
Summer associates sample projects from different practice areas, working as part of a team and participating in pro bono work. We pair our summer associates with mentors, who provide guidance on seeking out and completing substantive work assignments, balancing workload demands, dealing with competing projects, integrating into the firm’s culture, and setting and achieving career goals. Through on-the-job experience, a formal training curriculum, regular formal and informal feedback, and opportunities to network and integrate into the fabric of the firm, our summer associates begin to develop the professional skills and competencies that will serve them well throughout their careers.
This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017
- Corporate/M&A & Alternative Entities Recognised Practitioner
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Hedge & Mutual Funds (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 1)
- Labor & Employment (Band 4)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
- Environment (Band 2)
- Healthcare (Band 1)
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
- Environment (Band 2)
- Insurance (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Technology: Outsourcing (Band 2)
USA - Nationwide
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring Recognised Practitioner
- Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 5)
- Environment (Band 4)
- Government: Government Relations (Band 2)
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Policyholder (Band 4)
- Investment Funds: Registered Funds (Band 3)
- Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Regulatory (Band 1)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
- Corporate/Commercial (Band 1)
- Environment (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- Labor & Employment (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)