K&L Gates - The Inside View

K&L opens the gates to “high-level work on an international scale” for those in legal markets across the US. 

“We’re a fully integrated, single profit center global firm,” global strategic growth partner Craig Budner explains, placing the emphasis on cohesion from the get-go. To do well at K&L, you’ll need to be keen to work on matters that cross borders and involve colleagues in other jurisdictions. Of course, you’ll also need to be interested in the kind of work that K&L does, and given the firm’s scope, there’s plenty to try your hand at. “Our biggest practices are corporate and litigation,” says Budner, before adding: “We have an incredible asset management and investment fund practice that serves clients on four continents, plus a global IP practice. We’re also first-class in healthcare and work on policy matters across the world.” A focus on industries and sector areas is especially important to K&L, as Budner explains: “We try to attack the client market by industry and asking the question, ‘How does this industry need intersect with different practices?’” Among K&L’s sector priorities are healthcare, energy, manufacturing, life sciences, consumer products, financial services, technology and transportation and logistics. Have a look at the Chambers USA rankings to see where the firm truly excels.

“If you’re in Pittsburgh, it’s all about K&L.” 

K&L’s legacy of mergers has given it strongholds in Pittsburgh and Seattle, but associates can be found dotted around the firm’s 25 domestic offices, which span markets across the country. “If you’re in Pittsburgh, it’s all about K&L,” beamed one source, while another was looking for “a large firm with a presence in a secondary market with amenities and opportunities – I had lived in larger cities and was ready for a change of pace!” The major selling point for our interviewees was that K&L allowed them to live in those smaller markets while still providing the “ability for us to do high-level work on an international scale – firms with comparable work can be found in New York or Chicago!” 

Strategy & Future 

Insiders told us that K&L is “conservatively growing” and has recently added new offices in Dublin (focused on asset management and investment funds), Kansas City (where renewables work is strong), and Nashville (a national hotspot for healthcare matters). “We’ve seen healthcare's increasing rise and prominence during COVID-19, so there’s been a lot of investment in the space serving both regulated hospitals and for-profit companies,” global strategic growth partner Craig Budner tells us. “Generally we’re also seeing an increase in government regulations across the globe, with a particular focus on the asset management, healthcare and energy industries, among others."

Budner goes on to tell us that the firm’s strategy is oriented around K&L’s global footprint: “Our firm’s strategy has consistently been to create an environment where we work together across the globe. " In fact, much of the firm's 2022 revenue came from work that was sourced by one office or practice, but then ultimately performed by teams in other locations or groups. "That means that client solutions are being driven by the right partner no matter where they sit across the globe."

The Work 

“Even before we showed up for the summer, we got a collection of documents that gave us an overview of all the different practices,” one associate told us, which got incoming juniors thinking about potential practice specialisms early on. Summers can sample work across practices but join a specific area upon joining the firm. A predominantly free-market assignment system is in place at the firm and is “one of its chief selling points!” a source enthused. Of course, no system is perfect: while it does allow associates to be more “enterprising,” juniors have been known to sometimes find it difficult to find work. However, while it might not work out for incomers immediately, hopping onto matters gets easier over time because teams are often built from preexisting relationships. We were told that once you’ve built up a bank of partner contacts, “the entrepreneurial way can be very beneficial – you're making your experience what you want it to be.” K&L’s corporate and litigation and dispute resolution departments housed the majority of the juniors on our list. The rest were split between areas like policy and regulatory; IP; asset management and investment funds; finance; and energy, infrastructure and resources. 

“Given the more hybrid working system now, cross-office work is even more feasible.” 

M&A is the biggest group within the firm’s broad corporate department, which covers benefits and ESOPs (employee stock ownership plans), capital markets, emerging growth and venture capital, estates planning and trusts and estates, nonprofit organizations, private equity transactions and technology transactions and sourcing. Juniors told us they had no difficulty working across group boundaries and could also work on matters across locations: “Given the more hybrid working system now, cross-office work is even more feasible.” Sources highlighted that they’d worked with startups all the way up to Fortune 500 companies and were able to see matters throughout all stages of financing. “In M&A, we do exits, initial financing rounds and acquisitions,”  while in emerging growth and venture capital “most of the work involves financing arrangements for clients, including series A to C fundraising rounds, and with that comes additional counsel on employment agreements and commercial contract work.” No matter the group, we heard that deals were staffed leanly, leaving plenty of space for juniors to interact with clients and do work beyond the standard due diligence assignments. Some sources had also had a go at doing first drafts of ancillary documents all the way up to primary financing agreements. “From day one you’re talking with clients like private equity firms and corporations,” one insider enthused, “so the firm’s very keen to get you to grow quickly.” 

Corporate clients: Beyond Yoga, Knopp Biosciences, Securitas. Represented the latter as it acquired Stanley Security for $3.2 billion. 

“You’re always working on a new invention!” 

Commercial disputes  is another major practice at K&L. Contract disputes are a staple here, “whether they relate to insurance, IP licenses, or manufacturing matters.” The group also covers a lot of white-collar and investigations work related to the SEC and DOJ. As with corporate, the case teams tend to be lean for the more standard contract disputes, but juniors could also be pulled onboard large mass tort and employee benefits matters. “These bigger cases provide a steady stream of work and a way for you to grow,” one junior beamed. “If you do something well, you get added to another case, so you can work your way up as people get more familiar with your product.” Associates build their experience by producing “a lot” of research memos; helping with statements for mediations; overseeing discovery; and undertaking a good amount of drafting. Those we spoke with agreed that the work was “intellectually stimulating” and particularly enjoyed “going to depositions because you have that stimulus of the opposing counsel across from you, and you see the peculiarities of different witnesses!”  

General commercial litigation clients: US Steel, PPG Industries, Honeywell International. Represents US Steel as national coordinating counsel for the company’s toxic tort liabilities, which include handling strategic defenses, expert witness development, and managing local counsel firms. 

In IP, the clients come from “the tech, fashion, and food sectors – the clients are all very big and we do a lot of international work.” The department covers trademark, copyright, prosecution and “anything you can think of! There’s also some advertising work and brand stuff.” For this interviewee, “the vast majority of the work has involved drafting patent applications or responding to patent office actions that relate to submitting a patent.” Patents can be tied “to a number of different areas, such as medical devices and software for payment systems.” The bonus here is that “you’re always working on a new invention! You’re dealing with different technologies, and it changes all the time.” 

IP clients: World Wrestling Entertainment, Visa, Enigma Software Group. Represented Enigma Software Group as it sued Malwarebytes for false advertising and interference with business relations, among other allegations. 

Hours & Compensation 

Billable hours: 1,850 target

The juniors we spoke with generally felt that the 1,850-hour standard billable expectation is “achievable” but “they are pretty upfront that as a first or second year you’re still establishing yourself, so you might not meet that expectation.” To trigger bonus eligibility, associates must bill 1,950 hours in total, with the additional 100 hours coming from the likes of pro bono, creditable training, and DE&I activities. 1,950 is “the bonus threshold, but you don’t need to reach it and there’s not that pressure from above, so there is flexibility,” a source commented. Compensation was described as “fair – it’s slightly below market, but that’s what you sign up for. You get a nice balance here.” Another said that they “wouldn’t want to be working somewhere where you need to work 2,200 hours!” 

On that note: “The firm does promote that more lifestyle environment,” but we should also make it clear that associates weren’t sticking to a regular 9 to 5 setup. A litigator told us that they were “110% utilized last month and worked every weekend, but I was happy to have the hours!” A corporate junior highlighted that “the hours in this practice can be a bit wonkier, so we start later – around 10am – and finish later – around 7pm – and a couple of times a week work will go on later than that.” On the IP side, a source explained: “I work some weekends, usually a Saturday once or twice a month, and will put in ten to eleven hours a day when I’m busy.” 


“We’re laid back and the pace isn’t as extreme as you would expect from BigLaw!” an associate declared. The “niceness” of partners was felt to trickle down to all attorneys, with the free-market work allocation structure flagged as one that made people more considerate of others (in that free-market rewards good behavior with more work for associates and more hands-on-deck for partners that need matters staffed). “I get the sense that when hiring, they try to find people who will fit in – for example, in IP we’re all nerds!” one junior told us. The associate classes aren’t huge, “so you really get to know everybody,” and the associate committee was praised for both relaying cohort concerns to firm leadership and for organizing a pleasing array of social events.  

“It’s critical for juniors to be able to make connections in the office.” 

Across the offices, we heard that K&L is “fantastic at bringing associates and partners together,” with free lunches, happy hours, and even local visits to the National Aviary mentioned as good examples of bonding opportunities. “I think in the winter things tend to slow down,” one junior noted, “but during the fall, spring and summer we do bi-weekly happy hours, and the turnout is good.” Insiders were also pleased with the firm’s attempts to reel associates back into the office, especially given the current impact of hybrid working across the industry. “It’s critical for juniors to be able to make connections in the office,” one associate explained, “so it’s a good thing they’re encouraging people to come in – I say encourage because there’s no penalty, but there is a strong desire!”

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 

Juniors highlighted the firm’s diverse lawyers retreat and thought it provided a great opportunity for diverse associates to network: “Members of my team went and had a great time!” We were also told that there are events hosted throughout the year and “everyone is encouraged to attend them – they really are for everyone! They provide a lot of good learning opportunities for non-diverse associates, too. I don’t know where else I’ve been able to learn about these things!” 

The firm also has affinity groups, such as its LGBT employees and allies network, which provides “a monthly check-in with a partner who invites us all on a Zoom call.” We heard there’s a “robust mentoring program” for diverse associates, as well as a “diversity fellowship, which was started in the last few years and helps a 1L student in law school.”  The firm also participates in the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity 1L Scholars Program, as well as a mentorship program conducted through the University of Washington and Seattle University. Insiders did comment that while there are a lot of women in the partnership, “there aren’t a lot of people of color,” but felt the firm was making efforts in this area. K&L also offers unconscious bias training to interviewers and is Mansfield Rule certified. 

Pro Bono 

Associates are encouraged to complete 50 hours of pro bono each year and were further incentivized by the lack of a billable cap on pro bono work. “We’re constantly being offered pro bono opportunities and I find that I enjoy it more than my actual work!” an insider quipped. The firm’s pro bono coordinator was described as “super great,” and sources had found themselves working on immigration matters via KIND, as well as work related to veterans; female entrepreneurs; organizations in the art world; and IP matters. Pro bono work was felt to be especially beneficial in the first year when associates are still finding their feet: “I dove into it because it was harder to get billable tasks in the first few months,” a source explained. Another said that “corporate-related pro bono is a little harder to find, which is why I’ve done less.” Among K&L Gates’ pro bono priorities are initiatives devoted to cyber civil rights, equal justice, and support for Mary’s Place Seattle, which provides shelter and family center services for vulnerable individuals. 

Pro bono hours 

  • For all (US) attorneys: 29,199
  • Average per (US) attorney: 25

Career Development 

Sources were enthusiastic about the firm’s requirement for first-years to go through a “very effective” professional development curriculum: “There’s a lot of training in the first four months or so, and while formal sessions have traditionally been more skewed toward litigation, there’s been a push for more corporate training since I’ve been here.” This corporate source was pleased to tell us about the firm’s “mandatory MBA program, which involves two days of panels, lectures and seminars for first and second-year associates. We go over business economics, financial accounting, and corporate finance during that time.” Litigation training also covers all bases, including depositions, cross-examination techniques, and case management – “I thought that you just had to figure all that stuff out!” a surprised source exclaimed.At the same time, “there’s a lot of informal training, which happens when you discuss legal issues with partners – I've learnt a lot from that.” 

“There’s a clear point between your third and fifth year where you know whether you’re on the partnership track or not."

“There’s been a focus on improving retention,” a source noted, “and the firm has been very transparent about how many people have joined and how many have left.” A litigator felt that “there’s a clear point between your third and fifth year where you know whether you’re on the partnership track or not,” while others described partnership as “very attainable – there's definitely a path to the partnership!” This interviewee was encouraged by the fact that they “hadn’t seen any junior or senior associates leave in my time – I've just seen seniors getting promoted to partner and I’m sure others will be, too.” 

Get Hired 

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus 

OCI applicants interviewed: 906 

Interviewees outside OCI: 149 

K&L Gates attends over 50 campus interview programs and around ten job fairs every year. The firm also collects resumes and will organize additional screening interviews for candidates at numerous schools. The number of candidates interviewed at each law school varies, but at schools where the firm is recruiting for positions in multiple offices interviewers may meet over 100 students at each location. 

The interviews are typically conducted by two lawyers, and K&L Gates tries to pick pairs who have a diverse set of interests and practice area backgrounds, as well as alumni connections to the school in question. Our hiring source at the firm tells us: "Interviewers will assume that students have done some research on the firm and can articulate what pieces of information they’ve gathered so far that match their interests. Interviewers won’t expect yet that students will know much about the actual practice of law or specific areas of practice. In a short screening interview, it’s challenging to dig too deep into any one subject, but students should be prepared to highlight skill sets they bring to the table that aren’t obvious from their resume." 

Top tips for this stage: 

"Sharing personal experiences that exhibit a student’s abilities in key areas will leave the interviewer with a clear sense of the student’s unique perspective and also help the student stand out when callback decisions are made later.  We recommend students prepare in advance the skill sets they want to highlight, as OCI interviews are short and, if not approached diligently, can be a missed opportunity.  

Logistically, OCI can be challenging. By preparing properly, students should find the process educational, eye-opening, and possibly even fun." – K&L Gates hiring source 


Applicants invited to second stage interview: 333 

The set-up come callback time does vary among K&L's offices and callback interviews can be conducted either virtually or in person. Those who make it to this stage can expect the callback to last for around two hours and to meet a mix of partners and associates. Interview teams of two or three lawyers are common across the offices, and at some locations candidates may be invited to attend a coffee or lunch with lawyers. At this point, interviewers will be looking to see if the candidate has thought more deeply about how they will fit into the firm, and will also be trying to glean how well the candidate will work in a team. Showing that you are good at working collaboratively is therefore a must here. Going into the callback with a clear idea about how past experiences demonstrate solution-finding, personal growth and leadership skills will stand candidates in good stead. Being able to connect these experiences and skills to K&L's environment is very much a plus. 

Top tips for this stage: 

"We understand that law student candidates’ exposure to the practice of law may be minimal, however, we want to know about a student’s successes in all parts of their life and how that might translate into them being an excellent lawyer. For example, has the student had an opportunity to be a leader and will they inspire confidence in our clients and work to develop lasting relationships? Students who have achieved success in school, in other parts of their lives, and in roles within their broader communities indicate potential in this area. 

Ask thoughtful and substantive questions – remember that this is a mutual assessment process. Be genuine, share your experiences, and exhibit professionalism." – K&L Gates hiring source 

Summer program 

Offers: 131 

Acceptances: 74 

All summer associates are paired up with mentors: usually one partner and at least one associate. A work assignment manager is also on hand to help steer summers toward the assignments they would like to sample and to help them manage their workload. It's common to take on assignments from a range of practices, and there's also the chance for summers to participate in pro bono matters as well. 

Alongside the work, K&L Gates puts on a variety of social events and a formal Professional Development training program to bolster the summer experience: "We offer a robust formal training curriculum to supplement the client, public interest and other work offered to our summer classes.  The curriculum includes an intensive writing workshop, practice-specific programming, diversity and inclusion awareness, and sessions to build students’ understanding of the legal industry, such as 'Economics of a Law Firm' and 'Building Your Brand.' Beyond classroom programs, we also offer multi-session experiential and practice training programs like negotiation skills, advocacy skills, and mergers and acquisitions." 

Top tips for this stage: 

"A successful summer associate program is the goal for all parties involved. The following is a condensed list of tips to make the most of a student’s time at the firm, ease the transition from student to practicing lawyer and, ultimately, help the students become successful lawyers in the future. 

  • Do your best work with enthusiasm. 
  • Treat everyone with respect. 
  • Be pleasant, even when things are stressful. 
  • Utilize firm resources. 
  • Network and build your professional brand within the firm. 
  • Get to know your colleagues. 
  • Keep confidential client information confidential. 
  • Ask questions, follow up and show interest. 
  • Be responsive and dependable. 
  • Relax and be yourself." – K&L Gates hiring source 

And finally... 

"Students who want to join K&L Gates and achieve success here are those with creative ideas, who are collaborative, and identify and seize opportunities when presented, and work hard to help our clients solve their issues.  In addition to the advice we’ve shared above, we suggest students consider the following – 

  • Stay abreast of the business world and the world in general – read The Wall Street Journal and The Economist. Many of the issues you will read about are those that affect our clients and their businesses. 
  • Take time to network and meet a variety of professionals in the legal industry. 
  • Be well-rounded in your education, by taking a variety of classes, even if you can’t foresee how a particular class may benefit you. 
  • Become a better writer by starting a journal or otherwise improving your writing skills. 
  • Be diligent in your research rather than assuming what you hear is true." – K&L Gates hiring source 

K&L Gates

K&L Gates Center,
210 Sixth Avenue,
Website www.klgates.com

Main areas of work

  Asset management and investment funds; corporate; energy, infrastructure and resources; finance; intellectual property; labor, employment and workplace safety; litigation and dispute resolution; policy and regulatory; real estate.

Firm profile K&L Gates is a fully integrated global law firm with lawyers located across five continents in 48 offices. We foster an inclusive and collaborative environment to operate as one firm, united and without borders. Our clients include leading multinational corporations, growth and middle-market companies, capital market participants, and entrepreneurs in every major industry, as well as public sector entities, educational institutions, philanthropic organizations and individuals. Our robust set of multidisciplinary practice areas and services, combined with our collaborative culture, means our clients can confidently turn to K&L Gates to guide them through nearly any legal issue with reliable service and a consistent experience. The industry recognition K&L Gates has garnered emanates from the foundation of a global community aligned on behalf of our clients. The people at K&L Gates are committed to working together to create a legacy for each other, the firm, our clients and the communities we serve. We thrive in an inclusive and socially conscious environment that embraces diversity and takes a holistic approach to the career evolution of all our professionals. We take pride in constantly striving for innovation, imagination and an entrepreneurial spirit. We bring forward big ideas and then roll up our sleeves to get the job done, guiding our clients through their most complex issues in a variety of industry sectors and across multiple regions of the world.

Law Schools attending for OCI in 2023:
With 25 domestic offices and summer programs in more than 15 different geographic locations, we visit a wide variety of law schools across the country to recruit for our programs. A list of the schools we visit and the events we host for law students both on campus and off campus can be found at https://klgates.recsolu.com/external/events_central.

Recruitment outside OCIs: We welcome the opportunity to meet with 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 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 firm, our summer associates begin to develop the professional skills and competencies to be successful.

Social media

Recruitment website:www.klgates.com/careers/
Facebook: klgateslegalrecruitingus
Instagram: @klgatesllp

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Corporate/M&A & Alternative Entities (Band 2)
    • Antitrust (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 5)
    • Antitrust (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance: Corporate & Regulatory (Band 2)
    • Hedge & Mutual Funds (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 3)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Energy & Natural Resources (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Insurance (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Construction (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Immigration (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 5)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
    • Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 5)
    • Environment (Band 5)
    • Government Relations: Federal (Band 2)
    • Healthcare: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Policyholder (Band 4)
    • Oil & Gas Litigation (Band 2)
    • Registered Funds (Band 2)
    • Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Regulatory (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Energy & Natural Resources (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 1)