K&L Gates - The Inside View

“There’s no sign of things slowing down” at global firm K&L Gates, which will be focusing on its areas of strength both domestically and internationally in the coming years.

MANY law firms have intricate histories, but K&L Gates’ is especially so. The firm as we know it today – composed from three foundational outfits in London, Seattle and Pittsburgh – gathered momentum in the mid 2000s, when it began to pursue expansion through a string of acquisitions and mergers. The resulting conglomerate was christened Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis, but fortunately for typists and answering machines the world over it was soon shortened to K&L Gates. While the firm’s name got shorter, however, its list of offices continued to grow, as it sprouted up in domestic cities like Dallas and Chicago, as well as overseas in the Asia-Pacific region. In Chambers USA, K&L Gates picks up rankings across nine states: it performs especially well in North Carolina for bankruptcy/restructuring and healthcare work; in Pennsylvania for insurance, general commercial litigation and corporate/M&A matters; and in Washington for corporate/commercial mandates. On a nationwide basis, K&L receives high praise for its government relations and transportation expertise. The firm’s Pittsburgh, DC, Boston and Seattle offices took in around 60% of associates, with the remainder split between another 15 domestic locations.

Strategy & Future

Juniors mostly felt that there was further growth on the horizon for the firm, “both in terms of our client base and our office locations. We’ve recently expanded in Asia and from my perspective there’s no sign of things slowing down.” Global strategic growth partner Craig Budner agrees: “We’re in a nice place from a market perspective. We’ve built a fully integrated global platform, which has served us well as our clients continue to look for business solutions. A point of emphasis has been to play to our strengths and to invest in doubling down on those practices.” Budner flags multiple areas for growth over the coming years, including healthcare in the US, investment management in the Asia-Pacific region and private equity in Europe. Some juniors, however, expressed concerns about the firm’s decision not to meet the recent salary hike in relation to the firm’s future, explaining: “If we’re not comparable to competitors, that makes me worried about our position in the market.”

The Work

The complex commercial litigation and disputes (CCLD), corporate/M&A and investment management groups were home to around half of the associates on our list. Within their chosen practice areas, associates largely picked up work through a free market system. There are assignment coordinators on hand to ensure juniors get enough cases, although the onus is predominantly on individuals to “be on top of communicating your availability to partners and managing your own utilization.” A Boston source enjoyed the level of autonomy, reasoning: “At first it’s a little intimidating to approach partners but I have friends at other firms who get assignments dropped on their laps at the last minute and I would hate that.” Most had no trouble finding work, as a New York junior illustrated: “If I was really slow I could reach out to a coordinator but that hasn’t ever happened.” Those in groups like IP procurement told us: “We’re encouraged to bring in our own clients and matters. I’ve never been told no when I’ve proposed something new.” Finally, associates had this advice for future juniors: “You’re steering the wheel in your career. When I started I wish I’d known how open partners would be to me seeking out work I was interested in. It’s very much a two-way dialogue.”

“You’re steering the wheel in your career.”

CCLD covers several types of litigation, including securities, real estate, toxic tort, class action, government enforcement, environmental and professional liability matters. A Boston resident described their workload as mainly consisting of “a mix of regional and local work. However, international arbitration cases involve lots of different offices; I’ve been to our London, DC and Houston offices and have met with a ton of clients.” Second-year workloads commonly featured “legal research to help assess the strength of a case and to see if we have a claim. Sometimes I’ll draft a memo and a partner will review it. I’ve also helped prepare for depositions and done the primary document review.” Third-years described “working on witness statements and expert reports. I’ve done a lot of research and interviewed witnesses, but have also gained a lot of drafting experience.” Litigators told us they were used to working with teams across the firm’s network, with this interviewee explaining: “Because our clients are big companies with a lot of different needs it’s important to know where our specialties are and have that integrated approach when we go to clients.”

Litigation clients: Carnegie Mellon University, Wombat Security Technologies and Enigma Software Group. Represented chemical manufacturer Arkema in connection with damages and liabilities as a result of fires at its Texas facility following Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

The corporate group covers M&A deals, securities offerings and commercial lending transactions, as well as some general corporate governance matters. “There’s a lot of pharmaceutical work, as well as a growing private equity practice,” sources explained. Others told of working on some deals where they’re the only associate (“so there’s a lot of work!”) and some where “there’s the more standard partner, senior associate and junior structure, which means there’s more due diligence involved.” On the deals where there’s more responsibility up for grabs, interviewees had been “working on the purchase agreement and other main deal documents, as well as coordinating between local counsels when there’s been an international component to the deals.” There’s also reportedly “a lot of client contact; there are phone calls, emails (way too many emails!), but also a few in-person meetings – we had one client who essentially camped out in one of our conference rooms for a week!” Click the 'Bonus Features' tab to read about K&L’s investment management practice.

Corporate clients: Microsoft, Union Life Insurance and Wells Fargo Bank. Recently represented Brooklyn-headquartered Honeybee Robotics as it sold its outstanding stock to a subsidiary of Ensign-Bickford Industries.

Career Development

As with a few topics in this feature, we heard some mixed opinions on formal training at K&L. Those in CCLD said they had “training all the time,” with this source adding: “They’re always looking at new training programs, and using tech to make sure we’re up to date on everything, especially as a first-year.” An investment management source told us that “there are a variety of training programs, and all of them give you CLE credit, which is nice.” In smaller practices, however, we heard that there’s “more on-the-job learning,” with sources highlighting that they’d like more formal training. We were also told of some instances of associates being met with “back and forth” and “friction” when it came to securing approval for attendance at external conferences or training programs.

"...there are plenty of partners who have been here since their summer at the firm."

Interviewees were unanimous in their praise for K&L’s mentoring program, which sees juniors allocated both a partner and an associate mentor in most offices. Those in Seattle told us: “It’s not the type of firm where they burn you out and tell you to leave. There’s a lot of encouragement to stay and grow.” Some juniors felt that making the partnership is “attainable: there are plenty of partners who have been here since their summer at the firm. They give us a general idea of how to do it, but they sit you down more formally in the fifth or sixth year. Right now it’s about understanding the practice of law.” Others did highlight that it’s “very difficult to move between offices” for jobs. Most felt that attrition was in line with rates at other firms, with this source explaining: “I’ve seen mid-levels leave, but the people who left didn’t tend to be unhappy – it’s more that they’ve found the perfect opportunity elsewhere.”


In light of K&L’s history of growth through rapid acquisitions, sources reflected: “There’s some legacy siloing, so a lot of offices still very much do their own thing, although that’s starting to change.” A Pittsburgh junior told us that while “each office has its own unique culture there’s enough communication from management that we’re on the same page when it comes to the important stuff.” There are also initiatives, like the ‘Global Associates Liaison Committee’ to help boost a sense of unity, as well as regular practice group videoconferences to loop lawyers in across the US and on an international level. 

Associates across the board were pleased to report that they had “no horror stories” and that generally the firm’s “open-door policy makes everyone feel like there are no dumb questions and that you’re not alone.” However, some did feel that K&L “is quite conservative and there’s a lot of policy and procedure when it comes to changing anything.” Despite this sense of bureaucracy higher up, on a day-to-day level most agreed that the “people are super nice” and that there’s a healthy respect for people’s time: “The partners respect you as a person; they don’t give you an assignment at 6pm or make you wait for things.”

Hours & Compensation

Associates have to hit a 1,950-hour billing target to receive a bonus, and feelings about how achievable this is varied between sources and locations; a DC interviewee told us: “It’s rare for people in more junior classes to hit that.” They attributed this in part to how much work there is to go around, and the fact that while the firm is “very committed to business development, those hours count as creditable but not billable, so it sometimes feels like those hours are going into the ether.” Many juniors weren’t worried about not hitting the bonus requirement, explaining that “you don’t get reprimanded for hitting 1,900 instead,” but some in the firm’s smaller offices were concerned that they may “never get a bonus.” Those in transactional groups like investment management and real estate were quite confident, however, and explained that “the target is certainly reachable; real estate has been very busy because the economy is doing so well.”

While working days inevitably varied, sources reported an average working day of around 8.30am to 6.30pm, with some fluctuations for both litigators and transactional associates. Interviewees added: “People generally go home, have dinner and log on from there,” although most agreed there is “an expectation to be in the office from nine till five.” Base salaries fall below the new scale set by Milbank, and sources told us that bonuses aren’t lockstep, “so I don’t know what I’d be making – there’s definitely not much transparency at all.”

Diversity & Inclusion

“One thing I loved about the firm when I joined was that more than half of the partners in the office were women,” a Seattle junior told us. Associates across the board were pleased to tell us about firm-wide initiatives like the Women in the Profession (WIP) committees and LGBT groups. We also heard that partners had received unconscious bias training shortly before our interviews, and “regularly engaged” with office-based events. In Chicago, associates are reportedly encouraged to get involved with the Chicago Committee, which focuses on racial and ethnic diversity in the profession, and hosts events like Rate My Pitch (where diverse mid-levels and seniors associates are coached by partners and in-house counsel on how to deliver the perfect pitch). Nevertheless, some had concerns about the firm’s ability to “retain associates across the diversity spectrum: I don’t know how effective they are at that.” Others, however, felt encouraged by the firm’s care-giver leave policies, which “allow people to work on a flexible schedule and salary.” 

“One thing I loved about the firm when I joined was that more than half of the partners in the office were women.”

Pro Bono

All pro bono hours count towards K&L’s billing target. Associates had worked with organizations across the country including the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in DC, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) in Boston, Chicago Volunteer Legal Services and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle. “I’ve done a lot of unemployment benefit work and worked with a group based in Pittsburgh on a cert-stage amicus brief,” a DC source explained. “You’re really encouraged to get involved as much as possible, although it can become a balancing act when you have to juggle it with your billable work,” one junior told us.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 42,482
  • Average per US attorney: 37

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 1,141

Interviewees outside OCI: 80

K&L Gates attends over 50 law fairs and around ten job fairs every year. The firm also collects resumes and is willing to organize virtual OCI interviews for candidates at certain schools. The number of candidates interviewed at each 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 that 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 abilities 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: 340

The set-up come callback time does vary between K&L's offices. 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 associates. At this point, interviewers will be looking to see if the candidate has thought more deeply about how they will fit into 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:

"As law student candidates, with little professional experience, we understand that exposure to the practice of law is likely minimal, however, we want to know about a student’s successes in all parts of his/her life and how that might translate into he/she being an excellent lawyer. For example, has the student had an opportunity to be a leader and will he/she 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: 72

Acceptances: 36

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 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.
  • Use firm resources (such as librarians and the intranet).
  • 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, are collaborative, 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 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 joining a journal or continuing to improve upon your writing skills.
  • Be diligent in your research rather than assuming what you hear is true."K&L Gates hiring source.


The Work

Over in K&L’s investment management group, sources described working on “the regulation of mutual funds as well as open and closed-end funds. We also cover hedge funds and exchange-traded funds [ETFs].” We heard that for juniors this involves “everything from reviewing regulatory filings to anything that a registered investment company might file, as well as proxy statements and preparing minutes and board materials.” Clients are based across numerous locations, and we heard that “because the work doesn’t have to be face-to-face you end up doing work all over.” A DC interviewee explained: “The bulk of what I do is reviewing filings, and I’ve been able to gain more autonomy to the point where partners rely much more heavily on my judgments. If a call needs to be made I’m expected to know the background information on the client and any regulations that come into play.”

“I’ve been able to gain more autonomy to the point where partners rely much more heavily on my judgments.”

Investment management clients: AXA, Salient Funds and Eaton Vance Management. The firm currently serves as advisor counsel to one of the largest money market mutual fund managers, Federated Investors.

Hours & Compensation

Sources generally felt that there’s “more of a facetime expectation compared to other firms,” which bothered some more than others, who reasoned: “Initially there has to be a facetime culture because you have to create your own work flow. If you’re not around you won’t get any assignments or people asking for your help.” Schedules also varied depending on partners and practice groups, with this interviewee commenting that they’d “adjusted my own schedule so that I could accommodate my partner’s hours.” This source, however, documented “a pretty flexible” arrangement: “If I need to do something people are usually fine with that; I can make up hours later in the day or at the weekend.”

K&L Gates

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

  • Number of domestic offices: 23
  • Number of international offices: 22
  • Worldwide revenue: $1,007,615,000
  • Partners (US): 575
  • Associates (US): 442
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contact: Dyana Barninger, Legal Recruiting(dyana.barninger@klgates.com)
  • Hiring partner: Craig Budner, Global Strategic Growth Partner 
  • Diversity officer: Amy Horn, Chief Officer of People and Projects & Interim Diversity Officer
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 40
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 1Ls: 12, 2Ls: 37
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office: Boston: 4, Charleston: 2, Charlotte: 4, Chicago: 4, Houston:1, Los Angeles: 2, Miami: 2, New York: 3, Newark: 2, Orange County: 1, Pittsburgh: 9, Raleigh: 3, Seattle: 7, Washington, DC: 5
  • Summer salary 2019: 1Ls and 2LS: Varies by market  Varies by market
  • Split summers offered? Case by case
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No

Main areas of work

  Corporate; energy, infrastructure and resources; finance; financial services; 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. Our broad global platform allows us to guide clients through the legal challenges inherent in the ever-changing international landscape. The deep latticework of relationships across our offices and practices enables our clients to respond to diverse legal issues and risks through the services of one law firm with a single communication.

The industry recognition K&L Gates has garnered over the past five years 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 come up with 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 2019:
Albany, American, Baylor, Boston College, Boston U., Cardozo, Catholic, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Duquesne, Florida, Florida State, Fordham, George Mason, George Washington, Georgetown, Houston, Howard, Illinois, Loyola Los Angeles, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Northwestern, Notre Dame, NYU, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn, Penn State, Pepperdine, Pitt, Rutgers, Seattle, Seton Hall, South Carolina, Southern Methodist, Texas, UC - Hastings, UC - Irvine, UCLA, UNC, USC, UVA, U of Washington, Wake Forest, 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 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

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Corporate/M&A & Alternative Entities (Band 3)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Hedge & Mutual Funds (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
    • 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)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Technology: Outsourcing (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring Recognised Practitioner
    • Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 5)
    • Environment (Band 4)
    • Government Contracts (Band 4)
    • 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 2)
    • Environment (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)