K&L Gates - The Inside View

K&L navi-Gates international work across a wide range of matters.

“I don’t know how they’ve found so many wonderful associates!”  beamed one junior - well, we might. With 25 offices across the US, and 23 overseas, K&L Gates has an enviable reach, drawing expertise from lawyers all over the States. Needless to say, K&L Gates’ work is vast. Our sister guide Chambers USA,  gives out top rankings to its transportation: shipping/maritime regulatory practice, along with other high rankings in government relations, healthcare, oil & gas litigation, and registered funds.

“I was really surprised at how much work we actually do cross-border! There’s something to be said for a firm that has more of an international footprint… "

There's certainly no gatekeeping of the work here, as interviewees told us the firm is “a platform” for associates – “that means working with partners and clients from offices around the world on a fairly frequent basis.”  Even with the knowledge of K&L’s reputation in the international space – including 23 Chambers Global rankings – one junior admitted: “I was really surprised at how much work we actually do cross-border! There’s something to be said for a firm that has more of an international footprint… and we have one of the largest corporate practices in the country so we touch a lot of different kinds of work.”

Though most of K&L’s associates belong to the Pittsburgh and Seattle offices, associates can be found dotted around the firm’s 25 offices across the US.

Strategy & Future 

“All businesses experience cycles and we are no exception,” global strategic growth partner Craig Budner tells us. He adds that, “in 2023, we saw some retraction in deal flow as the cost of capital increased globally.”   Budner anticipates transactional practices around private equity to increase in activity as expectations on interest rates have changed: “All businesses are experiencing the impacts of inflation. We are constantly trying to enhance value through the use of technology to enhance efficiencies and economies of scale.”  With the expectation for conditions to improve, K&L isn’t looking to shift its long-term strategy anytime soon. Over the past few years, they have entered into the Kansas City market around renewables, and last year they entered the Dublin market mostly focused on asset management fund work. So, as Budner explains, “we are doubling down in practices and industries where we are particularly strong.”

The regulatory market is a particular focus for the firm, something that is reflected in their renewables focus across Kansas City, but also with their growth in other markets. For instance, Budner highlights the growth of the public policy group in Washington along with other practice focuses like healthcare and asset management. Though “it’s not just domestic,”  Budner emphasises, “it’s global. We sit in Greater China, Beijing, Shanghai and offices throughout Asia, Europe, Australia and Latin America, which are all influenced by geopolitical events.”  

The Work 

Juniors gave us a mixed review of work allocation at the firm. Some offices have a work coordinator to help keep associates’ workload balanced, “the work is often assigned by partners reaching out to you or you reaching out to partners – so it’s a hybrid method.”  There is also a workflow coordinator tool, which the firm has been rolling out across practices. Associates submit reports on a weekly basis, self-scoring how busy they are, so work coordinators can help funnel assignments to juniors, even flagging high capacity of individuals to other offices. We heard that the utility of this can vary though as, while one junior told us, “I haven’t had much success from the coordinator,”  others felt that up to 80% of their work came directly through formal channels.

"Every day is a different industry or field.”

In the firm’s corporate department, associates are staffed on matters within their own office and across K&L’s network of US branches. Those we spoke with told us mid-market M&A is the “bread and butter” of the practice, and that private equity transactions formed a significant amount of the work too, thought it was also stressed that they didn’t feel “hamstrung” to the group they were placed in. “The firm encourages you to explore your interests,” noted one associate,  so juniors have the opportunity to work areas like: 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. “You get to do some really interesting work on anything from transportation to AI,” one insider grinned, “so every day is a different industry or field.” The group typically works on acquisitions across the US, but juniors told us up to 25% of the work was international.

Typical tasks involved drafting, prepping of ancillary documents, conducting due diligence and administrative tasks. Though, sources added that “it’s not just basic organisational tasks, juniors can bite off as much as they can chew.” As associates gain experience and the trust of partners and senior associates, they typically become more integral to client meetings. “You get a lot of client interaction” noted one insider, exchanging comments with opposing counsel and financing parties.

Corporate clients: Represented and advised FujiFilm on acquisitions amounting to around $700 million over the past year. Represented Microsoft in its third investment in OpenAI through a multi-billion dollar investment.

In the asset management department, cross office work was the norm, with most of the work coming “pretty organically through building relationships cross office. There’s no expectation for you to figure it out early on, so you’re able to build your own practice and focus on the work you want to do.” As associates get more senior, they tend to focus their practice more. But for juniors, the “relationship driven” approach means they can work on “anything from private fund launches and specialty corporate M&A due diligence to the whole sphere of regulatory matters,” where the department works significantly with the SEC. “For the first few months it’s a lot of handling signature pages,” one junior admitted, “but after a few months I was drafting subscription, partnership agreements…” We heard that newbies should also expect a lot of the reading diligence work to be passed down to them which, “might not be the most cerebral, but it’s necessary to understanding the fundamentals – senior associates and partners are making the big decisions.”

Asset Management & Investment Funds clients: Principal Global Investors, HarbourVest and the Wilmington Trust. Represents Neuberger Berman, an investment management firm with around $460 billion in assets under management in regulatory matters.

“Your background has a lot of influence on the work you get.”

K&L’s “very busy” IP department ensures “we’re fed a steady stream of work.”  Being in patent law “your background has a lot of influence on the work you get,”  but outside of this “the partners try to give you assignments you’ve expressed interest in.”  We were told the group is focused on IP portfolio management and procurement with associates primarily working on patent preparation and prosecution. For juniors this often means drafting new applications for patents: “we’ll interview the inventor then prep the application from that.”  The department works with startups, medium sized clients and larger clients with international portfolios, so as one source explained: “you’re dealing with foreign associates trying to have a cohesive strategy across multiple jurisdictions for a single invention… so it can be very interesting!”

IP clients: Abercrombie & Fitch, WWE and FedEx. Co-lead counsel for sports media personality, Pat McAfee, in a defamation lawsuit filed by NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame member, Brett Favre.

Hours & Compensation 

Billable hours: 1,850 target

"Nobody’s really getting burnt out.”

Juniors told us that the firm’s 1,850 hours target is “not hardline, though it is expected,”  with its achievability varying depending on the practice. In general, those we spoke with have struggled to reach the target, but “as a junior, it’s understood that it’s a gradual process to build that workload.”  Once hitting 1,850, hours towards pro bono and DEI projects count towards the bonus which associates are eligible for when they reach 1,950 hours. Insiders were overall positive about compensation, though noted in a few offices they sit just below market. Even so, juniors in those offices were satisfied: “We have a strong culture and reasonable billables.”

K&L’s work from home policy similarly contributed to the mood as, though there is a two to three days in the office expectation, “you can pretty freely work from home when you need to.”  In general, sources told us that “it’s encouraged for people to come in regularly” and juniors we spoke with generally preferred to be in the office. This is because, as one source put it, “you can meet partners you don’t get access to all the time.” Other insiders did note that this varies across K&L’s offices, as “the environment is a bit different in all the offices. Mainly because the types of clients they bring in influences that…”  Multiple juniors shared that partners are usually in for most of the week, and on the whole people are “very pleasant. People are having informal conversations in the hallway, and nobody’s off-putting!”


At K&L Gates, there is “a genuine respect for each other coming from different backgrounds.”  Insiders were unanimous in their praise for relationships formed at K&L: “people are looking out for each other, and I feel close enough with associates that, if I had concerns, I wouldn’t be terrified for the repercussions if I brought anything up.” Juniors regaled us with anecdotes expanding beyond the office walls, as associate’s general closeness manifested in activities as informal as getting drinks after work to dinners with colleagues and their spouses.

“Attendance at events is super high.”

With formal socials, we heard that groups and offices across K&L hold “tons of happy hours” on a monthly basis, and that “attendance at events is super high.”  We heard that in the firm’s main office in Pittsburgh, most events are office-wide, including holiday parties, lunches every two weeks – “catered for everyone to interact” – and the firm has also recently put on a family day at the local museum, run by the associate committee. “That’s run by 19 associates who volunteer to be board members,” one junior outlined, where each region is represented. They set up educational and social events “there’s a liaison between associates and managers if there’s anything we want to bring up.”

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 

Juniors were positive about the firm’s approach to issues of DEI. This was mainly due to the fact the firm allows associates to put DEI hours towards bonus. “I’m glad that’s recognized,” one insider grinned, “they’re very supportive.”  Global strategic growth partner, Craig Budner, emphasizes the importance of this because, “we keep getting hit with world events that impact people’s ability to feel safe… so we want to create a space where people can discuss these topics without being judged while at the same time resolutely taking a stance as an organisation against intolerance and hate.”  We heard from associates that the firm host events “like every month,” alongside the Diverse Lawyers Retreat where “you get to meet diverse lawyers from different offices – I think it’s important to see that representation and I think that was a big part of how I enjoyed my first year!”

Insiders gave us the impression that affinity groups were generally active across the firm. We heard specifically that the Diversity Committee and LGBTQ committee meet regularly across offices, and “they do a great job putting on events – even on the client side.” Associates beamed that the firm is “actively investing in low income and diverse areas through things like holding DEI events for young lawyers and running an internship program which you can help interviewing for.” 

Pro Bono 

“There’s an expectation,”  juniors told us, “of trying to do 50 hours of pro bono a year,”  something that isn’t limited and that can go towards bonus after associates have hit 1,850 hours. In typical fashion, juniors do “a lot more” when first starting before typical billables ramp up. A few juniors told us they worked up to 100 hours on pro bono in their first year, typically falling significantly in the second year. Everyone we spoke with felt the firm was “very supportive” of associates taking on pro bono with the firm’s global pro bono coordinator demonstrating “a strong dedication across the firm” – and the firm’s pro bono coordinator sends around a range of projects ensuring associates can hop onto “anything close to your heart.”  Associates can also bring in clients from the outside, but we found many of the matters, juniors worked on were immigration oriented, typically helping with asylum claims. Civil rights cases also seemed fairly common, including “making sure new laws aren’t effecting people’s right to protest with work with organisations on things like anti-terrorism laws.”

Pro bono hours 

  • For all (US) attorneys: 32,309
  • Average per (US) attorney: 26

Career Development 

“It’s a great opportunity to build relationships along client lines.”

Our interviewees were pretty unanimous in highlighting the firm’s emphasis on getting associates enveloped in business development. Some juniors told us that they were invited to client and potential client events “as early as possible,” and are encouraged to speak with clients and help bring in clients. As one source highlighted: “it’s a great opportunity to build relationships along client lines.” As such, those we spoke with felt K&L’s approach laid a great foundation for those with their eye on potentially making partner down the line. “The firm has done an excellent job explaining the path to partnership and the credit system,”  one junior told us “this program is mostly for fourth and fifth years.”

Associates are eligible to make partner after their seventh year, but typically happens around their eighth. Partners’ keenness to present those long term opportunities to associates is, we’re told, reflective of the firm’s “lean” hiring intakes. “They want to see people succeed and become partners – once the firm locks you down they don’t want to let you go!” commented one junior.  Of course, “not everyone is going to make partner,”  another admitted, “but if you are invested in it the firm is committed to helping you get there or find other roles outside the firm like going in-house to a client we have a strong relationship with.”

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus 

OCI applicants interviewed: 292

Interviewees outside OCI: 187

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: 145

The callback process varies among K&L Gates' 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 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 Gates' 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 those 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: 67

Acceptances: 45

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 is common to take on assignments from a range of practices, and there is also the possibility for summer associates to participate in pro bono matters. 

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 all 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 2024: 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: klgateslaw

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)