Kirkland & Ellis - The Inside View

At market leader Kirkland, nothing is too big for Big Law.

When it comes to BigLaw - Kirkland, in the words of one junior, is “the biggest, baddest around.” Indeed, only one firm can top the pile of highest revenue maker each year, and that title belongs solely to Kirkland & Ellis. Heights such as these aren’t reached by sheer luck, and one source alluded to the makings of this success: “no matter what area of interest you find yourself attracted to, you’ll find yourself in a group here that’s on the leading edge of the market.” These claims are gold stamped by our colleagues over at Chambers USA, bestowing over 100 ranked departments to the firm, with particular recognition given to its banking and finance, bankruptcy/restructuring, corporate/M&A, private equity, and intellectual property work.

“With Kirkland on your resume, you can go anywhere.”

Of course, for lots of juniors, the draw to Kirkland was “the brand name.” Some forward planning associates hinted at the clout and future career potentials working at Kirkland brings: “with Kirkland on your resume, you can go anywhere.” But our interviewees were miles from that conclusion yet. In fact, one junior particularly dispelled some preconceptions around Big Law firms: “some would assume Kirkland is a sharp-elbowed firm, where personalities are clashing, but this has been the opposite.”

Strategy & Future

Coming soon...

The Work

Associates at Kirkland were spread across all 13 US offices of the firm, with most working in either New York or Chicago. The majority of associates were corporate generalists, and the corporate groups held most juniors, followed by litigation, restructuring, and IP. The firm uses an open assignment system, which juniors appreciated because “the system allows you to say yes and pursue teams who work in a way that works for you.” Though it can seem daunting at first, the opportunity to seek out work in different areas means that “you come to realize it’s a blessing, not a curse,” as one source put it.Newbies’ first couple of assignments are typically provided for them and associates assured us that you become familiar with the system quickly: “once you’ve got your foot in the door, the open assignment system starts to flow pretty easily.”

Corporate juniors join Kirkland as generalists, and for their first two years, we heard associates work on matters which generally fit into one of three buckets: debt financing, capital markets, and M&A.Generalists work on mostly growth equity and private equity matters, and one interviewee shared that the work closely follows the market: “I was on the company sell side for a while during the past year because the economy was not that great and a lot of private equity clients were trying to sell their portfolio companies.” They added: “That’s not typical for a day-to-day Kirkland associate, because most of the time we represent private equity clients who are buying companies.” Juniors had to find their feet when it came to getting more responsibility, one source explained that “the expectation is that you quickly develop and get a sense for the cadence and how deals run, and then eventually you’ll start being a deal driver. You really are expected to kind of help push the team forwards as much as you can.” Another insider even shared that “since I’ve started, I’ve had the opportunity to draft portions of the main transaction documents, and really take ownership over certain workstreams and parts of the deal, so I would say it’s definitely exceeded expectations.”

Corporate clients: Six Flags Entertainment Corporation, BAE Systems, Earthstone Energy. Advised Vincent McMahon, controlling stockholder of World Wrestling Entertainment in leading WWE through a review of its strategic alternatives and in the resulting $21+ billion merger with Endeavour Group Holdings.

“…really full-suite funds work from the beginning to the end of the fund, across all industries.”

Investment funds is another big group at Kirkland, with some corporate generalists choosing to specialize early here. This is because many are drawn to the group’s clients, which cover “a pretty broad array in multiple different markets,” as well as the prestige of the group, as “Kirkland holds the majority of the market share in the investment funds market in terms of what legal work comes in.” So, juniors can get involved in “really full-suite funds work from the beginning to the end of the fund, across all industries.” The “bread and butter” of this group is private equity work, and juniors told us that their tasks include “setting up the fund, so the private placement memorandum and the sub-book, onboarding investors, drafting aside letters and formation documents for the different fund vehicle entities.” Juniors also regularly find themselves liaising with subject matter experts and taking responsibility for signature packers, and told us that the group “lets you take on as much responsibility as you feel you can handle.” Sources were pretty impressed with the responsibilities they had been given: “the firm really likes to say they give early responsibility and that’s shown to be the case. But I think in this instance with the meaty documents I’ve got the chance to be involved with, it has exceeded even the early responsibility sales pitch.”

Investment funds clients: JP Morgan Asset Management, Alpine Investors, Veritas Capital Fund Management. Advised Patient Square Capital, a healthcare investment firm, on the formation of its inaugural fund, Patient Square Equity Partners, with close to $4 billion in total committed capital as of its final closing.

Like corporate, the litigation department also uses a generalist system. Associates can informally specialize by choosing to pursue a specific kind of work, but junior litigators noted that they’ve been able to get involved in a wide range of matters as the work of the group “really spans anything from oil and gas to pharmaceuticals to private equity firms, class actions, end deals, and employment matters.” As one interviewee explained, “Kirkland is such a large firm that we really have everything and if you’re interested in pursuing really anything, there’s going to be a partner in some office that works on that type of case.” Insiders felt able to ask for senior tasks and “if you do well on them, they will give them to you repeatedly and let you do it and run the case, even as a junior associate!” A second-year associate also shared that they regularly have “really great opportunities to pitch motions we could bring and if the partner things it’s a good idea, they will let me completely draft the motion and the motion gets filed as I wrote it!”

Litigation clients: American Rail Partners, Blackstone, Chicago Cubs. Represented Galderma in a lawsuit brough by Ipsen Biopharma seeking an injunction to prevent Galderma from seeking US regulatory approval of a blockbuster cosmetic skin product. 

Career Development

While there are formal mentoring programs at Kirkland, associates told us that “most of the time people gravitate towards informal mentoring relationships, which goes hand in hand with the free market system at Kirkland.” Through mentoring, one junior highlighted that “there’s a big emphasis on finding those discrete opportunities you can give the junior associates to build our experience, to keep advancing, and to keep progressing.” Training also takes both an informal and formal form. On one hand, the firm’s ‘Kirkland University’ provides a range of resources and opportunities to learn in a more formal environment, but one interviewee clarified that the firm “also encourages and provides opportunities and resources for you to take control of your own learning and push that forwards yourself.” Sources agreed that you’re more likely to thrive as an associate at Kirkland if you “take the bull by the horns and do it yourself,” as one junior quipped. This was because some felt that the learning process is a bit of a “trial by fire.” Despite this, many commented on the benefits of this system, as one surmised that “it means you can make yourself stand out easily.”

Hours & Compensation

Billable hours: no requirement

Kirkland associates don’t have a billables target, though sources told us that they felt there was a general expectation that they would bill over 2,000 hours a year. “Most people are billing well above 2000,” indicated one junior.Another source clarified that “there’s definitely encouragement to bill as much as you can.” Increased billables also bring extra rewards for associate. For bonus purposes, we learned that “billable hours are important, and you can receive more than market.” Though one interviewee shared that “you have the agency and flexibility to put your nose to the grindstone if you want, or you can take your foot off the gas if you need a bit of a break.” But like any Big Law firm,hard work is definitely expected at Kirkland. One source frankly stated that “if there’s work that needs to be done on the weekend, you’re expected to work Saturday and Sunday, and if there’s work at midnight, you’re expected to be on at midnight.” Though we heard the firm does look after associates in these busy spells, one source highlighted that  “when you’re slow you can take more time in the day,” and that the firm provides dinners to associates working past a certain time in the office, as well as covering the cost of transport home.


“We want to be the best, we want to perform, we want to do well.”

Describing the culture at Kirkland, one junior summarised it as: “Everyone is encouraged to be themselves in an unapologetic way, they’re not looking for people who all fit the same cloth.” However, what was mutual amongst associates was an element of competition within the culture, not necessarily with each other, but for high performance: “we want to be the best, we want to perform, we want to do well.”

Kirkland does host “tons of social events and networking opportunities.” They usually have “one big social event each month inside the office where they’ll lost a mini in-office party, there’s affinity group events, and more major events like the holiday party.” An associate in the Bay Area told us about the joint hikes organized by the offices there too. One source had been frequent attendance, “during my first year I tried to go to just about all of them. I got pretty close, but not quite to them all because there were just so many!” Another confirmed that “there’s always social events on the calendar and it’s nice – you can just text your buddies and take a 15- or 20-minute break and go and get a drink!”

Pro Bono

“In just about any area I’d like to invest in pro bono, I could find an opportunity to do it.”

The system for getting assigned pro bono matters at the firm is “a pretty open system, and it’s pretty accessible,” noted one source. Better still, pro bono hours count to billables too. Though, some juniors admitted that it seems like “pro bono work fills in the gaps of your regular schedule,” and acknowledge that they “feel the pressure that the hour of billable work has to come before any thought or pro bono.” Interviewees shared a wide variety of pro bono on offer at the firm. We heard about associates working on immigration matters, housing matters, and with an NGO called Lawyers for Good Government. One insider was proud to tell us that “it seems like in just about any area I’d like to invest in pro bono, I could find an opportunity to do it.” Another added that “there are lots of projects you can do very quickly, like helping someone register for getting their past criminal cases expunged, or helping someone with smaller estate matters, and then we do major federal litigation work as well.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all (US) attorneys: 112,614
  • Average per (US) attorney: 37

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Regarding DEI, juniors told us that there appears to be “great efforts to try and recruit in a broad spectrum of categories.” Part of this effort comes from the firm’s 1L Diversity Scholars Program, 2L Diversity and Inclusion Fellowship, and hiring of SEO Law Fellows.Affinity groups were described as “well-organized, well-funded, and well-advertised as well.” One junior told us that “several times a week I’ll get emails from different affinity groups and can even on a weekly basis attend some kind of affinity group activity or lecture or guest speaker event or something like that.” In particular, we heard that the Women’s Leadership Initiative at the firm is really strong, and one insider happily shared that the group made them feel “comfortable and supported at work.” Affinity groups were also praised as being a good source of informal mentorship for members, as they are “open to everyone, and it’s very clear you don’t need to identify with a certain affinity category in order to be part of the group.” The firm has a total of eight affinity groups (called Professional Networks), including the Access Professional Network (attorneys with disabilities); the Asian & Pacific Islander (API) Professional Network; the Black Professional Network; the Military Service Professional Network; the Pride Professional Network (LGBTQ+ attorneys); the South Asian Professional Network; the Unidos Professional Network (Latinx attorneys); and the aforementioned Women's Leadership Initiative (WLI).

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus OCI Applicants: 1006

Interviewees Outside of OCI: 2213

Kirkland offers a variety of engagement opportunities, both in person and virtual, to create an include recruitment process. Through in-person networking events, such as DEI Market Mixers, Kirkland Home for the Holidays, the Diversity Scholars Conference, and/or select Corporate Academies, candidates have the chance to engage face-to-face with the firm’s attorneys, fostering genuine interactions and gaining deeper insights into Kirkland’s culture. Additionally, the firm hosts exclusive podcast and webinar content, and virtual office hours, ensuring accessibility for all candidates.

“Our approach to recruiting emphasizes consistent engagement with candidates year-round, leveraging networking and engagement events to offer students distinct opportunities to cultivate relationships with the firm,” hiring sources explain. “By providing multiple opportunities to engage with members of our recruiting committees and Kirkland attorneys, we ensure candidates are adequately prepared for the interview process and feel empowered to make informed decisions about their summer associate experience.”

Interested 1L candidates are encouraged to apply in December and January, while 2L applications open in June.


Applicants Invited to Second Stage Interview: 1858

The interview represents a crucial stage for candidates and attorneys alike. The firm utilizes this phase to establish meaningful connections while assessing a candidate's capacity to manage multiple tasks professionally and in a collegial manner, contribute effectively to the firm’s collaborative environment, and deliver value to both clients and the organization.

For candidates, the interview also serves as a valuable opportunity to assess whether Kirkland aligns with their professional aspirations and career trajectory. Hiring sources at the firm tell us: “Self-starters who demonstrate initiative, ambition, passion and enthusiasm often thrive.”

Summer program Summer Program Offers: 869

Summer Program Acceptances: 526*

*includes five global summer program participants

Upon joining Kirkland, starting with the Summer Associate Program, hiring sources explain, “associates quickly become part of the team.” Providing solutions to high-profile clients, they are involved in real deals and cases — not just listening and learning — but relied upon to make valuable contributions. “Summer associates experience substantive, hands-on work, accelerating their early career development by working directly with partners,” say hiring sources.

Like Kirkland attorneys, summer associates are part of the firm’s open assignment system which allows individuals to choose the types of matters on which they work, while the firm provides an integrated support network to help ensure development opportunities. In addition to specific assignments, summer associates participate in Kirkland’s numerous interactive training programs, shadow attorneys in negotiations, team meetings and client calls, and participate in trials, depositions, hearings, negotiations, and deal closings. There are also opportunities to network with attorneys and fellow summer associates though various social events.


Kirkland & Ellis

333 West Wolf Point Plaza,
IL 60654

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • Antitrust (Band 3)
    • Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
    • Antitrust (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Technology & Outsourcing (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 1)
    • Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • Antitrust (Band 5)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Takeover Defense (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
    • Healthcare (Band 4)
    • Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment: Transactional (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 2)
    • Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 2)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Antitrust (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 1)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 5)
    • Advertising: Litigation (Band 2)
    • Antitrust (Band 3)
    • Antitrust: Cartel (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Capital Markets: Equity: Issuer Counsel (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: High-Yield Debt (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Investment Grade Debt: Issuer Counsel (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: Securitization: ABS (Band 3)
    • Climate Change (Band 4)
    • Corporate Crime & Investigations: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 1)
    • E-Discovery & Information Governance (Band 3)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
    • Energy Transition (Band 2)
    • Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 5)
    • Energy: Electricity (Transactional) (Band 2)
    • Energy: Oil & Gas (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 5)
    • Energy: Oil & Gas (Transactional) (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 5)
    • Environment: Mainly Transactional (Band 1)
    • FCPA (Band 3)
    • Government Relations: Congressional Investigations (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 1)
    • International Trade: CFIUS Experts (Band 2)
    • International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • International Trade: Intellectual Property (Section 337) (Band 1)
    • Investment Funds: Regulatory & Compliance (Band 2)
    • Life Sciences (Band 3)
    • Offshore Energy (Band 2)
    • Oil & Gas Litigation (Band 2)
    • Outsourcing (Band 3)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts: High-end Capability (Band 1)
    • Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 1)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Product Liability: Automobile (Band 1)
    • Projects: LNG (Band 2)
    • Projects: Oil & Gas (Band 3)
    • Projects: Power (Band 3)
    • Projects: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • REITs (Band 5)
    • Securities: Litigation (Band 3)
    • Securities: Regulation: Enforcement (Band 3)
    • SPACs (Band 1)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 1)
    • Technology (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)