Kirkland & Ellis International

Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis employs more than 1,600 lawyers and is amongst the world's top-grossing law firms. Kirkland has cemented its status and global position through its key practice areas: corporate, finance, intellectual property, litigation, and restructuring.

8.5 / 10 4 reviews Overall Satisfaction

Extremely talented at what we do.

141 employee reviews - read more


  • Partners and associates are very approachable
  • Small teams mean good exposure to a variety of work and early responsibility
  • Very good salary
  • Amazing views from the office in the Gherkin


  • Heavy workload - especially during busy periods
  • Not a great deal of socialising, due to unpredictable hours
  • The in-house kitchen

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Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis employs more than 1,600 lawyers, ranked in the top ten for average profit per partner globally in 2012, Legal Business Global 100, and is amongst the world’s top-grossing law firms. Kirkland has cemented its status and global position through its four core areas of expertise: corporate and tax, intellectual property, litigation, and restructuring. In the City, the firm’s office in the Gherkin is home to approximately 120 lawyers.

Kirkland & Ellis was founded in 1909 by Stuart Shepard and Robert McCormick. As the grandson of the founder of the Chicago Tribune, McCormick eventually left the firm to become the newspaper’s publisher. However, as a result of his outspoken editorial policy, he soon required a defamation defence team – in steps the eponymous Weymouth Kirkland, who had joined the firm in 1915. Together with a young associate, Howard Ellis, the duo played parts in many prominent trials, setting the firm on course to become one of the most powerful litigation practices in the US.

In the ‘90s, Kirkland’s largest private equity clients, the likes of Bain Capital and Madison Dearborn, were starting to invest their vast chests in assets on the continent – setting up their own London offices and European funds. So in 1994, Kirkland & Ellis followed them to the City to assist in structuring their investments. Even before the firm added UK law capability to its London practice in 2001, Kirkland would advise these American institutions on their deals, calling on local lawyers to help out where necessary. Additional offices followed, with the firm opening its second European office in 2004 in Munich, and expanding to Asia with a Hong Kong office just two years later, before cracking the bubbly again in Shanghai in 2009.

Half of Kirkland’s lawyers are litigators, so it probably shouldn’t come as any great surprise that their work accounts for half of the firm’s revenue. Kirkland is known for its doggedly aggressive approach, and while settlement is always an option, this is a firm that is ready, eager and confident to go to trial. The firm boasts an impressive private equity practice, with some 300 lawyers practising in the US alone. And while the firm’s M&A practice may get overshadowed by the renowned PE team, it doesn’t invalidate the fact that it does top-notch work. Some of Kirkland’s high-profile clients include Bain Capital, Motorola and General Motors.

In 1982, the firm established the Kirkland & Ellis Foundation, for the purpose of providing financial support to not-for-profit, charitable and law-related organisations – serving a wide range of communities, initiatives and people. Although focussing predominantly on groups that help improve legal services, the foundation actively seeks to partner with organisations committed to enhancing quality of life – through improved health care, educational opportunities, cultural awareness, emergency relief and humanitarian efforts, youth programs, public policy and community outreaches.

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Kirkland & Ellis is highly regarded as one of the most successful American law firms in the City and in turn looks to recruit ‘confident and charismatic individuals who are independent workers’ and who are ‘ready to take the initiative’. The London office is duly situated in one of the most iconic buildings in the City – the Gherkin. The firm only takes on a select number of trainees each year with up to ten training contracts available.

Trainees are generally very satisfied with their training which involves ‘great exposure’ to high-quality work and ‘as much responsibility as you can handle’. As one trainee tells us, you may frequently find yourself ‘working on tasks usually carried out by junior associates at other firms’. There is close and continuous contact between partners and trainees, and the ‘very open-door culture’ makes Kirkland & Ellis ‘a friendly place to work’.

The structure of the training contract resembles that of most other law firms in the City, consisting of four six-month seats typically in corporate (a compulsory seat), banking, restructuring, funds, IP, tax or international litigation/arbitration. ‘As the number of trainees is very small, there is a great degree of choice involved’ and trainees are particularly drawn to the fact that secondments can be completed in the firm’s international offices – trainees have been to New York and Hong Kong.

Due to the small intake, Kirkland & Ellis can be very selective in picking its candidates so the recruitment process is suitably competitive and extensive. The firm looks for confident, intelligent people that will fit in quickly and easily, and have an interest in the work the firm does. When you apply you’ll go through several rounds of interviews with a mix of partners and associates. Interviews are said to be ‘formal, but honest, relaxed and very fair’. The firm has a tendency ‘to recruit from Russell group universities’ and current trainees recommend that potential applicants ‘use their initiative and research the firm and the areas in which we specialise’ thoroughly before applying.


Kirkland & Ellis Graduate Recruitment Info

Kate Osborne
Graduate Recruitment Specialist
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7469 2000

Application Deadlines:
Training Contracts: 31st July 2013
Vacation Scheme (summer): Applications close 31st January 2013

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No. of lawyers firm-wide: 1,600
No. of lawyers in London: 120
Partners: 43
Associates: 70
Trainee intake: 10
Trainees retained: 85% (2012), 100% (2011)
No. of applications per year: Approx. 800


# 22 in Top 50 Law Firms (6.52/10)


1st year trainee: £41,000
2nd year trainee: £44,000
Newly qualified: £97,000

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Antitrust & Competition
Capital Markets
Debt Finance
International Litigation/Arbitration
Private Funds

I have no idea - we print too much though!

Read all reviews in Green Initiatives

No official statistics; firm-wide has increased women and ethnic minorities.

Read all reviews in Diversity

Most partners are very accessible and treat you like equals.

Read all reviews in Partner & Solicitor Relations

There isn't a huge amount of choice and you have to do corporate.

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London Office:
30 St Mary Axe
London EC3A 8AF
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7469 2000

No. of worldwide offices: 10
Hong Kong
Los Angeles
New York
Palo Alto
San Francisco
Washington DC