The number one law firm in the United States by revenue, Kirkland & Ellis, has recently promoted a record number of lawyers to partner.
This year’s number of new partners (193) is up from 151 in 2021 and 145 in 2020, which were both previously record years. North of 80% of this year’s new promotions are based in the U.S. 44 of the newly minted partners are from Kirkland’s Chicago headquarters and 39 are in New York, while the rest are spread across Austin, the Bay Area, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and D.C.
Meanwhile, there are 26 new partners in London, five in Hong Kong, two in Shanghai, and one each in Munich and Beijing. This breakdown mirrors the firm’s geographical focus, with a majority of its attention paid to the very lucrative U.S. market, while London serves as its European hub with a more limited presence in continental Europe and Asia.
As a percentage of total partners promoted, there was a significant drop in how many partners were promoted within the firm’s impressive M&A practice. Last year, nearly a third of the overall cohort was from the M&A practice, while that fraction was just over a fifth this year. However, the overall number dropped only slightly (from 47 last year to 44 this year), given the nearly 30% increase in total partners promoted this year.
According to Refinitiv’s M&A legal advisory rankings, by the end of the second quarter, Kirkland had worked on the second-most M&A deals globally, advising on 410 transactions worth a combined $179 billion. Last year, the firm ranked third by deal value ($572 billion for the year) and second by volume of transactions (977 deals).
This year, 28 new partners hail from the investment funds practice, while 27 work in the litigation practice. 18 more came from debt finance, 16 from IP litigation, and 13 from capital markets.
Kirkland has 76 practice areas, but nearly 75% of the new partner promotions came from just the aforementioned six.
Kirkland also picked up four partners in London through lateral hires this year: two from Allen & Overy; one from Clifford Chance; and one from the smaller, non-Magic Circle firm Ashurst LLP.
The firm’s promotional model is unique in that it tends to promote more salaried partners than most Big Law firms, but further promotion to the prized equity partner ranks is far from guaranteed.
Last December, however, in response to the recently booming deal markets, Kirkland shortened its track to equity partner status by a year in an effort to better compete in the intense battle between leading firms to retain their best talent. Effectively, salaried partners can now qualify for equity three years after being promoted (just nine years after joining from law school).