In 2021, a year fueled by unprecedented demand for legal services, Kirkland & Ellis grew its gross revenue to $6.042 billion, making it the first law firm in history to gross over $6 billion in one year. The firm’s profits increased 25% from 2020, an increase in revenue of $1.2 billion. Kirkland’s $1.2 billion upsurge is equal to the total 2021 yearly revenue of other Top 50 American law firms such as Morrison & Foerster and Willkie Farr & Gallagher.
In 2021, Kirkland was the highest-grossing law firm in the United States for the fifth consecutive year. The Chicago-founded international law firm overtook Latham & Watkins in 2017, when it grossed $3 billion in revenue, and it has not looked back since.
Kirkland increased profits per revenue partner by 19%, which equated to each partner earning on average $7.38 million, according to American Lawyer. Kirkland expanded its partnership ranks in 2021, and its nonequity tier of partnerships saw the most growth. The firm increased its equity partnerships by 2.9% to 490 partners, while it increased its nonequity partnerships by 11.9% to 763 partners.
The firm also increased its associate head count by 11%, adding 3,025 attorneys last year. Many of those attorneys were hired to expand the firm’s London and Hong Kong offices as well as to staff the firm’s new Austin and Salt Lake City offices. Revenue per attorney increased by 12.7% as compared to 2021 to $1.997 million.
Kirkland capitalized on the transactional activity that flooded the market after COVID-19-induced business shutdowns. Also, because many of Kirkland’s lawyers worked remotely and forewent their commute, they were able to squeeze more working hours into the day.
Kirkland ranked No. 1 for overall initial public offerings (IPOs) as issuer counsel by deal value ($32 billion) and deal count (97) and No. 1 in SPAC IPOs, according to Deal Point. In a year that featured a record-setting total valuation of merger and acquisition (M&A) deals, Kirkland ranked No. 1 in value of deals ($548 billion) and No. 2 for number of deals announced (977).
Kirkland’s litigation team, which was named “Litigation Department of the Year” by American Lawyer, represented clients such as 3M in a case related to military earplugs in the largest multidistrict litigation proceeding in U.S. history. It also represented historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Maryland and facilitated a $577 million settlement on behalf of said institutions.