A legal giant—both in size and reputation—Kirkland is the perfect firm for self-starters who are ready to take control of their legal careers. Associates at the firm agree that with the firm’s robust training and the firm’s name on their resumes, their futures are bright. Kirkland & Ellis, one the world’s most elite law firms, is known for its corporate, intellectual property, litigation, M&A, private equity, and restructuring work. With more than 2,900 lawyers, the firm is regularly recognized as one of the most s...

Firm Stats


Total No. Attorneys (2021)


Featured Rankings

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No. of 1st Year Associates Hired (2021)


No. of Summer Associates (2021)


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Vault Verdict

The hiring process at Kirkland is competitive—which is no surprise given its elite status. The firm seeks top students with impeccable resumes who also demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit that will help them succeed with the firm’s free-market system. Diversity and inclusion is also a key hiring factor as well as an overall priority for the firm. Associates receive billable credit for engaging in diversity-related activities like recruiting and appreciate the firm’s commitment, but they’d like to see more representation at the partner level. Kirkland has a work hard, play hard atmosphere—work hours can be intense but lawyers at the firm are a social group who love to spend time together. Associates feel like they’re part of the team from the start, with partners trusting them wi...

About the Firm


Kirkland & Ellis, one the world’s most elite law firms, is known for its corporate, intellectual property, litigation, M&A, private equity, and restructuring work. With more than 2,900 lawyers, the firm is regularly recognized as one of the most successful in the world.

Extra, Extra!

In 1909, fresh-faced attorneys Stuart Shepard and Robert McCormick struck up a partnership in Chicago. McCormick’s grandfather founded the Chicago Tribune, and McCormick left the firm in 1920 to become the paper’s publisher—a move that he used to send more business the firm’s way, tapping Kirkland trial lawyer Weymouth Kirkland to defend the Trib in defamation suits. Kirkland soon eclipsed the firm founders as the face of the outfit, carving a l...

Associate Reviews

  • “Work hard, play hard. Extremely dedicated to client service but with plenty of great perks. Pre-COVID, it was very common for lawyers to socialize--it was definitely part of the fabric of the office to be very engaging. During COVID, it's naturally less common but people still find time to catch up on calls or message one another.”
  • “Kirkland is a place where people work hard and deal with tremendous stress, but I've always felt like part of a team. The best part of Kirkland is that in the rare event you run into someone with a bad attitude you never have to work with them again. The free-market system really does weed out bad apples and encourage a collegial atmosphere. I am genuinely friends with most of my colleagues. I've never felt like there was no one I could turn to if I encountered a work problem or issue with a client. It feels like everyone is working towards the same goal. I cannot imagine doing work like this anywhere else. …”
  • “There is an intensity in the air but you see pretty quickly that it’s just people working hard and they are actually friendly and fun.”
  • “Things are a little different now with COVID, but generally, the firm is very social with the majority of attorneys attending practice group dinners and events. The firm has also started monthly practice group happy hours to allow for more informal interaction. Aside from firm organized events, there are also many attorneys who are friends with each other and go to lunch, coffee, drinks, etc. regularly.”
  • “I really appreciate how much partners at Kirkland treat associates like real attorneys from day one, encouraging us to be curious, dig into the facts of every case, have ownership over our projects, ask questions, and offer our own thoughts about strategy. I have felt valued and respected as a colleague by every partner I have worked with. …”
  • “Transparency is not always great, but there has been more pressure from associates on the partnership to understand why decisions are made. The promotion of people to partner is still very much a black box and not certain. Individual partners generally make an effort to get to know associates and there are definitely people who care a lot. But it's more the responsibility of individual partners to make that effort rather than a firm-wide approach.”
  • “Partners are great mentors and teachers to associates. The partnership track is a bit vague in terms of timing and milestones that associates need to meet to remain on track.”
  • “I think that Kirkland's review system is very strong. Although there is informal feedback throughout the year, every summer associates write out descriptions of the work they have done on their significant matters over the past year. Partners then write in-depth reviews of the associates who worked on their matters. In the fall, the responses are aggregated and each associate has an individual review session with a couple of partners who describe the feedback in broad strokes and the associate is allowed to review each individual review after the feedback session.”
  • “No billable-hour requirement, which is great, but there is also plenty of work to go around. It is helpful to be somewhat of a go-getter in order to seek out work when you are slow. I lateraled from another firm and work was assigned, so this was a bit of a tough transition for me to get used to.”
  • “The firm, like many other peer firms during the pandemic, is experiencing a large uptick in work and sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming as recruiting plays catchup.”
  • “Not having a billable-hour requirement is a huge benefit. While I have met or exceeded what a normal hours requirement would be almost every year, it is great to have the peace of mind to know that I will still get my bonus if hours are short over a certain period due to factors beyond my control (such as the pandemic).”
  • “The number of hours is crazy, but I think that's an industry-wide issue at the moment. There is very little in the way of facetime requirements or otherwise. It's just work hard and do good work. …”
  • “I feel very empowered to take control of my career. As long as I can get my work done, people do not micromanage. I have also found that people are respectful of others when they are on vacation.”
  • “Kirkland is always top of the pack in terms of annual bonuses, and the COVID bonuses have been a nice touch during these tough times.”
  • “Bonuses were expected to be higher, and financial incentives are good, but should continue throughout the year.”
  • “I got a very nice bonus for my clerkship.”
  • “The bonus structure is somewhat opaque, but Kirkland's no-minimum-hours seems to be legitimate. Market bonuses have been given to all associates ‘in good standing,’ including special bonuses.”
  • “Associates are given real substantive work and allowed to run with it. Junior associates are given ownership over legal writing and documents. Senior associates are given the reigns to prepare witnesses, work with experts, and take depositions. Once you've proven yourself and the opportunities really open up if you seek them out.”
  • “Most of my time is spent on work that is appropriate for my level. Of course, at times, I jump in to do more ‘junior’ work and other times am given tasks way above my pay grade, but overall, I think the staffing is pretty solid on deals. As a fourth year, I am working on the main transaction documents and ancillary agreements and usually have a junior associate who will assist on the project management piece, coordinate on diligence efforts, etc.”
  • “I spend my time on a mix of substantive legal work and evolving into a more managerial role, both of which are appropriate to my experience and keep me challenged. I draft motions, take and defend depositions, work with experts, prepare witnesses for trial, manage discovery, run meet-and-confer calls, and am involved in development of case strategy and planning. I also assist partners in preparing for similar tasks.”
  • “No other firm out there trains you up like Kirkland. Substantive and challenging from day one. Eight months after lateraling I felt I had learned more than I had in the previous two years at my prior firm.”
  • “Remote work has never been an issue in terms of technology, so transitioning fully remote as a result of COVID has been pretty seamless. The firm offered associates a stipend to get their home offices set up and if there were items you needed from the office, our messengering service was available to assist delivery to your home. Overall, pretty seamless.”
  • “The firm had the work-from-home infrastructure in place well in advance of the pandemic. We were extremely well prepared and the switch to work from home was seamless because many had already been working from home with some frequency.”
  • “When I began working at Kirkland, in the middle of COVID, the firm mailed to my home a laptop, desktop monitor, an Avaya phone, a new iPhone, and a box of office supplies.”
  • “Kirkland's IT support team is amazing.”
  • “The firm is putting forth considerable effort to support wellness (wellness workshops and activities, Kirkland concierge, etc.), and associates have autonomy to manage their workload which helps with the management of wellness. I think client demands and pace of deals makes it difficult at times to prioritize wellness on a daily or weekly basis.”
  • “The firm has devoted substantial resources and emphasized the importance of health and family during this pandemic. Associates have been given mental health resources and there are plenty of virtual events and programs designed to ensure everyone feels connected.”
  • “The firm is good about talking about these issues and providing panels, but real, tangible efforts would be more appreciated. Instead of a seminar on how to be healthy, they should offer a stipend for exercise programs or personal wellness. Action over discussion would be greatly appreciated by associates given how hard we have been pushed.”
  • “The firm routinely (at least 2-3 times per week) brings in various health and wellness speakers to give 30 minute presentations that are helpful.”
  • “We have Kirkland University, which is a non-stop, ever changing set of classes tailored for associates of all practice group. It is very useful, and it also helps that the firm makes attendance and participation mandatory.”
  • “The firm has a substantial formal training system in litigation (and other practice areas), and is consistently working to evolve that system. Formal training is never as useful as practical training, but Kirkland's formal training is very well done, professional, and focused. The firm shines even further with opportunities for real and meaningful experience, along with the support from partners and other more senior associates to succeed at new challenges and experiences.”
  • “Tons of training through the Kirkland Institute for Trial Advocacy, which has grown over time to include motions practice, depositions, discovery, etc. Kirkland has a formal mentorship program and takes it seriously. But like most places, you end up finding true mentors among the people you work with consistently.”
  • “The training programs are pretty extensive and they're happening all the time. Trainings specific to my practice are also pretty regular. I have an associate and partner mentor who have both taken an interest in me. We speak/meet regularly.”
  • “Promotion to non-share partnership is realistic. Share partnership is reserved for a few, but there are great exit options.”
  • “Starting at Kirkland feels like a golden ticket. I know this job is just a stepping-stone. I know equity partnership is unrealistic, but that's okay, because I believe I'm becoming the best lawyer possible by working here.”
  • “Associates become non-share partners in year seven, assuming competence. As with any other firm, only a very small minority (even from among the self-selected pool of people trying for it) actually make shares and become true partners. Some non-share partners remain non-share partners for long periods of time and effectively begin to function in the role of what is normally called ‘of counsel’ at other firms. The firm has a very strong alumni network and is very active in helping to facilitate exits by associates who are looking for a change. There is very little visibility at the associate level into the process for promotion to share partner after becoming a non-share partner, but perhaps more information is shared once non-share partner status is attained.”
  • “The exit opportunities are endless. Everyone who has left the firm recently has landed amazing gigs.”
  • “Pro bono hours count as billable hours and each associate is encouraged to do 20 pro bono hours per year.”
  • “Pro bono work is respected and encouraged at the firm. We are credited 1:1 billable credit for pro bono work, and we receive regular reminders of great pro bono opportunities, as well as reminders that encourage us to do pro bono work. The quality of pro bono work is also amazing, personally I have been involved in multiple immigration projects, adoption cases, and education rights cases; all of which are meaningful to me.  …”
  • “I've been able to do some extremely rewarding pro bono work, which has been gratifying both because I have been able to support causes I care about but also because I have been afforded so many excellent opportunities. My most notable pro bono work has been representing Pennsylvania's Secretary of State in lawsuits filed against her by the Trump Campaign leading up to the 2020 election, and representing children in Indiana's foster care system in a class action lawsuit.”
  • “The firm is very dedicated to pro bono work and there is no shortage of opportunities.  The firm gives 1:1 billable hour credit with no cap. I have three open projects, all in different areas: civil rights, veteran's relief, and an asylum case. While all my projects are litigation-based, there are plenty of transactional pro bono opportunities as well.”
  • “Kirkland seems very committed to recruiting diverse incoming classes and lateral associates and partners. As an LGBT associate, I am frequently asked to help with recruiting and encouraged to recruit more diverse associates. All of the time I spend recruiting and engaging in diversity activities can be credited toward my bonus-eligible billable hours. Our office's recruiting staff are amazing to work with, and are always entertaining new ideas for recruitment opportunities.”
  • “Diversity is great at the associate and NSP levels, but declines sharply at the share partner level. …”
  • “Kirkland has made a substantial commitment towards advancing diversity and inclusion efforts and is constantly encouraging employees at all levels to get involved in pro bono matters and community efforts to advance racial and social justice initiatives.”
  • “The firm makes an effort to promote diversity. Of course, as is an issue in BigLaw generally, there remains work to be done. Notably, there is significantly more diversity at the staff and junior associate level than at the partnership level, particularly with respect to firm leadership.”

Why Work Here

Kirkland & Ellis is one of the world’s most elite law firms and is recognized for our exceptional service to clients in private equity, M&A and other complex corporate transactions, litigation and dispute resolution/arbitration, restructuring, and intellectual property matters. We believe in creative solutions fueled by teamwork and are dedicated to providing our clients with superior results. We invest in our talent and build dynamic teams that operate at the pinnacle of their practice. With lawyers coming from the world’s finest law schools, Kirkland is known as an industry leader in recruiting, retaining and advancing the brightest legal talent. Our reputation for excellence is recognized globally.

Diversity at Kirkland & Ellis

"At Kirkland, we believe our ability to function at the highest level of our profession is enhanced by building a team of lawyers who bring us the benefits of a broad range of socioeconomic, racial, ethnic and personal backgrounds. Our commitment to diversity is reflected not only in the Firm's policies, programs and committees, but also through our efforts to maintain a culture that values and gathers strength from difference. Kirkland's commitment to diversity and inclusion is ensured by our Firmwide Diversity Integration Task..."

Getting Hired Here

  • “Kirkland is looking for self-starters who can thrive in the open assignment system.”
  • “… An entrepreneurial mindset is crucial to being recruited, because most other comparable BigLaw firms put you on a rigid conveyor belt and tell you everything you need to know and do and you don't have to think for yourself ever. At Kirkland, you have the most freedom to define your own practice and it takes a certain mindset to navigate the open assignment system (which is really easy, but you have to be confident enough to reach out and take advantage of opportunities on your own).”
  • “The school you attended and what you did while you were in school (journals, grades, etc.) matter a ton. T15 or so are by far the biggest feeder schools. However, there are also a fair number of people who are recruited from other schools. I also think that if you have a pretty good work experience prior to law school you have a leg up in getting a job here.”
  • “As one of the top law firms, we obviously have a very competitive hiring process. A reasonable effort is made to promote diversity in the workplace, both by hiring individuals from a variety of schools and hiring from minority groups.”
  • “Kirkland's interview questions are probably fairly standard: background, law school experience, reason for interest in the firm, preferred practice areas and thought process in making that decision.”
  • “Why do you want to work in this group? Why Kirkland? What do you like to do for fun?”
  • “Ask about substantive work, but also ask about their personal interests. What kind of deals have you done? What did you lead? What do you do with free time?”
  • “One partner's favorite question is: If there's a scale of 1 to 10 for information about you, with 1 being 'I like tacos' and 10 being super personal, tell me something that is an 8.”
  • “The onboarding week, in its technical details, is really very good—the tech training folks are superb. But after that you're expected to just dive in. To a certain extent this makes sense; they hired me as a lateral because I already had experience to self-start. I felt like I stopped being a ‘new’ associate by about week 3, though it took much longer to actually get the hang of the place.”
  • “My integration was short as I was hired just before the pandemic. The firm had specific processes in place, however, to integrate people (e.g., place cookies in your office to encourage folks to stop by and say hi). Generally, [I] thought they did a good job at integrating.”
  • “I think there should be more training for laterals in terms of firm processes.”
  • “We have weekly meetings with all associates in our practice group. People in my practice group, on their own initiative, reached out to introduce themselves and offer to help with integration.”

Practice Area Q&A’s

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Kirkland & Ellis
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Partner & Associate

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Perks & Benefits