Kirkland & Ellis announces latest record partner promotions round

Bumper intake sees Chicago giant promote 193 to partnership, up from 151 last year

Number one US firm Kirkland & Ellis has elevated a record number of lawyers to partner in its latest promotion round.

The firm’s 2022 cohort hit 193, up from 151 last year and 145 in 2020 – all previously records. More than 80% of this year’s intake are based in the US, with 44 located in the firm’s Chicago headquarters, 39 in New York and the rest spread among its Los Angeles, Washington DC, Houston, Dallas, the Bay Area, Boston and Austin offices.

Outside of the US, 26 made partner in London, five in Hong Kong, two in Shanghai and one each in Beijing and Munich. That overall split was broadly in line with last year, when more than 80% of promotions were also based in the US, with the balance made up of 19 in London, three in Paris and two each in Hong Kong and Munich.

While Kirkland has the highest turnover of any international law firm, the geographical breakdown of its partner promotions underlines its focus on the lucrative US market with London serving as its European hub, alongside a limited presence in continental Europe and Asia.

The firm’s formidable M&A and private equity practice once again dominated the promotions round, accounting for more than a fifth of all new partners with 44 making the cut – albeit a slight drop on 2021’s level, where the M&A practice took on 47 new partners, or almost a third of the overall cohort. Kirkland had worked on the second-most M&A deals globally at the end of the second quarter, advising on 410 transactions worth a combined $179bn, according to Refinitiv’s M&A legal advisory rankings. Last year, the firm ranked third by deal value ($572bn) and second by volume of transactions (977 deals).

The investment funds practice accounted for 28 newly minted partners this year, followed by 27 in the litigation practice. Other notable practice areas included debt finance (18), IP litigation (16) and capital markets (13).

Kirkland has also been active in the lateral market this year, picking up three new London partners in September – all lured over from Magic Circle rivals. They included investment funds partner Paul Sampson and infrastructure partner Sara Pickersgill, both from Allen & Overy, and infrastructure finance partner James Boswell from Clifford Chance. The firm also hired London-based investment funds partner Catherine Gokah from Ashurst in August.

A distinguishing feature of Kirkland's model is the high proportion of salaried partners it appoints, with promotion to the firm's coveted equity partner ranks far from guaranteed. 

However, last December the firm shortened its track to equity partner status by a year in a move that reflected the intense battle by leading firms to retain and reward their best talent in booming deal markets. That means salaried partners can qualify for equity three years after being promoted and therefore nine years after joining from law school.

Click here for a full list of partners

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