Kirkland & Ellis targets top Utah law schools with Salt Lake City launch

Chicago-based global giant cites strategy of attracting top legal talent as it eyes 'extraordinary talent pool'

By Abbie Warnock-Matthews; Shutterstock

Kirkland & Ellis has planted its flag in Utah in a bid to build its relationships with prominent local law schools with its new office in Salt Lake City. 

The Chicago-based firm said its on-the-ground presence in Salt Lake City will help it establish stronger ties with Utah schools like Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School and the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of law as part of its continued strategy to recruit leading legal talent. 

Corporate partner Travis Nelson and litigation partner Brigham Cannon, both alumni of BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School, are relocating from New York and Washington DC respectively to launch the new venture. Completing the Salt Lake City team is investment funds partner Warren Goodworth, who will be relocating from the firm’s headquarters in the Windy City. 

Jon Ballis, chairman of Kirkland’s executive committee, commented: “With an extraordinary talent pool of highly skilled attorneys, as well as an excellent academic community, including Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School and University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law, having an office in Salt Lake City enhances our ability to attract exceptional legal talent and expand our capacity to meet increasing client demand.” 

Salt Lake City’s burgeoning start-up and venture capital scene — which has led some to dub the city as the ‘Silicon Slopes’ — has attracted a number of other big firms in recent years, including Dentons, Quinn Emanuel and Lewis Brisbois. 

Kirkland’s Utah launch comes a few months after the firm joined a number of rivals setting up shop in Austin, adding to its existing Texas offices in Houston and Dallas. It launched an intellectual property litigation practice in Austin shortly thereafter, tapping New York-based IP litigation partner Jeannie Heffernan to lead the charge in the Lone Star State’s emerging tech and life sciences hub. 

Other firms to have launched in Austin this year include Latham & Watkins, O’Melveny & Myers and Silicon Valley firm Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian

Kirkland also made a play in New York this summer, landing ‘rising star’ M&A partner Rachael Coffey from Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison to expand its corporate practice group on the East Coast. 

The firm topped Mergermarket’s global M&A advisory league table for the first half of 2021 by deal count in July, notching 420 deals worth just shy of $317bn – up from second place in a pandemic-stunted 2020.

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