Kirkland & Ellis unveils latest record partner promotions round

Chicago giant promotes 205 to partnership, up from 193 last year

Kirkland & Ellis, the largest law firm in the world by revenue, has elevated a record number of lawyers to partner in its latest promotion round.

The firm’s 2023 cohort hit 205, up from 193 last year and 151 in 2021 – all previous records. Like last year more than 80% of this year’s intake are based in the US, with 49 promotions in New York, 40 in the firm’s Chicago headquarters and the rest spread among its Washington DC, Houston, Bay Area, Los Angeles, Boston, Dallas, Salt Lake City, Austin and Miami offices. 

Broadly in line with 2022, the bulk of Kirkland’s international promotions this time were in London, where 26 made the cut, with eight made up in Hong Kong, three in Munich and one apiece in Paris and Shanghai. 

While Kirkland brought in $6.5bn in gross revenue in 2022, 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. 

This year’s promotions follows the defection of 12 Kirkland private equity partners over the past few months for Paul Weiss in London and the US, including “superstar” London private equity debt finance specialist Neel Sachdev. The hires in turn followed Kirkland securing Paul Weiss’s former London head and private equity lawyer Alvaro Membrillera in early August. 

Kirkland’s formidable M&A and private equity practice once again dominated the promotions round, accounting for nearly a quarter of all new partners with 50 making the cut. The firm came in third in Refinitiv’s M&A legal advisor rankings by deal value in the first half of the year, working globally on deals worth $159.6bn, behind Latham & Watkins ($190.9bn) and Sullivan & Cromwell ($210.4bn). 

The ranking marked a rebound for Kirkland which is perennially in the top five by deal value and, having come in third in 2021 when it worked on roughly $600bn worth of deals, dropped to ninth place in 2022 when deals value touched to under $300bn. 

The litigation practice accounted for 35 newly minted partners this year, followed by 28 in the investment funds team. Other notable practice areas included debt finance (27), IP litigation (12) and capital markets (nine).

Kirkland has also been active in the lateral market over the past year, luring a number of partners in Europe and the US from Magic Circle rivals. They included infrastructure partner Toby Parkinson in London and restructuring partner Cristina Weidner in Munich, both from Clifford Chance, and tax specialist Sam Kamyans in Washington DC from Allen & Overy as it targeted energy transition and renewables work. 

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, in late 2021 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. 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

Email your news and story ideas to: [email protected]