02 October 2020

Kirkland & Ellis unveils record partner promotion round

Kirkland's Washington DC office

Covid-19 disruption doesn't stop Chicago-based giant from making up 145 partners

Global giant Kirkland & Ellis has brushed aside ongoing Covid-19 economic disruption with the unveiling of a record tally of 145 partner promotions.

The promotions, which went live yesterday, are up by four from 2019 when there were 141 new partners, itself a record, reflecting the momentum that has propelled the firm to the top of the global 100 ranking by revenue.

And it was the firm’s core M&A/private equity practice that accounted for the most promotions at 36, 25% of the cohort; followed by litigation (30) and investment funds (16).

In terms of geography, the proportion of US partner promotions increased to 84% from 81% in 2019, with 122 successful candidates spread across Chicago (34), New York (31), Los Angeles (16), Washington DC (14), San Francisco (10) Houston (8), Boston (5) and Dallas (5).

Outside the US there were 16 promotions in London, four in Hong Kong, two in Munich and one in Shanghai.

The London tally was the same as last year while in Hong Kong the number of promotions fell by three. Both results could be regarded as a reflection of the robustness of these leading financial centres, given fears over the impact of Brexit in the UK and China’s new National Security Law in Hong Kong.

In March the Chicago-based firm posted a 10% hike in revenue to $4.15bn with profit per equity partner up by 3% to $5.2m, according to Legal Business magazine.

Kirkland’s large ranks of salaried partners – 636 last year, according to Law.com – sets it apart from its rivals.

While some question the impact on its culture, it has boosted its ability to pick off partners from top tier New York law firms.

In the latest of a string of raids over the last five years on Wall Street leaders, it hired M&A partner Edward Lee from Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz in May.

In June, fellow Chicago-based firm Baker McKenzie promoted 84 lawyers to its partnership in its largest round since 2016

Click here for the list of partners, on Kirkland’s website.

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