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Kirkland breaks $5m PEP and outguns Latham again to stay world’s highest-grossing firm

Kirkland & Ellis has hiked revenues by more than $500m to remain the world’s highest-earning law firm, as global turnover surged to $3.76bn.

The Chicago-bred giant today (21 March) revealed results for the 2018 financial year, confirmed a 19% hike in revenues against $3.165bn the previous year. Profit per equity partner (PEP) topped $5m for the first time, up 7% to $5,037,000 on the $4.7m for 2017. Revenue per lawyer was up nearly 3% to $1.63m.

The firm would not disclose regional breakdowns for revenue but London is believed to have outpaced global growth considerably, growing revenue from around the $300m mark last year to about $380m. It has been one of Kirkland’s fastest-expanding offices, growing a striking 139% since 2013 with headcount in the City growing 28% in 2018 alone to reach 304 fee-earners. This compared with a 15% global headcount increase adding more than 300 lawyers to reach 2,306.

The stellar year has been on the back of a thrusting private equity M&A market and a number of standout restructuring matters, particularly in the retail space, in the UK and in the US.

Kirkland also set a blistering pace with internal promotions in the City with a sizeable 10-strong round of City promotions within a huge 122-strong global investment in keeping with its fast-track partnership model.

In London, the marquee hires of David Higgins from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Nicola Dagg from Allen & Overy, a move marking the Chicago-bred giant’s first foray into investing in IP litigation, have been symbolic in 2018.

The hire of private equity’s most wanted, Adrian Maguire to follow in the footsteps of his former boss Higgins earlier this year meant that Kirkland continued to make waves into 2019.

Latham last month announced it had added $323m to its top line in 2018, momentarily becoming the highest grossing law firm in the world, as PEP rose 6% to $3.45m. Revenue per lawyer rose 6% to $1.33m, as lawyer headcount rose 4% to 2,540. Last year revenue rose 9% to $3.06bn and PEP 6% to $3.24m.

For more on Kirkland’s ascent to the top of the Global 100, see  Global 100: Wrecking ball – Inside Kirkland & Ellis’ creative destruction