Legal Business Blogs

Kirkland shortens equity track as it wages intensified war for talent

Kirkland & Ellis has shortened its path to equity partnership by a year in another audacious move that will doubtless make rivals sit up and take notice.

The move means that its most-talented lawyers will now be considered for equity partnership nine years out of law school, rather than 10.

The Chicago-bred firm has an unusual model in that it makes up large ranks of salaried partners on a fast track with associates able to make salaried partner six years after qualification – bucking the wider trend of pushing back promotions on a more opaque career track. Admission to the tightly-held equity will now be considered three years into non-equity partnership.

An internal firm memo circulated yesterday (1 December) stated: ‘Given the talent of our partnership and the increased responsibilities and experience gained in today’s environment, we believe that consideration for equity a year sooner is appropriate.’

In April, Kirkland said it had added $680m to its top line to beat Latham & Watkins yet again to remain the world’s highest-grossing law firm, as global turnover surged 16% to $4.83bn.

Profit per equity partner (PEP) hit $6.2m, up 19% on the $5.2m for 2019 even as Kirkland’s headcount grew 5% in 2020 to 2,725 lawyers. Revenue per lawyer increased 11% from $1.6m to around $1.8m.

The firm does not disclose regional breakdowns but London was believed to have substantially outpaced global growth at around 29%, growing revenue from $425m to roughly $550m.

In October, Kirkland again broke its own partnership promotion record, making up 151 globally and 19 in London. As with last year when the Chicago-bred giant outpaced itself with 145 global promotions and 16 in the City, the move continued an ascent that shows no signs of being thwarted by coronavirus concerns or any other.