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Kirkland smashes promotion round record for elite firm with 141 new partners and 16 in the City

The world’s highest-grossing law firm Kirkland & Ellis has unveiled the largest partner promotion round ever seen by a top legal practice, making up 141 partners, including 16 in the City.

The move continues the Chicago-bred giant’s dramatic ascent, adding 19 to last year’s eye-catching 122-strong round and comes at a time when many peers are restricting partnership to push up partner profits.

The 2,500-lawyer firm has an unusual model in that it makes up large ranks of salaried partners before considering promotions to its tightly-held equity. Operating a fast track, associates can make salaried partner six years after qualification – bucking the wider trend of pushing back promotions.

The latest promotion round means that Kirkland has made up 531 partners in the last five years.

In London, three of the new partners are focused on M&A and private equity: Annette Baillie; Helena Drury and Sam Whittaker, while two are in restructuring – Thomas Jemmett and Karim Kassam. Ambarish Dash and Karen Ford have been promoted in the debt finance team and Morgan Hill and Antoine Lebienvenu in capital markets.

Continuing Kirkland’s recent foray into IP litigation in the City with the hire of Nicola Dagg from Allen & Overy in 2018, Steven Baldwin and Jin Ooi have been made up within that team, while the remaining new partners are Deirdre Haugh (financial services regulatory), Annie Herdman and Matthew Sinclair-Thomson (competition), Brad Hillson (tax) and Joanna Thomson (technology & IP transactions).

The firm’s 300-lawyer London arm now generates nearly $400m and its current level of promotions dwarf comparable rates at top London firms. The rest of Kirkland’s new partners have been made up in the firm’s global offices spanning Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Hong Kong, Houston, Los Angeles, Munich, New York, San Francisco and Washington DC.

In the last financial year, Kirkland hiked revenues by more than $500m to remain the world’s highest-earning law firm, as global turnover surged to $3.76bn. The firm saw a 19% hike in revenues against $3.165bn the previous year. Profit per equity partner (PEP) topped $5m for the first time, up 7% from the $4.7m for 2017. Revenue per lawyer was up nearly 3% to $1.63m.

For more on Kirkland’s blistering rise, read ‘Wrecking ball – Inside Kirkland & Ellis’ creative destruction’ (£)


Full list of London partners:

Annette Baillie, M&A/private equity

Steven Baldwin, IP litigation

Ambarish Dash, debt finance

Helena Drury, M&A/private equity

Karen Ford, debt finance

Deirdre Haugh, financial services regulatory

Annie Herdman, competition

Morgan Hill, capital markets

Brad Hillson, tax

Thomas Jemmett, restructuring

Karim Kassam, restructuring

Antoine Lebienvenu, capital markets

Jin Ooi, IP litigation

Matthew Sinclair-Thomson, competition

Joanna Thomson, technology & IP transactions

Sam Whittaker, M&A/private equity