Legal Business

Relentless as ever: Kirkland surpasses own record to promote 145 new partners and 16 in London

Relentless as ever: Kirkland surpasses own record to promote 145 new partners and 16 in London

 In characteristic ‘retrenchment be damned’ fashion, Kirkland & Ellis has beaten its own record for the number of partners it promotes, making up 145 globally and 16 in the City. 

The move sees the world’s highest-grossing law firm continue its striking ascent even in the face of coronavirus uncertainty to add four to last year’s 141-strong total, of which 16 were in London.

In London, five of the new partners are in investment funds: Alex Brodkin; Gloria Ho; James King, Sophie Smith and Tana Wilner, while four are in M&A/private equity Dan Clarke, Adrian Duncan, Rachel Greenhalgh and Daniel McMann. 

Debt finance has seen a three-strong cohort in Lloyd Jones, Sam Sherwood and Alexander van der Gaag and tax has two new partners: Cian O’Connor and Sam Trowbridge. 

Competition and financial services regulatory have one apiece – Shane Cranley and Thomas Woodhead respectively. 

The 2,700-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. 

Kirkland’s London arm now generates around $425m and its current level of promotions dwarf comparable rates at top London firms by a long way. 

As with last year, 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 addition, it has also promoted one partner in Shanghai to its litigation practice. 

The Chicago-bred giant in March revealed it had added $390m to its top line to beat Latham & Watkins once again as the world’s highest-grossing law firm, as global turnover surged to $4.15bn, while profit per equity partner (PEP) reached $5.2m. 

nathalie.tidman@legalease.co.uk 

Legal Business

Kirkland vs Covid-19 – How the world’s largest law firm handles this crisis will define it… and the global elite

Kirkland vs Covid-19 – How the world’s largest law firm handles this crisis will define it… and the global elite

For journalists, ill winds usually bring a few benefits, not least that readers have greater interest in what we’re churning out. But while it’s a good time for industry anoraks to get the attention they crave, it’s not the pieces I’ve done in 2020 on crisis, coronavirus or even Black Lives Matter that have attracted the biggest audience. The most read was an article from March focused on the two-horse race between the world’s largest law firms, Kirkland & Ellis and Latham & Watkins, and its wider relevance for the high-end legal market.

That speaks to the extraordinary interest among peers in Kirkland, which has defied expectations to batter its way to the top of the global market in the last decade, much to the startled unease of traditional elites in New York and London.

That the Chicago-bred juggernaut has secured such a hold on the profession’s collective imagination speaks in part to Kirkland’s disregard for many of the received wisdoms of global law. While other firms pepper their rhetoric with ‘collaboration’ and ‘innovation’, Kirkland fashioned its own singularly-entrepreneurial path with a dash not seen since the respective glory days of Skadden Arps and Clifford Chance.

Consider the magnitude of that rise. In 2008, Kirkland posted revenues of $1.28bn, by 2020 it had surged to $4.15bn, while also boasting profit per equity partner (PEP) of $5.2m and City revenues exceeding $400m.

Even now, with conversations with law firm leaders dominated by Covid-19, global recession and what to do with 300,000 square feet of prime London real estate, talk still quickly moves to: ‘So, how’s Kirkland doing?’

The underlying question is obvious: will this crisis end Kirkland’s extraordinary momentum and expose the weaknesses its critics have long argued will haunt it, or merely serve to strengthen an already commanding hand?

The point is fundamental for Kirkland because major law firms that achieve prolonged outlier growth often build up structural weaknesses masked by relentless expansion. Robbed of growth by a market shock, as seen with DLA Piper and much of the Magic Circle after the banking crisis, such firms can abruptly lose that self-sustaining cycle as problems set in and rob the institution of its swagger.

In a few cases such shocks have seen apparently successful operations badly falter, most notably in the UK with the collapse of Halliwells a decade ago, though such extreme outcomes usually come with firms previously dogged by middling or erratic performance.

Will Kirkland fall into either camp?

There is no doubt that the firm built in its modern incarnation by pugnacious chair Jeffrey Hammes currently faces the first serious test of its foundations and Kirkland has some particular challenges. For one, it has a huge transactional team – with roughly 1,000 lawyers, by far its largest practice – now facing a deal market set for deep freeze through 2020.

Kirkland also has a partnership heavy with youth, thanks to its famed system of accelerated promotions, and many senior lawyers shipped in from rivals, thanks to a decade of aggressive recruitment. It simply cannot call on the cultural bonds or numbing grip of institutional inertia in the manner that most firms generating $2m-plus PEP do when turbulence hits. Moreover, partners that have become used to super-growth will find the hard grind of global recession a rude awakening. Kirkland, which has more than its share of divas, will certainly have to manage its 1,000-plus partner ranks deftly to ensure the jostling energy and animal spirits remain constructively channelled.

But allowing for these genuine challenges, a closer look at its business model strongly suggests that Kirkland should emerge even stronger from the current crisis.

For one its practice remains, for a firm of its size, extraordinarily focused, zeroing in on just four areas: transactions; litigation; restructuring; and intellectual property. Even within its largest practice, transactions, Kirkland tacks heavily towards major sponsors on banking and corporate work, rather than generalist corporate mandates, avoiding the trudge of plc panels.

The firm also has a small network for its size, with just 16 offices, including only six outside its US heartlands. Moreover, much of its revenue growth has come through driving extraordinary productivity, around $1.6m revenue per lawyer for its last year, rather than adding significant head count. Kirkland faces the current crisis in lean shape, with around 2,500 lawyers, one of the lowest tallies in the global top ten.

This unalloyed focus will stand it in good stead, making it easier to stand out against generalist rivals and tightly direct its competitive energy. While keeping its huge transactions team busy is no given, its private equity base looks like the first movers to wade back into the deal market. Kirkland is also positioned as go-to firm with a string of its marquee sponsor clients, meaning it will benefit even as conflict counsel twiddle their thumbs amid reduced deal flow.

It barely needs noting that its muscular and famously productive litigation and restructuring practices provide Kirkland with a welcome hedge when crisis hits, with restructuring in particular looking on superb form in recent years.

Leaving the practice mix aside, perhaps Kirkland’s biggest asset will be the very culture that critics decry as the time bomb beneath it. For one, the firm’s lean and fast-moving leadership, lack of red tape and emphasis on entrepreneurial drive is a mix that looks well-suited for a brutally tough 2020 and 2021. As much as rivals like to talk down Kirkland partners as money-driven mercenaries, its ranks have plenty of true believers that have bought into its ethos and can-do spirit. It looks a much better formula for current conditions than the bureaucracy and dysfunctional decision-making that too many global law firms indulge in.

If there is one point that will test the health of Kirkland’s soul amid the current crisis, it will be its attitude to retrenchment and job losses. Some will argue for substantial cuts – this should be resisted. Such tactics will do more damage to Kirkland than most peers, undercutting its model and playing into an image the firm has been trying to ditch for years. Latham can get away with some axe-wielding, Kirkland not so much.

The firm will also need a strong stomach to keep investing through the hard times, though its recruitment in May of Wachtell Lipton corporate partner Ed Lee suggests Kirkland is still ready to place long-term bets on outstanding talent, whatever the immediate market conditions.

What is emerging is a difficult balancing act, one that will need a more deft touch than we’ve previously seen from an outfit renowned for bling, flair and audacity. Striking that balance will certainly test whether new chair Jon Ballis can live up to his billing as a more measured and subtle leader than Hammes, as befitting Kirkland’s new status as industry leader rather than challenger brand. Known for disruption and tearing down – the title of Legal Business’s last in-depth profile of the firm was ‘Wrecking ball’ – Kirkland must become as adept at building or at least preserving if it wants to live up to its potential.

With a good crisis, Kirkland’s position and considerable influence on the legal market will be strengthened hugely. If it falters, Covid-19 will have been the immovable object that stopped this irresistible force. I’d bet on the former outcome but by summer 2021 we’ll pretty much know which way it’s going.

alex.novarese@legalease.co.uk

For an in-depth look at Kirkland’s rise see our 2018 cover feature

Legal Business

Comment: Latham vs Kirkland means everyone else loses – They own the global elite now

Comment: Latham vs Kirkland means everyone else loses – They own the global elite now

Skadden Arps, Clifford Chance, Linklaters and, currently, Kirkland & Ellis – over the last 30 years these firms have all at one time had claims to have been the most influential law firms of their age, the pioneers that defined the top of the profession through dash, ambition and imagination.

And many senior lawyers would think that list is missing the name of the institution that looked unchallenged until the Kirkland effect gripped the market in the last three years.

That firm is Latham & Watkins, the Los Angeles-bred giant whose ascent was as predictable and well trailed as Kirkland’s was rude and disruptive. With a history of strong leadership, strategic clarity and an envied culture, its rise seemed unstoppable.

While no one expects the firm to dominate big-ticket deal work reserved for rarefied sections of Manhattan, on the wider international stage, spanning key hubs in the US and Europe, Latham was the pace-setter for global law through most of the 2010s.

Yet Latham enters the 2020s in a more ambiguous position than expected a few years back. That is partly due to the loss of its managing partner in 2018 under surreal circumstances that badly undercut Latham’s slick image. But the far more substantive issue has been the relentless challenge of Kirkland in many of its core markets, a campaign that has seen the Chicago outfit outstrip Latham in revenue, growth and profitability. Even worse, Kirkland is now regarded as a more potent performer in a number of Latham’s marquee business lines like leveraged finance, private equity and restructuring.

The fierce competition with Kirkland is concentrating minds in what is emerging as a more hard-edged outfit under the leadership of Richard Trobman.

For a firm that had forgotten how to play defence, this came as a shock and there is no doubt that a minority of Latham partners would like a more individualistic approach that responded more directly to the threat of Kirkland and its $10m-plus offers for rainmakers.

Other questions remain for a firm whose many strengths and sheer brand power often obscures its flaws. In public M&A, the firm’s US business remains patchier than the sales pitch, with a bench too shallow and lacking younger stars. Neither is it as apparent that Latham’s bond-centric, bank-heavy business is quite the asset it used to be. It is also debatable if even as an outfit as institutionally robust as Latham has been able to fill the vacuum left by the 2015 departure of Bob Dell, one of high-end law’s most revered leaders.

None of which changes the conclusion that Latham 2020 remains a singularly formidable outfit that will not be dislodged from the upper reaches of the global market anytime soon. If anything, the fierce competition with Kirkland is concentrating minds in what is emerging as a more hard-edged outfit under the leadership of Richard Trobman.

That shift will fall far short of reinventing Latham in Kirkland’s image. Despite common ground of strong leadership, expansive vision and an affinity for lev fin, these beasts are polls apart in culture and model, with Latham far more diversified and team-oriented than its buccaneering rival. But that also means that for broader-service work to major plcs, in many European markets Latham is still a more ominous threat for London rivals than Kirkland. Between them, with their collective City revenues closing in on $1bn, the pair are leaving precious little space for rivals. In short, global law in the 2020s belongs to this pair, everyone else is just along for the ride.

alex.novarese@legalease.co.uk

Click here for our feature on Latham & Watkins, ‘Heavy hangs the crown’

Legal Business

Latham vs K&E means that everyone else loses

Latham vs K&E means that everyone else loses

Skadden Arps, Clifford Chance, Linklaters and, currently, Kirkland & Ellis – over the last 30 years these firms have all at one time had claims to have been the most influential law firms of their age, the pioneers that defined the top of the profession through dash, ambition and imagination.

And many senior lawyers would think that list is missing the name of the institution that looked unchallenged until the Kirkland effect gripped the market in the last three years.

Legal Business

Kirkland remains world’s highest-grossing law firm in becoming first to surpass $4bn

Kirkland remains world’s highest-grossing law firm in becoming first to surpass $4bn

Kirkland & Ellis has added $390m to its top line to trounce Latham & Watkins once again as the world’s highest-grossing law firm, as global turnover surged to $4.15bn.

The Chicago-bred giant today (18 March) revealed results for the 2019 financial year, revealing a 10% hike in revenue from $3.76bn last year. Profit per equity partner (PEP) reached $5.2m, up 3% on the $5.04m for 2018. Kirkland’s head count grew 13% in 2019 with revenue per lawyer dropping 2% to $1.6m from $1.63m the previous year.

The firm did not disclose regional breakdowns but London is believed to have slightly outpaced global growth at around 12%, growing revenue from around $380m to $425m.

The stellar year has been on the back of thrusting fund formation, restructuring and transactional private equity practices. Kirkland also last year unveiled its largest partner promotion round ever seen by a top legal practice, making up 141 partners, including 16 in the City. The move was an increase of 19 on the previous year’s eye-catching 122-strong round, with the hefty numbers of promotions a statement of intent that moving lawyers up the ranks internally remains a mainstay of the firm’s strategy.

Kirkland 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 system, associates can make salaried partner six years after qualification – bucking the wider trend of pushing back promotions. Last year’s promotion round meant the firm had made up 531 partners in the last five years.

The Chicago-bred giant now has more than 350 lawyers in London and has forged something of a private equity powerhouse operating across Europe. It started 2019 on a high when it lured the much sought-after private equity partner Adrian Maguire from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. The high-profile hire paid dividends last month when Maguire acted for long-standing client Cinven for the first time since making the move, along with Advent International and the RAG foundation, on their €17.2bn acquisition of Thyssenkrupp’s elevator business.

Kirkland’s success also comes on the back of a number of bumper lead mandates including on the $63bn acquisition of Allergan by US biopharmaceutical company AbbVie and the acquisition underpinning the $90bn merger between Bristol-Myers Squibb and Celgene.

Observers have grown accustomed to the two-horse race between Kirkland and Latham to attain the status as the world’s highest grossing law firm. Last month, Latham reported its second consecutive year of double-digit growth as its revenue surged to $3.77bn in 2019 while profit per equity partner (PEP) hit $3.78m.

nathalie.tidman@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Dealwatch: Kirkland lift first Cinven mandate since Maguire hire as Links, Gowling and Jones Day bed roles in week of PE records

Dealwatch: Kirkland lift first Cinven mandate since Maguire hire as Links, Gowling and Jones Day bed roles in week of PE records

Kirkland & Ellis has this week won roles advising on one of the largest European private equity transactions since the financial crisis and the UK’s largest-ever private real estate transaction.

Kirkland advised private equity houses Advent International, Cinven and the RAG foundation in their €17.2bn acquisition of Thyssenkrupp’s elevator business and acted for Blackstone in its $4.7bn purchase of iQ Student Accommodation.

Adrian Maguire (pictured) acted on Kirkland’s first deal for his long-term client Cinven since his move from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer last year. The team was led out of Kirkland’s Munich base with corporate partners Benjamin Leyendecker and Philip Goj, and also involved David Higgins, whose move to Kirkland from Freshfields preceded Maguire’s.

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton advised Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, which was also part of the consortium acquiring the business.

Linklaters’ co-head of M&A, Dusseldorf-based Ralph Wollburg, acted for Thyssenkrupp, which saw several bidders battle out for its elevator business. An offer by private equity house CVC in partnership with Finnish engineering company Kone, advised by Clifford Chance, was withdrawn partly due to antitrust concerns.

A consortium of Blackstone, Carlyle and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) had also shown interest, advised by Milbank’s German offices. Thyssenkrupp had also considered an IPO before deciding to offload the business entirely.

Headquartered in Germany, the elevator business generated €8bn in revenues in 2018/19. The deal is expected to close within six months.

While its plan for the acquisition from Thyssenkrupp did not materialise, Blackstone went through with its plans to acquire iQ Student Accommodation from Goldman Sachs and The Wellcome Trust.

Kirkland fielded a team led by London corporate partners Michael Steele, Carlos Gil Rivas and Dipak Bhundia, with Gowling WLG’s real estate specialist Michael Twining also acting for the private equity house.

The London office of US firm Jones Day also won a prominent role on the record-breaking transaction, with London partners Giles Elliott, Anthony Whall and David Smith advising iQ, Goldman Sachs and The Wellcome Trust.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett partner Tom Lloyd advised on the financing aspects.

‘It’s a great business for a great client with a sophisticated buyer on the other side,’ Elliott told Legal Business. ‘It was an incredibly accelerated process all round. It was an exhausting but great deal to be involved in.’

Jones Day has some history with the business and its owners, having advised Goldman when it combined its student housing business with The Wellcome Trust-owned iQ in 2016.

marco.cillario@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Revolving doors: Akin Gump hires Orrick private equity player as Kirkland revisits Linklaters for tax lateral

Revolving doors: Akin Gump hires Orrick private equity player as Kirkland revisits Linklaters for tax lateral

City and US rivals in London have been continuing to ramp up lateral recruitment with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld adding its third private equity partner in the space of a month, Kirkland & Ellis hiring a tax partner from Linklaters and Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) strengthening its employment bench.

Akin Gump hired private equity partner Weyinmi Popo from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe only a month after adding Shaun Lascelles and Simon Rootsey to the bench from Vinson & Elkins in late September.

Popo advises UK and international sponsor and investor clients as well as family offices on private equity, M&A, infrastructure and energy transactions, with an emphasis on Africa. He will start at his new firm later this month.

Akin Gump’s chairperson Kim Koopersmith (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘London is clearly a market we’re focused on for growth, and you’ve seen us welcome a lot of great talent there recently. Much of that growth has been around the private equity space, which complements our other strengths very well and where we’ve identified a number of opportunities. Weyinmi’s practice and skillset fits in perfectly with that strategy. That, coupled with his focus on Africa, where we are seeing tremendous client interest, will make him a great fit.’

Meanwhile, Kirkland has returned to Linklaters to hire tax partner Mavnick Nerwal. He follows in the footsteps of fellow tax partner Tim Lowe who made the move from the Magic Circle firm to the Chicago-bred powerhouse in 2016.

Nerwal has experience in advising financial sponsors, including private equity and investment funds, corporates and financial institutions.

Meanwhile, BCLP has hired Adam Lambert as partner in the employment and labor group. Lambert joined the London office from Kingsley Napley where he focused on employment disputes and global transactions, advising across sectors including asset management, professional services, publishing, manufacturing and hospitality.

Partner and co-leader of the employment and labor team Rebecca Harding-Hill, told Legal Business: ‘Adam particularly fits in with us because of his global reach. He’s got a broad client base which covers financial services, professional services, publishing and hospitality. We have a lot of clients in financial services, so it broadens that out.’

Elsewhere, Clyde & Co has appointed Stefanie Johnston as partner in its global marine and insurance team in Glasgow.

Johnston joins from Keoghs where she helped to establish the firm’s Scottish presence. She will establish and build the firm’s marine offering in Scotland and will work closely with marine colleagues in the UK and globally.

Managing partner at Clyde & Co in Scotland, David Tait told Legal Business: ‘Stephanie has been a marine practitioner for a number of years. She has had clients follow her from firm to firm and it is hoped that when she comes to work for us, that those clients will continue to follow her and that she will grow the practice and build on the many years of experience she has in marine law.

‘We’ve got a significant marine practice in London and if they have any clients that require assistance on Scottish matters, we’ve got Stephanie here who can help them with that,’ added Tait.

Finally, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton London corporate finance partner Andrew Shutter has left the firm after 22 years. Shutter joined the firm in 1997 and advised on a range of debt matters, including being an adviser for Greece’s public debt management agency regarding Greece’s debt negotiations in 2015.

muna.abdi@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Dealwatch: Kirkland and Slaughters lead on £3.1bn Sophos take-private as Fried Frank advises on €11bn Permira final close

Dealwatch: Kirkland and Slaughters lead on £3.1bn Sophos take-private as Fried Frank advises on €11bn Permira final close

Continuing the recent trend for high-value take-private deals, the £3.1bn buyout of UK cybersecurity company Sophos Group Plc has prompted lead mandates for Slaughter and May and Kirkland & Ellis as a transatlantic team from Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson advised Permira on the €11bn final close of its seventh buyout fund.

Oil & gas deals have also kept City teams busy with White & Case, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Mayer Brown all fielding teams on lead mandates.

European private equity giant Permira yesterday (16 October) announced it had reached its hard cap on the fund – Permira VII (P7) – with commitments from new and existing investors. Fundraising started in January for the fund, which will invest in the key sectors of technology, consumer, financial services, healthcare, industrial tech and services.

The Fried Frank team was led by corporate partners Richard Ansbacher (Washington, DC) and Kenneth Rosh (New York), and included London corporate partners Sam Wilson, Gregg Beechey and Mark Mifsud, as well as tax partner David Shapiro and executive compensation & ERISA partner Jeffrey Ross in New York.

Kirkland & Ellis advised Surf Buyer Limited, a newly-formed company owned by funds managed by US private equity player Thoma Bravo, on its buyout of the Oxfordshire-based Sophos Group.

The recommended cash acquisition means that Sophos shareholders will be entitled to receive $7.40 in cash per share.

Following the announcement of the buyout on Monday (14 October), Sophos share prices spiked 37% and shares were trading at 571.4 pence. The company listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2015.

The Kirkland team was led by London M&A partners David Holdsworth, David Higgins and David D’Souza and Chicago M&A partners Gerald Nowak, Corey Fox, Bradley Reed and Amelia Davis, as well as Chicago debt finance partners Francesco Penati and Maureen Dixon and London debt finance partners Kirsteen Nicol and Stephen Lucas.

Holdsworth told Legal Business: ‘We have been very active on UK P2Ps in 2019 having acted on Merlin, Inmarsat and EI Group. We expect this trend to continue into 2020.’

Slaughter and May is advising Sophos with a team led by London corporate partners Steve Cooke and Robert Innes and also including competition partner Will Turtle, employment and share schemes partner Phil Linnard and tax partner Gareth Miles.

Innes told Legal Business: ‘I think the share prices steadily going up since spring this year has recovered people’s confidence in the company. The premium they’ve offered is a de-risking of that recovery for shareholders.’

‘We’re seeing quite a lot of private equity money and a return to public-to-private in the last two years. Private equity companies are seeing value in UK stocks. I think there’s also consolidation within the tech sector as well,’ Innes added.

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020.

Meanwhile, White & Case advised West African oil operator Seplat Petroleum Development Company on its acquisition of Aberdeen-based and London-listed oil and gas company Eland Oil & Gas Plc for £382m. An agreement was reached with Seplat Petroleum on a recommended cash acquisition for its entire share capital.

The White & Case team was led by partners Allan Taylor, Mukund Dhar and Philip Broke.

Taylor told Legal Business: ‘The Eland assets are adjacent to Seplats’ assets in the Niger delta in Nigeria. Seplat is a company that has greater scale with a focus on being a leading independent Nigerian operator. For a number of businesses, the ability to produce assets that operate in a viable scale and picking up small individual assets in a non-strategic manner isn’t viewed as efficient by stakeholders.’

A Mayer Brown team led by corporate and securities partners Kate Ball-Dodd and Rob Hamill advised Eland.

Elsewhere, Freshfields advised Neptune Energy on its acquisition of Edison E&P’s UK and Norwegian producing, development and exploration assets from Energean Oil & Gas. The deal included a conditional agreement of $250m cash with additional cash contingent consideration of up to $30m.

The Freshfields team was led by partners Samuel Newhouse and Graham Watson. The team also advised Neptune Energy on its acquisition of ENGIE E&P in February 2018.

A White & Case team led by London partners Allan Taylor and Richard Jones along with support from partners Peita Menon (London) and Veronica Pinotti (Milan) advised Energean Oil & Gas.

Taylor told Legal Business: ‘The strategy is to focus on being the leading E&P business in the Mediterranean. They’ve identified what they consider as non-core assets and these included the Nordic assets. They are following up on their strategy for the disposal of their non-core assets.’

The firm also advised Energean earlier this year on its acquisition of Edison E&P for $750m. The acquisition is dependent on Energean completing its proposed acquisition of Edison E&P.

muna.abdi@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

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

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.

Nathalie.tidman@legalease.co.uk

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

Legal Business

Dealwatch: US firms enjoy marquee run of deals with Kirkland and Goodwin leading the way

Dealwatch: US firms enjoy marquee run of deals with Kirkland and Goodwin leading the way
  • Kirkland & Ellis advised investment adviser and repeat customer GLP Investment Services on the $18.7bn sale of its US logistics business to The Blackstone Group. The Chicago-bred juggernaut fielded corporate partners Michael Steele in London and Michael Brueck in New York. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett advised longstanding client Blackstone out of New York with real estate partner Davis Coen leading the team.
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  • Eversheds Sutherland advised Legal & General (L&G) on its £4.6bn buy-in to buy-out with the Rolls-Royce UK Pension Fund, with corporate partner Hugo Laing and pensions specialist Mark Latimour leading the team. The deal is billed as the UK’s largest-ever annuity transfer and saw CMS advise L&G with partner Thomas Lockley at the helm, while Linklaters acted for the trustees with global head of pensions Claire Petheram and derivatives partner Mark Brown advising.