Kirkland & Ellis International LLP

Kirkland & Ellis International LLP

Address: 30 St Mary Axe, London, EC3A 8AF




Survey results


The lowdown (in their own words...)

Why did you choose this firm over any others? 
 '‘Personal approach to recruitment’; ‘the excellent reputations of the corporate and debt finance teams’; ‘I got on very well with lots of people whilst on my vac scheme’; ‘the work hard/play hard culture’; ‘the work is excellent’; ‘best firm in the City’; ‘small trainee intake’; ‘opportunity to complete high-quality work’; ‘everyone is ambitious and I find it really inspiring’
Best thing about the firm? 
 '‘It is a friendly and energetic place to work’; ‘the level of responsibility they let a trainee take on’; ‘the social element – closing lunches and dinners are huge’; ‘that I wouldn’t choose to be at any other law firm in London even if I was able to’; ‘being surrounded by intelligent people with an exceptional work ethic’
Worst thing about the firm? 
 '‘Some teams within the firm (and teams within teams) are cliquey and detached from the wider firm culture’; ‘in busy periods the volume of work can feel overwhelming’; ‘weekend working’; ‘the work/life balance’; ‘the lack of paralegals to help out on time-intensive work can, at times, mean you lose the opportunity to do the more interesting trainee work’
Best moment? 
 '‘Taking part in an all-day meditation with the client, partner and external counsel and making meaningful and substantive contributions throughout the day’; ‘seeing myself improve as the seat has gone on’; ‘being told by a senior share partner that I had done excellent work and should be very proud of myself after working very late on a Friday and over the weekend’
Worst moment?
 '‘Making a mistake in my first month which I thought would be a sackable offence (it wasn’t)’; ‘having to co-ordinate the closing of three separate deals in one week’; ‘leaving the office at 5.30am, having an hour’s sleep and then being in the office until 2am the next day to sign a deal’; ‘staying late when you have plans’'

If the firm were a fictional character it would be...

Severus Snape (Harry Potter) – seems scary from the outside but on the inside is a great guy!

The verdict

The firm

Kirkland & Ellis International LLP is a 2,200-attorney law firm representing global clients in offices around the world, including Beijing, Boston, Chicago, Hong Kong, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Munich, New York, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Shanghai and Washington, D.C. For over 100 years, major national and international clients have called upon Kirkland & Ellis for legal advice and client services. The London office has been the hub of European operations since 1994. Here, approximately 230 lawyers advise a wide range of UK and international clients. 

The star performers

Acquisition finance; Commercial litigation; Corporate restructuring and insolvency; Corporate tax; EU and competition; Financial services (non-contentious/regulatory); High yield; International arbitration; Private equity: transactions – high-value deals; Private funds; Regulatory investigations and corporate crime

The deals

Acted for Creat Group on the antitrust elements of its €940m public takeover of Biotest; advised Bain Capital, Cinven and Nidda BondCo in the offering of €735m in senior secured notes and €340m in senior notes to refinance a bridge facility used in the takeover offer for STADA Arzneimittel; assisted Partners Group AG and PSP Investments with high yield issuance as part of a €1.15bn financing for the acquisition of Cerba HealthCare; advised Apax Partners on the financing to facilitate its acquisition of a majority stake in UK-based luxury fashion brand MATCHESFASHION.COM; advised IK Investment Partners on forming IK Small Cap II, a €550m fund

The clients

Apax Partners; Bain Capital; Cinven; Global Logistics Properties; Lone Star; Orion Capital Managers; TDR Capital; Rhone Capital; Vitruvian Parners; Warburg Pincus

The verdict

‘Pay, prestige and a private equity focus’ as well as the ‘excellent reputations of the corporate and debt finance teams’ make US firm Kirkland & Ellis stand out. The training contract is described as ‘more entrepreneurial than at comparable firms’; there is ‘no handholding’ and ‘supervisors are happy to let you take on as much responsibility as you feel comfortable with, especially in the leaner deal teams’. With the ‘opportunity to do high-quality associate-level work’ comes ‘rough hours’ and occasionally ‘the volume of work can feel overwhelming’, with some trainees feeling that they are ‘perennially on call’. But ‘the culture and friendliness make it easier than at stuffier firms’. We hear that there is ‘less emphasis on formal training’ and ‘more learning on the job’ and that ‘direct client contact’ is commonplace. ‘Attorneys are rewarded for their hard work’ with an impressive salary, which has proved itself worthy of a Lex 100 Winner medal. The firm is also a Lex 100 Winner for quality of work and living up to trainee expectations. ‘You get exposure to a smaller range of practice areas and sectors’ at Kirkland and so ‘you have to know what you want when you apply for the training contract’. But if you’re confident in your choice, you will certainly reap the rewards. Trainees recounted some hard-to-beat work highlights such as ‘closing a multi-billion dollar cross-jurisdictional finance transaction’ and ‘leading a conference call with Luxembourg counsel’. To ‘really enjoy coming into work every day’ in a firm where the ‘work, reputation and financial remuneration are all excellent’, apply to Kirkland & Ellis.

 A day in the life of...

melissa sawyer

Melissa Sawyer second-year trainee, Kirkland & Ellis  

Departments to date:  Financial services regulatory, corporate

Degree:History, 2(1) 

8.45am:  My day begins with a check of emails that I have received overnight. From day one, my work at Kirkland has involved clients and offices in multiple jurisdictions; I often receive key information for my next day overnight and so it is useful to flag anything urgent before I get to the office.

9.25am:  I arrive at the Gherkin and head straight to breakfast in the café on the 22nd floor, where I catch up with some of the trainees before heading to my office and updating my to-do list for the day.

10.00am:  I have a call with a pro-bono client to discuss next steps for changing the name of their charity. Since I have prepared a detailed guide on the next steps to be taken, I discuss this with the associate I am assisting before the call; afterwards, we chat about a point of research that has come up and how best to approach it.

10.30am:  During the morning, I review some engagement letters and draft novation agreements to change the parties to different entities. This task has become an ongoing project during my corporate seat and involves correspondence with each of the parties I am arranging the agreements for as well as the client. I highlight two points I want to confirm with the associate on the deal before one agreement is finalised. I have a lot of responsibility with this project, but the associates involved are very approachable and always happy to discuss a point that needs clarifying. Trainees at Kirkland are encouraged to take on responsibility and for that responsibility to increase as your seat and training contract progress, so you feel you are preparing for life as an associate here.

12.00pm:  One of the deals I am currently working on is closing next week, so we have a call to update the client on how various workstreams are progressing. During the call, I make a note of any updates to the closing checklist so that we can keep track of the status of the documents and so I can recirculate the checklist to the team afterwards.

12.45pm:  Since the weather is great, I wander around Leadenhall Market with some of the trainees and eat lunch outside. The small trainee intake means that we know all about everyone’s lunch plans and bump into others enjoying the sunshine!

1.30pm:  After lunch, I finish reviewing the updated closing checklist before my supervisor asks me to draft board minutes to approve the issue of new shares for three companies in our acquisition stack so they have enough funding for the transaction. Once I have prepared the minutes I send them to another associate to review before arranging for the client to sign them.

3.30pm:  An associate emails me to ask if I would like to join a deal she is working on at the moment. I pop around to her office and we discuss the background of the deal, the timings and what the next steps will be. One of the great things about the team sizes here is that I can be involved throughout the process and learn about the deal as a whole.

4.15pm:  I receive an email from the other side in relation to the deal that is closing next week and spend the next few hours reviewing the documents they sent across, updating the closing checklist as required.

6.30pm:  I update the tracker for my novation agreements project and email the client about their status before writing a list of things to be done on Monday morning.

7.00pm:  Finished for the day, I catch up with the rest of the trainees for a drink before we all head off for the weekend.

About the firm

Address:30 St Mary Axe, London, EC3A 8AF

Telephone: 020 7469 2000

Fax:020 7469 2001

Other offices: Beijing, Boston, Chicago, Hong Kong, Houston, Los Angeles, Munich, New York, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Shanghai, Washington DC 

Who we are: Kirkland & Ellis is an international law firm with more than 2,200 lawyers representing global clients in offices worldwide.

What we do: In London we are renowned for having a market-leading private equity practice. Here, approximately 230 lawyers offer detailed expertise to a wide range of UK and international clients in complex corporate, debt finance, investment funds, restructuring, real estate finance, tax, financial services regulatory, international arbitration and litigation, antitrust and competition, technology and IP transactions, and capital markets matters.

What we are looking for: We are looking for intelligent, motivated, ambitious individuals who can bring a sense of initiative and commercial awareness to our teams.

What you'll do:Much of our training is on the job, working shoulder to shoulder with partners and associates. This is supplemented by our compulsory trainee training programme, designed to equip you with the skills required to succeed as a junior lawyer.

Perks: Offices in the Gherkin; discretionary bonus; free breakfast; gym membership subsidy; life insurance; private healthcare; cycle to work scheme; dental plan; travel insurance.

Sponsorship:All trainees are required to take their GDL (if applicable) and their LPC at the University of Law. Full sponsorship and maintenance grant of £10,000 is provided for both courses.


Facts and figures

Total partners: 900

Other fee-earners: 3,978

Total trainees: 20

Trainee places available for 2021: 10

Applications received pa: 1,000 

Percentage interviewed: 15% 


First year: £50,000

Second year: £55,000

Newly qualified: $190,000

 Application process

Apply to:Emma Ridley, associate director of attorney recruiting and development, international

How: Online application form with CV and cover letter

When to apply:Apply by 14 July 2019 for 2021 contracts.

What's involved:Video interview, interviews with partners.

 Vacation schemes

Spring and summer:Apply by 6 January 2019.