Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Kirkland & Ellis LLP

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Kirkland & Ellis LLP

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘Top-quality work and great pay’; ‘it was the most personable and enjoyable recruitment process’; ‘the calibre of people, especially at the top’; ‘I was interested in private equity’; ‘exceptional clients and lawyers’; ‘strong corporate focus’; ‘the growth of the firm combined with the ambitious people who already worked there that encouraged me to join’

Best thing about the firm? ‘The offices’; ‘the opportunity to get involved in a lot of high-level work and learn much faster’; ‘colleagues’; ‘non-hierarchical atmosphere’; ‘the teams are generally extremely friendly’; ‘there are always associates on hand who are willing to lend advice in a professional and personal capacity’; ‘early responsibility’; ‘the incredible quality of the clients and lawyers’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Always having to be available’; ‘the lack of support on a deal if the other people on it are busy with other matters too’; ‘the hours’; ‘the work/life balance’; ‘in busy periods the volume of work can feel overwhelming’; ‘weekend working’

Best moment? ‘Being given responsibility on a big deal’; ‘successfully closing deals’; ‘attending a client closing event which involved clay pigeon shooting on a barge on the Thames followed by a dinner and private wine tasting’; ‘spotting an error from the other side in the early hours which could have caused the client some financial loss’; ‘client meetings within my first month’

Worst moment? ‘Getting certain points wrong on a task I was given’; ‘being on a train with a time-pressured email and large attachment stuck in my outbox’; ‘an IT crash at 5am’; ‘helping to coordinate two separate closings which were scheduled for the same day’; ‘working on a difficult closing with associates in different time zones’

The Lex 100 verdict on Kirkland & Ellis LLP

The firm: “Kirkland & Ellis LLP is a 2,500-attorney law firm representing global clients in offices around the world; in Beijing, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Hong Kong, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Munich, New York, Palo Alto, Paris, San Francisco, Shanghai and Washington, D.C.”

The deals: Advised a consortium consisting of EQT and a wholly owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority in CHF 10.200 Billion Acquisition of Nestlé Skin Healthcare; advised a consortium consisting of Apax, Warburg Pincus, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan on the $3.4 billion take private of Inmarsat; advised GLP on the $18.7 billion sale of its U.S. logistics business to Blackstone – the largest private real estate transaction in history; advised Partners Group, Ontario Teachers Pension’ Plan, and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec on the financing aspects of its acquisition of Techem; advised Advent International on the financing aspects of its €1.9 billion acquisition of leading European generics business Zentiva.

The clients: Advent; Apax; Bain Capital; BC Partners; Blackstone; Brookfield; Carlyle; EQT; Lone Star; Partners Group.

The star performers:
(Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see for more details) 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 verdict

Many were encouraged to apply for the Kirkland & Ellis training contract because of the private equity focus and small trainee intake. Reputation and ‘global prestige’ make the firm a ‘most ambitious and dynamic place’ to work. Trainees agreed that their training was very ‘hands-on’ and ‘involves more on-the-job learning than at some other firms’. New recruits enjoy greater responsibility in tandem with client contact, but applicants should be prepared as this may mean ‘taking on work way above trainee level’. The people at the firm are described as one of the best things about working at Kirkland & Ellis, and are praised for being ‘extremely driven’ and for their commitment to ‘driving forward in the same direction’. The nature of the training is said to be ‘entrepreneurial’, but this work ethic does have trainees facing unpredictably long hours and a questionable work/life balance. Having said that, applicants acknowledge that ‘this is the same for all City firms’. Impressively, the firm has won medals in seven categories this year, including salary, confidence in being kept on, job satisfaction and quality of work. Indeed, job satisfaction at Kirkland & Ellis is extremely high, as survey respondents’ best moments indicate: ‘being able to run a deal with just a partner overseeing it’ and ‘working with great people’. On the flip side, ‘having to do long, boring tasks’ was less favourable. If you want to join a firm that is rated highly for inclusivity and enjoy being ‘pushed out of your comfort zone’, then apply to Kirkland & Ellis.

A day in the life of… Tilly Kersley, second-year trainee, Kirkland & Ellis

Tilly Kersley, Kirkland & Ellis LLP

Departments to date: Debt finance, litigation

University: Leeds

Degree: French and German, 2(1)

8.30am: I start my day by checking for emails that came through overnight. Every transaction that Kirkland does has an international element, so I often receive emails and work from local counsels overnight.

9.15am: I arrive at the office and head up to breakfast on the 22nd floor. We have complimentary breakfast every day and it is a good chance to catch up with the other trainees before settling down to work. I head back to my desk and draw up my to-do list.

9.45am: My supervisor arrives and I catch up with them. Although trainee supervisors are often partners (or senior associates), Kirkland is not a hierarchical firm. Supervisors are genuinely interested in your development and how you are progressing. They often check in to make sure you are receiving varied work and reaching your full potential.

10.00am: I attend a meeting with the corporate, tax and competition teams on a P2P bid that we are working on. All levels of the teams are there – from trainees to share partners.

10.45am: After the meeting, I catch up with the associate on the P2P deal. We go through the points from the meeting and identify the priority tasks to complete that day. Associates are always happy to take trainees through anything that is unclear.

11.00pm: One of the main tasks for a debt finance trainee is co-ordinating the KYC (“Know Your Customer”) checks with the lending banks. I go through the requests from each bank on the P2P bid and contact the client requesting the constitutional documents of the company. From day one at Kirkland, trainees get direct contact with clients.

12.00pm: I go to an associate’s office to join a call with local counsel regarding their comments on French security and take notes. Although I am not directly dealing with these documents, associates at Kirkland are keen to get trainees involved as much as possible. The call is an excellent chance to learn how associates negotiate with local counsel.

12.45am: I arrange to have lunch with a couple of other trainees. We pick up lunch from Leadenhall Market and sit in the sun. Other trainees soon come and join us.

1.30pm: I receive an email from the agent’s counsel on a deal, providing comments on security. Although I was not originally dealing with security, I contact the associate and offer to review the comments. The associate is delighted and arranges a catch up later in the day to talk through my comments.

3.00pm: I sit down with an associate to discuss a deal we are working on that is due to close the following week. We then have a call with all the local counsels (eight jurisdictions in total!). The associate goes through the closing process for next week and I run through the outstanding items required from local counsel. I take a note of any updates to be made to the closing checklist so that we can keep track of the status of the document.

4.00pm: I catch up with the associate on the agent’s security comments. The associate is extremely encouraging and happy to clarify any points I am unsure on. He asks me to email the agent’s counsel with my comments. I send the email to the agent’s counsel.

5.00pm: In advance of the deal closing next week, I draw up a signing checklist for all the documents to be signed. I put together signature packs for the directors of each of the companies to sign. I circulate them to local counsel and also follow up on the outstanding documents mentioned on the call.

7.15pm: With the all clear from the associates, I go for a bite to eat with the other trainees before heading off for the weekend.

About the firm

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

Who we are: At Kirkland & Ellis, we work on the biggest and most complex global private equity transactions.

What we do: The firm handles 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, IP litigation, and capital markets matters.

What we’re looking for: We are looking for individuals with a strong academic record, who are motivated to work hard in a professional and entrepreneurial team.

What you’ll do: On the job training is actively supported by an extensive education programme, carefully tailored to meet the needs of our trainees.

Perks: Benefits include private medical insurance, travel insurance, complimentary breakfast, bonus scheme, employee assistance plan, corporate gym membership, cycle to work scheme and season ticket loan.

Sponsorship: We cover the costs of both GDL and LPC fees, as well as providing a maintenance payment of £10,000.