Kirkland & Ellis cuts associates across US offices

Kirkland & Ellis cuts associates across US offices

Kirkland & Ellis, the world’s highest-grossing law firm, has cut a number of associates across offices in California and Texas following performance reviews, making it the latest firm to cut headcount amid a collapse in deals.

Kirkland, a giant with more than 3,000 lawyers, cut associates in California, Utah, Texas and Chicago last week after the March reviews, according to two people familiar with the matter. The news was first reported by The American Lawyer.

Kirkland said the layoffs were not “layoffs” but “performance-based decisions resulting directly from our attorney review process, as we do annually for all attorneys at all levels.”

The cuts come as corporate law firms face a sharp decline in global mergers and acquisitions caused by a bleak economic outlook.

A number of the dozens of lawyers Kirkland let go had been hired to supply growing demand during the early part of the pandemic, when government stimulus measures and access to cheap debt fueled a boom in M&A, the two people said. That boom helped propel the group’s revenue to a record $6 billion in 2021, its most recently reported financial results.

A corporate associate said, “Most of the people I’ve heard of that were let go were lateral hires,” adding, “our Salt Lake City office was lateral heavy.”

He said: “I realized it was not a surprise to any of those people [to be let go.]“The layoffs follow so-called mid-year reviews, which affect only a subset of lawyers who were called in following a performance review last year.

Another US-based M&A associate said he had noticed a “decline in work”, from “overworked to normal”.

According to data from Leopard Solutions, Kirkland added 255 private equity associates between the first quarters of 2020 and 2022. However, that number fell from 601 to 518 between March 2022 and the same month this year.

A recruiter who asked not to be named said Kirkland “wasn’t a warm and fuzzy place . . . They’re in it to make a profit and you have to run with the pack.”

Kirkland’s affected attorneys will receive four months’ salary and benefits and remain on the firm’s website for a period of time while they look for other work, the people said.

The update comes as other US law firms cut staff in response to gloomy markets and job cuts in the tech sector. Cooley, Silicon Valley outfits Goodwin Procter, Davis Wright Tremaine, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan and Shearman & Sterling have all cut jobs this year.

Kirkland’s first associate said the firm was facing a slowdown in private equity deals moving lawyers into busier areas such as restructuring, or secondary deals in which funds were trying to secure liquidity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *