Kirkland & Ellis is not only the richest firm in the world, it’s also one of the nation’s greatest law firms. But outside of the firm’s compelling combination of prestige, profitability, and pay, something seems to be going on at K&E. Even for a firm with more than 1,000 partners, Kirkland has lost an unusually high number of them in 2020. On top of that, the firm was the first to refuse to offer special fall bonuses to associates, leading some to question why K&E was unwilling to share the wealth during a reportedly banner year.
Now, we’ve received word that the firm has been conducting layoffs.
During the coronavirus crisis, several firms have opted to let staff go to through a series of outright layoffs — be it to rightsize their ranks or account for the new realities of working remotely — during these tough times. This seems to be what’s happening at Kirkland, but under the auspices of secrecy.
Numerous sources have reached out to Above the Law to let us know that support staff at Kirkland & Ellis are being quietly pushed out. Here is what is happening at the firm. First came the general alerts about layoffs at the firm. (Potentially identifying information of those laid off has been redacted from their accounts.)
Kirkland had a round of layoffs this week for staff. Several people from several offices.
Kirkland Houston is laying off staff. They’re being very cagey about the reasons, but it seems like COVID cuts. I don’t have a reliable number yet — I’m asking around internally, but management is trying to keep things quiet.
Wanted to let you know anonymously that despite Kirkland having an amazing year, they have started letting staff go, even after the weekly emails from John Ballis assuring us of how amazing the firm is doing and how all of our hard work is so appreciated.
Stealth staff layoffs at Kirkland & Ellis. Not sure if attorneys are on the chopping block. Makes sense now why they didn’t want to pay the fall bonuses, as they have presumably had this planned for a while. Pretty disgusting though, considering the year K&E is having.
Then, more and more tips continued to pour in, each one more and more detailed:
I was told today that my position was eliminated due to COVID-19 at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. I’m sure I will not be the only person to receive a phone call and I’m sure they’ll be making cuts throughout the week.
A list has gone around to some senior employees that were let go and the numbers have been updated to between 54-58 staff members from various departments. Some to be let go tomorrow and others before December 31st.
Last week (Wed./Thurs.) Kirkland & Ellis fired ~50 employees from its Chicago office staff (legal assistants/paralegals, IT personnel, legal secretaries, photocopy dept., and other admin./staff positions. Evidence suggests firings occurred in its other offices, as well, but how many or from which of the 14 other offices is unclear at this time. There are rumors floating around that another wave of firings is slated before year-end. No one feels safe and tension is high.
This account was even posted on TheLayoff.com three days ago, around the same time the staff layoffs were happening at the firm:
I myself am a support staff person who was “let go” because of performance issues. It’s simply not the case. I had a lot of admiration for Kirkland during my time there but I am now glad that I am free from that toxic greed.
Sources have told us that they will receive assistance with COBRA payments from the firm as well as generous severance packages, but have cautioned that their separation agreements reportedly state that said severance will be withheld if they discuss the reason for their departure with anyone.
When Sullivan & Cromwell made staff cuts this summer, the firm’s executive director refused to comment on personnel matters. Kirkland seems to be refusing to comment, at all. We’ve reached out to the firm several times via phone and email for a statement but we’ve yet to hear back. If and when we do, we will publish an update here.
Best of luck to all those affected by the staff layoffs at Kirkland & Ellis.
If your firm or organization is slashing salaries, closing its doors, or reducing the ranks of its lawyers or staff, whether through open layoffs, stealth layoffs, or voluntary buyouts, please don’t hesitate to let us know. Our vast network of tipsters is part of what makes Above the Law thrive. You can email us or text us (646-820-8477).
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Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.
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