Kirkland & Ellis is formalizing its alumni network to win new business and recruit law students.
The firm, one of Chicago’s oldest and richest, always has maintained an informal network of attorneys who worked there as young lawyers and left before making equity partner, whether to join another law firm or go in-house at a corporate law department.
But since 2013, Chairman Jeffrey Hammes has directed the firm to expand and deepen that network with formal programs to develop lawyers’ careers beyond their tenure at Kirkland.
For decades the legal profession functioned on the “up or out” credo, where firms required young lawyers to progress toward equity partnership within six to eight years or face an inglorious departure.
But the stigma of not making partner has faded as the top ranks have calcified and promotions become increasingly difficult to score. Law firms increasingly see value in their departing lawyers.