{ "media_type": "text", "post_content": "Is K&E a toxic firm? I have heard nightmare stories from current and former attorneys there.", "post_id": "615f1cbbcfc549002bc8becf", "reply_count": 78, "vote_count": 33, "bowl_id": "5df70ed2f7169f002b172d3f", "bowl_name": "Big Law" }

Is K&E a toxic firm? I have heard nightmare stories from current and former attorneys there.

likefunny
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Yes it is toxic (relative to normal people and normal life priorities) but if your personality aligns with the culture then I guess it works fine. It’s a positive feedback loop in my experience since they are well aware of the reputation. I’m obviously here now (in corporate as a junior), and it’s the only firm I’ve known, but am currently in the lateral process so I’ve talked to a fair number of ex-K&E folks at other firms - from V10 to V50. So far the consensus is that, for most people, being a Kirkland associate is just about the most of an expendable cog you can be in biglaw, which is saying something. Their recruiting approach seems to be finding somewhat capable people with acceptable cultural fit who will just bill and bill and bill. Not that this hasn’t been successful for them financially, but associate burnout is not on leadership’s radar so long as there are more warm bodies out there willing to accept the ridiculous signing bonuses we’re throwing at them. It was such a foreign concept to me to hear that other big firms have regular check-ins to make sure staffing is appropriate and hours are sane. That if circumstances are just unfortunate and you do end up working a ton, there is some system to make sure you’re checked up on and take a breather instead of just getting thrown into the next fire. At Kirkland, maybe you’d get an atta boy and some token suggestion to take a long weekend, but it feels more like it’s “well you’ve shown you’re capable of working that much, why don’t you just keep that up.” Now, there is definitely money to be made here if you don’t mind all of that. A lot of money. And it’s not impossible to set boundaries, but every day I’m here and every additional person I talk to makes me realize that the boundaries I’d like to set (2,000-2,200 hours a year instead of 2,500-2,600, which is what associates in my office practice group are annualizing) would mean I have effectively zero chance of advancement here and it’s definitely nowhere I see myself long term. The hours themselves are hard, but it also means there is virtually zero time for any actual feedback or development. With a couple exceptions for seniors who have gone out of their way to debrief, I have no idea if what I did on the last deal was right or smart because we have zero time before the next one starts. So, yeah. It takes a certain kind of person. And if you’re not that kind of person then it does feel quite toxic and unsupportive.

likehelpfulsmartfunny

I will also add that's it's so sick what some KE people will tell law students for a free $30 lunch. Shame on you. Disgusting liars acting like everything is OK and preying on people with other options... All for a free lunch.

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KE lit 6th year/just made NSP — I can’t speak to corporate (which seems like a different animal). But I’ve never billed more than 2000 hours/year, and somehow I’m still around. I think surviving in the way I have has taken (1) good work — the work I do is quality and reliable and that’s valuable anywhere; (2) protectors/partners who like you and will give you that good work and go to bat for you a bit, and (3) luck. I’m not sure I want to do another big firm. I’ll never make shares, but being paid as much as I am for the actually pretty interesting work I do is not bad. For all its various flaws, Kirkland does have some extremely good litigators, and I’m lucky to have found the right ones and attached myself to them. Not every Kirkland lawyer is totally amazing (sometimes I find myself trying to save old boomer partners from themselves) but on the other hand, there are some for whom I work often who I truly would put against any other lit team in the world. I’ll always remember working with a couple of them crushing Quinn Emmanuel in some huge case and honestly, it was just fun. This isn’t to say it hasn’t been hard at times. I think all of biglaw is hard and there was definitely a period where I started to lose myself, my hobbies, my exercise routine, etc. I struggle to focus, have my own personal battles, and even billing 2000 hours/year is a lot to me. It probably contributed to a breakup and made me depressed for awhile. And I could never do the real battle that is going for shares here. But the struggles I had could have happened anywhere; I’ve been doing better lately, and for the record, some of the partners who I love actually did call and ask how I’m doing, what’s up, give me the dirt, are you ok. That mattered and is one big reason why I’m still here.

likehelpful

You keep mentioning never getting shares. Have you been told that you can stay on as a lifetime nonshare partner?

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In 2016, a K&E partner from SF on a law school recruiting panel told us that while many people bill 3000 hours, “I do know one partner who often makes it home for dinner with his kids.” That was him selling the firm. Bleak.

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Haha I really don’t think it was him :)

hahahahaha let the comment battle commence

likefunnyhelpful

It depends. Do you have friends or a life?

likefunny

Nope. I only have exciting learning opportunities during the holidays and weekends.

likefunnyuplifting

I’ll say this about K&E. I know a lot of people who left before a year. The only person I know who loves it and wants to stay for the rest of his career ghosted me after dating for a year and half. Take from this what you will about people who thrive in the K&E culture

likefunny

I think you dodged a bullet there

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Former KE CapM associate - I left when I was on pace to bill 3200 projected based on 7 months into the billing year. So happy i got out. It’s a sweatshop. People who got off easy were billing 2700 or 2800.

likehelpfulsmart

CapM is a death trap. Wouldn't wish it on anyone. They should be ashamed at what they're requiring of their employees.

likehelpful

Honestly we all know that any such firm-wide generalization is overly simplistic… but I have a number of friends / former classmates there and virtually all are vocally unhappy. My theory is their leadership has to some extent embraced the “rich a-holes” persona and attorneys tend to self-select (in or out) based in part on whether they can see themselves fitting into that culture. I’m sure there are plenty of good-natured K&E attorneys out there but anecdotally the firm isn’t the best place for them to thrive.

likefunny

This is a good take. Ex KE attorney. So glad I got out of that place. A true meat Grinder. People working 80 hours a week before their due date. No partner says that's a bad idea. Just absolutely soulless, just like the clients.

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You do not have to bill crazy hours. You have to become good at saying no, sometimes more than once to the same person/project/deal. Often the people asking you to join something new do not know how busy you are (but some of them do check). I’m billing a sane amount (about 180 per month) and was not told I need to bill more during my review. I’m happy here and would not want to work at a firm where I don’t have control over the matters I’m staffed on. If you’re a people pleaser and/or happily say “yes will do!” to everything that comes your way, you’ll very quickly start racking up insane hours because people will keep asking. You have to set your own boundaries - no one is going to set them for you. But if you can stick to them, and focus on work/projects you find interesting, you can have a decent big law experience here.

likeuplifting

K&E 6, yes and yes. It’s possible. Take control! I believe in you.

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I worked 6 years there. It's absolutely toxic and those who think otherwise are largely either very new/junior (who don't yet realise/want to admit it and like seeing the firm's trajectory, as I initially did) or are the share partners (who are the problem). Their only focus is growing market share and increasing revenue - everything else can be sacrificed, which is primarily culture and job satisfaction / WLB. The churn in my particular team in the past 12 months is extraordinary - everyone leaving or getting kicked out. I'm now significantly happier, while even busier still, at another V20.

likefunny

Yes I worked in Chicago office. First half of 2021, half associates in my group left

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As the SO of a K&E lit associate I would say yes. I work at V-30 and the difference between our firms could not be more stark. There is no staffing oversight and so he’s constantly inundated and there is strong pressure to never say no. There are no check-ins about hours or types of projects. Partners have more work than they can handle and not enough associates despite all of the hiring. There is no feedback about performance because everyone is so swamped. The little human elements are largely missing (e.g. thanks for canceling your life to get this over the finish line, which may sound dumb but is huge). He was a lateral and integration was minimal at best, especially because they don’t have clear internal processes. They’ve been hiring like crazy but haven’t made any effort to provide standard training so the expectations are often a mismatch with capabilities. He 100% feels like a cog. After less than a year he’s already burned out. They throw a lot of money and perks at the situation, which may be ok for some people.

likehelpful

@ strong pressure to never say no - there are not that many situations where, if you say no, there will be real consequences. It’s hard at first but he can 100% say no more often than he thinks he can

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It is as toxic as it can get. I’m former K&E and at now at another V5 firm. Some groups are worse than others, but for my old group, the behavior speaks for itself - how associates treat one another, how NSPs treat associates, how share partners treat one another, etc. The tone is always set at the top. I’m as type A as it gets, but the toxicity and atmosphere were beyond unhealthy. And for all of the people saying “it’s just like other big law firms” you could not be more wrong. Specific groups at K&E cannot retain attorneys, it’s well known. That’s not just the market, it’s a byproduct of the culture.

likehelpful

My friends like working at K&E. Just like any other firm, there is a small group that drinks the kool-aid while the vast majority hate their jobs. Kirkland has a million associates, so it just sounds like their associates are unhappier.

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No more or less toxic than its peer firms. Which is to say very toxic.

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I wish we could have just one discussion about K&E where only employees and alum weigh in. I get the anecdotes from friends are meant to be helpful but they are usually so generalized that we don’t get a meaningful picture of what it would be like to be an associate in a particular group in a particular office at K&E.

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I'm former KE. And it's true. KE has to be one of the worst firms to be a junior.

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Chicago lit associate here. Wouldn’t do private practice anywhere else. The people I work with from this office are kind, exceptionally smart, generally understanding of boundaries, and act like they care (and maybe the do actually care) about my development as an attorney. Plus, it is easily one of the most—if not the most—convenient firms I’ve heard of in terms of practice support (24/7 doc services, great secretaries, concierge, incredibly talented paralegals, exceptional file and precedent maintenance/organization, etc.)

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I came from a V50 firm. It’s really no different culture wise except that K&E has significantly more work than everyone else so its on you to say no. I’ve talked to people who bill 2000-2200 hours normally and made nsp. I talked to others who push 3000. Its all a choice. As long as you’re putting in 2000ish hours, no one will say anything. I’ve been told this across the board and I’m in a very busy group. This is true at every firm. Of course a free market system you can easily screw yourself because no one is monitoring your hours unless they are low.

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I know two recently minted partners, one of which I have known for years. Now making shares, that’s a different issue but you’ll find that anywhere.

K&E midlevel M&A associate here. Hate to admit it, but this place is toxic AF. More people in my group/office left than stayed last year and it has been impossible for them to recruit. Morale here is at all time lows right now and those who got left behind are getting killed. I also have a love/hate relationship with the free market system. Best advice I got was to learn to be comfortable saying no. Your rep definitely takes a hit and you will continuously be pressured to take more on than you can handle, but as long as you don’t have dreams of partner, you can get by on 1900-2100 vs 2400-2600 for a while.

likesmarthelpful

400 hours. That's all.

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Yeesh!! That’s like 14hrs/weekday and a chill 12hrs/weekend day

K&E's reputation is as brilliant, hard-working, over-billing frat-boy assholes. You know those arrogant jerks in high school? The jocks who group-bullied the helpless weak kids? They work at Kirkland.

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I can assure you no one here is cool, athletic, or strong/powerful. Everyone seems quite nerdy and nice. Also a lot of brilliant and hard-working women 👍

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