Kirkland & Ellis

United States (National)

Review

Dispute resolution

Since its inception in Chicago in 1909, Kirkland & Ellis has steadily risen to become an international powerhouse. Kirkland is a very formidable firm – [they have] a lot of talent. They have a lot of really solid people. There’s just something ‘cool and tough’ about them that you just can’t touch.” One of the larger and more comprehensive litigation capacities, Kirkland stands out as a firm that that boasts bench strength and high-level appointments in virtually every area of practice it offers, which include (but are not limited to) securities, antitrust, product liability, appeals, intellectual property, white-collar and investigations, commercial litigation, and bankruptcy, with the last being an area in which the firm is particularly dominant. In bankruptcy, it’s Kirkland every day – they have to be at the top,” insists one peer, himself a leader in this practice. Kirkland is also noted for housing several leaders in the trial law specialty. 
     One such all-purpose trial lawyer, Chicago’s James Hurst is a respected authority in the field, who boasts an enviable streak of activity – and victories – in the courtroom over the past several years. Hurst is part of a team, which also includes Chicago-based white-collar and enforcement star Mark Filip as well as fellow Chicago commercial litigator Andrew Kassof, in defending Safeway, a subsidiary of Albertson Companies, in False Claims Act litigation alleging that defendants’ pharmacies misrepresented their usual and customary prices. The Kirkland team took over the case in 2019 after prior counsel lost a critical summary judgment motion. In 2020, the Kirkland team convinced the court to accept and then rule on a new summary judgment motion ahead of many other pending motions. Kassof also secured a victory for Abbott Laboratories and subsidiary St. Jude Medical when the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida dismissed a suit that suit arose out of St. Jude’s recall of implantable pacemakers and defibrillators in 2016. The plaintiff sued under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act and other state statutes and sought reimbursement for tens of millions of dollars in healthcare costs. Kassof and his team won dismissal of the Florida case in 2019. The plaintiff refiled in Delaware where Kassof again won dismissal in 2020. In 2021, a second nearly identical Delaware action was also dismissed. 
     DC-based partners Craig Primis and Winn Allen, fresh off an August 2019 win for Facebook (and some would argue the internet) in which the pair defended the social media behemoth against a suit by victims of Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel alleging the client abetted terrorism, are now defending Accenture and its parent company Accenture plc in a putative consumer class action arising from a data breach involving Marriott’s guest reservation database. This is one of the first data breach cases to be brought against a third-party service provider of an entity that experienced a breach. The plaintiffs allege that Accenture’s negligent performance of its infrastructure and application outsourcing contract with Marriott caused or contributed to the breach. In 2020, the pair won dismissal of claims for negligence under Maryland law.  
     Showcasing the firm’s celebrated bankruptcy prowess, in August 2020, Kirkland team led by Mike Slade secured a major appellate victory when the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of client Westmoreland Coal Company and held that healthcare obligations mandated under the federal Coal Act may be modified. The decision permits Westmoreland to avoid liquidation, preserve the going-concern value of its operations, and preserve jobs. A fellow leader in the bankruptcy capacity testifies, “Mike Slade, he is the one who comes in in these [contentious bankruptcy] scenarios. [He is a] Real deal trial lawyer. 
     Kirkland has made notable strides in the securities capacity, primarily from its New York office, helmed by veteran Sandra Goldstein. “Sandra not only has a terrific reputation but also a sizeable book of business,” confirms a peer. Among Goldstein’s several key appointments, she is representing private equity firm 3G Capitalone of Kraft Heinz’s largest shareholders, in putative securities class actions and related shareholder derivative actions pending in federal court in Illinois and the Delaware Court of Chancery, alleging violations of federal securities laws and breach of fiduciary duty related to the $15.4 billion write-down of Kraft Heinz’s assets and the disclosure of an SEC investigation into Kraft Heinz’s accounting policies, procedures and controls. Goldstein is by no means the only securities star at Kirkland generating notice. Stefan Atkinson, who acts with Goldstein on the 3G case, is said to be “a leader in the SPACs area. He has done about five or 10 SPAC litigations already!” Another New York practitioner quickly making his mark, Matt Solum is regarded as one of the biggest up-and-comers of the securities bar right now” by a peer, who goes on to confirm, “He’s everywhere!” Another peer testifies, “Matt was my contemporary at the SEC, and he’s excellent. Give him another year or two and he’s going to be a superstar, being mentioned alongside all the older and more established people.” Exemplifying the “everywhere” descriptor, Solum acts with Goldstein in defending EQT Corporation and certain of its current and former officers and directors in a consolidated putative securities class action arising out of EQTs $6.7 billion acquisition of Rice Energy; acted with Jay Lefkowitz in defending ABM Industries against a stockholder derivative lawsuit concerning its cybersecurity practices (the Kirkland team won full dismissal in 2020), and acts with Yosef Riemer in defending Bristol-Myers Squibb and certain of its current and former officers in a putative securities class action arising out of a drop in the companys stock price following negative drug trial results for its flagship cancer treatment. The Kirkland team won complete dismissal in 2019 and had amended claims dismissed in 2020. A peer also insists, “a new name has to be Rachel Fritzlerwho has done a ton of work on the stock-drop side of securities. I’m terrified of how much she knows about accounting fraud! When it comes to that, she is your person.