Boston. Chicago. London. And now San Francisco.
It doesn’t seem to matter where you are. If you’re a high-profile lateral, Kirkland & Ellis will find you.
The world’s largest firm by gross revenue has quietly hired Kenneth Muller, the former co-chair of Morrison & Foerster’s private equity funds and buyout group, as a partner in San Francisco.
Muller is the fifth hire from the fourth U.S. city linked to Kirkland within the past week. All but one are former practice leaders at top law firms. And all but one is a private equity lawyer as Kirkland seeks to build on its reputation as one of the busiest advisers in the buyout business.
The American Lawyer reported last week that Kirkland had hired a private equity duo from DLA Piper in Chicago. Steven Napolitano, the former co-chair of DLA Piper’s U.S. private equity practice, and Brendan Head, the co-managing partner of its Windy City office, are the two lawyers poised to join Kirkland.
On May 11, Kirkland also hired Ranesh Ramanathan, the former deputy general counsel of private equity giant and longtime Kirkland client Bain Capital LP, to bolster its fast-growing Boston office. And earlier this week, Kirkland added Allen & Overy global intellectual property head Nicola Dagg, as noted by London-based sibling publication Legal Week.
In Muller, Kirkland is adding a partner who has represented private equity and real estate funds in all sorts of corporate and financial matters, ranging from fund formation to M&A transactions. Kirkland’s San Francisco outpost, launched in 2002 by the firm’s current chairman Jeffrey Hammes, may also be seeking to bolster its ties to the Asian market with Muller’s hire.
Muller did not return a request for comment by the time of this story, but after its publication, Kirkland issued a press release confirming his hire.
“It is an honor to join the top-tier private equity fund formation team at Kirkland,” Muller said in a statement issued by the firm. “[Kirkland] continues to attract some of the best and brightest legal minds in the business and I am genuinely looking forward to introducing clients to the benefits of Kirkland’s global private equity and fund formation platforms.”
Muller was part of Morrison & Foerster teams that advised Global Logistic Properties Ltd., which provides modern logistics warehouses in China, on numerous deals, including an $11.6 billion going-private offer last year, launching an investment fund in partnership with a Canadian pension plan in 2016, a $7 billion investment fund in 2015 and a $3 billion logistics fund in 2013.
Morrison & Foerster has often been ranked by Private Equity Real Estate as a top-three firm for Asia transactional or fund formation work. Morrison & Foerster is also one of the higher-ranked, U.S.-founded firms for private equity work in Asia by Chambers and Partners in a region where Magic Circle firms and other London-based legal giants retain higher legal brand recognition.
In 2017, Morrison & Foerster enjoyed a record financial year, as gross revenue jumped to $1.06 billion, while profits per equity partner soared to nearly $1.74 million. Those numbers still paled in comparison to Kirkland, which has enjoyed an almost unprecedented run of financial growth. The firm took in a whopping $3.165 billion in gross revenue last year, one on which profits per equity partner rose to $4.7 million. That has helped fuel a hiring spree by the firm, one that dates back long before this month.
In April alone, Kirkland landed recruited Sandra Goldstein, long considered one of the most powerful partners at Cravath, Swaine & Moore and a former head of litigation at the firm, along with litigation associate-turned-partner Stefan Atkinson. Those hires came just four months after Kirkland added former Cravath dealmaker Eric Schiele.
Kirkland’s bevy of new partner hires have stressed the traditional lockstep model at some of the nation’s most prestigious firms.