To provide the best possible service to our clients, Kirkland strives to hire, train and retain the most talented attorneys. Part of this commitment includes fostering an environment in which all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) attorneys have the greatest opportunities to thrive.
In 2007, Kirkland formed a LGBT Subcommittee of the Firmwide Diversity and Inclusion Committee specifically to address the needs and concerns of LGBT attorneys and staff. Corporate partner Tana Ryan and intellectual property partner Edward Sadtler are the chairs of the LGBT Subcommittee.
Kirkland has received many accolades for its diversity efforts.
In 2014, The American Lawyer named Kirkland to the A-List, a ranking of the country's 20 elite law firms via a measure of their success in four core areas: financial performance, pro bono, diversity, and associate satisfaction.
In 2009, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for LGBT Americans, honored Kirkland with its first-ever "Award for Workplace Equality Innovation" for the Firm's "ALLSA" initiative.
In 2014, for the seventh year in a row, Kirkland received a score of 100 percent on the HRC Corporate Equality Index (CEI) survey, earning recognition as one of the "Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality."
In 2014, for the fifth year in a row, Equality Illinois recognized Kirkland as one of the top Illinois law firms for LGBT equality.
Kirkland's LGBT affinity group meets regularly, at the local and Firmwide levels, for social events, workshops, panels and other events aimed at the interests of LGBT attorneys. LGBT attorneys gather each year for a Firmwide dinner, affinity group workshop and client networking event in connection with the National LGBT Bar Association's Lavender Law Conference & Career Fair. The LGBT Subcommittee of the Firmwide Diversity and Inclusion Committee meets regularly to develop and assess policies and initiatives to meet the needs of the Firm's LGBT attorneys.
Demonstrating Kirkland's leadership in the LGBT legal community, the National LGBT Bar Association has named six Firm attorneys to its Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40 list. Numerous Kirkland attorneys also sit on boards and other leadership councils of leading LGBT advocacy groups, including Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and The Williams Institute.
As part of Kirkland's award-winning "ALLSA" initiative, Firm attorney liaisons work with more than a dozen LGBT student groups at law schools around the country. The "ALLSA" initiative has a dedicated budget and offers support for each group ranging from networking events to more substantive study skills, resume review, interview training, moot court, and career development programs.
Kirkland sponsors law student teams from University of California, Berkeley School of Law, UCLA School of Law, University of Chicago Law School, Columbia Law School, New York University School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, The George Washington University Law School, Harvard Law School and the University of Southern California Gould School of Law to participate in the annual moot court competition sponsored by The Williams Institute, the only such competition focused exclusively on sexual orientation and gender identity law. Through this program, the Firm provides students mentorship by inviting them to Kirkland's offices for a moot with attorneys at the Firm in advance of the tournament. Kirkland also provides students a stipend for travel to and from the tournament in Los Angeles.
Diversity Fellowship Program
Kirkland has created the Kirkland & Ellis Diversity Fellowship for diverse law students across the country who are considering joining Kirkland's summer program. Since the inception of the Diversity Fellowship in 2004, Kirkland has awarded more than 130 fellowships, with stipends totaling more than $2 million. To apply for the Fellowship, applicants need only seek a summer position at one of Kirkland's domestic offices and submit their transcript, resume and a brief personal statement. If selected, they will receive a $25,000 stipend upon completing their summer associate term.
Support for LGBT-Related Organizations
The Firm supports organizations concerned with workplace equality and the rights of LGBT persons, including:
- AIDS Legal Council of Chicago
- American Civil Liberties Union — LGBT and AIDS Rights Project
- Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom
- Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
- Equal Justice Works
- Equality California
- Equality Illinois
- Howard Brown Health Center
- Immigration Equality
- Lambda Legal
- National Center for Lesbian Rights
- National LGBT Bar Association (Lavender Law)
- Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund
- The Williams Institute
- Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
Comprehensive medical, dental, vision, and other benefits for domestic partners and their children.
Medical plans that encompass procedures specific to transgender employees, meeting standards issued by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).
Representative Pro Bono Matters
In honoring Kirkland as a Pro Bono Firm of 2013, Law360 highlighted the Firm's LGBT-related pro bono work as being "on the forefront of the ongoing fight for recognition of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights."
Kirkland, a leader in the constitutional challenge to the Illinois ban on same-sex marriage since 2012, continues to promote marriage equality in Illinois with its latest victories. While Kirkland's state marriage equality case was pending, the Illinois legislature passed a marriage equality bill in late 2013, but same-sex marriages could not start until June 1, 2014, due to a constitutionally mandated effective date. Along with Lambda Legal and the ACLU, Kirkland filed and won two federal lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the marriage ban during this waiting period, thereby accelerating the date when same-sex couples could marry in Illinois.
Kirkland recently filed a suit with Lambda Legal challenging the Indiana ban on same-sex marriage. Kirkland won an early victory on behalf of two women in a same-sex relationship, one of whom is terminally ill, when the court granted a preliminary injunction enjoining Indiana from enforcing the marriage ban against them. Kirkland is awaiting a summary judgment decision that would provide statewide relief if successful.
Kirkland, in partnership with the ACLU LGBT Project and the ACLU of Michigan, represents five same-sex couples in a federal lawsuit to strike down a Michigan state law that bans many public entities from providing health care insurance to the domestic partners of their employees. In June 2013, the district court granted the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction barring the state of Michigan from enforcing the law, finding that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail on their claim under the Equal Protection Clause.
Kirkland and the National Center on Lesbian Rights recently won a victory on behalf of Garden State Equality when a federal district judge upheld New Jersey’s recently enacted ban on state-licensed therapists engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with minors under 18, ruling that the law was constitutional as it neither infringed therapists’ free speech rights nor burdened their freedom of religion.
Kirkland represented prominent demographic scholar Gary Gates of The Williams Institute in preparing two amicus briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court. The briefs were filed in support of plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act in the Perry and Windsor cases.
Kirkland received a Safe Haven Award from Immigration Equality for its Firmwide LGBT Asylum Project in both 2010 and 2012. Kirkland has represented more than 20 Immigration Equality clients during its pro bono partnership with the organization.
The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) presented Kirkland with its 2012 Advocacy Award for the Firm's pro bono work on TLDEF's Name Change Project, which ensures that transgender individuals can successfully navigate the legal process involved in changing their names in order to move forward with their lives.