Kirkland is committed to providing legal services without charge to those who cannot afford counsel, with the goals of improving lives, bettering communities and deepening our professional experience.
Pro bono opportunities are available to all attorneys at Kirkland — summer associates included — and offer a broad variety of projects to appeal to different interests, time commitments and experience. Our award-winning pro bono work includes immigration law, disability rights, civil rights, prisoner rights, death penalty cases and criminal appeals, discrimination cases, guardianship, health and patient rights, veterans’ benefits, and the representation and counsel of various nonprofit organizations, among other areas.
As soon as attorneys join Kirkland, they can bring pro bono matters in to the Firm. Kirkland also generates a substantial number of pro bono matters through our partnerships with public interest organizations, and attorney pro bono coordinators in each of the Firm’s offices assist their colleagues in finding interesting, rewarding pro bono projects.
Our attorneys receive the same billable hour credit for pro bono work as billable work. In 2011, almost half of our attorneys devoted 20 or more hours to pro bono.
Kirkland & Ellis Pro Bono Fellowship Program
The Kirkland & Ellis Pro Bono Fellowship Program, which the Firm’s Chicago office hosts in conjunction with the University of Chicago Law School, started in 2010. The program provides a unique opportunity for law students, during the summer following their first year of law school, to gain practical experience in a law firm setting while engaging in public interest legal work.
The Public Interest Law Initiative
Each year, Kirkland funds multiple summer and school-year internships for law students as part of the Firm’s commitment to the Public Interest Law Initiative® (PILI), an organization whose mission is to facilitate equal access to justice. Most notably, the Firm sponsors postgraduate PILI Fellowships, in which incoming Kirkland lawyers gain valuable experience while representing those who may not otherwise have access to quality legal representation. Kirkland’s PILI Fellows work at various legal service organizations across Chicago while studying for the bar exam, and may help clients become citizens, buy homes, adopt children, secure disability benefits or gain asylum, among many other achievements. Kirkland sponsors more PILI Fellows than any law firm in Chicago.
New York City Public Service Fellowships
Since 1995, the Kirkland & Ellis New York City Public Service Fellowship has sponsored the New York City-based public service work of a graduating student from Columbia Law School and the New York University School of Law.
Kirkland Case Highlights
Victory in Death Penalty Appeal
Working with the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative and the New York University School of Law, Kirkland lawyers obtained a new trial for Alabama Death Row inmate Emmanuel Gissendanner. On March 31, 2010, the judge who presided over the original trial overturned the verdict and ordered a new trial for the 34-year-old Mr. Gissendanner, an African American who has been on Death Row since 2003. The new trial was ordered on the grounds of ineffectiveness of counsel as well as the state’s failure to turn over key exculpatory evidence. Mr. Gissendanner was accused of assaulting and killing a 77-year-old woman.
Since 2005, Kirkland has partnered with the Tennessee Justice Center (TJC) to fight cuts to TennCare, Tennessee’s Medicaid expansion program, and to force the state to live up to its court-ordered obligation to provide health care to the nearly 700,000 children enrolled in the program. In October 2007, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiff class on written and electronic discovery withheld by the state. This ongoing case follows two trials and an appeal in which Kirkland and TJC won a consent decree that helped 15,000 low-income Tennesseans retain health coverage.
Kirkland provides extensive counsel on general corporate matters, as well as fund structuring and other advice relating to capital-raising and deployment to Grameen America. Grameen America is a microfinance nonprofit organization that provides loans, savings programs, credit establishment and other financial services to entrepreneurs living below the poverty line in the United States. It is an offshoot of the Grameen Bank, headed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. Since 2007, the organization has made more than 3,000 micro-loans to financially challenged entrepreneurs.
Pro Bono Recognition