Real Work, Early On

Jonathan’s Career Story

Jonathan N. Adair

Partner Chicago
Jonathan Adair
By empowering associates to shape their futures, Kirkland creates a culture of openness and opportunity.


You get a lot of ownership to set your own career path; you're not always working with the same partners and on the same types of cases every day. That's one of the reasons I joined the Firm as a summer associate many years ago, and it has allowed me to work on a variety of cases and meet many different colleagues at Kirkland.

By empowering associates to shape their futures, Kirkland creates a culture of openness and opportunity. For a litigator like me, my early focus has been on getting courtroom exposure.


The Firm’s formal mentoring program is strong and starts when you are a summer associate. There's also an informal mentoring network at Kirkland. Partners want to teach you how to be the best. That involves not only being included in hearings, depositions and client meetings, but also having senior people take time out of their day to explain why they did something and how they did it. I have a number of mentors through the ranks at Kirkland, each of which played an important role in my development as a young lawyer.

Kirkland has an incredibly unique and exceptional trial training program. You conduct mock trials with actors serving as jurors and witnesses. The judges are Kirkland trial attorneys who teach you from day one how to practice the skills of being a successful litigator.


At the end of my first year, I went to Denver and participated in a huge trial for a Firm client. Just being there, particularly as a first-year, was one of the most exhilarating experiences I've had at the Firm.

Around that time, I handled my first hearing for Firm client. The partner I was working with decided that since I briefed it and knew the issues, I should be the one arguing it in court. After a lengthy hearing, we received a favorable ruling. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work, and it was unique to have that opportunity so early in my career. 


Some of my most impactful experiences have come from my pro bono work at Kirkland. Early on, I participated in a number of housing voucher cases. Working with a partner, I took the lead on two sets of briefing and participated in multiple rounds of oral argument. Against all odds, we convinced the court and local housing authority to reinstate one of our client’s housing vouchers in a precedent-setting case.


The drive for excellence is evident at Kirkland, and that motivates me. When I come to work every single day, I know I'm working on the most difficult and complex legal work out there with the top legal talent in the world.

During my third year, I worked in-house for a Firm client. Working on-site with the in-house lawyers and litigators at a large corporation was an incredibly unique experience at such a junior stage of my career. It changed my perspective. I got an inside look at what a large corporation does on a day-to-day basis and how the legal department interacts with outside counsel. I now have a better understanding of how the client thinks and what they ultimately care about.