Michelle Kilkenney is a corporate partner in Kirkland's Chicago office and an active committee member and Chicago office Pro Bono Coordinator, of the Firm’s award-winning pro bono program. Michelle focuses her practice on debt financing transactions and represents private equity groups, commercial lending institutions and other private and public companies in connection with the negotiation, structuring and documentation of secured and unsecured financing transactions for both borrowers and lenders, including senior, mezzanine and subordinated debt transactions, acquisition financings, and loan workouts and restructurings, including debtor-in-possession financings.

Michelle is listed in the 2010–2024 editions of Chambers USA, America's Leading Lawyers for Business and described in the 2010 edition as "talented, bright, creative and incredibly hard-working." Michelle is also listed in the 2020–2024 editions of Chambers Global, The World's Leading Lawyers for Business. She has been recognized from 2018–2024 by The Legal 500 U.S. as a Leading Lawyer in Commercial Lending and IFLR1000 as a Leading Lawyer in bank lending in 2013 and 2014.

Crain’s Chicago Business recently included Michelle on their list of "Chicago’s Notable Women Lawyers 2018." Additionally, in 2017, Michelle was awarded “Transaction of the Year: Mega Company” for her work with Texas Competitive Electric Holdings Company LLC by the Turnaround Management Association.


Thought Leadership


“An Expert's View: Developments in the Large Cap Loan Market,“ Practical Law Journal, March 2023

“An Expert’s View: Trends in Large Cap Market Loan Terms,” Practical Law Journal, February 2015


Panelist, “Point / Counterpoint: Analyzing Liability Management Transactions from the Lender and Borrower Perspectives,” NAWL/ACCFL Women in Financial Services Webinar, October 25, 2023

Panelist, “Legal Perspectives on Loan Market Trends,” LSTA Annual Conference, September 22, 2022

Speaker, “Leaving LIBOR: Strategies for a Successful Transition,” Kirkland Seminar, July 27, 2021

Moderator, “From Slow to Flow: Eyeing Leveraged Finance Opportunities Ahead,” Kayo Women’s Virtual Private Equity Summit, June 8–9, 2021 

Panelist, “Restructuring and Rethinking Natural Resources,” Chicago Booth 14th Annual Credit Conference, Chicago, IL, March 8, 2019

Guest Speaker, The University of Chicago OverLeveraged presentation, Chicago, IL, March 7, 2019

Panelist, “Transition to SOFR and Ameribor: Legal and Accounting Implications for Large Institutions,” Transition to New Interest Rate Benchmarks: SOFR, Ameribor and Beyond Conference, The University of Chicago Law School, Chicago, IL, April 3, 2018

Panelist, “U.K. and U.S. Primary Loan Market: Trends and Deal Terms,” 2018 LMA & LSTA Conference, London, UK, March 7, 2018

Speaker: “Debt Financing from a Borrower’s Perspective: From Healthy LBO to Distressed Debtor,” Loan Syndications & Trading Association, December 3, 2014 and ABA Business Law Section Meeting, West Coast, April 17, 2015

Speaker, “Debt Financing from a Borrower’s Perspective: From Healthy LBO to Distressed,” ABA Business Law Section Meeting, Chicago, IL, September 12, 2014

Speaker, “Being Strategic About 24/7: Assignments, Committees and Community,” Women in Law Empowerment Forum, Chicago, IL, March 5, 2014

Memberships & Affiliations

American Bar Association

Illinois Bar

Member of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Board of Directors 

Member of Cradles to Crayons Chicago Corporate Advisory Council

Member of the City Year Chicago Board

Member of the Ohio Wesleyan University Board of Trustees

Fellow of the American College of Commercial Finance Lawyers


Admissions & Qualifications

  • 2002Illinois


  • The Ohio State University Moritz College of LawJ.D.with Honors2002

    Order of the Coif

    Joanne Wharton Murphy Award

    Articles Editor, Ohio State Law Journal

  • Ohio Wesleyan UniversityB.A., Politics & Governmentsumma cum laude, with Honors1999

    Phi Beta Kappa

    Mortar Board

    Omicron Delta Kappa