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Kirkland & Ellis Doubles its Miami Summer Associate Class, Outpacing Other Recent Big Law Entrants

In this article for Daily Business Review, partner Jeremy Liss was quoted discussing the growth of Kirkland's Miami summer associate program.

Last year Miami’s newest Big Law entrants welcomed their first summer associate programs in the city. This year, they’re back; and Kirkland & Ellis, notably, grew its program significantly.

Of the recent arrivals, Sidley Austin last year welcomed the largest summer class in Miami, with 10 total summer associates. This year the firm’s tally is down to eight, while Kirkland doubled the size of its own program to 16, making it the largest in a grouping that also includes Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Winston & Strawn.

Quinn Emanuel added one associate to its program while Winston & Strawn plans on hosting the same number it did last year.

Like last year, King & Spalding will not be hosting a Miami-specific summer program, instead it will offer associates in other offices the Connect K&S program, which allows them to travel to a different U.S. office than the one they’re based in.

Most of the growth in Kirkland’s program came from the firm’s decision to welcome 1L associates to Miami. Last year the firm’s Miami summer program only consisted of 2Ls. But even its 2L program increased by one associate this year. And even after doubling its program this year, the firm is expecting to grow even more next year.

“We’re going to probably increase the class by twofold,” Miami-based Kirkland partner Jeremy Liss said. “The firm is focused on recruiting quality people wherever they are, so it’s not like we’re growing Miami for Miami’s sake. We’re growing the firm.”

But the firm is finding that more recruits are interested in joining in Miami, making it easier to find the kind of talent that Kirkland is looking for within the market.

“What we’re finding is that Miami is a super desirable place to be,” Liss said. “The people that we identified as potential stars that want that Wall Street experience are choosing to come to Kirkland Miami.”

Half of the firm’s local summer associates have some connection to Miami, while the other half are new to the city. And because the Miami office was entirely made up of corporate lawyers until just a few weeks ago, the summer associates will all be focused on corporate practices.

Sidley Austin’s Miami summer program is hosting seven new 2Ls and another 2L that’s rejoining from last year’s program, according to Beatriz Azcuy, co-managing partner of Sidley’s Miami office.

The other seven associates from last year’s program have committed to rejoining in the fall after they graduate law school, Azcuy said. Those associates from last year’s program have also helped the office recruit for this year’s program.

“I think their experience last summer was definitely an incredibly positive experience, and they’ve encouraged their colleagues back in their schools to apply,” she said.

The only other recent arrival beyond Kirkland to grow its summer program this year was Quinn Emanuel, which recruited three summer associates as opposed to last year’s two.

Meanwhile, Winston & Strawn’s program is also staying the same, welcoming five total summer associates. Like Kirkland, Winston is also seeing more applicants, which has helped diversify the candidate pool for the firm.

“Last year, our class was very focused on University of Florida and University of Miami law students in particular, and we filled up the class mostly with Florida and Miami students,” said Gustavo Membiela, Winston & Strawn’s partner in charge of the Miami summer program. “This year, we had a little bit more time to work through the recruiting process, and we have what I would say is a more geographically diverse class in terms of where they’re going to school.”

And while last year’s program focused mostly on litigation practices, this year’s has a more heavy tilt towards transactional lawyers, Membiela said.

When asked about changes to their programs made as a response to what they learned last year, most firm leaders who agreed to speak said the programs only underwent minor tweaks if any at all. But as these firms continue hosting more summer associates, firm leaders agree that these associates will help foster the future of their new Miami offices.

“Summer programs are a key part of our growth and recruiting process for the office,” Membiela said. “We want to give it the level of attention necessary and give our summer candidates the best opportunities possible to both learn and grow as lawyers, but also learn and grow about the firm and the local community.”

Reprinted with permission from the June 21, 2024 edition of the Daily Business Review © 2024 ALM Global Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited.