February 17, 2006

Firm pledges $7 million gift to Law School

The Chicago-based law firm Kirkland and Ellis, matching gifts from some of its individual partners, pledged over $7 million to the Law School yesterday. The gift is the largest ever in the U.S. from a law firm to a law school.

The gift will be used toward “general intellectual development” at the Law School. The gift comes as part of the Law School’s $100 million Centennial Campaign, which aims to enhance student scholarships, public policy initiatives, building revitalization, and faculty support.

In honor of the gift, the Law School will name the top five percent of graduates by grade Kirkland and Ellis scholars. According to Saul Levmore, the dean of the Law School, the University assumes that the honor will be nationally recognized.

The Law School has been seeking gifts from law firms where graduates are most concentrated. Kirkland and Ellis “is a firm that over the years is regularly one of the two or three largest recruiters,” Levmore said in an interview. “The firm feels a real bond with the Law School.”

Kirkland and Ellis was one of the first firms that the Law School pursued for a gift.

“Here we wanted a really large gift, and I encouraged people to give a really large gift,” Levmore said. “A lot of partners from our school agreed to give a significant gift over time, and the firm decided to match the gifts, and it adds a lot of money.”

Kirkland and Ellis and its partners say they are pleased to give back to the Law School.

“For many years, the University of Chicago Law School has been an important source of legal talent and leadership for Kirkland,” said Emily Nicklin, a partner in the firm and a 1977 graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, in a press release. “We at Kirkland and Ellis are pleased to have the opportunity to make this contribution to the Law School and its current campaign.”

Although Kirkland and Ellis employs a high number of Law School graduates, the Law School does not believe this is the only reason for the gift. The firm was “unable to raise nearly as much money for Harvard even though it has the same number of graduates [at the firm],” Levmore said.

The Law School hopes the gift will be a catalyst for more donations from the firm of 1,100 lawyers in offices around the world. “I have written to other lawyers in the firm, and they have expressed interest in adding to the gift,” Levmore said.