Dean Michael H. Schill (center) celebrates the Kirkland & Ellis naming gift with (from left): Corporate Lab Director and Clinical Professor David Zarfes and Kirkland partners John Donley, '85; Stephen L. Ritchie, '88; and Emily Nicklin, '77.

Kirkland & Ellis Makes Gift Nearing $5.5 Million to Support Corporate Lab

The Kirkland & Ellis Foundation, its partners, and Law School alumni have made a gift nearing $5.5 million to endow a fund to support the Law School’s Corporate Lab, strengthening the firm’s enduring ties with the school and underscoring a shared commitment to helping students build practical skills in transactional law. The program has been renamed the Kirkland & Ellis Corporate Lab.

“We highly value the development of practical skills and wanted to support that aspect of the Law School curriculum,” said Stephen L. Ritchie, ’88, a Kirkland partner whose practice focuses on complex business transactions. “Also, we pride ourselves on providing the highest-quality service and practical solutions to our clients. In order to do so, we must continue to be able to recruit the best and the brightest. The Law School, of course, is in the business of finding and educating those students, and we are pleased to support that mission.”

The Corporate Lab provides students with real-world experience and teaches the “building blocks” of corporate law. It hosts conferences, speaker series, and the Transactional Challenge, an annual competition in which rising 2Ls compete against each other in a series of “real-world” corporate exercises.

Kirkland lawyers will play a key role in the Transactional Challenge, mentoring and evaluating students, as well as helping design the exercises. The firm also will host two events for the finalists, including a “Day at the Firm,” during which finalists will shadow Kirkland attorneys and attend meet-and-greet events and a dinner. Kirkland will also play a lead role in the Challenge’s annual reception at the University’s downtown Gleacher Center. Each spring, Kirkland also will work with the Lab to plan a session that will introduce students to its programs and, more broadly, to transactional law. The session will include a panel featuring Kirkland partners and clients.

“We are particularly moved by this gift because it reflects our deep connection to Kirkland & Ellis, which has been built through a shared commitment to the future of the profession,” remarked Dean Michael H. Schill, the Harry N. Wyatt Professor of Law. “We are grateful both for Kirkland’s support and for the support of our loyal alumni at the firm.”

Jeffrey C. Hammes, chairman of Kirkland’s global management executive committee, echoed the sentiment: “Our firm, our individual lawyers, and the University of Chicago Law School have forged a special relationship through many years of collaboration and support. We are grateful for that relationship and the many University of Chicago Law School alumni who have contributed to our Firm’s success. Our latest gift, dedicated to the Corporate Lab, reflects our support of practical skills training in the Law School. We are proud to have been involved with the Lab since its inception and pleased to encourage its continued development and ensure its future success.”

Many of the Corporate Lab’s partners are Kirkland clients, and 145 Kirkland attorneys are Law School graduates.

“This was a gift that a lot of our partners came together for out of deep-seated loyalty to and affection for the University of Chicago Law School,” said Kirkland partner John Donley, ’85. “We’ve seen how important this relationship has been for a long time to the quality and success of our firm. We have been active in recruiting at the Law School, and we’ve seen many graduates grow up in our firm. The quality of the University of Chicago just permeates the culture of our firm deeply; it’s become part of our DNA.”

That loyalty is felt on a personal level by Law School graduates at the firm as well.

“The Law School has had an incredible impact on what I’ve been able to accomplish,” Ritchie said. “My analytical abilities, my writing abilities, my judgment all improved dramatically as a result of the education I received at the Law School.”

The University of Chicago Campaign: Inquiry and Impact, the most ambitious and comprehensive campaign in the University’s history, will raise $5 billion to support faculty and researchers, practitioners and patients, and students and programs across the University. Launched in October 2014, the campaign supports priorities in every division, school, department, and institute, and aims to engage 125,000 alumni and friends over its five-year duration.