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Firm Commits $2.75 Million to Support Law School
Gift Establishes New Scholars Program and Law Forum
Jeffrey Hammes, the Chairman of the Global Executive Committee of Kirkland & Ellis, wanted to deepen Kirkland's relationship with Stanford Law School through a generous gift to support programs that would enhance Kirkland's reputation with the Law School's students. He knew that he would need the support of other Kirkland partners to fund the gift, and he tasked one of his Bay Area partners, David Breach, to round up the support.
With David's efforts, and the support of a number of Kirkland partners, he got his wish. Twice over.
In recognition of the firm's $2.75 million gift, the school is creating two unique programs. The first is the Kirkland & Ellis Scholars Program, which will honor the Law School's top first-year students. It will be the first—and remain the only—program of its kind at the school, and as such seems destined to become a coveted honor among the first-year class. Only six students in the first-year class (which currently numbers 180) will be named Kirkland & Ellis Scholars each year.
"We really want to make the scholar program something worthwhile," said Breach. "Something that students are going to put on their resumes, something that recognizes their academic achievements."
The second program, another first for the Law School, will be the Kirkland & Ellis Law Forum, an annual panel discussion on important issues in a given law field, aimed at students, alumni and the Bay Area business and law community.
Kirkland & Ellis is a 100-year-old firm with a long history of philanthropic giving but a relatively recent presence in the Bay Area. Breach and a few of his fellow partners came out to Northern California "to plant the flag and start building the office" less than nine years ago. Since then, the firm's regional presence has grown from about a dozen-and-a-half lawyers to nearly 100, with a particular focus on mergers and acquisitions work with an emphasis on private equity and patent and commercial litigation.
With its short history in the Bay Area, Kirkland & Ellis did not have long-established ties to the Law School or many Stanford alumni among its ranks. That made it especially important to Breach and colleagues working with him to find the right focus for their Stanford gift. It had to support something that would capture their fellow partners' imaginations. This was particularly true since any gift made by the Kirkland & Ellis Foundation, the firm's philanthropic arm, is matched one-to-one by the partners themselves.
"To make this successful, many partners who didn't have an alumni connection to Stanford were going to need to get behind it," he said. "Frankly, the response from partners in Northern California and other parts of the firm was just tremendous. I think we exceeded expectations."
For Kirkland & Ellis, both programs are also a way to raise its profile at the school and to meet and recruit exceptional legal minds to the firm. The Kirkland & Ellis Scholars Program by its very nature will both identify outstanding students and bring the firm to their attention.
"One of our business challenges is making sure we are able to get a strong supply of top-tier legal talent," said Breach. "We've got plenty of work and we need great people to do it. Given its preeminence, Stanford Law School is a key recruiting school for the firm."
The Kirkland & Ellis Law Forum is still in its formative stages. It will be an annual forum whose participants will include the firm’s attorneys, Stanford Law School faculty, and outside speakers discussing emerging legal topics, particularly those of interest to the business community. Planning for the inaugural forum is underway with a kick-off to take place during the 2011–12 academic year.
Breach said he and his colleagues have enjoyed collaborating with the Law School in coming up with programs that were beneficial both to the school and to his firm.
"The Law School has been terrific to work with," he said. "It was flexible, creative and responsive as we worked through our thoughts on the programs. It was very cognizant of our needs to make the program something that would generate excitement around the firm."