Weymouth Kirkland, Class of 1901

Namesake of Kirkland & Ellis

Weymouth KirklandWeymouth Kirkland was a prominent Chicago attorney in the early part of the 20th century and one of the name partners of the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis. Born and raised in Michigan, he moved to Chicago at age 15. After finishing school, he read law with Chicago attorney Charles Hardy before attending Chicago-Kent College of Law. Kirkland graduated in 1901 and formed a law partnership with Thomas Symmes called Kirkland & Symmes. He soon developed a reputation as a first-rate trial lawyer and represented large companies, including the Lake Shore Electric Company, the Chicago Railways Company, the Standard Accident Insurance Company and Travelers Insurance Company.

In 1914, Kirkland joined the law firm of Shepard, McCormick & Thompson, which had been founded in 1908 by Robert R. McCormick, owner of the Chicago Tribune. The firm was soon re-named McCormick, Kirkland, Patterson & Fleming and Kirkland became the first named partner in 1936 when the firm became known as Kirkland, Fleming, Green, Martin & Ellis. Representing the Chicago Tribune and the New York Daily News, he became a champion of freedom of the press. He won a major battle in the United States Supreme Court with Near v. Minnesota in 1931.

During the 1930s, Kirkland became an established antitrust litigator when he defended Standard Oil Company in the Madison Oil Company matter and represented the Associated Press when the Department of Justice brought antitrust charges against the AP.  He also served as attorney for the Chicago Board of Trade in several matters, challenging restrictions placed on it as part of the New Deal and during World War II.

Kirkland was also active in business and public affairs, sitting on the Board of Directors of the National Bank & Trust Co. and serving as a director of Armour and Company for many years. From 1928 to 1940, he was judge advocate of the Illinois National Guard. At his eightieth birthday party in 1957, the dean of the University of Chicago Law School announced that the school’s new courtroom would be named in Kirkland’s honor, stating “it is important for the law to keep before it the example of Weymouth Kirkland, who has invoked the power of the law and shaped it for the protection of property and liberty.”

Kirkland passed away in 1965 at the age of 87.