The phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) family of lipid kinases regulates diverse aspects of lymphocyte behavior. This review discusses how genetic and pharmacological tools have yielded an increasingly detailed understanding of how PI3K enzymes function at different stages of lymphocyte development and activation. Following antigen receptor engagement, activated PI3K generates 3-phosphorylated inositol lipid products that serve as membrane targeting signals for numerous proteins involved in the assembly of multiprotein complexes, termed signalosomes, and immune synapse formation. In B cells, class IA PI3K is the dominant subgroup whose loss causes profound defects in development and antigen responsiveness. In T cells, both class IA and IB PI3K contribute to development and immune function. PI3K also regulates both chemokine responsiveness and antigen-driven changes in lymphocyte trafficking. PI3K modulates the function not only of effector T cells, but also regulatory T cells; these disparate functions culminate in unexpected autoimmune phenotypes in mice with PI3K-deficient T cells. Thus, PI3K signaling is not a simple switch to promote cellular activation, but rather an intricate web of interactions that must be properly balanced to ensure appropriate cellular responses and maintain immune homeostasis. Defining these complexities remains a challenge for pharmaceutical development of PI3K inhibitors to combat inflammation and autoimmunity.