300 East Randolph Street, Suite 5000 | Chicago | IL | 60601
Year of establishment
Number of offices
Number of attorneys
Number of associates
Number of partners
Partner: associate ratio
Percent women attorneys
Percent minority attorneys
Percent gay attorneys
With its headquarters at Chicago, Baker & McKenzie LLP is one of the earliest and biggest law firms to adopt the corporate structure and management practices of multinational corporations. Dubbed by many as the 'McDonalds' of law firms, and criticized by others for 'lack of transparency' in management practices - Baker & McKenzie, nevertheless, continues to be one of the best employer brands in the legal arena. Few competing firms can claim to have a workforce drawn from 60 nationalities spread across 69 offices and with a number close to 4000 local lawyers from all corners of the globe. Few big law firms can claim to have weathered the recession so well.
As Baker & McKenzie LLP announces on its About Us page, "We understand the challenges of the global economy because we have been at the forefront of its evolution. Since 1949, we have advised leading corporations on the issues of today's integrated world market. We have cultivated the culture, commercial pragmatism and technical and interpersonal skills required to deliver world-class service tailored to the preferences of world-class clients worldwide." No one can dispute those claims.
Baker & McKenzie was founded in 1949 by Russell Baker and John McKenzie in Chicago. However, its style of functioning owes a lot to the practice style of Russell Baker, the founding partner of the firm, who was a practicing attorney from 1925. Russell Baker was exposed to Mexican and other international cultures from an early age. He learnt the Spanish language and his first law firm, Baker & Simpson focused on providing legal services to the Mexican American community in Chicago. The firm soon became specialized in advising U.S. companies on investing in Mexico and Latin America. In 1934, Abbott Laboratories hired Baker's firm for its international expansion. In 1949, the extensive litigation experience of John McKenzie enriched the firm's culture and McKenzie took charge of the litigation practice while Baker focused on internationalization of the firm.
The real internationalization of Baker & McKenzie started from 1955 when a Venezuelan lawyer contacted the firm for opening a joint venture in Caracas. Donald Baker, the son of Russell moved to Caracas to launch the practice there, and in the next three years, the firm opened offices in Washington D.C., Amsterdam, Brussels, Zurich, New York and Sao Paulo. Departing from the stereotype of U.S. law firms representing expertise in U.S. law to foreign clients, Baker & McKenzie started training and including local lawyers, and bringing them to U.S. for orientation. The firm also actively supported the temporary relocation of attorneys from the U.S. to foreign offices. Within the next 20 years, Baker & McKenzie spread to 20 countries with trained local staff and partners.
The firm had its 50th anniversary in 1999. The 70th office of the firm was opened in South Africa in May 2012, spreading its reach to 43 countries of the world.
Areas of practice
Antitrust & Competition Law
Banking & Finance
Compensation & Employment
Energy & Natural Resources
Creditors' Rights & Bankruptcy
Global Structuring & Integration
Investigations & Business Crimes
Mergers & Acquisitions
Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare
Real Estate & Hotels
Technology & Communications
Baker & McKenzie won a case against the IRS on behalf of Symantec Corporation in 2009. Symantec was accused of not paying $1 billion in taxes for its VERITAS Software Corporation, which it had acquired in 2005. The case ended up in the U.S. Tax Court where Baker & McKenzie claimed that the ruling by IRS was arbitrary and unreasonable.
Baker & McKenzie wrote the amicus brief in 2006 in the Winkelman v. Parma City School District cases. The firm wrote it for the Council of Parent Attorneys & Advocates (COPA), and later COPA's amicus briefs. The firm in its briefs supported the rights of parents who had kids with disabilities to proceed without counsel in court cases involving enforcement of IDEA and their right to an appropriate public education. The Supreme Court gave a unanimous decision in favor of the parents' group.
Baker & McKenzie represented five luxury and fashion brands in 2005 in their case against the landlord of the Silk Market Shopping mall in Beijing. The Chinese courts found the landlord jointly and severally liable for not doing enough to stop the vendors selling counterfeit goods. This was a first in Chinese judicial history.
Awards and recognitions
For a firm recognized as one of the world's largest law firms, and one that has continued to add an office per year, awards are many. A few notable awards include:
Being named as one of the top 25 corporate law firms in America by the Corporate Board Member magazine.
Being recognized as "European Law Firm of the Year" at the Chambers Europe Awards 2012.
Being named the "Top Law Firm for Diversity" by MultiCultural Law Magazine for the 8th consecutive year.
Topping the National Law Journal's NLJ250 rankings, an annual list of the largest US law firms by number of lawyers for 2011.
Being ranked #1 by gross revenue in 2011 Am Law 100 list
Being named the world's strongest law firm brand in the sharplegal
While a degree from a top law school with high grades helps, Baker & McKenzie is known to base its hiring decision more on the personality of the candidate and how closely his/her mindset fits the requirements of the firm. On-campus interviews are the choice for the law firm to hire new associates.
Offers are based on interest and requirements in specific practice areas like trade, litigation, immigration etcetera, but the firm always has prime focus on international mindset and experiences and expertise in more than one area of law practice. Students of international law or those with experience of internships in foreign countries have better chances.
Amicable personalities are preferred more than those with overtly aggressive personalities. The team-player mentality is more sought after in new associates than that of the individual hero.
The high focus on maintaining diversity is essential to the existence of Baker & McKenzie's success since true internationalization across 43 countries brings along cultural conflicts and the need to successfully manage diversity in the workplace.
The consistent efforts of the company over diversity are easily reflected in its revenue, of course, but it is also recognized by the industry. It has been named for the 8th consecutive times as "Top Law Firm for Diversity" by MultiCultural Law Magazine. In 2009, Baker & McKenzie won the Starbucks Excellence in Diversity Award.
Baker & McKenzie was also recognized by the Working Mother magazine in 2008 as one of the Best Law Firms for Women. The firm is a member of Diversity Champions since 2005, and in 2009 it joined the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity.
Summer associate program
The summer associate program of Baker & McKenzie is intended to introduce potential hires to real life experience at the firm, orientation, and primary screening. As the law firm declares clearly on its website: "The Summer Program is designed to introduce law students who have completed their second year of law school to the practice of law and to allow Firm representatives and summer associates to become mutually acquainted for the purpose of evaluating the desirability of future employment."
Academic accomplishments, intellectual thirst, commercial orientation and respect and appreciation for global cultural differences matter in the selection of summer associates. Summer associates also introduce students to real client-work and the work offered is of "the same character as that performed by the attorneys."
Associates are introduced and exposed to research, writing, depositions, hearings and trials and client interaction. The law firm also has extensive professional training programs and summer associates have a chance to participate.
Salary & benefits
Baker & McKenzie's starting salary ranges from $130,000 to $160,000, depending on the office. Baker & McKenzie's profits per equity partner in 2009 - the most recent year for which data are available - were $990,000, placing the firm in the 37th percentile.
Y4 $0-$175,000/ $210,000
Y5 $0-$180000/ $210,000
Bar Association Fees
401(k)/IRA/Other Ret. Plan w/Employer Contribution
Domestic Partner Benefits
Employee Assistance Program
Family/Dependent Care Leave
Flexible Spending Account/Pre-Tax Option
Long-term Disability Insurance
Medical Spending Account
Short-term Disability Insurance
Technology (Laptop, PDA, etc.)
Benefits Package: Baker & McKenzie offers a comprehensive insurance benefits package that includes first day coverage for participant and eligible dependents (including one extended family member) consisting of medical, basic group life, long term disability, business travel, EAP/Work Life Plan and Assist America Travel Services. Voluntary benefits include accident, adoption assistance, cancer protection plan, commuter benefit program, dental dependent life, flexible spending account, long term care, supplemental life and a vision services plan. Additionally, retirement savings plans with the ability to elect retirement funds outside core plan. The Firm also offers paid time off, short term disability, and parental leave, as well as reimbursement for bar association fees, and CLE credit.
Working for the Baker & McKenzie LLP.
There is a pressure on billable work, however incentives are not blindly based upon billable hours but many other factors are taken into account for bonuses. There are many offices and practice groups and sometimes things can be quite disparate between concurrent groups in the same firm - in one business and incentives may be growing by leaps and bounds, while in another things might be going at a snail's pace. But individual performance gets noticed quickly, as the environment is highly competitive.
Baker & McKenzie is one of the best places to start your associate life with its lack of pretensions. The company is known to respect work-life balance and team performance. Associates get exposure to high-profile clients and gather experience from being part of teams handling extremely important transactions involving massive stakes.
The way to work within Baker & McKenzie, and the keys to success, follow the principles of individual growth within large multinational corporations and not the principles of employee growth followed in boutique law firms.
Baker & McKenzie is actively involved in Pro Bono & community service programs. It is the first law firm to receive the Corporate Pro Bono Partnering Award from the Pro Bono Institute.
As the firm declares on its website: "Our pro bono mission is to deliver first-class legal services to the underserved and disadvantaged by fostering an environment that encourages and promotes service and to promote and sponsor activities that provide opportunities for all Firm personnel, independently, and in partnership with our clients, to contribute to the well-being of the communities in which we practice and live."
Baker & McKenzie is involved in Pro bono work across a vast range of projects. It's just crossed more than ten years in campaigning for breast cancer awareness. It often files amicus briefs for children's rights, as it did recently on behalf of the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth at Northwestern University School of Law, arguing the vulnerability of children during police interrogations. It holds webinars and supports books on pro bono programs, and is sufficiently recognized for the pro-bono director of the firm to attend White House Summit as part of Congressionally-appointed LSC Obstacles Task Force.
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