Baker & McKenzie (London)
Possibly unfairly, Baker & McKenzie is most famous for its size. Based in Chicago, it now has 72 offices in 45 jurisdictions and a total of around 3,750 fee earners worldwide.
Bakers has long had a policy of allowing individual offices a certain degree of independence. Some offices operated under distinct local brand-names, and the firm has always used local lawyers as much as possible.
The problem of course, as critics happily point out, is that this sort of approach does not guarantee the same quality product the world over. It seems Bakers has recognised this with its previous chairman Christine Lagarde launching a concerted effort to improve the firm's reputation through an increased focus on quality. Overseas offices were forced to drop their local names, and the firm's aggressive "eat what you kill" remuneration system for partners came under scrutiny.
London seems to have been relatively untroubled by this, probably because it is still one of the jewels in Bakers' crown. It is one of the largest London offices of any US firm in terms of number of lawyers (300 odd) and fees generated. And in 2012 the firm clung on to its title of world's largest by revenue, pulling in £1.43 billion, up two per cent on 2011. Although
Baker's partners took home on average nine percent less than they did last year. Baker’s global chairman, Eduardo Leite, has blamed the “challenging circumstances confronting our clients in an
uncertain global economy
Given that Bakers generates more income in Europe than in the States, US partners are quite happy to leave the UK operation to manage itself. The culture is more that of an 80 partner domestic practice than of a global mega-firm. Hours tend to be UK rather than US, it is generally seen as highly autonomous and, because it is staffed by so many Brits, is thought of as the most "English" of the American firms at which to work.
It seems to be a very convivial place. “A really lovely environment to work in"
comments one trainee. An NQ agrees that the firm is filled with ”genuinely friendly people
" including "partners that care and show an interest in career development
". Hours aren’t crippling (“a decent work-life balance
”, says one junior associate), and while "partners ask for a lot
" apparently "the majority offer a lot in return
Pay is OK for the partners - profits per partner of £650,000 may not be troubling the likes of Linklaters who pull in almost double the amount, but they're a colossal improvement on the £375,000 they were a few years ago. But whilst assistant wages are at the top end of traditional London firms, they aren't a patch on what you'd make at rival US firms in the City.
And the fact that Bakers has lots of overseas offices doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s lawyers are likely to spend any time in them. It may be the most international of firms, but its "local lawyers" policy means that if you are after first class overseas experience, you'd probably be better off in the Magic Circle. But if you are looking for an alternative to mid-sized UK firms and see the possibility of overseas work as an interesting fringe benefit, then Bakers is an option well worth looking into.
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