Possibly unfairly, Baker McKenzie is most famous for its size. Based in Chicago, it now has 77 offices in 47 jurisdictions and a total of around 4,200 fee earners worldwide. And a whopping 12,000 strong staff in total.
The firm's global revenue in 2014/15 was US$2.43 billion, a slight slump of 4% from the previous year. Profits per equity partner were also down at US$1.14 million. The firm said the figures were impacted because it has to convert revenues for reporting purposes into US dollars, and was affected by "the appreciation of the US dollar and the devaluation of many currencies around the globe". Another reason given was an "unexpected" one-off delay in billing due to financial system migration - which might be one for the "dog ate my homework" category of excuses. The firm also said major investments in the year 2014/15 had an impact. It has dropped the ampersand from its name, so perhaps that will, in time, shave off a few quid in engraving and printing costs.
And Bakers had a real push for further expansion in the 2015 fiscal year, opening offices in Brisbane and Jeddah, a new Global Services Center in Belfast and a Joint Operation in Shanghai, to battle Dentons in China.
Perhaps because the UK is such a key component, US partners seem quite happy to leave the UK operation of London/Belfast 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, has traditionally been thought of as the most "British" of the American firms at which to work.
It seems to be a very convivial place. “Supportive atmosphere for juniors - partners and associates really put time and thought into my development" comments one trainee. An NQ agrees that the firm is filled with ”great people from the support staff to the partners". One junior associate says that hours aren’t crippling and there is “a decent work-life balance”. Although, another trainee comments that at times "cross border work" can result in "unusual working hours". And another lawyer bemoans the "7am meetings with Australia".
There are some grumbling voices when it comes to pay. One junior lawyer believes that salaries are "still low end of the market" but balances this with chargeable hour targets being "lower than the magic circle". The London office also seems due a refurb, or at least a new lick of paint, as there were several complaints about the building being "old and not very glamorous".
Staff report that equality and diversity are taken seriously by the firm. In the 2015 fiscal year, over 40% of the 83 partners promotions were women - a record for any law firm. Trainees enthuse that the London environment is "incredibly welcoming and diverse", and that "Diversity and equality couldn't be higher on its agenda". Another trainee says that the firm helps "underprivileged young people in their quest to become lawyers".
Another trainees says that, "Even though the firm is massive you're made to feel an important part of it". Further up the food chain, an associate vouches that, "After 4 years at the firm, I am yet to see any pressure to spend more time in the office than is necessary to complete the job. If those hours are long, then so be it. If I'm done at 5.30pm, I'll be out the door at 5.31pm". Which sounds healthy. One lawyer also proudly notes that "agile working is actually a thing here".
The fact that Bakers has lots of overseas offices doesn’t necessarily mean that its lawyers are likely to spend any time in them. The firm's Associate Training Program (ATP) can provide some opportunities to work in offshore offices. But its 'local lawyers' policy means that if you are after first class overseas experience, you may be better off in the Magic Circle. However, 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.