Baker McKenzie - True Picture

If the prospect of being part of an enormous network of offices around the world sends you into an excited frenzy, your shortlist isn't complete without Baker McKenzie.

Baker McKenzie training contract review 2022

The Firm

Between Baker McKenzie’s “global outreach and reputation,” its “quality and breadth of work across a wide range of departments,” and its “genuine culture,” trainees felt they could have it all at this Chicago-born behemoth. “It’s the all-round package,” sources beamed. With a total of 78 offices across the world, interviewees in the firm’s London branch couldn’t help but see that “the international element is very predominant.” Sources elaborated: “It’s something that the firm does not simply market – it lives and breathes it. Almost every matter has an international element” (and that means trainees’ work too). Many felt that getting in on that international work would make for an “interesting career, especially if you're working with people from around the world.”

"Almost every matter has an international element.”

Beyond Bakers’ global scope, sources were also drawn to the “breadth of quality work the firm has available.” Indeed, the firm’s global expertise is reiterated through its plethora of Chambers rankings across multiple jurisdictions. In Chambers Global, the firm is considered a leader in areas including employment, data protection, intellectual property, tax, and tech, media and telecoms (TMT). Meanwhile, on UK soil, Bakers achieves just under 40 rankings in Chambers UK, with highlights including UK-wide kudos for commercial contracts, telecommunications, outsourcing, administrative & public law, and product liability, and London rankings for employment, IT, pensions, and banking & finance (see the ‘Firm Rankings’ tab for the full list).

Given the firm’s expertise, international presence, and reputation, trainees admitted they were attracted to the “scale and significance of the projects you get to work on.” We spoke to training principal, Stephen Ratcliffe, who highlights: “The corporate team has worked on some of the biggest, most complex matters that exist. For instance, the restructuring of the GSK [GlaxoSmithKline] business has been an incredible piece of work and touched multiple departments. That’s the kind of work only very few firms in the world can do. It’s that sort of work that really sets us apart from typical City or other law firms.”

The Seats

Halfway through each seat, trainees will have a meeting with graduate recruitment to discuss “how the current seat is going, what you like about it, and thoughts about your next seat.” Trainees then rank each of the departments (from one to 15), and the first time round, also list a ‘preference seat’ which is “one you’re essentially guaranteed to sit in at some point during your training contract.” Bakers offers both international and client secondments, though some reckoned “the firm prioritises filling the client secondments over the overseas seats.” There is a separate application for either where trainees have to “submit a CV and a business case as to why you’d like to go and what value it would bring to both your training and the firm.” In previous years, trainees have jet off to cities including New York, Brussels, and Hong Kong, or spent time at names like Google and BP,though international secondments were obviously impacted by Covid travel restrictions in 2020/21.

"You need to be able to track everything when working with 12 to 15 different jurisdictions!"

Bakers’ corporate department consists of five different seats: mergers & acquisitions; corporate finance; corporate re-organisations; corporate energy, mining & infrastructure; and private equity & funds. Much of the corporate group works across a variety of sectors, and M&A is the same. “My supervisor mostly works with industrials, but I know another partner who works with consumer goods companies. We have a strong practice in pharma as well.” Regardless of sector, the team works on “standard M&A transactions as well as a few carve-out matters” among other transactions. In a high-profile matter, the team recently advised Barcelona-based fashion and beauty company Puig on the acquisition of luxury make-up and skincare brand Charlotte Tilbury. Elsewhere, the team also advised Hutch Games on its acquisition by Modern Times Group (MTG) for approximately $375 million. Trainees noted an “element of project management” to their responsibilities, which included “a lot of trackers – you need to be able to track everything when working with 12 to 15 different jurisdictions! – and helping with signature pages.” Beyond project management, sources also highlighted “getting involved in negotiations, being on calls with the other side when discussing share purchase agreements, and a lot of due diligence.”

Similarly, banking & finance at Bakers covers a broad remit – this year’s interviewees mentioned the likes of restructuring and insolvency; trade and project finance; real estate finance; acquisition and leveraged finance; and financial regulatory services. One source explained: “There are partners who tend to specialise in one area,” so the flavour of banking work trainees sample often depends on their supervisor. That said, one noted: “They don’t want to silo you, so I probably did half my work for real estate finance, then bits of acquisition finance and leveraged finance.” On the real estate finance side, the team advised Intermediate Capital Group on the funding of a new global parts logistics centre for Jaguar Land Rover in Leicestershire. More broadly, Bakers recently advised Morgan Stanley & Co. International on the financing arrangements of the £3.8 billion recommended cash offer by Allied Universal for security company G4S. Another trainee said that “pretty much all the deals I’ve ever done have had some kind of international element,” which meant a common trainee task was “coordinating with local teams.” Other tasks included managing conditions precedent checklists, drafting ancillary finance documents, and “preparing the documents that will need to be executed for the deal to take place.” One noted being “somewhat involved in the facility agreements” from the side of “checking it or making small additions” as opposed to drafting it, but added that helping to draft the primary documents “was not unheard of” for juniors.

Structured capital markets covers areas like “securitisations, bond issuances, green bonds, and sovereign debt and derivatives.” In light of the pandemic, the group saw a stark increase in restructuring work, which involved “advising trustees where companies were restructuring their securitisations and finance deals.” The group acted for US Bank and Global Loan Agency Services (GLAS) on the £1 billion restructuring of PizzaExpress, as well as GLAS’s appointment as trustee on the new money facilities. The team also advised Clearpay Finance Limited and its parent, Afterpay Limited, on two simultaneous securitisation transactions for £125 million and £50 million respectively. During their time in this seat, trainees were pleased to get stuck into “a lot of deal drafting” while also receiving “a lot of client exposure.” One said: “I was given a lot of room for growth, and by the fourth or fifth month, I was given my own deal by an associate to run.”

The EU competition and trade practice is split into two buckets: competition, and trade. Within competition, the work is once again split between investigations into anti-competitive behaviour (like cartels and price-fixing), and merger control work. “Juniors are encouraged to do as broad a range as possible, rather than focus on one area.” Trainees had come across a broad range of matters, from “small joint ventures where we do the due diligence and look at case law as to whether there’s been precedent to something being anti-competitive,” through to “really big, multinational deals, looking at a variety of jurisdictions.” The trade side also involves investigations, this time into “potential breaches of trade controls or sanctions.” Both sides involved a hefty amount of research, where trainees “get to become the source of knowledge,” on top of tasks like drafting emails to clients and liaising with local counsel. A recent matter saw the team help Platinum Equity in obtaining merger control clearances related to its $2 billion acquisition of Wesco Aircraft Holdings. The group also represented business-to-business services, trading, and distribution company Bidvest Group on the EU merger control approval for its acquisition of hygiene service provider PHS Group.

"You don’t need to worry if your first attempt is a failure, so long as you progress on the second attempt.”

Trainees over in employment came across “a mix of contentious and non-contentious work” as well as “lots of day-to-day advisory work.” The team recently advised Sony Music Entertainment on the HR aspects of the agreement for Simon Cowell to acquire Sony’s stake in their joint venture talent and production company Syco. Trainees recalled “coordinating the employment side of major transactions run by the M&A team,” as well as “putting together bundles and tables of evidence for litigation.” Sources appreciated being able to “see what’s good advice, and what’s not so great advice” during their seat. Employment was another area impacted heavily by Covid-19, so sources found they were also involved in “running a Covid-related advice matrix – we’d end up getting the same questions about testing and vaccinations etc., so it was helpful to have a record of all the advice we’d given on any particular date.”

Trainee Life

“The firm is a patient one,” interviewees asserted. “It can be a challenging environment for trainees, especially working from home as a first-seater, but they allow you to build confidence. You don’t need to worry if your first attempt is a failure, so long as you progress on the second attempt.” Along with partners’ general approachability, sources appreciated “the expertise of senior lawyers” as well as “their readiness to teach and mentor.” And this attitude wasn’t limited to the London office – multiple interviewees were keen to emphasise “how integrated the London office is with offices in other jurisdictions.” One elaborated: “I've encountered the same friendliness and willingness to help every time I've contacted local counsel.”

“…candid discussions surrounding diversity and inclusion in the legal sector.”

Interviewees found that this level of supportiveness also led to “candid discussions surrounding diversity and inclusion in the legal sector, and the firm’s progress in tackling those barriers.” In particular, sources praised the firm’s response to the BLM movement, highlighting “listening sessions where racially diverse colleagues talked about their experiences in the firm and commented on things that could be done better. The stories were really eye-opening.” Bakers also holds regular seminars and has all the industry-standard affinity groups including BakerWomen, BakerEthnicity, BakerLGBT&Allies, BakerOpportunity, and BakerWellbeing. In terms of lawyers’ mental health, sources felt the firm does “quite well” with hosting various webinars, but noted: “Where everyone is working quite long hours, sometimes you can’t go to the webinars because you’re working.” Trainees highlighted that the firm also offers “a counselling service that you can call” and is a signatory of the Mindful Business Charter, which left most agreeing that the firm is “good at putting things in place and encouraging those conversations.”

Trainees “weren’t shocked” when it came to their hours. “It’s tough at times, but it’s just the nature of the work.” Most seats were consistently “reasonably full-on,” but as expected, hours in transactional seats fluctuated more: “Sometimes you’re working until the early hours of the morning. Sometimes you won’t have anything to do by midday.” Trainees agreed that working from home helped in making time for their private lives away from the firm, alongside “not-so-busy times where you could catch up on your personal life.” Logging on at the weekend also featured on the odd occasion, though one source estimated that they'd “only worked two or three weekends since starting.”

For qualification, fourth seaters will have talks with graduate recruitment to go over “the number of positions available in each department.” Trainees then submit an application form with their preference (trainees can submit one or two options) along with a CV and cover letter. Sources reckoned “there’s usually enough vacancies to accommodate all trainees,” which mean folks “generally tend to stick around.” One noted that qualifiers “only really leave if they can’t do what they applied for.” For instance, if there's a department that’s really popular, naturally the firm “won’t be able to offer everyone a position.” In 2021, the firm retained 34 of 38 qualifiers.

Get Hired


Vacation scheme deadline:  1 December 2021 (spring); 1 January 2022 (summer)

Training contract deadline: 1 April 2022

Open Day Information: 

  • General Open Day on September 15th 2021: apply between August 1st and September 1st
  • General Open Day on September 17th 2021: apply between August 1st and September 1st
  • General Open Day on September 21st 2021: apply between August 1st and September 1st
  • Non-Law Open Day on October 12th 2021: apply between September 1st and October 1st
  • Black Lawyers & Allies Open Day on October 15th 2021: apply between September 1st and October 1st
  • Opportunity Open Day on October 22nd 2021: apply between September 1st and October 1st
  • LGBT+ & Allies Open Day on 16 November 2021: apply between September 1st and November 1st
  • Women+ Open Day on 19th November 2021: apply between September 1st and November 1st
  • Employability Open Day on 26 November 2021: apply between September 1st and November 1st

First-year programme deadline: 1 February 2021 


The application for a vacation scheme and a training contract are the same. The process begins with an online application form and a cover letter that is focused on the firm. "When candidates are applying to Baker McKenzie, they should focus on their motivations for joining a commercial law firm, and in particular, Baker McKenzie" according to graduate recruitment and development manager, Sarah Tucker, who adds that seemingly small things like spelling the firms name wrong, referring to it as an American firm, or using a stock cover letter are all important to avoid. "The application form is your opportunity to tell us about your experiences to date, and showcase how your experiences would make you a good fit for the firm. We are always interested to hear about your personal experiences with the firm, so feel free to include these." 

Interviews and assessments  

After applying online, successful candidates are asked to complete a critical thinking test . This is followed by a competency-based and strengths-based video interview.  

From here, those who make the grade – vacation scheme and training contract applicants alike – attend an assessment day which consists of four different exercises, including a group exercise, and candidates are interviewed by both partners and associates. “We interview as many non-law as we do law students, so there's not a lot of focus on legal terminology,” Tucker assures. “Rather, the day is focused on your commercial awareness and ability to work with others.”  

Vacation scheme

Baker McKenzie runs two Vacation Schemes in a year, one in spring and one in summer. The spring scheme lasts two weeks, while the summer one last three. Participants visit two practice areas during their placement; these are chosen based on their preferences submitted beforehand. The vacation scheme includes talks from each department, networking lunches with partners and associates, and a Q&A session with the management committee, plus social outings like escape rooms and painting classes.  

All vacation schemers have an interview with a partner at the end of their visit. This takes the form of “a discussion about what they've been doing during the scheme and how they found the placement,” according to Tucker.

Open days 

In addition to its vacation schemes, Baker McKenzie has recently introduced a series of focused open days to give more specific insights to varying social and ethnic groups. Alongside 3 general open days that give a perfect taster of life at Baker McKenzie, and give a feel of what a career in the field of law is like more generally, there are also six additional days, each of which is focused. Each open day includes interactive workshops, practice group overviews, application tips, and the opportunity to network with partners, associates, and trainee solicitors.

Baker McKenzie

100 New Bridge Street,

  • Partners 126
  • Assistant solicitors 276
  • Total trainees 66
  • UK offices London
  • Overseas offices 76
  • Contacts 
  • The graduate recruitment team: 020 7919 1000
  • Training Principle: Stephen Ratcliffe
  • Application criteria 
  • Training contracts pa: 33
  • Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or equivalent
  • Minimum UCAS points or A levels: 340 UCAS points or equivalent
  • Vacation scheme places pa: 45
  • Dates and deadlines 
  • Training contract applications open, 2022 start: 1st February 2021
  • Training contract deadline, 2022 start: 1st April 2021
  • First Year Insight Scheme applications open: 1st October 2021
  • First Year Insight Scheme deadline: 1st February 2022
  • Spring vacation scheme applications open: 1st October 2022
  • Spring vacation scheme deadline: 1st December 2021 
  • [NOTE - 2021 spring vacation scheme postponed due to COVID-19 outbreak]
  • Summer vacation schemes applications open: 1st October 2021
  • Summer vacation schemes deadline: 1st January 2022
  • Salary and benefits  
  • First-year salary: £48,000
  • Second-year salary: £48,000
  • Post-qualification salary: £90,000
  • Holiday entitlement: 25 days
  • Sponsorship 
  • LPC tuition fees: Yes
  • GDL tuition fees: Yes
  • Maintenance grant pa: GDL: £8,000, LPC: £10,000
  • International and regional 
  • Offices with training contracts: London
  • Overseas seats: Hong Kong, Brussels, San Francisco, Singapore, Tokyo and Washington DC. Changes each rotation.
  • Client secondments: Yes, confidential

Firm profile

With 77 offices in 47 countries, and a presence in all leading financial centres, Baker McKenzie is the world’s premier global law firm. Our strategy is to provide the best combination of local legal and commercial knowledge, international expertise and resources. Trainee solicitors are a vital part of that strategy, exposed to the international scope of the firm from the moment they start. There is also the possibility of an overseas secondment, recent secondees have spent time in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo.

Main areas of work

London is home to the firm’s largest office where Baker McKenzie has been well established since its opening in 1961. With more than 400 lawyers, we have a substantial presence in the legal and business community. Providing a full service offering, we deliver high-quality local solutions across a broad range of practices and offer global advice in conjunction with our international offices. Our client base consists primarily of venture capital funds, investment banks, technology powerhouses and household name brands. As a firm with a very strong international client base, we have considerable expertise in acting on, and coordinating, complex cross-border transactions and disputes.

Training opportunities

The two-year training contract comprises four six-month seats which include a corporate and a contentious seat, usually within our highly regarded dispute resolution department. We also offer the possibility of a secondment abroad or with a client. During each seat you will have formal and informal reviews to discuss your progress and regular meetings to explore subsequent seat preferences. Your training contract commences with a highly interactive and practical induction programme which focuses on key skills including practical problem solving, presenting and the application of information technology. The firm’s training programmes include important components of management and other business skills, as well as seminars and workshops on key legal topics for each practice area. There is a Trainee Solicitor Liaison Committee which acts as a forum for any new ideas or concerns which may occur during the training contract.

Vacation scheme

Our vacation schemes offer the ideal opportunity to experience what it’s like to work for a city-based, global law firm. Each vacation scheme gives you the chance to experience two of our key practice areas. Training is provided throughout to familiarise you with some of our typical transactions and to help you develop key skills. We place great emphasis on involving you in ‘live’ work.
• Spring Vacation Scheme: 12th April - 23rd April 2021
• Summer Vacation Schemes: 21st June - 9th July 2021

Other benefits

Bonus scheme, gym membership/subsidy, life assurance, pension scheme with company contributions, private healthcare/dental, season ticket loan, subsidised restaurant, cycle to work scheme, childcare vouchers.

Open days and first-year opportunities

Open days: We have tailored our Open Days to you by focusing on the different things that matter to you. We are holding four Open Days where you can hear about Baker McKenzie more generally. But we also have Open Days for black future lawyers and allies, Open Days for LGBT+ and allies, Open Days focusing on women in law, plus many others that will give you a taste of our culture as well as our diverse community.

First Year Insight Schemes: We offer ten places to spend two days in the firm on 7th and 8th April 2021. There will be a number of skills sessions and each student will spend a day in a department of their choice. Applications open in October.  

Social media


This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance: Borrowers: Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance: Lenders: Mid-Market (Band 2)
    • Banking Litigation (Band 5)
    • Capital Markets: Debt (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: Equity (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: High-Yield Products (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 4)
    • Competition Law (Band 4)
    • Construction: Non-contentious (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: High-end Capability (Band 4)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 1)
    • Employment: Employer: Industrial Relations (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 4)
    • Information Technology (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Law Firms With Patent & Trade Mark Attorneys Spotlight Table
    • Litigation (Band 4)
    • Pensions (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • Administrative & Public Law (Band 2)
    • Commercial Contracts (Band 1)
    • Construction: International Arbitration (Band 3)
    • Data Protection & Information Law (Band 5)
    • Employee Share Schemes & Incentives (Band 2)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Mining (Band 4)
    • Fraud: Civil (Band 3)
    • International Arbitration: Commercial Arbitration (Band 4)
    • Life Sciences (Band 3)
    • Life Sciences: Transactional (Band 3)
    • Media & Entertainment: Gaming, Social Media & Interactive Content (Band 2)
    • Outsourcing (Band 1)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts: Mid-Market (Band 2)
    • Product Liability: Mainly Defendant (Band 2)
    • Projects (Band 3)
    • Tax: Contentious (Band 2)
    • Telecommunications (Band 1)