Baker McKenzie - True Picture

London is a key part of this US-founded firm’s global enterprise, which offers trainees a mighty array of corporate and banking options alongside much more.

Baker McKenzie training contract review 2021

The Firm 

There’s international, and then there’s international. There’s having a scattering of overseas bases, and then there’s having 78 offices in over 46 countries. Put simply, Chicago-founded Baker McKenzie is a truly global outfit. “There are few firms out there that from their inception sought to bring in clients that were international and cross-border,” declared one source. “The whole point of Bakers is to assist household names across multiple countries and jurisdictions.” Our sources unanimously circled back to this: to be drawn to Bakers is to be drawn to practising law on a global level. “Few firms can offer the advice we can on the scale we can,” another interviewee enthused. 

“The whole point of Bakers is to assist household names across multiple countries and jurisdictions.” 

Let’s look at that scale in more depth: Baker McKenzie is ranked in a not-so-shabby 56 regions across the globe in various Chambers & Partners guides. On the global stage, Bakers rules when it comes commercial contracts, data protection, employment, employee benefits, IP, tax and TMT (technology, media and telecoms) work, among many other highly regarded areas. For the work conducted from Bakers’ London base, Chambers UK bestows top-notch praise on many of the practices listed above, as well as areas such as construction-related international arbitration, IT, product liability, banking & finance, and administrative & public law.  

Rankings aside, London is in fact home to Bakers’ largest office and “frequently comes up as a lead office on anything multi-jurisdictional.” While considered “a hub office” due to its coordinating capabilities (aided by London’s geographic placement and time zone), "we’re not the be all and end all;” Baker's US origins are influential, but we would emphasise that this doesn't feel like a stereotypical US firm. Baker has continued to invest in the capital with 11 high-profile lateral partner hires made in 2019, alongside its appointment of three new global practice heads in the London office. 

The Seats 

There’s been a “real shift to become and position ourselves as a transactional heavyweight for applicants,” one clued-up interviewee shared. As such, trainees are now encouraged to complete at least two transactional seats as opposed to just one previously (due to the firm's current work streams). Before each seat rotation trainees are required to submit their preferences. Allaying any fears over transparency, Bakers now “explains how many places there are in each department and how many first preferences there are each time.” Each rookie also selects a ‘priority seat’ for their training contract, which “you’re pretty much guaranteed to get.” 

That emphasis on being a ‘transactional heavyweight’ is reflected in the size and structure of Bakers’ corporate department: it’s split into seven different seats! These consist of corporate reorganisationsM&Aprivate equity and fundstaxcorporate financeenergy, mining, and infrastructure; and environmental markets“You tend to work with one team at a time, but we do move resources around when there’s capacity,” one source noted.  

Both public and private M&A deals are handled by Bakers, which does indeed represent various household-name clients including Unilever, McDonald’s, Hitachi, and more. Of note, the firm recently advised Saudi Arabia’s Alawwal Bank on its merger with the Saudi British Bank, which created the Kingdom’s third largest bank (with assets under management valued at around $70 billion). Bakers also acted on Japanese conglomerate Hitachi’s $11 billion carve-out and acquisition of automated tech company ABB, as well as pharma outfit GSK’s joint venture with Pfizer, which created the world’s largest over-the-counter healthcare business (valued at $50 billion). Interviewees enthused about their work on these “industry-changing deals.” One trainee told us about their experience working on a large carve-out, which involved “trying to manage the opening of multiple corporate entities around the world” and pulling off seamless coordination with local counsel in various jurisdictions. 

“I was given the local counsel details of clients in Africa looking to acquire businesses and was just told to run with it!” 

Trainees in private equity and funds see premier investor clients – such as Bain Capital, Macquarie, KKR, CVC, and more – flock through the doors. There’s an emphasis here on the tech, construction and infrastructure fields. Trainees had worked on deals that they described as “small market, with sellers usually pitched at £100 million.” Doesn’t sound so small to us! However, in the context of some of the firm’s mega deals, we guess that is rather small. A case in point: Bakers recently acted for US multinational Equinix on its $1 billion+ joint venture with GIC (Singapore’s global wealth fund) to develop ‘hyperscale’ data centres. The team also advised major PE firm Bain Capital on its $1.9 billion bid for the European distribution platform of building materials company CRH. Crossover support with other corporate groups is reportedly common. “There’s lots of responsibility,” said one source. “You see the vast majority of documents and do all the trainee tasks on those deals, like proofreading, drafting, and notetaking on calls.” Beyond those usual ‘trainee tasks,’ one interviewee raved about their role on a matter: “I was given the local counsel details of clients in Africa looking to acquire businesses and was just told to run with it!” 

There’s plenty of crossover with the energy, mining, and infrastructure (EMI) team. “Broadly speaking, the biggest stream of work here is a mix of M&A and projects,” a trainee revealed. The group also offers a “fair chunk of advisory work, with lots of regulatory specialists present on the team.” Internationalism again comes to the fore when working with mining majors like Rio Tinto and oil and gas maestros like Shell. The firm has recently been called upon by Saudi mining company Ma’aden to advise on the development of the Mansourah-Massarah Gold Project in the Kingdom. “On bigger matters, I did both buy and seller side M&A,” noted one source, citing business development, ancillary document prep and proofreading as typical tasks for trainees. “But on discrete matters, the smaller teams shine” for giving trainees more responsibility. “For example, if you’re working to purchase a couple of fields or handling the advisory components on commission liability, you get more substantial legal work.” 

“While I don’t draft the meatier documents, I’m keeping the project going. And on something of this scale, that’s recognised to be incredibly key.” 

Bakers’ banking and finance group covers structured capital markets (SCM), financial regulatory services, and restructuring and insolvency work. The department's grown in recent years due to lateral hiring from a range of fellow US firms with offices in London. A range of derivative products – such as rate swaps, FX products, and equity derivatives – are handled within SCM, and the team recently assisted luxury products group LVMH on its $3.2 billion acquisition of 45 luxury hotels (and other assets) by conducting a due diligence review of the seller’s existing financing arrangements. The SCM team similarly acts for well-known banks and financial institutions such as AIG, Bank of China, Citibank, and UBS; the work for names like these is further split between structured debt securities, securitisations and derivatives. A mix of contentious and non-contentious work colours life in financial regulatory services. Of note, the firm acted for several senior managers under investigation by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) and PRA (Prudential Regulation Authority) at Metro Bank. The restructuring team, meanwhile, recently acted for Global Loan Agency Services in connection with the contentious restructuring of a Belgo-Dutch biotech company, Galapagos.   

Our interviewees had sat in all the above practices. Across the groups, a “high-pressured” air prevails, with late nights and tight deadlines part of the mix. Acclimatising quickly is part of the deal here, as “it’s a technical area of law, which can be quite difficult to get to grips with.” Yet with their feet found, responsibility ensues for trainees in the form of drafting legal opinions, offering memorandums and fee letters; amending documents; handling company filings; and notetaking on client calls. We heard of many a complex matter here, which saw trainees putting together large sets of loans for railway infrastructure abroad; completing discrete anti-money laundering research assignments; contributing to insurance regulatory work for art houses and auctions; and assisting international banks that were seeking to set up in the UK. These are just some of the highlights documented from across the seats. 

“I actually didn’t do any bundling in this seat!” 

Dispute resolution (and contentious financial services matters more generally) has been marked as an area of growth for the firm. The recent addition of a banking and finance litigation partner from Allen & Overy has helped to enhance an offering already stacked with globally familiar names, like FedEx, Barclays, L’Oréal, and more. The firm successfully acted for Prandicle (a company owned by Ukraine’s former deputy prime minister) during $1 billion commercial court proceedings following the alleged wrongful sale of a large steel plant in Ukraine. Bakers has also continued to advise natural gas exporter Gazprom in High Court litigation concerning a dispute with various Bulgarian companies over the dilution of shares in a joint venture. Trainees celebrated the “really broad remit” of cases available and had worked on large-scale investigations, product liability matters, arbitration hearings, and large commercial litigation matters. “I actually didn’t do any bundling in this seat!” one source enthused. Instead, interviewees had made submissions to court and drafted a mix of witness statements, claim forms and paragraphs of client advice.  

Trainee Life 

Client and overseas secondments are also a Bakers mainstay. Presentations are given before each rotation on secondment availability, with trainees’ experience often dictating assigned destinations. Client secondment options are confidential, but we can tell you that trainees can potentially go to any Bakers office in the global network if there is a business need. Popular destinations for overseas seats included Brussels, Hong Kong, Dubai and Sydney. “I’ll be pushing to do the secondment again,” joked one source. “It’s been really good for my personal brand.”  

“It’s just so positive here,” one interviewee concluded on the topic of culture“It’s not competitive between trainees either. The quickest way to lose an offer is to climb all over other people.” This humble approach also extends to the senior ranks. “It’s one of the least hierarchical places I’ve been in,” another trainee commented. When asked about stress – a common accompaniment to legal work in the City – sources found that while levels were team-dependent, it was important to keep everything in perspective. “It’s important to learn that you’ll get things wrong,” one sage source reflected. “There are very high expectations for trainees, but I’ve generally felt well supported.” 

Much of the social life at Bakers is also team-dependent. “Some departments are known for socialising, while others are smaller and the social vibe is less prevalent.” Overall, sources had few complaints about the activities on offer, with cocktail-making classes, karaoke nights, darts excursions, and firm-wide seasonal parties all celebrated. The ‘Baker Mingle’ committee also organises events with a budget from the firm. Organic frivolity is also key, and “every Friday, trainees will go for a drink in the pub. It’s kind of a given we’ll be there.” Pro bono opportunities can take on a social slant as well. There’s reportedly a “huge amount of stuff” trainees have access to, alongside a dedicated pro bono associate who sends out regular emails to advertise opportunities. “We do a lot of work with charities to help improve the chance of BAME individuals entering the City, and not just within the legal profession, but the City in general,” one source informed us. Sources also championed the firm for not capping the number of pro bono hours that they could do. As we went to press, the firm told us that it has just launched a dedicated pro bono seat for two trainees per rotation.

On this corporate social responsibility (CSR) note, Bakers has links with several local schools where it offers talks and workshops for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Wider discussions around diversity at the firm arose in our interviews, with this source saying: “When it comes to action, they’re working on bolstering non-male partnership ranks and BAME outreach.” In 2019, the firm committed to a global partner and leadership target of 40% women, 40% men, and 20% flexible representation (women, men, or non-binary persons). But what about the lived experience of diversity at Bakers? “Diversity is not seen as a tick box exercise here,” one trainee assured us. “It’s engrained in the people at Bakers.” Interviewees listed a whole host of diversity groups and initiatives for people to get involved in. “There’s so much going on, you can’t get involved with everything!” one regretful source declared.

And the hours“It depends on the team,” one trainee responded, unsurprisingly. “There’s a general expectation that for at least half of a corporate or banking seat, you should expect to be in until at least 7pm.” Another source highlighted the “red zones” for long hours – corporate is “notoriously bad on that front, as is SCM. Banking and disputes are notable for their long hours too.” Trainees generally considered 11pm and beyond a late night, with finishing times between 6pm and 7.30pm regarded as “normal.” The firm also provides dinners and taxis home for late finishers. We heard that evenings and weekends are mostly respected, as is the emphasis on the lack of strict face time requirements. “People are really good at making sure that when you’re off, you’re off,” one relieved trainee found. 

Informal mid-seat chats with supervisors are followed by detailed end of seat reviews. The latter come complete with development points and formalised scoring for factors such as quality of work, business development efforts and pro bono endeavours. “Because the trainee evaluation process is strictly followed,” one trainee revealed, “you’re given indications throughout the process on how to improve.” This led to good reviews of the qualification process, which involves submitting first and second preferences to graduate recruitment after receiving a list of available NQ positions. “You submit around 250 words to a page explaining why you want to join those teams and that’s it. There are no interviews and it’s very much based on feedback from the departments.” 


Baked to perfection... 

Retention rates have been historically strong at Bakers. In 2020, the firm continued that trend and retained 28 of 34 qualifiers.


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How to get into Baker McKenzie


Vacation scheme deadline:  1 December 2020 (Spring);  1 January 2021 (Summer) 

Training contract deadline: 1 April 2021

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
  • 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 officer Lizzie Arthey, 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,” Arthey 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 Arthey.

International Clerkship scheme  

Baker McKenzie also run an International Vacation Scheme. The scheme lasts for eight to twelve weeks and gives participants the opportunity to get work across several practice areas. This scheme lasts for eight to 12 weeks between June and September, and gives you the opportunity to work across several practice areas. You’ll get involved in live transactions, deals and cases, and in as many meetings and hearings as possible. The firm will cover all your flight, transfer and accommodation arrangements, ensuring where you stay is within walking distance of the office. This scheme is open to students who have accepted a Training Contract offer with the firm. 

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 7 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 partner: Arron Slocombe
  • 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 2020
  • First Year Insight Scheme deadline: 1st February 2021
  • Spring vacation scheme applications open: 1st October 2020
  • Spring vacation scheme deadline: 1st December 2020 
  • [NOTE - 2020 spring vacation scheme postponed due to COVID-19 outbreak]
  • Summer vacation schemes applications open: 1st October 2020
  • Summer vacation schemes deadline: 1st January 2021
  • 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: £6,000, LPC: £8,000
  • 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, 2020

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: Securitisation (Band 4)
    • Competition Law (Band 4)
    • Construction: Non-contentious (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: High-end Capability (Band 4)
    • Employment: Employer (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 5)
    • 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)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Power (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 3)
    • Product Liability: Mainly Defendant (Band 2)
    • Projects (Band 3)
    • Tax: Contentious (Band 3)
    • Telecommunications (Band 1)