If you're looking for a firm with a serious global reputation and a wide spread of top-notch practices, this Baker has all you knead.
Baker McKenzie training contract review 2024
Taxi drivers hear their fair share of colourful stories from passengers making their way home, but we’d wager it’s not every day they’d get to witness the founding of one of the world’s biggest law firms. Well, a Chicago cab is exactly where this firm’s story starts, when Russell Baker and John McKenzie met on a shared journey in 1948. Talk about right place, right time. What began as a backseat idea more than 70 years ago would go on to balloon into the global behemoth that Baker McKenzie is today, with 74 offices around the world. Those kinds of credentials put it at the top of the list for trainees looking for “an international firm with cross-border strength and travel opportunities.” So, if you’re looking to start your travel vlogger era or get some stamps on your passport, read on…
“They asked me about my values, and it seemed that they were interested in me as a person.”
Just 13 years after that fateful cab ride, the London hub was established in 1961. Baker McKenzie has spent the last 60 years building its name on this side of the pond, and that’s reflected in the sheer size of the place. It’s now the firm’s biggest office, housing over 550 lawyers. The firm scoops up top rankings in the capital from Chambers UK in employment, real estate, IT and outsourcing. Meanwhile, its commercial contracts, investment funds, media & entertainment, telecommunicationsand private equity practices are rated highly on a national scale. The firm is a regular in Chambers Global too, picking up nearly 300 rankings! It’s recognised as a global market leader in climate change, franchisingand outsourcing, and performs particularly well in the Asia-Pacific region in finance, funds, tech and life sciences.
Given its huge size, the warm atmosphere was the icing on top of the cake for many of our interviewees. “It's friendly, open, and the people here are on your side,” a source shared. For another, “that shone through from the application process. They asked me about my values, and it seemed that they were interested in me as a person.”
The firm adopts the standard four-seat structure with trainees spending six months in each rotation. Before each seat, trainees rank their preferences from a list of 16 available options. Newbies also get to choose a must-do, priority seat, which is usually guaranteed at some point throughout the contract.
International secondments are on the cards for a select few, usually in their final seat, with previous trainees jetting off to places like Dubai, Singapore, Frankfurt, New York and Sydney. “They’re really making an effort post-COVID,” said one interviewee. “They’re constantly adding places so if you push for a secondment, they’ll try to accommodate you.” Trainees who’d rather stay on British soil have the chance to try out a client secondment and play a part in helping the firm “strengthen its relationships.” A secondment to Google is on the cards!
The corporate seat is split into five sub-practices: corporate finance; corporate reorganisations; private equity; M&A; and corporate energy, mining & infrastructure (EMI). Trainees sitting here are typically assigned to one sub-group, but can work across the others as well. So, to give you a quick rundown, the EMI team focuses on M&A and projects related to energy, mining, renewables, and oil and gas. As the only sub-group that’s tied to a specific industry, trainees are expected to “stay on top of industry updates and feed that information to the group.” The team has represented the infrastructure investment firm Fiera on a number of transactions, including its £100 million investment in the development of Ortus Energy’s rooftop solar power projects. Corporate reorganisation, meanwhile, focuses on internal corporate structure planning. “I was liaising with local counsel, drafting board resolutions, and doing lots of project management,” one recalled. There was also “lots of research involved” into topics from ESG to modern slavery. Corporate finance deals with a range of public company work – “we’re trying to get an Australian fintech company on the London Stock Exchange!” – while the private equity group acts on both the buyer and seller sides of sales and purchases with private equity houses.
Responsibilities vary based on the sub-group, but corporate trainees can expect to handle project management, review contracts and draft ancillary documents. While there are admin tasks such as document management, sources added that there are plenty of opportunities to attend client meetings. Trainees were grateful for the fact that “they dial up complexity and responsibility when trainees prove themselves. I took over a matter from someone when I started my seat and was emailing clients and opposing counsel on my own.”
“We’ve been helping clients better understand the Digital Services Act.”
The IP tech group works on a bunch of data protection, tech regulation and cybersecurity matters, giving trainees an insight into the nuts and bolts of patent, trade mark and copyright law. Insiders valued the intellectually stimulating nature of the seat, explaining how “we’ve been helping clients better understand the Digital Services Act” – a piece of EU legislation which still impacts UK companies. We heard it’s typical for trainees to get involved in project management and advisory work for clients. “They rely on you to go through the advice, so you have to know what it all means,” emphasised one source. Trainees can also work on patent litigation matters, creating bundles for court and drafting witness statements. For instance, the group was recently involved in a patent litigation matter for the construction machine manufacturer JCB, representing the company in a variety of infringement claims across the UK, France and Italy.
Trainees in employment get to try out a variety of contentious, transactional and advisory work. The wider team has expertise in the financial services sector, often working for banks and other financial institutions on their employment-related matters. On the litigation side, trainees explained that there’s plenty of international redundancy work, and chances to get to grips with compiling bundles and liaising with local counsel. That said, we also heard that “they let you run with smaller matters such as tribunal claims.” The group boasts some big client names, such as the BBC, Google, Sony and Hewlett-Packard. Trainees also got experience advising clients on employee transfer agreements, settlements, and other general employment law queries. For instance, the team’s been kept busy following the $12.7 billion joint venture between GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, advising GSK and the new healthcare company, Haleon, on employment matters and strategies across more than 100 jurisdictions.
“Trainees can be the first to add comments to documents or practise some difficult drafting.”
Trainees who fancy a flavour of finance will want to do a seat with Baker’s banking and finance team. The team is divided into separate sub-groups, such as leveraged finance, real estate finance and trade finance, which does a lot of work in developing countries, and trainees sat here can work across all. One trainee summarised the leveraged finance side of the work as “classic finance facility agreements” – in layman’s terms, the agreement between a lender and a borrower in a loan. The team acts on both sides and has plenty of experience on large, multi-jurisdictional matters. For instance, the group recently advised over a dozen investment banks – such as Bank of America, HSBC and Credit Suisse – on a $1.14 billion loan spanning the UK, EU and US. “I was helping with drafting board minutes and legal opinions, and collecting the conditions precedent checklist,” one recounted.Getting right into the nitty-gritty of it, “I was reviewing the formatting and defining terms in documents.”
There’s a separate seat on offer in structured capital markets, which also operates under the banking and finance umbrella. The department specialises in a range of structured finance matters, including securitisations, derivatives, bond issuances and corporate trustee work. Once again, cross-border transactions are the name of the game, with international financial institutions making up the client list, such as Bank of China, Bank of Cyprus, Banco de Brasil, and the Italian Banca IMI. In one matter, the team has been working for the African Export-Import Bank on The Liquidity and Sustainability Facility, an initiative designed by the UN which aims to boost sustainable borrowing and investing across Africa. “The deals are really complex,” said one source, “but trainees can be the first to add comments to documents or practise some difficult drafting.” Other typical tasks for trainees include running checklists, managing deadlines and conducting research on regulatory changes for clients.
“In every department, people have been considerate of my time and were happy to let me run things,” a trainee shared. That said, increased responsibility sometimes comes with longer hours, but this varied depending on the week or seat. “Sometimes you'll work until midnight but on other days you’ll finish at 5.30pm,” an interviewee explained, while another specified that “in private equity, we’d work into the early hours of the night one week and then we were slow the next.” In a few seats, we heard 7pm was a standard sort of finishing time.
“We’re all looking forward to the move.”
The firm’s 2-2-1 hybrid working policy made managing the hours a bit easier, with two in-office days, two days at home, and one choice day. The firm is actually set to move from its premises in the Blackfriars area, so although trainees are only expected in twice a week, interviewees hinted at wanting to spend more time working in the shiny new Spitalfields office once the move is finalised in late 2023. “It’ll be modern and high tech, with quiet zones, social areas and collaborative spaces,” an insider explained. “We’re all looking forward to the move.”
Baker has a spread of social events to bring people together, including monthly themed breakfasts, annual Christmas and summer parties, and more informal dinners. There’s a bit of something for everyone, including a gym and spin classes for the workout enthusiasts and football, tag rugby, netball, tennis and hockey for sports lovers. Audiophiles and bookworms can make the most of the firm’s music and book clubs. Meanwhile, any prospective jetsetters will be pleased to hear that there have been corporate retreats to Milan and Amsterdam. A trainee had also gone on a corporate away day where “we had talks from partners and took part in a scavenger hunt and a boat trip up the Thames.”
Sources had lots to say about the friendliness of the firm, explaining how “there’s an overarching desire to make sure we’re treated as people.” Trainees also praised the level of trust from their colleagues, with one interviewee noting how “I have great relationships with the junior and senior associates I work with.” Support was another key aspect of the culture, with insiders boasting, “The associates and partners are keen to help us develop our skills. That’s reinforced by a strong staff support network with secretarial services and knowledge lawyers” –these are qualified lawyers at Baker who are responsible for the learning and development of legal teams at the firm.
Supervisors provide a more formal support framework with mid- and end-of-seat appraisals, alongside bi-weekly check-ins. Before these sessions, trainees put in a request for feedback to be reviewed by their supervisor. The style of supervision could vary depending on the department, with some taking on a more pastoral role while others are more responsible for providing work. “My supervisor is great at collating feedback, and we use our meetings as an opportunity to discuss a recent matter,” a pleased trainee explained. “It’s nice having them as a sounding board.”
“A lot of Baker’s born and bred are now at the top.”
Trainees also receive plenty of induction training in their first two weeks to learn about the firm’s systems. Departments regularly deliver their own training, which could be lunchtime know-how sessions, presentations on recent deals and new laws, or topical discussions delivered by external speakers. In the IP tech seat, for example, “a barrister came in to talk about the Online Safety Bill and we had another session on EU legislations that have affected our clients.”
When it’s time for qualification, trainees have a meeting with the trainee partner to learn about the whole process: “They give us a breakdown of the departments and trainees apply with one or two preferences. No interview needed!” Simples. In 2023, the firm retained 29 out of 34 qualifiers. Interviewees were also encouraged by the long-term prospects at Bakers. “There have been a few lateral hires recently, but there was also a whole wave of homegrown partner promotions,” a trainee explained. “A lot of Baker’s born and bred are now at the top.” Finally, our interviewees generally felt “very lucky” with the salary, which starts at £50,000 for first-year trainees and rises to £118,000 on qualification.
At Bakers, it’s not just about the dough... The firm has a bunch of wellness benefits such as an onsite GP and counsellor.
How to get a Baker McKenzie training contract
- Vacation scheme deadline: 1 December 2023 (spring), 1 January 2024 (summer)
- Training contract deadline: 1 April 2024
- First-year programme deadline: 1 February 2024
Open Day Information:
- Opportunity Open Day
- LGBT+ & Allies Open Day
- Women+ Open Day
- Employability (Mental Wellbeing & Disability) Open Day
- Non-Law Open Day
- General Open Day
- Black Lawyers and Allies Open Day
The application process for a vacation scheme and a training contract are the same. The process begins with an online application form which includes a short series of questions to assess candidates' knowledge of, and commitment to, Baker McKenzie specifically and the key skills that the firm looks for. "When candidates are applying to Baker McKenzie, they should focus on their motivations for joining a global commercial law firm, and in particular, Baker McKenzie," says graduate recruitment & development manager, Eleanor Beattie, who adds that seemingly small things like spelling the firm's name wrong, referring to it as an American firm, or using stock answers to questions 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 commercial lawyer."
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,” Beattie assures. “Rather, the day is focused on your commercial awareness and ability to work with others.”
Baker McKenzie runs two vacation schemes in a year, one in spring and one in summer. The spring and summer scheme both run for three weeks. 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.
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 learnt during the scheme and how they found the placement,” according to Beattie.
In addition to its vacation schemes, Baker McKenzie runs a series of focused open days to give more specific insights to individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds. Alongside a general open day that provides a perfect taster of life at Baker McKenzie, and gives 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 aligned to one of the Baker McKenzie employee affinity networks. Each open day includes interactive workshops, practice group overviews, application tips, and the opportunity to network with partners, associates and trainee solicitors.
100 New Bridge Street,
With more than 70 offices globally and a team of 13,000 people, including over 6,500 lawyers, Baker McKenzie is one of the world’s largest law firms. We work with our colleagues across the firm’s global network to serve clients and meet their evolving needs, providing tailored advice underpinned by deep practice and sector expertise and enhanced by first-rate market knowledge. Trainee solicitors are a vital part of our network, exposed to the international scope of the firm from the moment they start, with possible overseas secondment opportunities. Recent secondees have spent time in Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, New York, Sydney and Melbourne.
Main areas of work
Our London office provides our clients with solutions to complex and often cross-border situations through a network of lawyers and offices that are locally embedded and globally integrated. We advise on some of the most significant and largest cross-border transactions, complex disputes and investigations, and international advisory matters in the UK and global markets.
With more than 500 lawyers, our London office is the largest in our Firm and a major city practice in its own right, providing domestic and cross-border legal advice in Banking & Finance, M&A, Tax, Competition, Dispute Resolution, Employment, Technology and Intellectual Property to a number of leading multinational corporations and financial institutions on complex matters.
Through connected thinking and integrated legal solutions, our London team works with colleagues across the globe to help clients achieve their objectives, while mitigating risk.
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.
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: 1 April – 19 April 2024
• Summer Vacation Schemes: 17 June – 5 July 2024
Bonus scheme, gym membership/subsidy, life assurance, pension scheme with company contributions, private healthcare/dental, GP services, season ticket loan, subsidised restaurant vouchers, 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 22nd and 23rd April 2024. There will be a number of skills sessions and each student will spend a day in a department of their choice. Applications open in November.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Banking & Finance: Borrowers: Mid-Market (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance: Lenders: Mid-Market (Band 2)
- Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 5)
- Competition Law (Band 4)
- Construction: Non-contentious (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: £800 million and above (Band 4)
- Employment: Employer (Band 1)
- Employment: Employer: Industrial Relations (Band 1)
- Environment & Climate Change (Band 4)
- Information Technology & Outsourcing (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property: Law Firms With Patent & Trade Mark Attorneys Spotlight
- Pensions (Band 2)
- Real Estate: £150 million and above (Band 5)
- Tax (Band 3)
- Administrative & Public Law: Mainly Commercial (Band 2)
- Banking Litigation (Band 4)
- Capital Markets: Debt (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Equity (Band 4)
- Capital Markets: High-Yield Products (Band 4)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 4)
- Commercial Contracts (Band 1)
- Data Protection & Information Law (Band 4)
- Employee Share Schemes & Incentives (Band 2)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Mining: International (Band 3)
- Fraud: Civil (Band 3)
- Hotels & Leisure (Band 4)
- Immigration: Business (Band 4)
- International Arbitration: Commercial Arbitration (Band 3)
- Investment Funds: Investor Representation (Band 3)
- Life Sciences: Transactional (Band 3)
- Media & Entertainment: Games, Interactive Entertainment & Social Media (Band 1)
- Private Equity: Buyouts: Up to £500 million (Band 2)
- Product Liability: Mainly Defendant (Band 2)
- Real Estate Finance (Band 6)
- Retail (Band 4)
- Sanctions (Band 1)
- Tax: Contentious (Band 1)
- Telecommunications (Band 1)