2019 Vault Rankings
“Flexibility to work from home/see my family”
“Lack of transparency”
Baker McKenzie takes "global" to a whole new level, with its plethora of global offices spanning every continent. The firm's geographic and practice-area diversification has enabled it to ride out financial storms while outrunning a legion of BigLaw competitors.
The Original International Firm
These days, any firm with a few outposts outside its home city or a number of foreign-based clients proudly awards itself an "international law firm" sash. Baker McKenzie, however, pretty much coined the term: it is by many measures the largest law firm in the world, with more than 6,000 attorneys (one-third of whom are partners) covering dozens of jurisdictions. Thanks to the firm's global footprint (78 offices in 47 countries, at last count), Baker McKenzie remains unique among law firms. Diversity and inclusion are not just buzzwords at the firm, which includes citizens of over 50 countries who speak more than five dozen languages—a vibrant community including just about every race, color, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
Cattle Cars and Cab Rides
Born in Wisconsin but raised in Texas and New Mexico, founder Russell Baker learned Spanish as a child and developed a lifelong interest in other cultures. Unable to afford train fare, Baker rode for days in cold cattle cars to Chicago to enroll in law school at the University of Chicago in 1920. Although he worked as a boxer at county fairs to pay his tuition, it wasn’t quite enough so he left school in 1925 before graduating—though he did eventually finish his degree 30 years later. With a law school friend, Baker opened Baker & Simpson and built his practice catering to Chicago’s growing Mexican-American community and then branching out to U.S companies investing in Latin America. In 1948, Baker shared a cab with trial lawyer John McKenzie and shared with him his vision of an international law firm. By 1949, the two opened Baker & McKenzie with four lawyers and one secretary. McKenzie took on the litigation work which freed Baker to focus on developing the international practice. In 1955, Baker sent his son Donald Baker to establish its second office and first outside the US in Caracas to serve the interests of a Venezuelan client. Today, Baker McKenzie has numerous offices in Central and South America (a region that many law firms entered years later) and is the largest law firm in Mexico. It has the most lawyers in Latin America among the AmLaw 100.
Baker McKenzie continued its international expansion by opening two dozen more offices by the late 1970s, before most firms even began planting flags overseas. In 1963, the firm opened an outpost in Paris, where Christine Lagarde would build her legal career in the 1980s. Lagarde was elected the firm’s first female chair in 1999. She later served as France’s Trade Minister and now heads up the International Monetary Fund. When the firm wanted to open an office in San Francisco in 1970, the state required living named partners of firms to have passed the California bar. So at the age of 69, Russell Baker took and passed the state’s bar exam (John McKenzie had passed away a few years earlier), becoming the oldest candidate to pass the state’s bar.
And the firm continues to grow, with an average of one new office being added each year since its inception, the firm has defined rapid and steady growth without losing its reputation for quality legal work. The firm's journey from that Chicago cab to global prominence hasn't escaped notice-there's even a book about it. Pioneering a Global Vision: The Story of Baker & McKenzie provides a detailed look at the firm's history.
IN THE NEWS
Baker McKenzie has a long history championing women in leadership, and it was the first law firm to adopt gender diversity targets. In FY17, the firm announced 80 partnership promotions, 40% of which were women—a market-leading number for any law firm. This year, it announced its support for the HeForShe campaign in support of gender equality. HeForShe is a solidarity campaign for the advancement of women, initiated by UN Women. Its goal is to achieve equality by encouraging men to be agents of change and to take action against negative inequalities that women still face today. The firm is asking all employees to make a pledge to commit to personal action that will help advance gender parity. Constanze Ulmer-Eilfort, Global Chair of the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, said: “Providing equal opportunities to both women and men helps us grow our talent, build and consolidate a strong reputation and improve competitiveness and financial performance. But above all, it's the smart thing to do—gender equality isn't a women's issue, it's a business issue.”
Gloria Santona, the former Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary of McDonald's Corp., has joined Baker McKenzie as Of Counsel. Gloria spent nearly 40 years as a member of McDonald's legal team, serving as its chief legal officer from 2001 through 2017. As a member of the company's executive leadership, she was actively involved in its international growth strategy. Widely respected in the legal profession, Gloria was named an Outstanding General Counsel by the National Law Journal and has been recognized as one of America’s Top General Counsel by Corporate Board Member magazine. Under Gloria's leadership, McDonald’s legal department won numerous awards for its commitment to diversity and pro bono.
Baker McKenzie announced the addition of five highly regarded partners to its existing teams in California. Colin Murray, North American Managing Partner for Baker McKenzie, said: "Our new Partners will take on significant commercial and employment litigation as well as class action cases for clients across multiple industries. We are delighted that they have chosen Baker McKenzie, and that we will be able to provide these services to our Southern California clients. Given our growing presence on the West Coast, and the fact that we already had attorney teams living and working in Southern California, we are solidifying our roots in a market where many California-based Fortune 500 companies have a presence. Los Angeles is also an increasingly important gateway for our clients in Asia.”
The Financial Times has named Baker McKenzie among the top 10 innovative law firms in North America in its 2017 Innovative Lawyers Report, one of the most competitive legal rankings in the region. The firm’s Whitespace Legal Collab won the FT's award for Innovation in the Business of Law: Strategy and Changing Behaviors, and its Innovation in Motions Awards earned a "highly commended" rating. In addition, the firm’s global rollout of e-discovery tool Relativity earned a "standout" rating, and its work advising RealD on an infringement of its patents received a "commended" rating.
Baker McKenzie has retained its position as the world's strongest law firm brand in the 2017 Acritas Global Elite Law Firm Brand Index for the eighth consecutive year, extending its lead by seven points compared to 2016. The annual Index, based on a survey of general counsels, ranks law firms based on four criteria: awareness, favorability, consideration for multi-jurisdictional deals and for multi-jurisdictional litigation. The firm received an overall score of 100—more than twice the score of the firm ranked second place.
300 East Randolph
Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: (312) 861-8000
Employer Type: Private
Acting Global Chair: Jaime Trujillo
Hiring Partners: Susan Ryba (Chicago); Michelle Hartmann (Dallas); Michael Hamilton (Houston); Scott Brandman (NY); William Roppolo (Miami); Emery Mitchell (California); Pamela Dayanim (DC)
Total No. Attorneys 2018: 6,076
All U.S. Offices
1st year: $190,000
Summer associate: $3,654/week
43 out of 49 (2Ls only) (2017)
Los Angeles, CA
New York, NY
Palo Alto, CA
San Francisco, CA
+69 international offices
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White Collar Defense & Investigations in North America