With 77 offices in 46 countries and a wide range of secondment opportunities, Baker McKenzie is a truly global law firm. It is a full-service firm covering all the practices expected of a major law firm in the UK, many of which are acclaimed and market-leading. After our dinner with trainees last week, we had the opportunity to learn more about Baker McKenzie during our interview with Lauren Neal, a UCL alumna who studied a History BA and subsequently undertook the GDL and LPC.
What attracted you to a career in law, particularly in commercial law?
I wanted an intellectually challenging, internationally focused, and rewarding career. I have always enjoyed problem solving and analysing complex problems and trends, which is actually a lot of what I did during my undergraduate history degree. I love the fact that in a legal career, you are constantly learning and developing, as both the law and your clients’ businesses continue to evolve. We live in a capitalist and globalised world where Big Business informs so much of the world around us, from politics, the economy, and social change. Working with some of the world's biggest companies provides keen insight into the challenges they face and you are able to form a view on how everything pieces together.
What aspects of Baker McKenzie attracted you when you were applying for a Training Contract? What attracted you to a US law firm?
The culture - in particular, Baker's culture. It is renowned for being open, friendly, supportive and collegiate, and this translates in real life. I would call Bakers a global firm, rather than a US firm. It really is unique in how cross-border all of its work is given the sheer number of global offices we have. It is amazing that on a multi-jurisdictional deal, I can just skype/call/email a colleague in one of our US/Prague/Norwegian (to name a few) offices and ask for local counsel advice!
In which departments have you sat so far? Which one have you enjoyed the most and why?
So far I have sat in Commercial Real Estate and Private Equity & Funds. I am particularly enjoying Private Equity because I'm learning so much about different types of acquisitions, the different risks for each client depending on the business they are acquiring, and that I get to work with so many other practice groups as we carry out the due diligence (researching what issues there might be for the client on buying a particular business).
What was the most interesting deal or case you have been involved in so far? What role did you play in it?
There have been a few. I am currently working on a very interesting deal which involves the merging of two very high profile healthcare companies. Separately, through our Pro bono initiatives, I have been working with Amicus International on a death row case reviewing evidence to try and put a plea deal together for our client. This has been immensely moving work.
How is the work/life balance at Baker McKenzie?
We work hard, but are supported in our work. As a trainee I have a trainee buddy and an associate buddy in my department to talk to, as well as a partner who supervises me. There are periods of busy work, but that is to be expected at any top law firm. That being said, there is no face time culture. If you have a spare hour or can log off a bit earlier that day if nothing is urgently needed, you are encouraged to do so. It is not a competitive environment amongst trainees and it genuinely feels like you work as part of a team, which means you're not left to do the grunt work whilst everyone else goes home!
The firm is very conscious of everyone's well-being and there are many initiatives available (and actively encouraged). I think that the fact that senior partners talk about their own mental health so openly, and that we have ‘mental health first aiders’, private medical healthcare, and free counselling available, is incredible. I do not know many other law firms which care so deeply and genuinely about their employees’ mental and physical health. Ultimately, I choose Baker McKenzie over other firms because of its people, its culture, and its support of its people, and I haven't looked back since.