Exclusive: Baker McKenzie lawyer quits citing ‘lack of diversity’ in email to colleagues

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Firm apologises and says it is conducting ‘thorough review of the issues highlighted’

A former Baker McKenzie lawyer has claimed a “lack of diversity” at the firm impacted her wellbeing and drove her to quit in a departing email to colleagues.

The mixed-race lawyer, who Legal Cheek has chosen not to name, was based in one of the firm’s European offices and shared examples of the experiences she said she encountered during her time there. This, she said, included colleagues using racial slurs, touching her hair, and questioning whether a family photo was “a rap album cover”.

“I have come to a point today where my mental health can no longer tolerate what it has been tolerating for the past years,” the lawyer said in the email, which was leaked to Legal Cheek. “I have talked about these experiences before, quietly, in fear of being labelled as the angry black woman.”

“A colleague used the N word and was backed up by another colleagues [sic] who told me that ‘he doesn’t mean it in a bad way’”, she alleges, while another colleague “asked me if the family picture hanging in my office was a rap album cover”.

The lawyer further claims in the email to have been “yelled at” by a member of staff for making comments to management about the use of “blackface” during a “Sinterklaas” (Santa Claus) event. It is tradition in the Benelux countries for a character known as ‘Zwarte Piet’ (Black Pete) to assist Santa by handing out gifts, but it’s become increasingly controversial in recent years. Anti-racism groups and the United Nations have called for an end to the tradition for reflecting “negative stereotypes”.

“A colleague touched my hair (out of curiosity?),” she continues. “My e-mail address only indicates part of my last name because ‘it would otherwise be confusing for clients’.”

The lawyer goes on to allege a member of staff asked when she was going to have a second child — “which is something you never ask” — and how she’d manage in her “situation” — “a word used to describe the fact that I have kids” — when applying for an associate training position abroad.

Baker McKenzie has now issued a statement apologising for the experience their former colleague had at the firm and said it is completing with “immediate priority” an “ongoing, thorough review of the issues highlighted”.

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The lawyer’s email continued: “It is very difficult and isolating to try to strive in an environment, that for me, was so hostile to the person I am outside of the office. It is also very heavy to be ‘the only one’ of a specific minority. In my case it is that I am a POC [Person of Colour] and had my kids at a young age.”

“Despite my various attempts at fitting in, I never really felt in place. I never felt comfortable,” she told her now former colleagues in the lengthy farewell email. “The past years have taught me that, as much as I can try, I will never fit in.”

She said she suggested, without success, to organise training on “inclusive communication” and the “notion of privilege”.

“However, this does not change the fact that I am very happy to have had the chance to start my career at Baker McKenzie,” said the lawyer, who now works elsewhere. “I leave with great experiences and even greater friends.” She signed off the email by saying she leaves “with no bad feeling at all”.

A Baker Mckenzie spokesperson told Legal Cheek: “We are very sorry that our former colleague had this experience at the firm. We do not tolerate racism, sexism or any form of discrimination, and we take the issues raised in their email extremely seriously.” The firm said it had “detailed and constructive discussions with our former colleague and colleagues” across the relevant offices.

The spokesperson added the firm’s “immediate priorities” are to “complete the ongoing, thorough review of the issues highlighted”, “review our channels for reporting and escalating inappropriate behaviour, to make sure they are robust and accessible to all”, and “further expand and embed our efforts to create a respectful workplace and culture, consistent with the firm’s values of inclusion, diversity & equity. This includes third party partnerships and training, and embedding locally a stronger listening and feedback culture”.

“We will continue to build a positive, respectful and inclusive culture that lives up to our values as a firm,” the spokesperson said.

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Hate this

Name and shame… why are still dealing with this in 2023 😡


Delicious pastry

BM globally is an outstanding brand but the London office is a let-down. The pay for mid-level associates is exceptionally low too.



Article here about racism and you come on to have an unrelated moan about your pay packet in another office. No doubt white and male. Wise up.


Archibald Pomp O'City

“No doubt white and male”

Do you even comprehend that this is itself a racist comment? Your conduct on these forums is disgusting.



What is the relevance of this.



wow, this is too much. i am glad she stood up for herself


Commercially minded

This wouldn’t have happened at top firms like Kirkland because employee wellbeing means a lot to management.



Wish I had the balls to do this.. good for her



The thing about this is people quit for a lot of reasons and demand big payouts and threaten litigation. You can’t just carte blanche take the word of anyone is they have a financial incentive. Take internet bodybuilders who swear they’ve never touched a drug and it’s all natural baby. The idea of anyone saying the “n” word publicly is very surprising (and horrific), for example; that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, but if it happens, as an employee you collect and collate all the evidence you can and ask for a reasoned person on the balance of probabilities based on the specific situation further to certain examinations that the events you allege to have happened, happened. 99% of people reading this will believe it definitely happened, and if you say only what I have done, you might get labelled a racist or misogynist etc.

Separately, in case you think I might be affiliated, Bakers is also a terrible firm and no one with any dignity should work there…



Thanks for lighting up the gas for free, I was getting cold in my poorly insulated flat!



I realise you’re a conservative who has to pretend racism doesn’t exist for their dumb ideology to work, but everyone knows this sort of thing is common in certain Dutch and Belgian offices.


Legally distressed

Way to go invalidating others experiences!



Unfortunately there are plenty of other firms which are no better but people fear for their careers and livelihood and cannot speak out.


Macs Lover

What do people think of the carnage going on at Travers Smith? Another 4 partners resigned last week.


Travers Trainee

Make that 5* if you include this week.



Any idea why they resigned?


Curious Dog

Also would like to know why



I guess we will also see the sudden disappearance of BM partners.

Archibald Pomp O'City

You honestly don’t know why? Have you been living under a rock during the past few days?

Travers Lawyer

Most resigned for better money. A couple had personal reasons.



I find this ironic… I recall when i was applying for training contracts bakers had an application question something along the lines of why diversity was important/what diversity means

Seems like it was not a very important question in the application filtering….


Baker 2PQE

No coherent policy across Baker offices. UK is very London, so big on diversity. Same for example in Amsterdam and certain parts of US. But on the continent, not nearly so.



Corporate diversity efforts often don’t go beyond plain tokenism. Have a Black man and perhaps an Asian lady on every Web page. Box ticked.

And perhaps HR might circulate a “Black History Month” newsletter, telling staff to familiarise themselves with US identity and grievance politics – Ibram X. Kendi’s simplistic view of “you’re either with us or one of the baddies”, or the conspiracist drivel of Robin DiAngelo.

I’m from a visible ethnic minority myself. But honestly, banging on about “you’re privileged, so shut up” isn’t going to win over many minds.



“firm apologises”. Why? Why pander?


I know it when I see it

“huge amount of public drivel about their diversity initiatives”

Only one firm…


US Associate

Varies massively by firm and team.

Our office is diverse enough. I also don’t think anyone gets mistreated on account of race or gender.

Now my former MC shop, despite the huge amount of public drivel about their diversity initiatives, had a number of rather difficult types at the senior associate and upwards level, who apparently believed the British Empire still existed and all non-whites should be treated accordingly. Deeply unpleasant at the time.



Name and shame the firm


Dolce Dolce

The British Empire still exists when OBE is still being awarded…



With all due respect, it’s lazy and puerile to blame all negative encounters upon racism rather than one of the innumerable other factors which might underpin those encounters. I work at an MC firm and it’s almost cartoonishly liberal and non-racist. Of course, if you’re going to get triggered by the very existence of white men who might have vaguely right-of-centre views and who don’t go around in paroxysms of guilty hand-wringing over how horrible the Empire was, you’ll find everywhere outside of an Amnesty International fundraiser to be a racist hellhole.



These things don’t happen as often or as openly at MC firms. They are big and institutionalised. There aren’t so many of the little partner fiefdoms with no oversight that you get elsewhere. And most importantly, most MC lawyers are intelligent enough to understand that making racist jokes in the office isn’t going to be conducive to a successful career.

All those factors go out the window in mid market firms, especially in smaller legal markets. The comments in the complaint sound very plausible for certain local B&M offices. Don’t forget that B&M isn’t a true global firm like the MC either – each office is a separate entity with its own independent management that just uses B&M branding. Almost all their offices are just local law firms with the name B&M. If local partners don’t GAF then neither will associates.





Enlightened Benelux Bürger

Why am I not surprised that this happened in a European office?

Supposedly enlightened and progressive countries that are in reality less diverse and more openly racist than the UK/US.


Archibald Pomp O'City

“A lack of diversity”? An abundance of racism, more like.

She says she leaves with no bad feelings, but the opposite must be the case. Why even say such platitudes? In some circumstances, graciousness is simply unnecessary.


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