Baker McKenzie

The Legal Cheek View

Baker McKenzie’s founder, Russell Baker, was so poor that he rode for days in the cattle carriages on trains in order to enrol at the University of Chicago, where he then worked as a boxer to fund his tuition. Nearly 100 years on, his firm is among the largest in the world, turning over an enormous $2.67 billion (£2.07 billion) this year. Alongside fellow behemoths DLA Piper and Latham & Watkins, Bakers is one of the top three biggest law firms in the world by revenue.

Its roots may be in the US, but Bakers sees itself very much as an international firm, and is keen to emphasise that its largest office is London rather than Chicago. In total, the firm has a whopping 76 offices across 49 different countries. Legal Cheek understands that this year over half of Bakers’ London trainees and junior lawyers have spent time on secondment in one of these locations, with Brussels, Tokyo and New York among the most popular. Most secondments are three, rather than six, months, leaving some trainees the opportunity to do two. We’re aware of at least one London rookie who has done a dual stint in Washington DC and Hong Kong.

There are some excellent client secondment opportunities too – with just under half of trainees having done one. Locations include The Guardian and the Royal Courts of Justice as a judicial assistant. And if you’re really lucky you might get to do a plumb placement at the Silicon Valley head office of an unnamed global technology and internet services company that the firm counts as a client.

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When you’re not on the road, there’s some high quality work to get stuck into in London. Trainees report being given “a crazy amount of responsibility” to the extent that they are “working directly with senior associates and partners” and even “running deals” during certain moments. The generally “excellent” training is pitched quite high. “I was treated as an NQ for most of the training contract,” one insider tells us.

This takes place in a nice atmosphere, with a “lovely bunch” of trainees supporting each other. “While there is often strategic discussions to determine likelihood of attaining seat preferences, trainees are collegiate and do what they can to ‘shoulder the load’,” one reports. This may explain why the social life is among the best in legal London. The Blackfriar Pub is apparently “B&M HQ after 5:30pm on a Friday”, while the firm’s rookies are said to be “close to arranging a permanent trainee secondment to Book Club in Shoreditch”.

Partners, meanwhile, are mostly “super-approachable”. Another insider adds: “You can approach partners here to discuss work issues, but also to talk about plans for the weekend or last night’s football match. It’s an office run by very down to earth and likeable people in the main.”

You’ll work hard, though. Baker’s average arrive time is 9:09am, according to the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18, while the average leave time is 8:01pm. The consensus view is that this is par for the course. “I didn’t move to London to get out at 5:30 and go for dinner 5 nights a week,” says one rookie. “I came to Bakers for the world-class training, work and client-exposure so when training I was always keen to take every opportunity to learn and develop, so this did lead to some long hours, but very rarely was this something I was upset about.” The fact that dinner in the canteen is free after 7pm eases the pain of late finishes. There’s also been a push for more working from home, which is apparently gaining traction in some departments.

In terms of perks, Bakers does fairly well, with iPhones for trainees, an in-house doctor and physio, canteen, yoga classes, subsidised gym membership, corporate membership at the Tate and regular mortgage and financial planning clinics. But there are grumbles about the newly qualified pay, which at £72,000 is lower than magic circle firms, and the rather “tatty” office which “could do with updating”. Indeed, this is something of a sore point among trainees, with the firm scoring a lowly C in this category of the Legal Cheek survey. Rumours are swirling about a possible move.


Insight Scheme (First years)

Applications open 01/10/2018
Applications close 31/01/2019

Spring Vacation Scheme

Applications open 01/10/2018
Applications close 30/11/2018

Summer Vacation Scheme

Applications open 01/10/2018
Applications close 15/01/2019

Training Contract (Finalists and graduates)

To commence 2021
Applications open 01/10/2018
Applications close 31/03/2018

Training Contract (Penultimate years, finalists and graduates)

To commence 2021
Applications open 01/06/2019
Applications close 01/07/2019

Insider Scorecard

Quality of work
Peer support
Partner approach-ability
Work/life balance
Social life

Insider Scorecard Grades range from A* to D and are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.


First year trainee salary £45,000
Second year trainee salary £49,000
Newly qualified salary £77,000
Profit per equity partner £1,000,000
GDL grant £6,000
LPC grant £8,000

Trainee target hours are 1,200.


Average arrival time 9:09am
Average leave time 8:01pm
Annual target hours 1,700
Annual leave 25 days


Chances of secondment abroad 53%
Chances of client secondment 47%

General Info

Training contracts 33
Latest trainee retention rate 93%
Offices 77
Countries 47
Minimum A-level requirement 340 UCAS
Minimum degree requirement 2:1


UK female associates 52%
UK female partners 28%
UK BME associates 20%
UK BME partners 3%

Universities Current Trainees Attended

The Firm In Its Own Words