Baker & McKenzie
19 March 2012
London is the global firm’s largest office, where internal promotions remain the main route to partnership and retention rates are high
Baker & McKenzie has been one of the world’s fastest-growing law firms in recent years, adding offices and people across the globe.
Those joining the London office, either as trainees or higher up the ranks, could be forgiven for worrying that they are becoming a small cog in a giant machine.
However, London is actually Baker & McKenzie’s largest office, employing around 10 per cent of the firm’s workforce, including more than 200 associates. The firm’s dedication to managing its staff scooped it the Employer of the Year prize at The Lawyer’s recent Workplace & Diversity Awards.
The prize was awarded in recognition of the firm’s efforts to retain and incentivise its staff. Last year it restructured its associate career model, aligning career development to skills and potential rather than qualification level (although pay is banded to five years’ post-qualification).
Baker & McKenzie estimates its attrition rate is 4 per cent lower than that of its competitors in London, and also says 68 per cent of those lawyers leaving the firm are “weaker performers”.
The firm uses its global presence as an incentive for both associates and partners. Secondments to other offices are common, and three partners have moved from London overseas recently.
While Baker & McKenzie is actively managing its London partnership, with a tightening of the equity in the past three years from 62 equity partners in 2009 to 57 in 2011, it is continuing to promote associates up to partner level. Organic growth is the firm’s focus and two-thirds of new London partners in the past four years have been promoted internally rather than hired laterally.
London promotions have been roughly in line with the proportion of the partnership sitting in the City. In total Baker & McKenzie has made up 295 new partners globally in the past four years, with 17 of those in London - 6 per cent of the total. Around the same proportion of Baker & McKenzie’s partnership is based in London.
Accordingly, although other offices have expanded more rapidly in response to changing economic conditions, London associates can be confident that the route to partnership at the firm remains open. That said, the total workforce at Baker & McKenzie in London is growing more rapidly than the partnership. The firm has added a total of 33 lawyers, including trainees, to the City office since 2008, but the partnership has grown by just two.
2008 and 2010 saw the largest number of London promotions, with six and seven new partners in the City in those years. Two partners were made up in each of 2009 and 2011.
A wide variety of practice areas are covered in the promotions, including corporate employment, EU and competition law, litigation and IP.
A total of four women were made up across the four years, or 23.5 per cent of the promotions. While this figure is low, it is higher than the total proportion of female partners in London (22 per cent, or 18 female partners out of an 82-strong partnership).
Only one woman was hired laterally, litigator Joanna Ludlam in 2009. She joined from Matthew Arnold & Baldwin but she previously worked as an associate at Baker & McKenzie.
Of the other seven lateral hires to have taken place since 2008, the two most recent were both previously counsel at their former firms - capital markets lawyer Adam Farlow from Allen & Overy and corporate lawyer Marc Fevre from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
Retention of partners is good. None of the recently promoted partners have left the firm in the past four years. Two partners went in-house, including Peter Castellon who was hired from Citibank in 2008 and returned there the following year. In total, Baker & McKenzie has lost four partners to other firms since 2008, but none in 2010 and 2011.
Promotions and senior hires
Ben Allgrove, IP partner
Allgrove was one of two IP lawyers to be made up in 2010 at Baker & McKenzie in London
Frances Okosi, banking and finance partner
Okosi is the only banking lawyer to have been made up in London in recent years
Joanna Ludlam, litigation partner
Previously an associate at Bakers, she rejoined from Matthew Arnold & Baldwin in 2009