The Legal Cheek View
Baker McKenzie is one of the world’s largest law firms, with nearly 80 offices across almost 50 different countries. Its roots might be in the US, but Baker McKenzie lawyers take on matters with a truly international scope.
The firm has been doing business in Hong Kong for over 45 years, having opened its doors in 1974. There are now more than 150 lawyers based in the region, who advise FTSE100 companies and local conglomerates on the full spectrum of commercial work. In Hong Kong the firm has a strong track record in areas such as restructuring and insolvency, real estate, intellectual property and tax.
Interestingly, Baker McKenzie has a French desk in the Hong Kong office staffed by lawyers who advise French clients interested in the China and wider Asia Pacific markets.
The training contract is structured so that rookies experience up to six of the firm’s key practice areas for three to six months each. Baker McKenzie is a transactional powerhouse, so trainees are encouraged to complete a corporate seat. Before they begin each seat, they’re given a three-day induction as well as department-specific training, and at the end of each seat, there’ll be an informal review charting their progress and development. All trainees have the opportunity to go on a three-month secondment to one of the firm’s international offices but amid coronavirus and quarantine restrictions in the city, this was on pause and will resume in December 2022.
Throughout the training contract and beyond, Baker McKenzie ensures its lawyers have access to training and development resources. The firm’s global development roadmap, the Development Framework, explains how they can navigate the various career stages, plus every practice group has a trainee partner to oversee trainees’ progress and ensure they continually develop skills and experience.
What’s more, the people here are down-to-earth and super friendly. “I have done internships at other firms where answers to the question ‘how was your weekend?’ always demanded censorship, but I’ve never had to hide myself at Baker McKenzie,” reports one happy trainee. Partners are approachable and doors are always open (although all of the partners and associates have their own office). The office, which the firm moved to three years ago, is pretty much all glass. The ten or so trainees the firm takes on each year gel together and sit together in teams. We hear the Christmas party is THE highlight of the year.
The office is one of the nicest in the city. It’s bright, modern and airy, and spread across five floors in One Taikoo Place, Quarry Bay. The floors are interconnected by a grand staircase and there are floor-to-ceiling glass walls offering views across the Hong Kong sea.
The jewel in the crown is the office canteen and social area, otherwise known as ‘The Bakery’ (see what they did there?) It’s well-stocked and serves matcha chai lattes, alongside a variety of other beverages. There’s also beer on tap in The Bakery — with no time restrictions unlike at some other law firms. What’s more, the firm’s lawyers are sent a bi-monthly survey asking which brand of beer they’d like to see stocked. We hear The Premium Malt’s, a Japanese-brewed beer by Suntory, is a popular choice. Baker McKenzie lawyers will often unwind in The Bakery after work, and it helps that there’s table football too! The firm also has a wellness room on-site for meditation purposes which doubles-up as a games room. A selection of board games and a Wii console are kept here but given the cut and thrust of corporate law, we’re not sure how much use they get!
The firm’s tech and innovation hubs can be found on the same floor as The Bakery. Another hub, simply known as The Hub, is three floors above and serves as the firm’s auditorium where (Covid restrictions-permitting) Baker McKenzie hosts open house and networking events for prospective applicants.
Beyond The Bakery, the firm’s lawyers are known to grab lunch from nearby Tong Chong Street Market (‘TCSM’ for short) in Taikoo Place. There are a wide range of food stalls stationed here.
The office buildings in Quarry Bay are new and designed with sustainability in mind. One Taikoo Place is the first commercial building in Hong Kong to convert oil into electricity and visitors can scan a QR code on arrival to learn about the air quality in the surroundings — because, why not?