Baker & McKenzie

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Baker & McKenzie
Baker & McKenzie
Headquarters Chicago
No. of offices 76 [1]
No. of attorneys > 4,200
No. of employees > 11,000
Major practice areas Corporate law
Key people Eduardo Leite
(Chairman of the Executive Committee)
Revenue US $2.54 billion (2014)[2]
Company type Swiss Verein

Baker & McKenzie is a global law firm founded in Chicago by Russell Baker and John McKenzie in 1949. It employs over 4,200 lawyers in 76 [1] offices, which are located in 47 countries.[3]

In the fiscal year ending 2014, Baker & McKenzie earned US$2.54 billion in revenue,[2] making it the world's largest law firm in terms of revenue, markets and headcount.[4]

Its current chairman is Eduardo C. Leite, former managing partner of its four offices in Brazil.

The film Philadelphia, starring Tom Hanks, was based on a lawyer from Baker & McKenzie.[5]

In 2014, Baker & McKenzie opened its 75th office in Yangon, Myanmar. The Firm opened its 76th office in Brisbane, Australia a few months later in July 2014.


Origins and international growth[edit]

Co-founding partner Russell Baker, born in Wisconsin and raised in New Mexico, opened his early practice Baker & Simpson in Chicago in 1925 upon his graduation from the University of Chicago School of Law. Baker had early exposure to the Spanish language and other cultures, and his firm provided legal services to Chicago's growing Mexican American community. The firm later advised U.S. companies investing in Latin America.

In 1949, the firm relaunched with John McKenzie, a litigator who had graduated from Loyola University Chicago School of Law. McKenzie took charge of the litigation practice, and Baker built an international practice. Through the 1950s, the firm's client roster expanded.

Baker & McKenzie became an international firm beginning in 1955, when a lawyer in Venezuela contacted Baker & McKenzie about opening a joint venture office in Caracas. Russell Baker's son Donald moved to Caracas to launch the satellite office. Within the next three years, offices were opened in Washington, D.C., Amsterdam, Brussels, Zurich, New York and São Paulo. Rather than practicing U.S. law abroad, Baker & McKenzie trained local lawyers, often bringing them to the Chicago base for an initial period or temporarily relocating U.S. attorneys to the foreign office to oversee the establishment of the practice. By 1978 Baker & McKenzie had 26 offices in 20 countries.

In 1986, the firm established offices in Northern Mexico to facilitate legal transactions connected to industrial development in that region. In 1989, Baker & McKenzie was one of the first firms to open offices in the former Soviet Union after the Iron Curtain fell.[6] In California, the firm merged with MacDonald, Halsted, and Laybourne to start offices in Los Angeles and San Diego. By 1990 the firm operated 49 offices on six continents, employing around 1500 attorneys generating $4 million in revenues.

1999 to present[edit]

In 1999 Christine Lagarde, the Paris managing partner and an antitrust and labor lawyer, was elected Chairman of the Global Executive Committee, the first woman to lead Baker & McKenzie; she was chairperson for five years. In 2004, Forbes listed Lagarde as No. 76 in its list of “Most Powerful Women in the World."[7] She then served as France’s Minister of Finance. In June 2011, she was elected as the first woman to become Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund.[8]

In 2001 the firm employed 3000 attorneys and had $1 billion in revenues.[9] Baker & McKenzie adopted a Swiss Verein structure in 2004. In 2005, the firm received a large boost when some 70 partners and other legal staff from the New York office of the disbanding international firm Coudert Brothers joined Baker & McKenzie.

In October 2006, Unilever chose the firm to manage its global trademark portfolio, the largest in the world with over 160,000 registrations. It was the first time a multinational company outsourced its trademark management to a law firm on such a large scale.[10] In September 2007, BTI Consulting rated Baker & McKenzie as one of the world's top 10 transaction law firms in its recent survey on corporate transactions, which was reported by National Law Journal.[11] In July 2013, co-founding partner Russell Baker was named one of American Lawyer’s top 50 innovators for pioneering ideas and initiatives that changed the world of big law.[12]

Since 2009, Baker & McKenzie has opened offices in locations including Abu Dhabi,[13] Luxembourg,[14] Turkey,[15] Johannesburg, South Africa,[16] Morocco,[17] Peru,[18] South Korea,[19] and Dubai.[20]

Transactional focus[edit]

In recent years, Baker & McKenzie has been involved in complex transactions for clients. Recent matters include:

  • The American International Assurance Company, Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of AIA Group Limited, on the US$1.8 billion acquisition of ING Groep N.V's Malaysian insurance and Takaful business.[21]
  • The Steering Committee of international creditors of BTA Bank JSC in the successful second restructuring of the Kazakhstani bank in relation to US$11.1 billion of its international financial debt and other claims. The deal was the largest Central and Eastern European restructuring of 2012.[22]
  • The Regal Real Estate Investment Trust on the establishment of its US$1 billion medium-term note program.[23]
  • The Thai Oil Public Company Limited on its offering of US$1 billion dual-tranche senior unsecured fixed-rate notes to foreign institutional investors in accordance with Rule 144A and Regulation S.[24]
  • Endeavour Silver Corporation on its option and joint venture agreement with La Sociedad Quimica Minera de Chile SA (SQM) to earn a 75% interest in the El Inca silver-gold properties.[25]
  • The Kingdom of Bahrain, in relation to its US$1,500,000,000 bond issuance.[26]
  • Sierra Gorda SCM and Salfa Montajes S.A., an affiliate of Chilean based SalfaCorp Engineering and Construction Business Unit on its agreement for the construction and installation of wet and dry areas of the Sierra Gorda mine project processing plant.[27]
  • AXA Private Equity (renamed Ardian in 2013), on its acquisition from the private equity arm of Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) of a portfolio of 11 private equity fund investments and the related unfunded commitments.[28]
  • WestLB, regarding a definitive agreement to sell its Subscription Commitment Facilities (SCF) portfolio in the USA and in the UK to the financial services provider Wells Fargo Bank, NA (Wells Fargo).[29]
  • The Dow Chemical Company (Dow) and certain Dow subsidiaries in relation to the US$1.4 billion Islamic finance facilities made available to Saudi Acrylic Acid Company (SAAC), Saudi Acrylic Monomers Company (SAMCO) and Saudi Acrylic Polymers Company (SAPCO).[30]
  • Schuler - Beteiligungen GmbH on, the sale of its 38.5% stake of the publicly listed Schuler AG, a world-leader in metal forming and metal processing, to Austrian technology company Andritz Group.[31]
  • Banque Saudi Fransi, Saudi Arabia's fifth biggest bank by market capitalization, on its debut US$750 million 2.947 per cent Trust Certificates due 2017 issued under its US$2 billion Sukuk Program.[32]
  • Global Blue, international provider of travel-related payment, on the sale of the company from Equistone Partners Europe to US private equity firm Silver Lake Partners for €1 billion.[33]
  • Yanzhou Coal Mining Company Limited (Yanzhou Coal), on its US$1 billion Notes issue.[34]
  • A CAPITAL, in connection with the international aspects of a new fund named A CAPITAL China Outbound Fund.[35]
  • Banque Saudi Fransi (BSF), in relation to the establishment and listing of its debut U.S. $2 billion Sukuk program.[36]
  • Almarai Company, on the establishment of a SAR 2.3 billion Sukuk program and inaugural issuance of a SAR1 billion Sukuk.[37]
  • Colt Group, the information delivery platform for businesses across Europe, on an initial three-year term to provide commercial, IT, Telecommunications and regulatory advice. The appointment is the result of a competitive bid that involved over 45 law firms around Europe.[38]
  • Fresenius Medical Care AG & Co. KGaA, the world’s largest provider of dialysis products and services, on Fresenius Medical Care North America’s acquisition of Liberty Dialysis Holdings, Inc. The acquisition is expected to add annual revenues of around $700 million and 201 clinics to Fresenius Medical Care’s network for an investment, net of proceeds from the divestiture, of approximately $1.5 billion.[39]
  • Kiekert AG, market and technology leader for automotive side door latches and inventor of the modern central locking system, on the sale of its shares to publicly traded automotive supplier, Hebei Lingyun Industrial Group Corporation Ltd. in Beijing, China. The transaction paves the way for an international automotive supplier with yearly revenue of EUR1.2 billion.[40]
  • Sierra Gorda SCM, held by Quadra FNX Mining Ltd., Sumitomo Metal Mining Co., Ltd. and Sumitomo Corporation, on the closing of its loan agreement with financial institutions for $1 billion.[41]

Notable cases tried[edit]

Baker & McKenzie represented five leading luxury goods and fashion brands in 2005 in an action against the landlord of the infamous Silk Market Shopping mall where counterfeit goods were sold.[42] The Intermediate and Higher People’s Courts both confirmed that the landlord was jointly and severally liable for failing to stop infringements by vendors after being notified of them, making this the first time a landlord is held responsible for the illegal activities of their tenants in the judicial history of China.[43] This case was also recognized as a “Top Ten” case by the Beijing Higher People’s Court.[43]

In 2006, Baker & McKenzie wrote the amicus brief of the Council of Parent Attorneys & Advocates (COPAA) in support of the petition for a writ of certiorari in Winkelman v. Parma City School District, and later, COPAA's amicus brief on the merits.[44] It argued that parents have the right to represent themselves in court to enforce their IDEA rights and protect their children's access to a free appropriate public education. This led to a unanimous Supreme Court decision in June 2007 granting parents the right to proceed without counsel on behalf of children with disabilities.[45]

In December 2009, Baker & McKenzie won a landmark tax case against the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for Symantec Corporation. The IRS had claimed that the VERITAS Software Corporation, which Symantec had subsequently acquired in 2005, owed over $1 billion in back taxes, penalties and interest as a result of VERITAS non-U.S. operations. Symantec took the case to the U.S. Tax Court where Baker & McKenzie argued that the IRS position was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable. In an opinion by Judge Maurice Foley, the U.S. Tax Court decided in favor of Symantec.[46][47]

Awards and rankings[edit]

  • Recipient of the Best Trainer award in the Large City Firm category at the LawCareers.Net Training and Recruitment Awards 2013.[48]
  • Highest-ranked U.S. law firm by Japanese corporate legal departments in the December 2013 Nihon Keizai Shimbun survey.[49]
  • Named strongest global law firm brand in the 2012 Acritas Sharplegal® Global Elite Brand Index for the third consecutive year.[50]
  • Named one of the top 25 corporate law firms in America by the Corporate Board Member magazine.[51]
  • Recognized as "European Law Firm of the Year" at the Chambers Europe Awards 2012.[52]
  • Named "Top Law Firm for Diversity" by MultiCultural Law Magazine for the 8th consecutive year.[53]
  • Ranked #1 by gross revenue in the 2011 Am Law 100 list of the top grossing firms in the US.[55]
  • Ranked #2 in Law360's Global 20, a ranking of law firms that stand out as pre-eminent global outfits.[56]
  • Selected by the International Law Office 2011 Client Choice Firm – International Award for excellence in client care and quality of service.[57]
  • Selected by BTI Consulting’s 2011 Client Service A-Team list, for the fourth time in five years.[58]
  • No. 1 in PLC Which Lawyer?’s Global 50 each of the past five years; Asia Law Firm of the Year, 2005–2009; Latin America Law Firm of the Year, three of the past five years; Middle East Law Firm of the Year, 2008 and 2009; Central & Eastern Europe Law Firm of the Year, 2008.[59]
  • Ranked in the top tier for its global climate change, data protection, employment, immigration, private client, outsourcing and technology & communications practices in the Chambers Global 2009 guide.[60]
  • The Foreign Policy Association gave its 2008 Corporate Social Responsibility Award to Baker & McKenzie, the first law firm to receive such an award.[61]
  • Recipient of the Starbucks Excellence in Diversity Award for 2009.[63]
  • Recipient of the International Tax Review ITR award for European Indirect Tax firm of the year 2009.
  • One of the 2011 Top 100 Law Firms for Diversity by Multicultural Magazine.[64]
  • Named as One of the Best Law Firms for Women in 2011 and 2012 by Working Mother and[65][66]
  • Named Employer of the Year by The Lawyer in 2012.[67]
  • Recognized as European Law Firm of the Year 2012 by Chambers.[68]
  • Named Best International Firm for Women in Business Law by Euromoney Asia in 2013[69]
  • Cited as the largest and most global antitrust/competition team in the world by The Global Competition Review's GCR 100 14th edition.[70]
  • Named as Euromoney's Best Firm for Minority Women Lawyers in Australia in 2013[69]
  • Named as Leading Light Law Firm for Pro Bono in Latin America in 2013[71]
  • Recognized as one of UK's Most LGB-Friendly Employers in 2014.[72]
  • Baker & McKenzie Named Tax Law Firm of the Year in 2014.[73]
  • Ranked as one of UK's top 25 employers in 2014.[74]
  • Recipient of the Prestigious Achievement Award in 2014.[75]
  • Received top rankings from Chambers Global 2014.[76]
  • Named Chambers Global Law Firm of the Year for IP in 2014.[77]

In the news[edit]

Baker & McKenzie was second in the legal sector and 19th overall in Stonewall’s top 100 most gay-friendly employers, released January 2014.[78]

In February 2013, Baker & McKenzie and the Economist Corporate Network launched a report, "Riding the ASEAN elephant: How business is responding to an unusual animal?" on growth opportunities in the region based on the company strategies of 147 multinational companies operating in ASEAN. The report goes into the plan for an ASEAN Economic Community by 2015, which includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.[79]

Baker & McKenzie launched a cross-border listings app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch in October 2012. The app is an interactive legal tool that helps users compare and consider global listing options.[80]

Baker & McKenzie was the first firm to establish a base in Peru via a tie-up with Peruvian law firm Estudio Echecopar in 2012.[81]

In May 2012, the firm assisted the Rijksmuseum in acquiring 150 photographs that expanded its international photography collection, with the addition of technological and aesthetic developments in 20th Century photography, from an art form to a force in modern journalism. It includes works by prominent photographers such as László Moholy-Nagy, Bill Brandt, Robert Capa and Helen Levitt.[82]

In 2012, Baker & McKenzie helped overturn Paul Chambers’ conviction under the Communications Act of 2003 (the Twitter Joke Trial) for tweeting a “message of a menacing character.” Chambers, an accountant, had tweeted a "silly joke"[83] about “blowing up the Robin Hood airport in South Yorkshire.” The team advising on his appeal was led by Preiskel & Co's David Allen Green, John Cooper QC of 25 Bedford Row and Sarah Przybylska of 2 Hare Court. The Baker & McKenzie team, which acted on the case pro bono from 2010, included partners Harry Small, Tom Cassels and Ben Allgrove.[84]

Baker & McKenzie is one of the first law firms to have adopted a functional outsourcing operation, which is now being emulated by other firms.[85] Its offshore operations in Manila, which include marketing, business research, and IT and computer maintenance support, was profiled in January 2006 by BusinessWeek magazine.[86]

In June 2005, a senior associate in the firm's London office, Richard Phillips, drew a considerable amount of media attention after it was revealed that the highly paid lawyer had been making a determined effort to have a £4 dry cleaning bill paid by a secretary who had accidentally splashed tomato ketchup on his trousers. In an open email, the secretary explained that she had been slow in attending to the matter due to the recent death and funeral of her mother. Before long, the story had been widely circulated throughout the City of London and beyond.[87]

In 1994, in a seminal case, a legal secretary, Rena Weeks, successfully sued the law firm for sexual harassment.[88] The trial court ordered the law firm to pay $6.9 million in punitive damages, making it one of the largest damage awards in history for this type of action.[89] On May 4, 1998, the California Court of Appeal for the First District upheld the trial court's judgment in full, and the Supreme Court of California denied review.[90] A subsequent dispute among Weeks' victorious attorneys as to the division of fees among them (she had signed a contingent fee agreement for 40% of her recovery) did reach the Supreme Court of California in 2002; the court held that the later-associated co-counsel could not recover the full amount he sought because Weeks' attorneys had not obtained her consent to an agreement to split fees among co-counsel from different firms as required by California court rules.[91] Martin R. Greenstein, the partner whose actions resulted in Weeks' successful lawsuit, was given a public reproval by the State Bar of California on March 26, 1998, and for obvious reasons, is no longer with Baker & McKenzie (the Court of Appeal decision noted that he was terminated by the firm in August 1993).[92]

In 1986, Geoffrey Bowers, then a New York attorney, filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights, charging that he had been fired from his job at the Manhattan branch of Baker & McKenzie law firm after AIDS-related lesions appeared on his face. The firm maintained that he was fired purely for his performance.[93] Two months after testifying at a hearing on the complaint, he died at age 33. The case was resolved in his favor in late December, when Baker & McKenzie was ordered to pay $500,000 to Bowers' estate. It was one of the first AIDS discrimination cases to go to a public hearing. Baker & McKenzie appealed but subsequently withdrew the appeal after they negotiated a confidential settlement in 1995 with Bowers' family forbidding parties from ever discussing the case or the terms of the agreement. These events were one inspiration for the film Philadelphia, starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington (the script of which was derived from numerous sources).[94] The film's credits include the following message: "This motion picture was inspired in part by Geoffrey Bowers’ AIDS discrimination lawsuit, the courage and love of the Angius family and the struggles of the many others who, along with their loved ones, have experienced discrimination because of AIDS."


Baker & McKenzie is organized as a Swiss Verein in which each office is a largely autonomous component of a loose international organization.

North America[edit]

Latin America[edit]



Middle East & Africa[edit]


Practice areas[edit]

Baker & McKenzie practices in the following areas of law:

  • Antitrust & Competition
  • Automotive
  • Banking & Finance
  • Corporate Compliance
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Employment
  • Energy, Mining & Infrastructure
  • Environmental
  • Financial Institutions
  • Information Technology & Communications
  • Insurance
  • Intellectual Property
  • Mergers & Acquisitions
  • Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare
  • Private Equity
  • Real Estate
  • Securities
  • Tax
  • Trade & Commerce


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