Baker & McKenzie
|No. of offices||77 |
|No. of attorneys||> 4,350|
|No. of employees||> 11,500|
|Major practice areas||Corporate law|
|Key people||Eduardo C. Leite
(Chairman of the Executive Committee)
|Revenue||US$2.43 billion (FY 15)|
|Company type||Swiss Verein|
Baker & McKenzie, founded in 1949 is a multinational law firm headquartered in Chicago. As of August 2015[update] it is ranked as the largest international law firm in the world, with 11,500 employees including 4,365 lawyers on a full-time equivalent basis in 77 offices across 47 countries. It is ranked as a top three law firm in the world in terms of revenue with US$2.43 billion in annual revenue in FY2014-2015.
Baker & McKenzie is ranked as one of the top five international law firms in the majority of countries where it has an established practice. Clients prize Baker & McKenzie for its breadth of access to markets, as it can individually guide cross-border transactions without using external local counsel. In 2014, Baker & McKenzie opened offices in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Brisbane, Australia; and Yangon, Myanmar as well as a second Global Services Center in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In April 2015 Baker & McKenzie announced it was the first international law firm to enter into a Joint Operation in the China (Shanghai) Free Trade Zone with the PRC law firm FenXun Partners. 
Its current chairman is Eduardo C. Leite, former managing partner of its four Brazil offices. Mr. Leite has recently served as a Co-Chair of the 2015 World Economic Forum on Latin America, Riviera Maya, Mexico which ran from May 6 to May 8. Mr. Leite became the first member of a law firm to be appointed to the US-Brazil CEO Forum in 2013 and in September 2015 U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced him as the new chair of the US section of this forum, leading efforts in strengthening commercial ties between the two countries.
Origins and international growth
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 Northwestern 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. 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 $400 million in revenues.
1999 to present
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." 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.
In 2001 the firm employed 3000 attorneys and had $1 billion in revenues. A structure largely unique to large multinational law firms, now that Deloitte and KPMG have changed their internal organisation, the Swiss Verein, was pioneered by Baker & McKenzie in 2004, in which multiple national or regional partnerships form an association in which they share branding, administrative functions and various operating costs, but maintain separate revenue pools and often separate partner compensation structures. . 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. 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. 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.
Since 2009, Baker & McKenzie has opened offices in locations including Abu Dhabi, Luxembourg, Turkey, Johannesburg, South Africa, Morocco, Peru, South Korea, and Dubai.
Multi-jurisdictional transactions Baker & McKenzie has advised on in recent years include:
- Dai-Ichi Life Insurance on its $5.7 billion acquisition of New York Stock Exchange-listed Protective Life Corporation. The largest ever acquisition of a foreign firm by a Japanese life insurance company.
- Deloitte and the lenders on the $1.1 billion receivership of London’s The Gherkin, one of the world’s most iconic buildings and one of the largest commercial property restructurings in 2014.
- The $638 million acquisition of the largest retail pharmacy chains in Mexico and Chile by Alliance Boots - its first major step into Latin America.
- Spain's state bank rescue fund FROB on the sale of $8.7 billion of mortgages from CatalunyaCaixa to Blackstone and subsequent $1.62 billion sale of the bank to BBVA.
- Yamal Development on the $2.94 billion acquisition of 60% of Arctic Russia by from Eni.
- CITIC Metal, a member of the Chinese consortium which acquired Glencore Xstrata's interest in the $5.85 billion Las Bambas Copper Project in Peru.
- 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.
Notable cases tried
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. 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. This case was also recognized as a “Top Ten” case by the Beijing Higher People’s Court.
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. 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.
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.
Awards and rankings
- Received top rankings from Chambers Global 2014.
- Won the Latin America Law Firm of the Year award at the 2014 Chambers Latin America Awards. 
- Baker & McKenzie Named Tax Law Firm of the Year in 2014.
- Named Chambers Global Law Firm of the Year for IP in 2014.
- Cited as the largest and most global antitrust/competition team in the world by The Global Competition Review's GCR 100 14th edition.
- Recognized as one of UK's Most LGB-Friendly Employers in 2014.
- Ranked as one of UK's top 25 employers in 2014.
- Recipient of the Prestigious Achievement Award in 2014.
- Highest-ranked U.S. law firm by Japanese corporate legal departments in the December 2013 Nihon Keizai Shimbun survey.
- Named one of the top 25 corporate law firms in America by the Corporate Board Member magazine.
- Named "Top Law Firm for Diversity" by MultiCultural Law Magazine for the 8th consecutive year.
- Named Best International Firm for Women in Business Law by Euromoney Asia in 2013
- Named as Euromoney's Best Firm for Minority Women Lawyers in Australia in 2013
- Named as Leading Light Law Firm for Pro Bono in Latin America in 2013
In the news
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. 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). 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."
In 1994, in a seminal case, a legal secretary, Rena Weeks, successfully sued the law firm for sexual harassment. 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. 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. 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. 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).
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.
Baker & McKenzie is one of the first law firms to have adopted a functional outsourcing operation, which is now being emulated by other firms. Its offshore operations in Manila, which include marketing, business research, and IT and computer maintenance support, was profiled in January 2006 by BusinessWeek magazine.
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"  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.
In May 2012, the firm assisted the Rijksmuseum to acquire 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.
Baker & McKenzie became the first international firm to establish a base in Peru via its tie-up with Peruvian law firm Estudio Echecopar in 2012.
In October 2012, Baker & McKenzie launched a cross-border listings app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The first of its kind, the app is an interactive legal tool designed to help professionals users compare and consider global listing options.
In February 2013, Baker & McKenzie and the Economist Corporate Network launched a report, titled Riding the ASEAN elephant: How business is responding to an unusual animal? , which details growth opportunities in the region based on the company strategies of the results of a poll of senior executives from 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.
Baker & McKenzie is organized as a Swiss Verein which allows regional profit pools and their related tax, accounting and partner compensation systems to remain separate while allowing strategy, branding, information technology and other core functions to be shared between the constituent partnerships. Baker & McKenzie is the only Verein that used to be a single partnership. All of the other Vereins were created by firms merging.
Baker & McKenzie practices in the following areas of law:
- Antitrust & Competition
- Banking & Finance
- Capital Markets
- Corporate Compliance
- Dispute Resolution and International Arbitration
- Energy, Mining & Infrastructure
- Financial Institutions
- Information Technology & Communications
- Intellectual Property
- Mergers & Acquisitions
- Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare
- Private Equity
- Real Estate
- Trade & Commerce
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- "From small beginnings to global giant". Chambers Student Guide 2011.
In 1989 it became one of the first international law firms in Moscow. The Soviet government retained the firm to handle what was the largest privatisation in the nation’s history – Volga Automobile Associated Works.
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- Letzing, John (December 10, 2009). "Symantec wins $545 million opinion in tax case". MarketWatch. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
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- Lawyer With AIDS Charges Job Discrimination
- Philadelphia' Screenplay Suit To Reach Court
- The Baker & McKenzie Sexual Discrimination Case, Georgia Trial Lawyers Association.
- [dead link] Sexual Harassment Laws: How a Six Million Dollar Man Became a Six Million Dollar Liability, The Payroll Factory.
- Weeks v. Baker & McKenzie, 63 Cal. App. 4th 1128 (1998).
- Chambers v. Kay, 29 Cal. 4th 142 (2002).
- See State Bar of California public record for Martin Richard Greenstein, State Bar Number 106789.
- Ketchup Trousers, Snopes.com. Also in 2005 Heidi Gritt was employed.
- , The Guardian
- Online Extra: The Cost-Killer in Manila, Businessweek.com