Founded in 1949 Baker McKenzie is a multinational law firm and one of the most recognisable in the world. From its HQ in Chicago Illinois with almost 80 offices in 46 countries employing more than 6,000 lawyers.
Although a general law practice, Baker McKenzie also cover Antitrust & Competition, Capital Markets, Mergers & Acquisitions, and Insolvency to name a few
This scale makes it one of the world’s biggest law firms both by headcount and revenue, and has helped them become, according to the Acritas Global Elite Law Firm Index, the strongest law brand in the world. In 1999, Christine Lagarde, the Paris managing partner and an antitrust and labor lawyer, was elected chair of the global executive committee, the first woman to lead Baker McKenzie.
The firm was founded by Russell Baker and John McKenzie. Baker opened an early practice Baker & Simpson in 1925 after he graduated form the University of Chicago School of law. His firm provided legal services to the growing Mexican American community and later advised companies investing in Latin America.
In 1949, the firm relaunched with John McKenzie, who took charge of their litigation practice while Baker built an international practice.
The firm grew rapidly. Throughout the 50s its client roster expanded rapidly as it built itself into the major international law firm we see today. By 2001 the firm employed 3,000 attorneys and had $1bn in revenue. In 2005 their numbers were boosted by 70 partners and other legal staff who joined from the disbanding Coudert Brothers.
In 2014 it became the first law firm to break the £2.5bn revenue since the financial crisis making it the largest law firm in the world by headcount. Today it boasts $2.92 billion, a 40% increase on its position since 2010.
Like all firms it has not been without its controversies. In 1996 Baker McKenzie was the focus of one of the world’s first AIDS discrimination cases after Geoffrey Bowers filed a complaint with the New York State Division of human rights claiming he had been fired from his position after AIDs lesions appeared on his face.
The firm maintained he had been fired for his performance, but Bowers died aged 33 before the case finished. After his death, the courts found in his favour and ordered the law firm to pay £500,000 to his estate. The case would later be the inspiration for the Tom Hanks film Philadelphia.
Today, though, it continues to go from strength to strength and maintains its position as the most recognisable brand in the global legal sector.