What Baker McKenzie looks for in applications and covering letters
The application process for Baker McKenzie’s training contract and vacation scheme opportunities is relatively simple. The first stage is an online application form and a covering letter, which is followed by an online assessment, a video interview with pre-recorded questions and, finally, an assessment centre.
Your covering letter is your opportunity to make as good a first impression as possible to the recruiters at Baker McKenzie and prove that you want to start your legal career at the firm. Read on for some key things that you need to keep in mind when putting your application, as well as some do’s and don’ts for the covering letter and application.
Key things to remember before applying to Baker McKenzie
Apply well before the deadline, to allow for technical glitches or surprises. Also, the firm recruit on a rolling basis - increase your chances by getting your application in early.
The number one thing to remember when writing your application is that Baker McKenzie is a commercial law firm, so keep things as relevant to commercial law as possible.
It’s okay to have an interest in non-commercial areas of law (such as family law), and you might discuss this in your covering letter, but don’t let it seem like you’d prefer to work in these practice areas. It could suggest that you’d rather work at a smaller firm that handles this particular type of case. Baker McKenzie’s website makes it very clear that the firm is well informed about the global economy, so you need to show that you are too.
What to include in your Baker McKenzie covering letter?
Unlike in many other law firm applications, candidates are required to produce a covering letter as well as answer a series of questions. While this gives you some freedom as to what you cover in your letter, there are a couple of things that Baker McKenzie has previously asked applicants to address. These include:
- What excites you about becoming a commercial solicitor?
- What drives you to apply to Baker McKenzie?
- Three skills you are developing to ensure that you are ready to start your training contract.
The point of this stage of the application is to assess what drives you, your knowledge about the role of a trainee solicitor, your understanding of the firm and training programme, your self-awareness, and your ability to communicate concisely and focus on the most relevant points.
Baker McKenzie’s covering letter: do’s and don’ts
- DON’T… talk about your interest in law in general. Make sure you are able to write about why you are particularly motivated towards a career with a commercial firm. For example, you could mention the clients Baker McKenzie works with or the transactions it is involved in.
- DON’T… just say that you’ve been following the impact of Brexit. You WILL need to have carefully considered the implications for the legal profession and, particularly, for Baker McKenzie and its clients. However, it’s likely to be something that a lot of applicants will mention and you’ll probably have to directly answer questions on the topic at interview. This may be an opportunity to show that you’ve been following other stories affecting the firm as well as Brexit.
- DON’T… talk about all of your interests, activities and responsibilities here – you’ll have the chance to do that in another section of the form.
- DO… address your letter to the right person. The application form will tell you the specific person your covering letter should be addressed to. If you go for a generic ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, it’ll just look like you can’t follow instructions.
- DO… think about Baker McKenzie’s culture and values and how they relate to you. For example, the firm makes a point of conducting pro bono work on a regular basis; is this something you’ve done and want to continue doing? (But be aware that all law firms exist to make a profit, so pro bono should come across as just one aspect of your interest in the firm).
- DO… consider what you want from your working environment and the nature of the relationship you’ll have with your colleagues (be they other trainees or partners) think about how Baker McKenzie could provide this. Beyond vacation schemes, speaking to current trainees is a good way of finding about a firm’s culture.
- DO… talk about the nature of the training programme and which aspects of this appeals to you and why. For example, how will the seat rotation scheme affect your development? Are there particular seats that you have a particular interest in, or align with your career ambitions. For example, how would a seat in dispute resolution benefit you?
- DO… emphasise any experience you’ve had in a law or commercial environment – work experience, a part-time job or open days for example.
- DO… have a thorough look at Baker McKenzie’s website and read through some of its latest deals. Think about why this sort of work appeals to you.
- DO… talk about any particular commercial law cases or developments (particularly involving Baker McKenzie) that have caught your attention recently and that you’ve come across in your research, and explain specifically why they interest you. Don’t mention anything you don’t feel comfortable discussing and explaining in-depth, though.
- DO… be prepared to expand on anything you mention in your covering letter in interviews. Your future interviewers will have read your covering letter and may question you on anything you mention in it.
Filling in the activities and interests section of the Baker McKenzie application form
There are five questions in this section. Each has a maximum limit of 300 words.
- ‘Law firms are all different - tell us about three things, which are personal to you, that you feel differentiate Baker McKenzie from other leading firms and encouraged you to apply?’
- ‘Tell us about something – anything – that excites and inspires you.’
- ‘We are proud of our inclusive approach and how we have built an environment where people from diverse backgrounds can thrive, and are key to our success as a firm. Please outline which diversity and inclusion Baker groups you would support, and detail any initiatives you may have previously been involved in.’
- ‘Please tell us about a goal you set out to achieve. Why was this important to you and what was the outcome?’
- ‘Please tell us what you consider to be your key achievements and interests to date.’
The point of these questions is to assess your experience, self-awareness, commitment to law and commercial law, ability to communicate well, ability to write succinctly, and whether you’re a good fit for the firm in general.
Baker McKenzie’s activities and interests questions: do’s and don’ts
- DON’T… repeat too much of what you said in the covering letter.
- DON’T… choose vague examples that could be true of any graduate – instead, emphasise the things that make you stand out. For example, many aspiring lawyers will have an interest in debating, so if you do put this as an interest pick out something about it that makes you stand out; highlight if you’ve won any mooting competitions or been president of a debating society.
- DO… try to find an example that can be related to the competencies needed to be a good solicitor. For example, the firm wants to see that you’re able to build relationships with clients. Have you had a part-time job or role where you had to provide a service? Have you taken part in an extracurricular team activity? Talk about your duties in the role, and a bit about what you learned.
- DO… show that you’ve done something with your interests. A lot of candidates may write that they’re a member of a sports club, but a candidate will only stand out if they can demonstrate that they did something productive with this – such as organising specific tournaments or recruiting good quality members.
- DO… include interests that aren’t specifically related to law – the employer wants to see that you’re an interesting all-rounder.
- DO… think about the firm’s culture and values and try to show that your activities and interests fit in with these. For example, Baker McKenzie has won awards for its social mobility, inclusion and diversity; if you’ve done voluntary work that shows you're also committed to those values, this may give you an edge at the firm.
- DO… mention any part-time jobs you’ve taken on to help fund your studies – you might not think they’re impressive, but this shows commercial awareness, time management and responsibility.
- DO… highlight any occasions when you have gone beyond the call of duty; did you successfully overhaul your student paper or introduce a new policy to your student committee, for example? Baker McKenzie are looking for intellect and initiative.