Chicago to Hong Kong: Baker & McKenzie's international vacation scheme

Meet two students who experienced the firm's international vacation scheme

Baker & McKenzie has one of the legal world's most enviable global platforms, and every year their international vacation scheme offers law students in their penultimate year a chance to see the full scope of the firm's work through placements in London and in another office in the network.

To find out more, we spoke to two participants on the scheme last summer, who chose to visit opposite sides of the globe, but both gained a great insight into their career of choice.

"I went to Chicago": Oliver Moreton, University of Exeter

What drew you to this particular scheme?

Having done some legal work experience before, a vacation scheme seemed liked a natural next step. I'd also researched Baker & McKenzie and liked the sound of their training contract. So when I saw this scheme I went for it without hesitation.

Out of the places I could have asked to go, I settled on Chicago because it's a real heartland for the firm and has a reputation for bringing in interesting deals and transactions.

What kind of work did you do?

I was in the corporate and securities practice. The emphasis was very much on going and asking different people for jobs to do, which meant I got quite varied tasks.

I worked with a senior associate on a big research task on securities regulation, and on a sponsorship contract for an international footballer. I also got the chance to return to a deal I'd worked on in London, as the Chicago office had got involved as well, which gave me a good perspective on how the firm works across jurisdictions.

I also took the opportunity to take get involved in a pro bono case (one which the firm works on for free because it's for a good cause) on bullying and discrimination in American public schools, which I found very rewarding.

Was working in Chicago very different to working in London?

The American legal system is very different to the English one and I wasn't sure what to expect. But the good thing about Baker & McKenzie is that a lot of its culture is consistent across its offices, so it didn't take long to adapt.

I enjoyed the atmosphere in the Chicago office, which has a really spectacular view over Lake Michigan. Even though I was the only student from the UK, my placement coincided with the US summer associate program, so I made friends with a lot of American law students.

What was your favourite thing about the placement?

I enjoyed the pro bono work a lot. And more broadly I liked the satisfaction of working hard and seeing what I did make a real difference. It felt good to be given proper responsibility for my work, and I appreciated being so well-supported.

"I went to Hong Kong": Charlie Joseph, University of Oxford

What did you like about the scheme?

Baker & McKenzie's scheme gave me international exposure, which is what I wanted. It was great to have the opportunity to spend several weeks in both London and Hong Kong and to get a sense of how the firm works internationally.

Where were you placed?

I was in the corporate department. I worked with lawyers from partner level to trainees, and had a supervisor and a junior "buddy".

I started out proofreading, but by the end I was drafting documents and writing templates for future transactions. I was doing the same things an associate might do, and it I felt like I'd managed to earn myself a lot of responsibility.

When it emerged that I speak fluent French I found a lot of new work coming my way - I was able to read through French contracts and translate important sections for the lawyers working on the matter. That really made me feel part of the team.

Did you have a lot to do with the London office while in Hong Kong?

My interactions weren't so much between London and Hong Kong as between Hong Kong and other offices in the region, as Hong Kong is a hub for the firm's practices across east Asia.

I'd often work with the Beijing office, as they handle a lot of French documents. I also liaised with the firm's offices in several other Chinese cities and in Vietnam.

What was the social life like there?

I had a really great time. I was the only person on my scheme, but when I arrived they put me up in an apartment.

My next-door neighbour was an associate from the Baker & McKenzie Melbourne office, so I had a friend almost immediately.

The trainee social life in Hong Kong was a little less structured than in London, as I was the only one on my scheme out there. But there was a good group of Hong Kong-based interns. I went to lunch with them every day and we spent time together at weekends.

My supervisor was great too - she introduced me to the trainees and took me out to dinner with them. I always felt very welcomed.

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