Rocio studied Modern Languages at the University of Warwick and is due to graduate in July 2019. Over Easter, she took part in Baker McKenzie’s Spring Vacation Scheme and will be going on to join them as a Trainee Solicitor in March 2021. We chatted with Rocio and she gave us some insight into life at Baker McKenzie and how you can follow in her footsteps.
What inspired you to apply to Baker McKenzie?
I decided to apply to Baker McKenzie because of their global nature. I actually remember going online in my first year and searching for the most international law firms. Because of my background and interest in languages, finding a firm that was truly global was very important for me. Baker McKenzie came up as the first one and this made me look more into the firm.
I started attending events organised and sponsored by them, and this allowed me to get to know different people from the firm. Everyone I spoke to was very friendly and approachable, and I felt this could be a firm where I would enjoy working.
I also liked the fact that Baker McKenzie had a smaller trainee intake compared to other law firms. I felt this would give me more responsibility at an earlier stage and greater involvement in high levels of challenging work.
What was a ‘normal’ day like on the scheme?
On the vacation scheme I completed seats in Employment and Corporate Finance. During the day, we would mostly do work for our departments.
In Employment I attended some meetings, proofread a couple of documents and did some bundling. I also accompanied my trainee buddy to the legal clinic, which was great because I was able to help her take notes and see how she would give advice to clients. During my week there, the department had their departmental lunch, where they talked about all the cases that they were working on. I found this meeting very insightful because it gave me an internal perspective from the firm, which we don’t get to see very often.
In Corporate Finance I did more research related tasks for the team, as well as writing a client email. Here I also did some proofreading and I was able to attend some trainee training sessions. It was interesting to see the type of training that I would receive once I became a trainee solicitor. During my week in this department I really liked that I was able to put my language skills to use. There were some documents in Spanish that needed to be very briefly summarised and of course, I put myself forward for this opportunity! I really enjoyed this task because it allowed me to see the differences of legal documents that belong to different jurisdictions. On the last day, I gave a quick presentation to my trainee buddy’s team on a research task that we had been working on.
Alongside the departmental work, we would also have daily activities to get to know the firm better. These would normally be in the afternoon and they consisted of talks about the firm, such as their CSR approach or their pro bono activities, and network lunches either with trainees or representatives from the firm’s departments.
During the evenings we would usually meet with our presentation group to prepare for the client pitch exercise and attend graduate recruitment social events. These were really fun and really helped me get to know not just my fellow vacation schemers but also the trainees. We also had the opportunity of attending social events that hadn’t been planned for us, such as when our departments had their monthly drinks or when a new pro bono project was launched.
As you can see, you will be kept very busy during your vacation scheme, but it is completely worth it. You learn a lot and really get to feel part of the firm.
What was the application process like? What was the hardest part? What did you enjoy the most?
First you have to fill in an online application form, where you have to write a cover letter and answer different questions related to the firm’s beliefs and values. I actually found the application form quite refreshing because the questions were very different to other firms' application questions. I thought they were very tailored to the firm and I liked this because it gave me a further insight into the culture of the firm.
If you are successful at this stage, then you have to do some online tests. These should not be very difficult as long as you practice beforehand. There are lots of practice tests online and I really recommend doing them before the real ones!
Then if everything goes well, you will get invited to a video interview, where you will have to answer 5 pre-recorded questions. These could be related to law, the firm, commercial awareness, and of course, yourself. For this part of the application process I recommend treating the video interview as if it was a face-to-face interview. There is nothing wrong with smiling and laughing, after all, the firm wants to see your personality!
Upon successful completion of the video interview, you will be invited to the last part of the application process, an assessment centre. Here you will take part in a group exercise, a document review exercise, and two interviews, one competency based and the other more case study based, but you will still get some competency questions in this one. The firm really does make an effort to make you feel comfortable and at ease on the day, so please don’t worry. I remember being very nervous for mine, but as long as you prepare and fully participate in every activity you will perform well.
The hardest part for me was the video interview. I had applied to Baker McKenzie a year before and I had reached this same stage, but unfortunately, I wasn’t successful, and I didn’t make it to the assessment centre. This is why I was nervous when I had to do it again because I knew this is where I had failed last year. In the end I managed to do it though, so I feel this shows that preparing a lot really does make a difference.
I must admit that what I enjoyed the most was the assessment centre, particularly the interviews. I had prepared so much, and I knew that this was the firm for me that I loved the opportunity of being able to explain why I liked Baker McKenzie and why I felt that I would be a great fit.
What is the company culture like at Baker McKenzie?
The company culture at Baker McKenzie is great. They are known for being a very friendly firm, and this is completely true. Everyone I have met from the firm, whether that has been at an event or during the vacation scheme has been really helpful in learning more about Baker McKenzie and the legal sector as a whole. Everyone is very collaborative, and you really do feel as part of a global team.
Has Bright Network helped you on your career journey? If so, how?
Yes, absolutely! Bright Network’s events have been great in terms of getting to know different firms and learning more about the legal field, such as their Bright Network Festival and their Diversity and Inclusion Conference. In these I was able to network with different firms, which helped me make my mind up as to which firm I wanted to apply to, and I received great advice on how to continue developing my skills to ensure I would succeed in interviews and assessment centres.
Finally, any tips for anyone who’d like to apply for a similar role at Baker McKenzie?
I would say to make sure you really build a rapport with the firm. Although I was interested in Baker McKenzie since my first year, I only started really getting to know the firm at the end of my penultimate year. It is in my final year that I attended several dinners with the firm, I went to see them at various events, such as at my university’s law fair, as well as signing up to their workshop on video interviews. Meeting the firm at various occasions helped me understand the firm and their culture a lot better, which really helped me tailor my answers at the online application stage. Additionally, it also allowed me to meet different members from Graduate Recruitment, which was great because when you arrive to the assessment centre and see someone you have already met it makes the whole process a lot easier.