The Structure of a Law Firm: Harriet Jupp

One of the benefits of working in an international Law Firm is the ability to work alongside individuals of differing positions throughout the firm who may be located around the globe. It is certainly true that as a Trainee you build rapport with your work providers, who generally tend to be Partners and Associates. However, the reality is, that strong relationships are also built and maintained with both Paralegals and Business Professionals throughout your Training Contract, such as HR, Finance & Accounting, Secretarial Services, Marketing & Business Development. A Law Firm has many different arms branching out within its structure.

When sitting in a department, a Trainee will often work within a smaller team, whether that be for a four to six week corporate transaction, or the entirety of their seat, assisting on a project in Dispute Resolution. The team will generally be structured as having 1 – 2 partners, 1 – 3 associates and 1 – 2 Trainees, depending on the size of the project. In some situations there will also be Legal Project Managers who assist with case management. This structure allows for great exposure to senior members of the group as well as quick development, learning from those around you. Whilst on any one project in any one department it is common for Trainees to reach out to other departments where specialist knowledge is required on a particular point of law or alternatively, contact our international offices where further jurisdictions are involved.

When working on a matter, Trainees will often require support from Business Professionals. For instance, as a Trainee you may be asked to book a meeting room for the execution of documents or the swearing of an affidavit. The place to start can often be your Legal Assistance / Personal Assistant if you are unsure of who to contact. In this scenario, Secretarial Services are required for booking rooms and printing documents. Other teams, such as the Finance & Accounting team, generate WIPP reports to monitor fees and ensure our work is within the agreed client budget. As a Trainee, it is also great to be involved in pitch preparation, this is often quite exciting and unsurprisingly requires assistance from the Marketing and Business Development group who assist with collating materials and utilising our branding.

Trainees are also encouraged to participate in HR / Talent Management events, whether that be assisting Vacation Scheme students during their time at the firm, speaking about the firm at a panel event, or attending a University Social in order to aid recruitment of future Trainees. The HR team also provide additional support to current Trainees and work closely with them to determine which departments they would like to sit in throughout the course of their Training Contract. As such, close relationships are built between various different counterparts of the firm.

Whilst in certain departments, there is also opportunity to be involved in Baker McKenzie Industry Groups, where an array of Partners and Associates across the firm share their knowledge regarding particular industries and how best we can utilise our insight to benefit our clients. Groups include: Consumer Goods & Retail; Energy, Mining & Infrastructure; Financial Institutions; Healthcare & Life Sciences; Industrials, Manufacturing & Transportation; and Technology, Media and Telecommunications. The structure of these groups branch across the firm. It is great to remain in contact with certain Partners and Associates who you may have worked alongside in previous seats or projects through being involved in the particular sub group, albeit in a different environment.

The structure of an international Law Firm is fairly complex with many moving parts to the puzzle, however as a Trainee you are able to use the groups to assist your learning and their presence aids professional development and growth.

Harriet Judd, third-seat Trainee at Baker McKenzie.

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