Baker Botts LLP - The Inside View

Sticking to what it's good at is utmost on Baker's agenda, so if you're interested in energy and technology this seasoned Texan should be on your radar.

“WE have a real focus on energy and technology,” Baker's partner in charge of recruiting & development, John Martin, tells us. “We have such a breadth and depth when it comes to our offering in those two industry sectors.” The firm's roots in Houston (where it maintains its HQ) have given Baker an edge in the energy space, while its expansion west into Palo Alto and San Francisco has bolstered its access to the tech sphere. Closer to home, a base in Austin – dubbed 'Silicon Hills' – has also added to Baker's capabilities in this ever-evolving sector.

“We don't aspire to plant a flag in every US city and European capital.”

Despite a volatile oil industry in recent years, Baker's twin focuses appear to have paid off. “From a financial perspective we're as strong as we could be,” says Martin. “We've had three years of record financial performance and we're having another strong year over 2017/2018.” Practice area-wise, Martin labels Baker's IP, antitrust and corporate groups as “extremely active,” and encourages students to keep an eye on the firm's presence in California: “Our growth in California has been notable – over the last five years, we are the fastest-growing law firm in the combined markets of San Francisco and Silicon Valley.” On a nationwide scale, Chambers USA identifies Baker's projects expertise in the oil & gas and liquefied natural gas spaces as its pièce de résistance, while in Texas the firm picks up a raft of high rankings in areas like corporate/M&A, general commercial litigation, technology, real estate and tax.

The majority of Baker's juniors are based in its Texas offices (in Houston, Austin and Dallas), and for them Baker's standing in the state was a key pull factor: “The historical aspect of the firm is appealing. It was founded in 1840 and has maintained its reputation for quality over a long time. That attracted me more than its potential competitors, many of whom are new arrivals on the Texas scene.”

Strategy & Future



“We're not a firm that aspires to be everywhere,” John Martin continues. “We don't aspire to plant a flag in every US city and European capital. We are a firm that believes we need to stick to our strengths and strategic plan.” Readers who anticipate joining Baker's ranks in a few years' time can therefore expect it to look largely the same as it is today – both geographically and in terms of its focus on energy and tech. That isn't to say that Baker doesn't have plans to enhance its expertise and reputation though, as Martin tells us: “We will continue to defend our home markets in Texas and we will continue to grow in California, on the East Coast and in London – our energies are quite focused on those geographies.”

The Work



Baker's litigation department scooped up the largest group of juniors on our list, followed closely by IP and corporate. A few had joined the firm's global projects and tax groups. All departments pair newbies up with a mentor to help get them started, before letting them source matters in a more free-market way. “We get the best of both worlds,” said litigators, who enjoyed the freedom to source their own work and take advantage of the more formal safety nets in place: “We send out weekly reports, so everyone has a good idea of how busy you are.”

“I start with a blank page and write the whole thing.”

Oil & gas clients regularly call upon the IP department, but this group is also known for its work in the electronics and life sciences industries. “Our clients range from small sole-inventor types to giant technology companies,” juniors revealed. The work itself is split between the filing and securing of patents (prosecution), and contentious work for clients who feel their IP rights have been breached (enforcement). Our sources had been able to get work from both sides of the department. “I've worked on litigation cases where I'm the main attorney, so I do all of the initial discovery requests and handle all the motion filings. On larger cases I'll take on discrete parts of the litigation, so I might be looking into certain terms within a broader claim construction.” On the prosecution side “you have a docket of patent and trademark work, so you're in charge of filing the initial applications, monitoring requests for responses and following up with the client if more information is needed.”

“It covers really general civil litigation,” juniors in Baker's dedicated litigation department told us.The mix of matters depended on location, with those in Austin encountering a lot of appellate and class action cases, while their counterparts in Dallas had sampled securities and aviation disputes. “We're a trial-focused group and we take matters to trial from start to finish,” sources reported. This enabled them to do “a lot of discovery work, which is not necessarily doc review, but more preparation for discovery motions and depositions.” Others praised the group for steering them away from doc review to “more complex” matters: “Two-thirds of my work involves brief writing. I start with a blank page and write the whole thing after doing the research for it. The rest of my time is taken up with research projects for other folks, as well as some motion practice.” 

Baker's “very generalist” corporate department spans M&A, securities, venture capital, private equity and commercial work. Interviewees here were busy “marking up a lot of commercial agreements for clients, as well as putting together due diligence checklists and drafting resolutions.” Sources especially liked transactional work “because everyone is focused on a common goal. There's also scope for creativity because you're identifying risks or issues and solving them in the documents you draft.” The firm's global projects group, meanwhile, is “mostly focused on energy work; there are subgroups focused on upstream oil & gas matters; projects involving the likes of liquefied natural gas and refinery facilities; and regulatory issues involving public utilities.”

Training & Development



Come review time, Baker's 'Associate Attributes Model' comes into play. “It breaks down the core attributes that you should be striving to develop at each stage. When senior attorneys and partners submit their feedback on our work, they'll be commenting on not just the substance of our work, but how it reflects our progress in relation to those core attributes.” Juniors were happy with this system, as it “allows you to set goals for yourself, and is also useful for explaining to clients the value that you add.”

“...they bring judges in to assess us.”

After a week of “regular orientation training,” which gathers all new starters in the Houston office, juniors embark on their practice-specific trainings. Sources credited Baker for having “a pretty robust program” that “has become much better over the last year or so.” Those in IP attended “monthly 'fundamentals' sessions that are incredibly helpful. They've recently started doing practical skills workshops on depositions, where they bring in judges to assess us.” Corporate juniors were positive about their “101 basics” sessions, while litigators told us that “there are in-house opportunities to improve your knowledge; we bring in people from the National Institute for Trial Advocacy to help us gain more practical experience. In addition, if an associate hasn't done a deposition by the point that they're expected to, the firm will go out of its way to make sure that happens.”

Hours & Compensation



Juniors work to meet a 2,000-hour billable target each year, “which generally means you'll be aiming to bill eight hours a day, but you won't always be able to do that!” Those in IP and litigation tended to be in the office between 8am and 6pm, but juniors in both groups reported spells of longer hours: “When there's trial prep I might start at 10am and leave late at night – sometimes the wee hours of the morning.” A similar level of unpredictability was reported in the corporate and global projects groups; those in the latter could go from leaving at “3:30pm one day to 11pm the next,” and corporate juniors revealed that “things often blow up after noon, which can mean I'm working until 10pm.”

If juniors hit the targeted 2,000 hours then the word on the street is that “you become eligible for a New York market-rate bonus.” However, bonuses are affected by Baker's 'Associate Attributes Model.' Sources admitted that “it's a bit complicated,” but in essence it works like this: the firm has four 'levels' which are distinguished by certain attributes. Each level covers experiences and skills tied totwo to three associate year-groups, and comes with a range of potential bonus payouts depending on mastery of those specified attributes. “The firm tries to be transparent about what each of those levels looks like, but it can be a bit of a black box when it comes to how the system applies to each person.” Sources were nonetheless enthusiastic about the potential to earn more money based on their skills rather than their class year. Base salaries, meanwhile, are fixed at each level.

Culture



“Our firm has a reputation for being a little more buttoned-up, which is incorrect,” thought sources. They did, however, highlight that Baker “attracts hard-working people – you get so much to do here, so you have to be efficient and dedicated to your tasks.” Others echoed these sentiments: “We're a grounded group of lawyers who are a little more serious about what they want and how they would like their careers to progress. We're people who prioritize professionalism, but a relaxed and approachable type of professionalism.”

“We're people who prioritize professionalism.”

“Most people here want to work hard and then go home to their families,” so Baker isn't like “some firms that are more party-oriented.” Interviewees added that “most folks have kiddos, which means that it's a family-friendly environment, but not one with lots of happy hours after work.” That's not to say that Baker lawyers don't make time for socializing: we heard of holiday parties, women's initiative events, informal practice group happy hours, and Thanksgiving pot lunches that “definitely make the firm feel like a community instead of just a workplace.” Insiders also wanted to reassure future joiners that “if you want a more social experience you can find it here – it does exist! The junior associates tend to socialize outside of work, and tomorrow I'm going to dinner with four of my colleagues. We've had a hard week and want to de-stress!”

Pro Bono



“Our pro bono program is amazing!” associates happily relayed. “Every hour you bill counts toward our billing requirement.” Some of our sources had even racked up 350 pro bono hours in the space of a year. “As long as you're getting your mandatory day-to-day billable work done you can take on pro bono in whatever capacity you want.” Those who bill 30 hours in a year become the proud recipients of “a glass award – most people get the little glass thing!”

“Every hour you bill counts toward our billing target.”

Interviewees found it easy to get staffed on matters via local organizations and volunteer centers, but also picked up pro bono via firm lunches (“where they talk about what kind of needs there are”), via networking events, and by pitching projects to partners. “People take on what they're passionate about,” and we heard of a broad range of matters covering asylum and immigration issues, divorces and custody battles, prisoners rights' appeals, contract negotiations for local artists and inventors, tax advice for small businesses, and participation in efforts to assist in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 34,842
  • Average per US attorney: 52.2

Diversity



As with many firms, sources highlighted that Baker “isn't doing so well at the partner level,” but with regards to gender thought that progress was being made: “We have a relatively new primary and secondary caregiver leave policy which is very generous – obviously that's not the only thing we need to do but it will go some way to help.” At the time of our calls associates highlighted the recent departure of Baker's diversity champion and coordinator as an issue: “That was the most convincing part of the firm's policy and they haven't replaced her yet. She did a ton, and I hope they build a new position.” The firm did confirm to us that they are currently searching for a replacement and hope to have a new diversity champion and coordinator in the near future.

 

Get Hired



Our associate interviewees at Baker Botts felt that “grades are one of the most important things because they are a very easy and quantifiable way to filter candidates.” In practice, they suggested that “if you are from one of our pipeline schools you should try to be in the top of your class.” In addition, “being on a journal and being able to showcase your writing experience will help to set you apart.”

So which schools are Baker Botts' recruiters targeting? John Martin – Baker Bott's partner in charge of recruiting and development – tells us that the firm's “OCI program took us to 36 law schools and job fairs in 2017. We have long-standing relationships with many nationally-ranked law schools (where we get the bulk of our summer associates), and these include Texas, Harvard, Columbia, Duke and Northwestern. Another school with real traction for us is UC Berkeley – for example, seven of our 12 summer 2018 associates in California are from Berkeley. We also have strong affiliations with regional law schools, and these include Fordham, George Washington, UC Hastings, SMU and the University of Houston.”  

During interviews, associates told us that candidates should expect “a couple of behavioral questions like 'tell me about a challenge you faced and how you dealt with it.'” Thinking about experiences that demonstrate things like efficiency, organization, teamwork and tenacity beforehand will therefore help to stand you in good stead. On top of the standard advice like “present well and maintain eye contact with your interviewers,” juniors also advised future candidates to communicate why they would like to join Baker Botts specifically. “One of the deal breakers is not demonstrating a strong interest in the local market,” one Houstonite reported. “A lot of people make the mistake of saying something like 'Oh I just want to go to a big firm,' and that kind of vague answer doesn't go over so well here.” 

A crucial thing to keep in mind when interviewing at Baker Botts is the firm's four core values, as John Martin explains: “These define our law firm and our culture. The first is demonstrating professional excellence in everything that we do for our clients; the second is maintaining a spirit collegiality and teamwork; the third is adherence to the highest ethical standards; and the fourth is making contributions back to the community in which we work and live. We apply these values to the recruiting program and what we're looking for in candidates.” Martin also highlights resilience, drive and leadership experience as desirable qualities/factors that will impress Baker Botts' recruiters: “We love it when we come across a law student who has all of these attributes and can hit the ground running.” 

So what are the top dos and don'ts in Martin's book? “The do would be come to us having done your homework and know who we are as a law firm. The don't would be expressing an interest in a practice area or a geography that we simply don't offer or are present in – we want talented law students that recognize who we are!” 

Offices



Baker's Houston HQ is “downtown with all the other law firms. As the flagship office we get our own offices from the start – usually an interior one for the first six to 12 months, and then an exterior office.” Over in Dallas “we're getting a total makeover; the renovations will be finished soon and the office will look great!” Austin-based sources, meanwhile, enthused about “the phenomenal views of Lady Bird Lake – when people come to visit they complain that they don't have that kind of view.”

Outside of the Texan stronghold, a fair number of juniors called DC home. “We're near the White House in a historic building, so its bones are old but the offices are nice and big. We might be moving soon though, as there's a lot of new commercial real estate in DC and the firm is eyeing a particular area…” The remaining associates on our list were split between Baker's New York and Palo Alto bases. Overseas, Baker has offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Brussels, London, Dubai, Riyadh and Moscow.

Pro Bono



Notable pro bono opportunities (schemes, client affiliations etc.)

Hurricane Harvey: Baker Botts Lawyers Staff LegalLine. On Thursday September 7th Baker Botts in concert with the Houston Bar Associate hosted a special LegalLine phone bank. Over 75 Baker Botts lawyers along with lawyers from the HBA answered calls related to Hurricane Harvey relief issues.

As part of our Harvey relief efforts, Baker Botts put together a Guide for those who had been impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The information included in the Guide had been compiled from hundreds of sources so that it is accessible in one easy to use Guide.

The Guide covered a broad variety of topics, such as how to file flood claims, renters' rights, how to replace your passport and/or credit cards that may have been lost or damaged in the storm, information about schools and about small business administration loans, and tips to avoid home repair fraud. It also contained a broad list of other resources and included contact information.

Baker Botts LLP

One Shell Plaza,
910 Louisiana Street,
Houston,
TX 77002-4995
Website www.bakerbotts.com

  • Head Office: Houston, TX
  • Number of domestic offices: 7
  • Number of international offices: 7
  • Partners (US): 243
  • Associates (US): 340
  • Contacts 
  • Main recruitment contact: Elizabeth Krichmar, Director of Recruiting
  • Hiring partner: John Martin, Partner-in-Charge, Recruiting
  • Diversity officer: Kathy Bowman-Williams, Director of Diversity
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 56
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2018: 103 (1Ls: 32, 2Ls: 71)
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2018 by office: Austin: 13, Dallas: 23, Houston: 32, New York: 16, Palo Alto: 6, San Francisco: 4, DC: 9
  • Summer Salary 2018: 1Ls: $3,642/week
  • 2Ls: $3,642/week
  • Post 3Ls: $3,642/week
  • 1Ls hired? Yes
  • Split summers offered? Splits between offices are limited and available on a case-by-case basis
  • Can summers spend time in overseas office? No

Main areas of work



  Based on our broad experience and our in-depth knowledge of our clients’ industries, we are recognized as a leading firm in energy and technology. Core practice areas include project development and finance; corporate transactions; complex business litigation; international arbitration; antitrust; intellectual property; environmental; compliance and enforcement; tax; employee benefits; and real estate.

Firm profile



  Baker Botts is a globally respected law firm with 725 lawyers and 14 international offices. We are driven by the highest ethical and professional standards. This professionalism, combined with industry knowledge and insights and our understanding of the law, helps us to deliver effective, innovative solutions for our clients. For more than 175 years, Baker Botts has delivered results-oriented services, establishing us as a leading law firm. Our reputation is complemented by our leadership in government, the judiciary and our communities. Regardless of size, sector or jurisdiction of a client, our commitment is to help achieve their business objectives 

Recruitment



 Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2018:
Baylor, Berkeley, Cardozo, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, Georgetown, George Washington, Harvard, Houston, Loyola Patent Program, Michigan, Northwestern, Notre Dame, NYU, Pennsylvania, SMU, St. John, Stanford, Texas, UC Hastings, UCLA, UC Davis, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Washington University, Yale, Bay Area Diversity Career Fair, Boston College/ Boston University Job Fair, Harvard BLSA Job Fair, Lavender Law Job Fair, San Francisco IP Job Fair, Southeastern Minority Job Fair, Texas in NY and DC Job Fairs, Veterans Legal Career Fair.

Recruitment outside OCIs:
Write-ins, Referrals, Judicial Clerkships, Baker Botts Winter 1L Open House (all US offices)

Summer associate profile:
Baker Botts lawyers are selected from the top graduates among the best law schools. We have formally established a set of core attributes we seek in candidates; some of which include leadership, collegiality, dedication, and commitment to excellence.

Summer program components:
Our philosophy is to allow summer associates to sample work in practice areas in which they are interested. Written and oral work evaluations are strongly encouraged and monitored. Each summer associate has both partner and associate advisors. All summer associates receive formal performance evaluations during the summer program. Baker Weekend, the cornerstone of our summer program, brings together summer associates and lawyers from all seven of our U.S. offices for a weekend of training and social events. Our summer associates learn about our firm through interactive panel discussions and informal break-out sessions with firm leadership and enjoy socializing with each other and our attorneys in a fun, casual setting. 

Social media



 Recruitment website:www.bakerbotts.com/lawstudents/
Linkedin:baker-botts-llp
Twitter:@bakerbotts
Facebook:BakerBottsLLP
Instagram:bakerbotts

This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017

Ranked Departments

    • Intellectual Property Recognised Practitioner
    • Antitrust (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 4)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Energy: State Regulatory & Litigation (Electricity) (Band 2)
    • Energy: State Regulatory & Litigation (Oil & Gas) (Band 3)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Latin American Investment (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Litigation: Securities Spotlight Table
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Technology: Corporate & Commercial (Band 2)
    • Antitrust (Band 3)
    • Climate Change (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Recognised Practitioner
    • Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 5)
    • Energy: Electricity (Transactional) (Band 3)
    • Energy: Oil & Gas (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 3)
    • Energy: Oil & Gas (Transactional) (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • International Arbitration (Band 3)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts (Band 5)
    • Projects: LNG (Band 1)
    • Projects: Oil & Gas (Band 1)
    • Tax: Controversy Recognised Practitioner
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 3)