Baker McKenzie

Jacqui Bernuzzi
Baker McKenzie

Baker McKenzie

Jacqui Bernuzzi is the graduate recruitment and development manager at Baker McKenzie, based in the firm’s London office.

How did you end up in law?

After graduation, I joined a major technology/professional services company. I started in a technical support role and then moved into a training role, followed by some time as a lateral recruitment officer, then a graduate recruitment officer. I left that organisation in 2006 and started my career with another City law firm and have been in the sector doing graduate recruitment and development ever since! 

What are your main responsibilities?

The great thing about working at Baker McKenzie is that I have plenty of variety in my role. I am involved in everything from marketing and attraction, on-campus events, the vacation schemes, the assessment and selection process, our inclusion and diversity initiatives and working with our future trainees. I also have responsibility for all our current trainees, including the seat move and secondment process, and the trainee qualification process. 

Who is in your team?

I’m part of a team of five – myself, two graduate and development officers, a graduate and development coordinator, and a graduate recruitment intern.

What are the most/least enjoyable aspects of recruiting?

The most enjoyable aspect is definitely the variety of the role and being able to see the process from start to end. I can first meet someone on campus, see them on a vacation scheme, work with them as a future trainee and then oversee their development during their training contract. I’ve always enjoyed meeting and talking to new people, from students to people at the academic institutions to my peers at other firms. It’s a really nice industry in which to do this job.

It can be really difficult when you have to tell people that they haven’t been successful at securing a training contract, especially if you’ve spent time with them on a vacation scheme and got to know them. I do try and spend time with them afterwards, giving them feedback on why they didn’t get through this time.

What is the biggest challenge of the job?

The cyclical nature of both the recruitment and development side of the role means that there is always a lot to do; I know what will be happening in every month of the year, but I also need to ensure that new projects and processes are also being implemented. It’s so important to balance the needs of both your external and internal stakeholders which can be challenging and very busy, but also really enjoyable!

Do you socialise with your trainees/vac scheme students?

I do! We run a number of vacation scheme and trainee socials, and also many events on campus. I really enjoy going along (although less often now I am a mum!) and I think it’s really important to get to know people out of the normal office environment. 

What has been your most memorable moment in the job?

There isn't one specific memorable moment, but I often have moments which remind me why this is the career path I have chosen and why I still enjoy what I do. I run a lot of skills sessions for students and I like being able to give useful advice and remove some of the fear factor from the application process. It’s great when you meet people and they see that we’re here to help them and I enjoy being able to help students and trainees make the right decisions for their future careers.

Do you attend law fairs? Why is it important for students to attend?

We are really keen to let the best candidates know who we are and what our strengths are and so we attend about 20 law fairs a year. We think it’s really important for students to attend; it’s an excellent information gathering opportunity for them as at no other time will you get the opportunity to speak to so many different firms at the same time. We now see a lot more first years than we used to – it’s great for them to get exposure to firms early on and gives them a really good head-start for when they apply for vac schemes. And first impressions do count. Make sure you are prepared and don’t just turn up and take the freebies!

What's the most annoying question you're asked by students?

“Do you do law?” Or they come and say they’re interested in an area of law that we don't do. It’s different if you don’t know who we are and want to find out, but don’t turn up and ask questions that you haven't thought through! We did have someone ask if we were a bakery once too!

What do you look for in a candidate?

There’s no Baker McKenzie type – our trainees come from a variety of backgrounds and have had varied experiences, so it’s a very diverse mix. There is a common thread, however, and that’s people who are clear about what they want to do and why. We also want people to be themselves – don’t tell us what you think we want to hear; be honest in your answers as we want to get to know you, and what drives and motivates you. We are also looking for commercial awareness, so an understanding that being a lawyer is about knowing the black-letter law, but also about how you apply that law across different sectors and clients.

What is the most common mistake you see candidates making, apart from the obvious typos?

I think the most comment mistake (aside from the infamous typos or using the wrong firm name) is candidates making blanket applications to firms. If you send off 30 mediocre applications, instead of a handful of well-researched applications, you are less likely to be successful. Having spoken to a variety of firms at law fairs and events, you should be able to make a more manageable shortlist and invest your time in doing those applications well.

Candidates also forget to tell us about themselves. We want to hear about their achievements and what drives them personally. You’d also be surprised at how may candidates don't reread their application before the interview and forget what it is they told us! 

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of joining the legal profession?

Research the profession and what the different roles within it involve.  For example, do you understand what the different types of solicitor do – family, criminal, commercial – or what a barrister or a legal executive does? Look at your own skillset and aspirations. There’s no right or wrong; it’s your career and you'll make better choices the more informed you are

On a practical basis, try to get some legal work experience or do some pro bono work as a way of learning more. I often get asked if experience outside the legal sector is also valuable, and the answer is yes, absolutely! We are looking for transferable skills, so think about how your experiences can translate to a career as a lawyer. We are looking for people with drive, motivation, passion for the career and who are personable and work well in a team.

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

Being a truly global firm, we deal with some of the very best international companies around the world, which our trainees will gain experience working with. They will also be given real responsibility from the start which excites and challenges at the same time. Our trainees also get to experience client secondments – giving them a depth of experience other firms can’t always match. 

If you could do something completely different, what would it be?

I’d love to teach or, if money were no object, I’d run a restaurant or a B&B somewhere by the sea with my husband. 

What's your guilty pleasure?

I am not sure it's a guilty pleasure, but I am a big fan of the darts and the PDC World Championships over Christmas makes me very happy!

What's your desert island disc?

This is a hard one to answer as I have a few from different times in my life, but I would have to say the ultimate album would be Purple Rain by Prince.

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