Baker McKenzie has appointed compensation and employment partner Barbara Klementz as its California managing partner, the firm announced Tuesday. She will oversee more than 250 lawyers and support staff across the global legal giant’s offices in Palo Alto and San Francisco.
Klementz succeeds litigation partner Colin Murray, who on July 1 became Baker McKenzie’s North American managing partner. She will also continue to lead the firm’s California global equity services and compensation and employment practice groups.
One of Klementz’s primary goals as regional managing partner will be to cross-sell legal services offered by the firm, which in January dropped the ampersand from its name. Baker McKenzie’s California team currently dominates in fields that other firms might consider too niche to invest in, such as employment, executive compensation and international tax law, Klementz said.
Though she estimated that Baker McKenzie serves 80 to 90 percent of the major companies in Silicon Valley, she said the firm was not servicing those clients on all the areas that it would like.
“We’re structured differently than many of the California firms you’ll see,” Klementz said. “At Wilson [Sonsini] or Cooley, a lot of practice groups are satellites to the corporate group. At Baker McKenzie, corporate is not necessarily the biggest practice group in our office … What we need to do is take that niche and try to translate that into more work.”
Baker McKenzie has been actively looking to recruit partners in the Bay Area, and Klementz said it will continue to do so under her watch. She believes the firm’s global reach makes it competitive for laterals with firms that may have larger head counts in the region.
At a time when many large U.S. firms are pulling back in China, Baker McKenzie has kept a strong presence in the country, where it established a joint venture in Shanghai two years ago. Klementz said lawyers in the firm’s California offices often advise American companies on their expansion efforts in Asia.
“In the California market, the lawyers and the partners in other firms are finally recognizing that Baker McKenzie is not a franchise, it’s a powerhouse, and we are very aligned in what we do,” she said.
Klementz has long been a member of Baker McKenzie’s diversity and inclusion committee, which is currently implementing a sponsorship program for female lawyers. Klementz said she and a group that includes new diversity director Anna Brown are also in the process of deciding whether to adopt an additional initiative in North America, one she declined to discuss further.
But Klementz did note that promoting gender equity will not be a top focus of hers in her new role, in part because Baker McKenzie has already made significant strides in that direction. More than 40 percent of the firm’s partner and counsel promotions this year were women. Industry-wide, women account for 22 percent of law firm partners.
“Obviously as a woman leader you can’t help but be interested in diversity,” Klementz said. “[But] I don’t think that’s the main reason I was picked for this role. We had a female managing partner in San Diego before, and we had a female chair for our entire firm [in current International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde] … I’m more interested in supporting my partners in North America.”
Klementz’s term as California managing partner will last three years, though she said it’s not uncommon for the firm to extend such appointments. Murray, her predecessor, began his term in 2015. In a statement prepared by Baker McKenzie, Murray praised his successor.
“Barbara is a true leader who supports our people, their career development and their diversity,” said. “She is a recognized leader in her field whose deep experience working with clients from around the globe will help us enhance our service delivery in the Bay Area.”