Christine Lagarde, the new chairman of 2,551-lawyer Baker & McKenzie and the first woman to head such a big firm, is uniquely equipped to address one of the Chicago-based firm’s most vexing problems: defections due to Big Five accounting firms’ poaching talent from Baker’s international tax practice.

She’s French and co-managed the firm’s 52-lawyer Paris office from 1991 to 1995, when the Big Five first began to stage raids on Baker’s pre-eminent tax practice. She also served as the firm’s liaison for 11 offices in Western Europe and chaired the firm’s European regional council in 1997 and 1998.

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