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Baker McKenzie hosts an annual client event dedicated to celebrating diversity and inclusion across the board.Provided

It makes sense that Baker McKenzie would place great emphasis on inclusion. After all, it’s a vast law firm with more than 70 offices around the world, notes Ajanthana Anandarajah, a Toronto-based associate lawyer for the organization.

“As a global law firm, we work very closely with our colleagues around the world,” explains Anandarajah, who practises employment and compensation law. “Despite our size, we have a real culture of friendship.”

Anandarajah is co-chair of the Toronto office’s inclusion, diversity and equity (ID&E) committee along with associate Jacqueline Chan, whose work involves intellectual property. “At Baker McKenzie, we really focus on building interpersonal relationships that are grounded in mutual respect, trust and camaraderie among all levels,” says Chan.

“Because of that, our leadership is very accessible, and they’re really transparent in their communications. So we feel like we’re part of the team and making decisions together, whether you’re a business professional, a law student or a lawyer.”

To Vanessa De Santis, associate director of talent management, inclusion is critical. “We strive to build an environment of well-being where people feel they can bring their whole selves to work,” she says.

In addition to the local ID&E committee, which sends out monthly reports on its initiatives, she cites affinity groups across the global firm that people can join, as well as events hosted with local diversity groups.

De Santis notes that given the competitiveness that is part of the legal industry, Baker McKenzie has taken steps to promote psychological safety and overall well-being. This includes the creation of a program called Family Care Solutions, which provides backup care for employees and their families when, for example, child care has fallen through.

“We had an employee whose loved one was going through cancer treatment,” she recalls, “and when that loved one was coming home from the hospital after surgery, the family was seeking support from a nurse for in-home care. The employee used this program and was very appreciative.”

Baker McKenzie promotes employee wellness in other ways, too, Anandarajah points out. “The firm supports a work-life balance. We have flexible hours and can work from home two days a week and as needed. We’re in a very demanding profession; the hours can be long and the workload can be heavy, but the firm does what it can to make it as easy and manageable for us as possible.”

“We recognize that one size does not fit all and people have unique circumstances,” says De Santis. “And we really pride ourselves on our flexibility. We have something we call our bAgile program.

“It demonstrates that we’re committed to providing access to a range of flexible working arrangements to support people in managing their work and lives. This might include non-standard or adjusted hours, or perhaps a part time. Unpaid breaks for family, personal or developmental reasons may also be an option.”

De Santis notes that Baker McKenzie has an annual $500 health and fitness subsidy which can also be used for wellness activities such as being part of a sports team, taking dance classes or getting a ski membership.

Chan also appreciates the fact that Baker McKenzie strongly supports employee growth. “They invest in your learning and development. There’s always a focus on growth and advancement for all staff – and that runs all the way from the bottom to the top.”

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