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Giant law firm Baker McKenzie picks Tampa for business services center with 300 new jobs

 
Jamie Lawless will be the executive director of the new business services center that the global law firm Baker McKenzie plans to open in Tampa. (Photo via Baker McKenzie)
Jamie Lawless will be the executive director of the new business services center that the global law firm Baker McKenzie plans to open in Tampa. (Photo via Baker McKenzie)
Published Oct. 17, 2018

TAMPA — Baker McKenzie, a global law firm with 13,000 employees in more than 40 countries, said Wednesday it would open a new business services center in Tampa with more than 300 new jobs by early 2020.

The hub will provide support to the firm and its clients in legal services, finance, information technology, operations, business development, recruiting and career development, marketing and communications.

"A huge win," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. "Baker McKenzie will bring great prestige to Tampa and help fuel our increasing momentum."

Baker McKenzie looked at roughly 20 U.S. cities, Tampa center executive director Jamie Lawless said in an interview at the offices of the nonprofit Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.

Along the way, Tampa consistently "scored very high marks" across a range of key criteria: being a top business destination; having a deep bench of local talent; having an airport with plentiful international and domestic connections; having collaborative relationships with local and state officials; and being in a place where its employees can be a meaningful part of the community.

"In Tampa, we will be in very good company with other multinationals (and) Fortune 1000 companies that have selected the Tampa Bay area" for their operations," Lawless said.

In recent months, the Tampa City Council and Hillsborough County Commission approved offering the firm $300,000 in incentives on top of $1.2 million from the state of Florida.

The incentives come in the form of tax refunds available to the firm after it creates the promised jobs, which will have to pay an average of $58,383 annually. They are expected to be paid over eight years starting in 2019.

The incentive package was "one of many things we considered," Lawless said, "but not the driving factor."

"We really and truly had to feel as though Tampa would be the best place for us from a talent perspective, from a real estate perspective, from a cultural perspective, and (as) a top business destination," she said.

County records indicate the firm is headed to one of the city's community redevelopment areas, which include downtown Tampa.

"We're still deciding, and I'll have to leave it at that," Lawless said of the location. But she said decisions about the work space will be vital and the firm wants a work place that's collaborative, inviting, fun, bright, open and able to accommodate flexible work schedules. "That space that we will develop will be really cool."

Baker McKenzie has similar centers in Manila in the Philippines and Belfast in Northern Ireland. The firm recently reported annual revenues of $2.9 billion, a record, and its fastest growth in a decade.

In Belfast, Baker McKenzie opened its services center in 2014 and was the first tenant to move into the City Quays mixed-used waterfront development in mid-2015. In July, it announced it would be expanding from 300 to 450 employees. In Manila, it opened its service center in the late 1990s and told the Philippines-based Business Mirror newspaper two years ago that it had 800 employees providing services to 77 offices worldwide.

Before being named to head the Tampa center, Lawless worked as director of implementation and chief operating officer in Baker McKenzie's offices in New York and Washington D.C. Her community service includes chairing the advisory council for Dress for Success Worldwide, a nonprofit that works to empower women in work and life by providing a support network, professional attire and development tools.

In Tampa, she wants Baker McKenzie to be involved in local initiatives and projects that employees will find meaningful, but has not identified which ones the firm is likely to support.

"That's a great question," she said, "and it's a question I will ask future employees."

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Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times