Baker McKenzie’s opening shows how Tampa has sharpened its business ambitions

The global law firm has taken the 10th floor of the SunTrust Financial Centre and hired 123 employees, on its way to a Tampa staff of 300 or more.
From left, Baker McKenzie human resources director Renee Agler, new business intake manager Samuel Demian, executive director Jamie Lawless, and finance director Nikki Rogers chat in one of the firm's casual breakout spaces at its new business center in Tampa. (Photo courtesy Baker McKenzie) Baker McKenzie
From left, Baker McKenzie human resources director Renee Agler, new business intake manager Samuel Demian, executive director Jamie Lawless, and finance director Nikki Rogers chat in one of the firm's casual breakout spaces at its new business center in Tampa. (Photo courtesy Baker McKenzie) Baker McKenzie
Published September 9
Updated September 9

TAMPA — To see how far Tampa has come since the early 1990s when it settled to recruit customer service call centers to sprawling suburban office parks, check out the new business services center that global law firm Baker McKenzie opened Monday.

“This today describes Tampa and the trajectory that we’re on,” Mayor Jane Castor said. It’s urban, it’s designed with employees in mind and it’s increasingly specialized.

First, start with the jobs themselves — some in legal services to help the firm’s practices in mergers and acquisitions or dispute resolution, but others requiring software expertise, a talent for business development or experience in particular areas of accounting.

The firm so far has hired 123 employees, with plans to get to at least 300 in seven different areas, including finance, information technology, operations, recruiting and career development, marketing and communications.

Most of those hires have been local, even for jobs that call for niche skills.

“We’re delighted so far,” Baker McKenzie chief operating officer Jason Marty, who five years ago set up a similar business center in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The firm also has business centers in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Manila in the Philippines to serve a network of 78 offices in more than 40 countries.

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The new hires, from entry level to mid-career professionals, are coming in at a range of salaries, but the average is above the $58,383 that the firm committed to pay to qualify for $1.5 million in tax-refund incentives from the state of Florida, Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa.

On the 10th floor of the SunTrust Financial Centre, “we’ve created a place that feels much less like an office and so much more like a home away from home,” said Jamie Lawless, the Tampa center’s executive director.

As at a couple of other new arrivals to Tampa, pharmaceutical giant Amgen and currency exchange service TransferWise, Baker McKenzie has built in a mix of work spaces.

There are desks in an open floor plan, but sound-masking technology in the ceiling creates a low shushing that’s barely noticeable unless you listen for it, but that keeps the sound of individual conversations from carrying far enough to become a distraction for others.

There’s also upholstered cubbies and glass-doored mini offices for focused work, futuristic phone booths for private calls, a cafe that will regularly offer healthy snacks and fresh fruit, and a living room-comfortable meeting space with big views of cruise ships arriving at Port Tampa Bay.

“Depending on your mood and work load for the day, you can find a spot that feels comfortable,” Lawless said.

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




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