Former Baker McKenzie global chair Paul Rawlinson, who passed away on April 12 at age 56, led his firm through a period of growth and will be remembered for moving forward legal tech and innovation at Baker McKenzie.
Rawlinson went on a temporary medical leave starting in October of last year, with his firm citing health issues caused by exhaustion.
Baker McKenzie called his death “unexpected,” though the cause has not been disclosed.
London-based Rawlinson was a Baker McKenzie veteran. He joined the firm in 1986. A decade later, he became a partner in the intellectual property practice, which he chaired between 2004 and 2010.
Rawlinson gained the respect and affection of colleagues during his two years as global chair of the firm beginning in October of 2016.
Mona Dajani, a former Baker McKenzie partner now with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in New York, said she was “devastated” to hear of Rawlinson’s passing.
Rawlinson was an upbeat and approachable firm leader, who pushed Baker McKenzie’s 6,000-plus attorneys in about 80 countries to embrace new technologies, Dajani said. That included the use of a new type of video email and an app that would allow lawyers to keep track of vote tallies in real time during partnership meetings.
The firm also grew steadily under Rawlinson’s watch according to AmLaw 100 figures. From fiscal 2017-2018, Baker McKenzie increased revenue by 8.6 percent, from $2.67 billion to $2.9 billion. During the same period, profits per equity partner grew 11 percent, from $1.3 million to $1.44 million.
At Baker McKenzie, Rawlinson was lead “relationship partner” for a number of the firm’s biggest clients, a firm spokesperson said, including Unilever, L’Oreal, and British American Tobacco. He kept contact with key clients after taking over as global chair, according to the spokesperson, but he largely withdrew from his IP work to concentrate on law firm management issues.
“He spent a lot of time focused on brands” during his time as an IP lawyer, said the spokesperson, including a high-profile trademark case before the European Court of Justice involving L’Oreal v. Bellure concerning the sale of look-a-like fragrances.
Rawlinson also spoke out for law firm diversity. During his tenure, the firm threw its support behind UN Women’s HeForShe campaign, as well as other initiatives to support women in the profession.
Away from the job, Rawlinson, a husband and father of two, was a lifelong Manchester City football fan, according to reports, and an accomplished pianist who occasionally pressed others to sing the Queen classic “Bohemian Rhapsody” during law firm events.