Alumni

Our network of stellar alumni is among our proudest achievements—many of our former lawyers remain in close contact with us after they leave, and some even become our best clients.

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Cleary alumni have gone on to join the legal departments of corporations, financial institutions, non-profits, and international organizations. Our former lawyers have held distinguished roles in government, academia, and the corporate world. Many have started their own businesses and some have pursued fields completely outside of the law. The impressive positions that our alumni hold reflect both the quality of our training and our global reach.

 

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Alumni Spotlights

Our alumni have tremendous pride in their experiences at the firm and often reflect upon their time with fondness and gratitude. Read some of their thoughts below.

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What lessons did you learn at Cleary that prepared you for your future career?

Cleary taught me how to be a strategic partner to clients. I learned that the best lawyers look at the problem holistically – beyond the letter of the law, to its practical, political, and regulatory implications, to benchmarks, etc. – and present the clients with risk-based analyses that take all of the areas of impact into account. Any lawyer can interpret the law; a great lawyer interprets the law in the context of the clients’ business needs and macro climate.

What Cleary person and/or experience had a lasting impact on you personally?

Personally, the most lasting impact came from having a number of examples of women who were at the top of their profession and also maintained a great deal of humanity and authenticity in their day-to-day. These women taught me that it is possible, and indeed a great asset, to be true to yourself in how you lead and how you show up in every room you occupy during your career. If we are genuine, then we can focus on solving the problems in front of us and we can create room for others to succeed at every tier of our organizations. I live this principle daily in how I lead my team. And in my current role, it resulted in the creation of a program called “Stronger United” (“Unidas Somos Mas Fuertes”) that aims to contribute towards a work environment where each of us can show up as we are and focus our talent and energy on creating value for our respective firms/company/etc. by creating a sense of community among women.

Why do you participate in the alumni network, and what would you say to someone who is considering getting involved?

The Cleary alumni network is a great resource – whether you’re looking to expand your network, share best practices with others in similar roles, contribute to a pro bono project, or make a change in your career. So get involved – you will spend more or less time working within the network as your time allows and needs change over the years, but the network will always be receptive!

 

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What lessons did you learn at Cleary that prepared you for your future career?

I’d say I took two lessons from Cleary that have served me particularly well. I remember Cleary partners talking about the firm’s desired standard of work, which was nothing less than perfection. “At Cleary, we do perfect work.” Age and experience have taught me that this standard is quite elusive, and surely it is true that the perfect can be the enemy of the good. But I long ago realized that the Cleary standard is not about the end result, but the mindset and effort that go into the making of the thing. And to this day, I find myself going above and beyond – even in the small things – to ensure that the work I produce is as clear, as well thought through, and crisply stated as I can possibly make it. I’m a better General Counsel for it.

The second lesson is even more important. Cleary’s instinctive internationalism is not just a business model. It is a way of seeing the world – an openness to difference and the possibility of human excellence in every place; a commitment to the idea that we flourish when ideas are interchanged and cultures mix; and a conviction that new possibilities arise when we lend our talents to support the dignity, equality and creative energy of people who are very different from us. A 20th century firm, Cleary has a 21st century spirit that our world needs now more than ever!

What Cleary person and/or experience had a lasting impact on you personally?

I have such warm memories of my time at Cleary. I joined the firm because I was deeply impressed by the culture and people, and because I loved the international flavor of the practice. My wife Mandy and I were newly married, so it was a time of great adventure in our lives, a time of new beginnings. I’ll always be grateful to Cleary for giving us the chance to live for three years in London, where our oldest daughter was born. These are such precious lifetime memories! From a career perspective, my time at Cleary London set me up exceptionally well for my work at Mastercard. I’ve spent the last twenty years traveling the world on Mastercard business, building on the global perspectives I first learned at Cleary.

 

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What lessons did you learn at Cleary that prepared you for your future career?

Rich Lincer gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to work on Ports America’s commercial contracts as a first-year attorney. This was unique for Cleary for 2 reasons – commercial contracts really aren’t Cleary’s thing and neither is having a first year managing a client relationship. Through the Ports Americas matters, I learned how important it is to get to know your client – not just what’s in a corporate document, such as a prospectus, but the culture, the people, the mission, and the company’s risk tolerance. The attorneys who can weave seamlessly into and across a corporation’s fabric are the most successful. I believe this learning set me up for success in my career trajectory as a commercial attorney at Google, building out strong, customer-centric enterprise legal teams, and now as General Counsel at Everlaw.

What Cleary person and/or experience had a lasting impact on you personally?

That’s the special thing about Cleary – everyone with whom I interacted taught me something. From the folks who helped with data processing, to my admins, to the associates and partners, everyone has left such an indelible impression on me. To each and every one of them, I am forever grateful.

Why do you participate in the alumni network, and what would you say to someone who is considering getting involved?

The reason I joined Cleary as a bright-eyed, naïve second year Berkeley Law student is the same reason I stay involved – the people. The Cleary community is characterized by legal professionals who are intelligent, loyal, helpful, gritty, intellectually curious and adventurous. More importantly, this community shares my values of enacting change that helps others through the letter of the law. Who does not want to be around more people like that?

 

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What lessons did you learn at Cleary that prepared you for your future career?

Above all, Cleary taught me what perfect (in terms of analytical rigor, work product, and client service) looks like, the unique mindset and mental energy it takes to get there, and how to truly work a problem all the way through. In the “real world” of day-to-day transactions that I live in now, that level of attention to detail and intellectual energy tends to be uneconomical, and the marginal cost of anything beyond “good enough” isn’t worth it. But sometimes it is – e.g., large, transformative, and/or high-risk transactions – and knowing how to dial it back up when necessary is a real superpower that many people don’t ever learn. And the rigor required to be able to do so bleeds into and informs calibration against the day-to-day in subtle ways as well.

What Cleary person and/or experience had a lasting impact on you personally?

Person that had an impact on me: There are many, but I’ll talk about Meme Peponis. I learned so much about the “right” way to do things, and about how to manage people – both team members and counterparties – in a way that combines incredibly high standards with a very human touch. Meme’s a badass.

Experience that had an impact on me: Working on the OGX restructuring with Rich Cooper, Adam Brenneman, Paco, and others. That was such a crazy deal. Has served as a bit of a benchmark for me ever since by which to measure complexity, transactional difficulty, and sleep deprivation.

 

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Christopher Provenzano (2002-2009; New York)

What lessons did you learn at Cleary that prepared you for your future career?

There are three. The first is that thinking both hard and creatively about things matters. Lots of law firms have smart people who work hard, but the best and most interesting work I have done has required something more; thoughtfulness and imagination rather than just industriousness are what distinguish great lawyering. The second is that these qualities only flourish when the people you work for encourage them and recognize their value. The third (to which I will return) is that there are lots of different ways to be an effective litigator.

What Cleary person and/or experience had a lasting impact on you personally?

One of the early lessons I learned was from Debbie Buell, who observed that her partners were all very different but also all very effective – they leveraged their strengths in different ways. I found this very true, particularly in working with Chris Lunding in trying a lengthy and complicated case in the EDNY and working with now-Judge Liman on a number of different matters. You could not imagine two more different people, I think, but I learned very important skills from each of them. I probably have more Lunding in my personality by nature, but I know when to channel my inner Liman, so to speak.

Why do you participate in the alumni network, and what would you say to someone who is considering getting involved?

You may not have noticed this, but lawyers tend to be a tedious and unimaginative bunch on the whole. This has not generally been so of Cleary alumni. When I hear someone worked at Cleary I feel that they will not only be competent and smart, but also nice and interesting as well.

For me and my partners, much of our work comes from alumni, largely on this basis. And I hope it will continue to do so! We love hearing from alumni, whether it is just to catch up or because they need help with something.

Michael Granne (2003-2006; New York)

What lessons did you learn at Cleary that prepared you for your future career?

Cleary taught me that there is always a different way of looking at or solving a problem, but is also reinforced that there was never a substitute for doing the work.

What Cleary person and/or experience had a lasting impact on you personally?

Working with Francesca Odell was eye-opening. How someone could work as well and as hard and be ever friendly and pleasant continues to amaze me.

Why do you participate in the alumni network, and what would you say to someone who is considering getting involved?

Cleary alumni are an always interesting bunch and the events are both great fun and great networking opportunities.

Jennifer Bader (1998-2003; New York, Paris)

What lessons did you learn at Cleary that prepared you for your future career?

Cleary set the standard by which I continue to judge other law firms. And so many of them fall short! I learned from Cleary that real teamwork – partners who are colleagues and friends rather than the rulers of warring fiefdoms, true lockstep compensation, associates who are offered the widest possible experiences rather than guarded jealously by a supervising partner – is not only possible but the best way to motivate people to work hard.

I also learned that the single most important factor in workplace satisfaction is the quality of the human beings you work with.

What Cleary person or experience had a lasting impact on you personally?

My Cleary years in New York and especially in the Paris office were an exciting time in my life. Andy Bernstein and John Brinitzer and the rest of the Paris team did so much to form me as a lawyer. And yet I’d have to say that the single most memorable and moving experience I had was as a first year associate in NY, before I had even decided whether I wanted to do litigation or transactional work. (Actually, I still haven’t decided whether I want to do litigation or transactional work!)

The experience was a pro bono divorce case. The client was a woman whose husband had given her AIDS, back in the days when it really was a death sentence. She came to meet with me in the office, and the contrast between the opulent surroundings and this emaciated woman was heartbreaking. All she wanted was to be divorced from this man before she died. She wanted to die free of him. She succeeded, and I never forgot her.

Why do you participate in the alumni network, and what would you say to someone who is considering getting involved?

As with everything at Cleary, the benefits of participating in the alumni network are both personal and professional. I began participating only a few years ago, attending the Cleary European Alumni Reunion in The Hague. I cannot say enough about how much fun this was, and how fruitful as a networking exercise. I renewed friendships, made new ones, and made contacts that led directly to legal work. The CLEs are fantastic, too. There is literally no downside to participating, and everyone should.

 

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What lessons did you learn at Cleary that prepared you for your future career?

Nothing benefits the productivity and culture of an organization like taking the time to help a colleague. Everyone’s busy; there are always emails to respond to, documents to review, calls to prepare for. When I think back to my time at Cleary, some of my deepest memories are when a colleague took time to walk me through an issue or answer some other question, be it while walking to grab coffee, or over chef Eddie’s well done quesadillas. Those few extra minutes that were invested in my learning/development, especially in the middle of a busy matter, saved me hours of spinning my wheels either at that moment or down the road. Even when it was just for my own edification, colleagues were happy to share. Each of these moments reinforced the culture of teamwork and collegiality that Cleary is known for.

What Cleary person and/or experience had a lasting impact on you personally?

I had the privilege of having Jamal Fulton as my office mate during our first year as associates. He was splitting time between bankruptcy and private funds, while I was splitting between capital markets and M&A. We shared late nights, early mornings, mid-afternoon double cheeseburgers and exquisite single origin pour over. He was not only a great sounding board and sanity check on emails, he also introduced me to classics like The Wire. When I returned from my two-year rotation in the Seoul office and joined the private funds group, Jamal was, as always, happy to help me get up to speed and displayed tremendous patience as he answered my questions on claw back mechanics and waterfalls. To this day, when I think about lawyers who personify Cleary’s values of collaboration, respect, and excellence, Jamal stands out. I’m grateful to call him a close friend.

Why do you participate in the alumni network, and what would you say to someone who is considering getting involved?

It’s the best of Cleary outside of Cleary. Smart people, working hard, on interesting things – that’s what I’ve always looked for. It’s the reason I chose to join Cleary after law school. For the many that move on from Cleary, the alumni network provides an opportunity to continue engaging with those smart people, working hard, on interesting things, now at some of the most innovative and ground-breaking companies in the world.

 

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What lessons did you learn at Cleary that prepared you for your future career?

That no matter whether I am familiar with the task at hand or not, I can and will be able to figure it out and provide valuable, business-oriented advice. Having the opportunity while at Cleary to work across the corporate law spectrum (equity and debt securities and periodic reporting, M&A, corporate governance, antitrust, banking, and restructuring in New York, Brussels, and London!) with supportive colleagues in a collegial atmosphere prepared me well for life as an in-house lawyer. The ability to see the big picture, spot issues outside my supposed “area of expertise”, and weigh in on how various laws, regulations and/or market standards impact each other and the proposed business transaction continues to make me a valued partner to the business. The broad foundation I was able to craft at Cleary allows me to better analyze and calibrate risk and impacts to the business and, most importantly, to actually make decisions. Too many in-house lawyers shy away from making decisions on legal issues, instead presenting a ton of possible scenarios and leaving it to others to make the call. Sure, it can be tough when you are brought in at the last minute and/or don’t think (read: know!) you have likely not been given all the information, but the skills I first started to hone at Cleary have provided me with the confidence to trust my gut and to present decisions in a way that adds value to the project and, if necessary, leaves some wiggle room to revert if I need or want to check on a point.

Another lesson learned was that part of being able to figure it out or come up to speed on something means knowing when to leverage the expertise of your colleagues, past and present, and also being there and taking the time when others need your help.

What Cleary person and/or experience had a lasting impact on you personally?

During my time in the Brussels office, I had a situation where a partner did not initially listen to me when I raised a key problem with a document a couple of times. After speaking with the regulator and the client, it turned out that I had been right. When we were fixing the problem, the partner noted that I should have kept raising the issue until he listened. While this was a frustrating experience, in the long run it was an important lesson both in trusting yourself as well as in the need to figure out how to get people to listen to you (even if it takes multiple times!). Not everyone communicates or listens or processes information the way you do, particularly when you are living in a different country, working with folks from around the globe, or working with people whose life experiences or approach are different than yours. It also highlighted the need to truly listen to others and remember that fresh perspectives can add value. 

Why do you participate in the alumni network, and what would you say to someone who is considering getting involved?

The alumni network is an awesome way to keep in touch with old friends and colleagues, as well as to build up my network. You never know when you will need a specialist or other counsel (or someone to bounce an idea off of) and the ability to trust a fellow ex-CGSHer is beyond measure! We also get to travel to really cool places, have unique, insider experiences, and have fun with interesting people who all have a common foundation, which makes ice breaking and expanding your network that much easier!

 

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What lessons did you learn at Cleary that prepared you for your future career?

Part of the Cleary ethos is that all lawyers who work at firm—regardless of the length of time—are part of the Cleary family. Some Cleary lawyers spend their whole career at the firm, but the great majority of lawyers eventually go on to work at other law firms, in other legal jobs, or in disparate areas. This is the nature of how law firms work, but Cleary was one of the first firms to accept the reality and to use it to benefit the firm. Cleary also values Cleary lawyers as individuals, not just for their billable hours and work done for the firm. In this respect, Cleary also differentiates itself from other firms.

Perhaps these are reasons why Cleary was one of the first major law firms to publish an alumni directory. I don’t know how I came upon a copy before I started working at Cleary, but I saw that many Cleary lawyers had gone on to pursue academic careers. The fact that so many lawyers went into academia from Cleary was an important factor for me in choosing Cleary over other firms.

What Cleary person and/or experience had a lasting impact on you personally?

Some of my fondest memories of Cleary actually arose after I left the firm when I was teaching in the Faculty of Law at the University of Hong Kong in the early 1990s. Gene Marans, the managing partner of the Hong Kong office, and his wife Ann Marie, welcomed my wife Carole Petersen and me into the Hong Kong Cleary family. We joked that we were the non-billing associates for the firm who were invited to all of the firm functions. Many of our good friends from those Hong Kong years were lawyers who worked in the Hong Kong office.

Why do you participate in the alumni network, and what would you say to someone who is considering getting involved?

One of the great benefits of the annual alumni reunions is that we have been able to reconnect with many of these old friends. I was late to joining the reunions—over the years, I received all of the emails and Carole and I often considered attending, but the timing never seemed to work out. But the reunion in Sicily (2015) was timed perfectly, just days before an insolvency conference in Naples that we were attending. We attended and were hooked from the get go. We caught up with old friends and made new ones and enjoyed all of the interesting tours and sites. We loved it. Since then, we try to join the reunions whenever we can and were able to go to The Hague (2018) and then Bilbao (2019), and I was in Hong Kong (2018) for the inaugural Asian reunion. We were planning to attend the reunion in Kyoto in November 2019 before it was cancelled.

The lawyers at Cleary are an eclectic group and that makes for interesting reunions. The walking tours that Cleary has organized for the reunions are among the best that we have joined and the guides have been uniformly excellent. And the fine meals and wine and unusual venues make for memorable evenings. In short, the reunions have become a central part of our annual travel plans and we anticipate that once the COVID-19 situation improves, we shall once again be regulars at Cleary reunions.

 

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What lessons did you learn at Cleary that prepared you for your future career?

During my time at Cleary, I had the opportunity to work on sophisticated matters with sophisticated clients, and the legal counsel we provided was always best in class. On this basis, one of the lessons I learnt was the importance of delivering a top notch legal service in every filing in litigation, call with a client or transactional document I worked on. In turn, this also allowed me to interact and learn from the best and most qualified attorneys on a wide range of legal subjects such as sovereign litigation, cross-border transactions and capital markets.

Nowadays, in my current position at Uber, I follow the same principles. In fact, as a business partner to a public company that has exponentially grown to what it is today by challenging the existing regulatory status quo and pushing the legal frontier to uncharted territories, we at the Legal department are at the forefront of developing disruptive legal strategies and our counselling has to be of top quality.

Secondly, another lesson from my time at Cleary was the impressive amount of hard work and creative solutions we would put into each matter, and how Cleary provided all necessary conditions for this to happen. It was not uncommon to put long and dedicated hours, with diverse teams based in multiple countries, into finding alternatives to solve clients’ pressing issues. This in turn involved developing a critical thinking and analytical mindset, especially when going through countless documents and an overwhelming amount of information under time constraints. Fast forward a few years to my current position, hard work and breakthrough solutions are our daily standard in a company where we believe that you “don’t come to Uber for easy”. In fact, with new tech products coming to market on a weekly basis, cities going back to normal as the world starts to recover from the pandemic and global business initiatives that require local execution, Uber provides me with a similar opportunity and challenges me to draw upon that very same legal thinking and analytical skills.

Why do you participate in the alumni network, and what would you say to someone who is considering getting involved?

At Cleary, I was very fortunate not only to develop professional connections but also to build long lasting friendships that endure until today. The network is a perfect ecosystem to nurture those bonds and, with alumni all over the world, I am just one click away from making a meaningful connection with someone that can provide a helping hand.

From a professional perspective, being part of the network offers me access to educational programs and social events, information on legal trends, Zoom happy hours with the Cleary family, and this interview spotlight, among others.

Finally, the significant effort that Elizabeth and Alumni Relations invest into the program, makes it extremely easy to participate in. The experience of being part of this network is second to none. Absolutely get involved, should be on your to-do list for 2021!

 

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What lessons did you learn at Cleary that prepared you for your future career?

Attention to every detail!

What Cleary person and/or experience had a lasting impact on you personally?

Jerry Hyman left a lasting impression as a very kind and decent person.

Why do you participate in the alumni network, and what would you say to someone who is considering getting involved?

It’s a lot of interesting people doing quite interesting things, so it’s nice to stay connected.