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?

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.

 

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

Cleary taught me that there is no such word as “no” – that there is always a solution to a problem, even if the problem isn’t always first what it seems, and there is always an answer to a question, even if sometimes part of finding the answer is realizing the wrong question is being asked. Most important, as a practitioner, my responding with a “no” when being asked to find a solution or an answer is both unacceptable and unnecessary. At Cleary I learned to be flexible in my thinking, unafraid of plunging into a new area, comfortable with finding an expert from whom to learn, and most of all confident in my abilities and intellect to help my clients whatever the question or problem. I am in many ways now a generalist in a unique and special industry, with new things to constantly learn, and I bring these lessons to my practice every day.

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

Surely the partners from whom I learned so much every day – George Weisz, Tom Moloney, Debbie Buell, Lindsee Granfield, and Jim Bromley. They expected the best from me, and believed I was capable of it. I freely admit that I started at Cleary with “imposter syndrome”, intimidated by all the brilliant people around me. Their expectations of me, and belief in me – and what I learned I was capable of as a result – ultimately made me feel like I belonged at Cleary as much as anyone else. I am grateful for that confidence they fostered in me. One other story which I think of often: During one annual review Debbie gave me feedback that I was very good managing the junior lawyers. As all I wanted to hear was feedback that I was a brilliant lawyer, I took that as a kind way of saying “not the brightest, but has a nice personality”.  A few years after I left Cleary to go to Disney I saw Debbie, and she asked about my career. When she learned that my immediate business and legal affairs group was small with few immediate reports, she responded with some disappointment – I was such a good manager and so good with developing talent. I shared with Debbie that I had many young clients with whom I partnered, so those skills were not squandered, and at that moment I realized that at my review all those years earlier Debbie really was identifying part of what made me a fine practitioner – I might be a Cleary-caliber lawyer, but I was particularly talented as a manager and team player. Years later, I know that those abilities have led to my career advancement at Disney, and I think often of Debbie identifying those distinct skills so early in my career – she helped me appreciate who I uniquely am in the professional world, and I am grateful to her for that.

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

At Cleary’s 60th anniversary party, when we entered its venue, the Hall of Ocean Life at the Museum of Natural History, I told my husband to stop, look around and take in that we would never be in a room with such brilliant, extraordinary people until the next anniversary party. It remains a privilege to be in touch with so many alumni and current Cleary people, and to be inspired by so many members of the Cleary community’s commitment to using their intelligence and creativity to do good in our world.

 

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

Cleary was my first professional experience and the most intense learning experience in my career. The learning curve was exponential compared to my university experience: knowing the importance of rigor and the need to go deep into the bottom of every question and matter were skills that I learned at Cleary. I have been using this ability daily in my career to explore all sides of a given question or matter. At Cleary, I was able to enhance my management of the work load and to support intense work peaks while also managing demanding clients (and partners).

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

Gamal Abouali is one of the partners who gave me the opportunity to join the firm and I will always be grateful for the trust he gave me. The different missions I have made with his team were very teaching. I also had the opportunity to work with Valérie Lemaître, Jean-Pierre Vignaud, Barthelemy Faye, Andrew Bernstein and many other partners of the Paris office on several transactions. Working by their side was a very rich experience for me. Most importantly, I have kept longstanding friendships with many Cleary associates that were in the Paris office from 2008 until 2012 and that I still see very frequently. I am truly blessed to have met them at Cleary.

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

Cleary is more than a network. It is part of my personal and professional history and it is always great to keep a link with the past. Of course we all have very full agendas with professional and personal responsibilities, but being able to keep this link with the past and with Cleary people, even once a year, is very important to me.

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

One lesson I learned in my time with three of Cleary’s offices—New York, London, and Paris—is that the people who surround me are imperative to my ability to do my best work. It’s the people at Cleary that make the firm what it is: our passions, dedication, loyalty, and yes, even our “quirkiness.” Many of my closest lifelong friends are people I met while working at Cleary and even Cleary alums I have met since my departure from the firm eight years ago. I feel so lucky to be part of this incredible network. This is why, after attending my first European alumni reunion weekend in Sicily in June 2015, I have not missed and do not plan to miss a European reunion ever again! And for any future job or project I take on, I know my No. 1 question will be, “Will these people be supportive, make me laugh, and encourage me to be a better version of myself?”

 

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

At Cleary, I learned to be a lawyer. I worked closely with talented partners who were generous with their time and trained me to be analytical, meticulous, agile, and creative. I also learned how to make effective and strategic decisions in the face of legal ambiguity, and then to present solutions to my clients simply and persuasively. I’m grateful to have started my legal career at Cleary, and I have carried all of these learnings to my in-house roles.

 

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

Two things I learned at Cleary were the importance of paying attention to detail and creating a great work product. Cleary always stressed these two elements, and they are two things that are so often lacking in the legal world.

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

As a Cleary alum, I participated in an initiative to assess why underrepresented groups tend to leave the firm before partnership. The initiative was also undertaken to come up with recommendations to address the problems or issues that some associates faced. I really felt that this initiative went well beyond what most firms do, and it showed a strong commitment to diversity.

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

I initially started attending alumni events to expand networking for business development at my firm, but it only took one event to change that. I have consistently attended events over the last several years because they are fun. I have reconnected and met many wonderful people at these events, and I really look forward to them.

 

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

Working in the intellectual property group at Cleary was great training for working in-house at a charitable organization. For one thing, given the special significance of intellectual property assets at a non-profit—including, at the Child Mind Institute, several patented technologies, and, at the Rainforest Alliance, the little green frog seal—the protection and licensing work I did at Cleary has been directly relevant. But beyond that, I ended up handling a lot of issues as an associate that were not limited to intellectual property, including employment, data protection, and strategic collaboration agreements. And needless to say, the rigorous attention to detail and sink-or-swim approach for which Cleary is renowned has served me well no matter the setting!