Alumni Spotlight: Charles Booth (1984-1986; New York)

September 8, 2021

To celebrate Cleary Gottlieb’s 75th anniversary, alumni around the globe are taking time to reflect on their experiences at the firm.

Charles Booth, Distinguished Professor at the University of Hawaii’s William S. Richardson School of Law, shares his thoughts below.

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.

To learn more about Cleary’s global alumni network, click here.