Alumni Spotlight: Diana Yu (2016-2019; New York)

January 18, 2023

Cleary Gottlieb alumni often reflect upon their time at the firm with fondness and gratitude.

Diana Yu (2016-2019; New York), Lead Counsel (Reality Labs) at Meta Platforms, Inc., shares some of her thoughts below.

Why did you choose Cleary and what did you practice at the firm?

I was an associate in the Intellectual Property group—which, over the course of my time at the firm, had really evolved into what is probably more appropriately called the “Intellectual Property, Technology, Data Privacy, and Cybersecurity” group. I had a general interest in IP issues throughout law school, and I always gravitated toward the developing landscape of the online/digital world. I’m part of an impressionable generation that came of age with the Internet, becoming acquainted with the beta versions of today’s social media platforms, novel websites like YouTube and Neopets (come to think of it, that may have been one of the earliest iterations of the so-called “Metaverse”), and industry-disrupting apps like Napster and Limewire, etc. These things became the new norm during my formative years. I knew the legal issues would never get stale in this space.

When I interviewed at Cleary, Daniel Ilan was one of the first people I met. He emphasized the dynamic nature of his team’s practice. It was immediately clear that he foresaw a trajectory for the inevitable, but welcome expansion of the scope of his group’s purview. Data privacy and cybersecurity issues were coming to the forefront of clients’ minds right around that time. It was also plain to see that Daniel was leading a lean team of bright individuals whom he had a genuine interest in developing and mentoring.  That sealed the deal for me.

Tell us about your path from Cleary to where you are now and what do you appreciate most about your experiences?

After just shy of three years at Cleary, I joined The Walt Disney Company as Counsel for Marvel, supporting the New/Digital and Interactive Media business. I didn’t expect to leave Cleary so soon, but I happened to see the role listed and thought it would be a perfect bridge from big law to more industry-focused business counseling. I was sad to leave Cleary, but ultimately it was the right career move for me. It was my opportunity to get a foot in the door at the intersection of technology, media, and entertainment. As part of a small in-house team supporting a brand portfolio that was skyrocketing in popularity (think: Avengers trilogy), I gained exposure to a wide breadth of legal issues relevant to the digital media business. Despite the steep learning curve in the transition from working at a law firm to moving in-house, I was able to take advantage of and benefit from the wealth of resources at Disney.  After Marvel, I transferred internally within Disney to join Disney Streaming as Associate Principal Counsel, where I primarily supported Disney+ as product and commercial counsel. It was super exciting to work on Disney+ in the peak of the streaming wars, particularly given the global scale of that business. Then, in October 2022, I joined the Reality Labs team at Meta as Lead Counsel, supporting the third-party developer ecosystem and first-party games studios. I guess I have a thing for working on nascent products!

Tell us more about Reality Labs. What interests you most about working in the virtual reality and augmented reality space and what do you enjoy most about your current job?

There’s never a dull moment and rarely a black-and-white answer! The Metaverse is having its moment, and we’re building upon an emerging ecosystem for VR and AR, which adds up to a high-velocity, crazy-exciting time to be at a company like Meta. It’s all cool, trailblazing stuff, and I get to work on it. I especially enjoy the product counseling aspect. It’s fun to learn about the tech and then figure out how the law applies (or if there even is a law that applies). Without exaggeration, I probably learn at least 3-4 new things every single day.

Do you have any favorite memories from your time at Cleary?

All the social events – formal and informal! I still crack up/cringe at the thought of being a first-year associate dressed in holiday garb and carting eggnog around One Liberty Plaza with my peers. On the more informal side, I’ll always have fond memories of gathering with other associates in whatever empty conference room we could find and ordering dinner together on nights when we all had to stay late to work. Those late nights were always better with friends.

What skill, substantive area of law, or personal experience did you learn at Cleary that has served you well after Cleary?

Apart from the obvious invaluable substantive legal training and wealth of firm resources available to associates, I’ve always felt like my time at Cleary gave me a ton of confidence professionally. Having these high-stakes, high-profile corporate transactions under my belt didn’t just provide me with the actual knowledge and practice experience I needed; in some sense, it also gave me a mental boost when it came to independently tackling matters in-house. Because the Cleary IP team was so small, it was sink-or-swim some days, and that can teach you to become a really good swimmer. I’m also grateful to Daniel for pushing me to work on data privacy matters while I was at the firm. Even though it’s not my area of focus today, it obviously continues to be extremely relevant to my work.

What advice do you have for a young Cleary associate who may want to pursue a similar career path?

I hate to say it because it must sound so trite by now, but please don’t forget to network! With in-house roles, the reality is that it’s just easier to get a foot in the door if you have a contact at a company that’s willing to pass your resume along. “Networking” isn’t necessarily limited to the awkward outreach to complete strangers at random organized events. I think some of the best networking can happen naturally at the firm—with your fellow associates, alumni, alumni relations, your clients, and even your IT department (shout out to Wally Lum!).

What advice would you offer any young associate that you wish someone had offered you?

If a partner tells you it’s a good idea to work on a matter relating to [insert the next legal issue equivalent of data privacy], don’t fight it, because they’re probably right.

Any other advice about the alumni network in general?

The alumni relations team has been an invaluable resource to me by actively reaching out with job opportunities, connecting me with other Cleary alumni, and generally acting as a sounding board. I feel incredibly lucky to have this relationship with them. Frankly, anyone would be remiss to not keep in touch!

Learn more about Cleary’s global alumni network here.