Alumni Spotlight: Kristin Bresnahan (2012-2018; New York)

January 22, 2021

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

Kristin Bresnahan, General Counsel at Alpine Roads in New York, shared her thoughts below.

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

There are a few lessons that really stand out in my mind from the time I spent at Cleary. The first is that hard work pays off. The work ethic that being a Cleary associate instilled in me will be with me forever, and it has made tackling challenges in my roles post-Cleary much more doable. I have the stamina and analytical abilities necessary to work through hard problems because of the skills I learned at Cleary while working on such complex and interesting legal issues.

The second lesson is that being flexible and open to learning new things is a skill. As lawyers we are constantly asked to understand very complex issues quickly so that we can apply legal analysis to a new set of facts. Understanding new complex issues is very difficult in and of itself, much less layered on top of complex legal and regulatory frameworks or requirements. During my time at Cleary, I was constantly asked to quickly learn new sets of complex facts (anything from how complex financial instruments are priced and traded to what factors geotechnical engineers consider when building a dam) and going through that process over and over again taught me how to ask the right questions and distill very complicated information into bite-sized pieces that I could understand and build from (and then explain to others). That skill has served me very well in all of my post-Cleary work, perhaps most significantly, in the confidence it gave me to take on roles and challenges where I didn’t necessarily have expertise, but I took them on anyway, knowing that I would be able to build up the knowledge base I needed quickly.

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

I have to say that the relationships that I established with my peers during my time at the firm have endured and had a huge impact on me personally. I loved the relationships that I built in my associate class (and other associates that I worked with throughout my time there) and those relationships made coming to work every day a pleasure. Some of my very best friends are still my friends from Cleary and we have stayed in very close touch – still working through personal and professional challenges together. Those friendships will have a lasting impact on me forever, and have created an amazing network of other lawyers that are out doing extremely interesting things.

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

Cleary’s incredible alumni network is one of its greatest strengths. I am always in awe of how far reaching it is, and how open and helpful Cleary alums are to one another. All Cleary alumni share a special bond and I think that says a lot about the firm and the people that it attracts. I find the relationships I’ve established through the alumni network to be very rewarding, and I also love connecting with current associates who have interests that overlap with mine and are looking for guidance. I also really appreciate that the alumni team at Cleary is so professional and always actively looking to engage the alumni community, which is a huge asset that the firm doesn’t take for granted, and I really love that.

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