Alumni Spotlight: Leanne Mader (1997-2005; Brussels, London, New York)

September 22, 2021

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

Leanne Mader, Principal Legal Counsel at Seagate Technology in California, shares her thoughts below.

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!

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