Cleary Gottlieb’s Statement on Standing Up for Our Values

June 5, 2020

On Wednesday, June 3, 2020, Cleary Gottlieb Managing Partner Michael A. Gerstenzang shared the following message with all global firm personnel.

Last Friday, I emailed all personnel in the U.S. about the need to reaffirm our core values of inclusion, equality and respect for people of all backgrounds, and to condemn all acts of hate, racism and associated violence.

In addition to condemning the violence and brutality we have witnessed, including the murder of innocent Black people such as Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and many others, we must individually and collectively take action in support of our values and of those in our community who are most directly affected by racism, wherever it occurs. That’s what I’m writing about today.

Resources matter in the fight for racial equality.

For more than 30 years, the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) has worked to end mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenge racial and economic injustice, and to protect human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society. Here is a link to an insightful discussion with Bryan Stevenson (the founder of EJI, who was featured in the film Just Mercy) concerning the murder of Mr. Floyd and the recent protests.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) is a leading civil and human rights law organization, the first in the United States. LDF advances it core mission of racial equality through litigation, advocacy and education. Here is a link to LDF’s statement on the murder of Mr. Floyd.

The Firm will be making a donation of $100,000, divided equally between EJI and LDF. In addition to these donations, the Firm will match contributions by employees (professional staff or lawyers) to either of these organizations, up to $50,000 in total.

Creating opportunities for the voices of our Black colleagues to be heard and for us to support one another is also critically important, particularly at this time. Next week, we will be launching a series of discussions on large-scale cultural change and effective organizational leadership, facilitated by a leading external educator. Our goal is to create safe spaces where our Black colleagues can express the breadth and depth of their emotions and discuss how the Firm can best support them. We will separately hold a series of discussions with the broader Cleary community to define and discuss the importance of allyship. The ability to be an effective ally is a core tenet of inclusivity, a fundamental value of the Firm.

In addition to financial resources and facilitating opportunities for discussion, our time and energy must continue to be brought to bear on pro bono work that furthers racial equality. Over the past few days, we have been in touch with many of our pro bono partner organizations, including the largest public defender organizations in New York, to determine how we can best direct our time. We want to help these organizations, but we also want to make sure we don’t get in their way at a time when they are working extraordinarily hard to triage the most urgent issues of the moment. We will continue to take our cues from these organizations and be prepared to jump in wherever – and whenever – we are most needed. We also look forward to working with the Cleary Fellows that we will place in these organizations, who will be working full time over the next year on a range of issues including racial equality, civil rights, and criminal justice reform. We will provide further information on volunteering to assist on pro bono matters in the coming days and weeks.

I have talked a lot in the last few months about the Cleary community, and our values and strength in extraordinarily challenging times. What has stood out to me most are the individual acts of caring and support that are expressions of the bonds we have with one another. While the steps I’ve outlined here are important, we should not lose sight of how our individual actions, each and every day, can contribute to lifting up members of our community when they are most in need. Let those actions be a daily reaffirmation that we can and will move forward, together, to build a more inclusive community.