Cleary Hosts Diversity Reception With Breon Peace

November 18, 2022

Cleary Gottlieb hosted its Annual Diversity Reception, featuring a fireside chat with Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and former Cleary partner (1996-2006, 2007-2021; New York).

Managing Partner Michael Gerstenzang delivered welcome remarks, and partner Abena Mainoo moderated the discussion.

Breon discussed his life and career in private practice and public service. A native of the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, he attended Clara Barton High School, where he began his legal career as a participant of the SEO Law Fellowship Program. Breon shared his fond memories of the experience and his advice to audience members currently in the program.

In 1996, he began his career as an associate at Cleary. From 2000 to 2002, he served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, where he successfully handled a wide array of federal criminal cases, including those involving fraud, organized crime, and narcotics trafficking in the district court, and argued criminal appeals before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. During the 2002-2003 academic year, Breon was an acting assistant professor of clinical law at the New York University School of Law where he trained aspiring prosecutors in the Prosecution Clinic.

In 2003, Breon returned to Cleary and made history in 2007 as the first Black man to be elected partner at the firm. Breon discussed his time at Cleary where he represented clients in white-collar criminal matters and other government enforcement litigation involving various U.S. Attorney’s Offices, the Department of Justice, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and authorities outside of the United States. He conducted sensitive internal investigations for major corporations, and represented them, their officers, and their directors in complex commercial litigation matters. During his time at Cleary, Breon was very active in the firm’s pro bono practice, including in cases relating to criminal appeals, immigration rights, trafficking, and civil rights issues and he discussed how working on these cases influenced his decision to return to public service.

During the fireside chat, Breon discussed the importance of mentorship and sponsorship and fostering diverse talent. Throughout his career, he has emphasized the importance of mentors and sponsors as playing a critical role in lawyers’ professional development and success and discussed his own experiences with mentors and sponsors and how they have contributed to his professional journey. In addition, Breon has been a strong advocate for women lawyers, not only in the promotion process at Cleary, but also in the legal community as a whole and provided advice on how men can be better allies to women in personal and professional relationships.

In 2021, he was appointed the 48th U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York by President Joe Biden. Breon discussed his current role, where he leads an office responsible for all federal criminal and civil cases in a district comprised of more than eight million people in the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, and in Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island. As U.S. Attorney, Breon has focused on both prosecution, through flagship areas such as national security, white collar crime, civil rights, and affirmative civil litigation, as well as preventing crimes through building relationships with, and outreach to, the community. He now supervises a staff of approximately 160 Assistant U.S. Attorneys and 120 support personnel.

Cleary is committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. The firm regularly hosts important cultural events and guest speakers whose presentations afford opportunities to broaden awareness, heighten the level of discussion, and establish a culture of inclusion at the firm. To learn more about Cleary’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, click here.