18 October 2018

Over a quarter of Cleary Gottlieb's London office has quit in the last six months.

More than 26 lawyers have jumped ship. With approximately 100 solicitors in the office in total, the departures blow a gaping hole in the firm's City presence.

The Clexit (sorry) included the firm's head of non-contentious financial services regulation, Bob Penn, who left in the summer to rejoin Allen & Overy just two years after he departed from the Magic Circle firm. RollOnFriday understands that he took Cleary's entire financial regulatory team with him (A&O declined to comment). Another high-profile exit, by David Toube, followed. He headed Cleary's firm's European bank regulatory practice. But no more.

Exodus Bob
Bob Penn leading his team from EC2Y to E1.


A source told RollOnFriday that remaining associates are "unhappy and slammed", and that, given the insane salaries on offer, now might be a good time to put in a CV. "Cleary are desperately interviewing to cover associate losses", said the insider.  

A spokesman for Cleary said, "We do not believe the information you received accurately reflects life at Cleary", and that "An 'unhappy and slammed' workforce, as has been suggested, is not consistent with the results of our annual engagement survey".

He conceded, "It is fair to say that this year we have had a higher concentration of departures than we normally do in any given year". But he said it reflected "in part, our cultural approach of allowing people who are moving on plenty of time to find their preferred choices of position – last year and the previous year we had fewer departures than we normally do".

"In our experience these things are cyclical and over the last three years (including the current year) our attrition is in line with with our experience over the years as well as attrition in the market generally."

Any new joiners should just be ready to do what it takes to "superplease" clients. And milk non-staff for all they're worth. 

Tip Off ROF


Lydia 19 Oct 18

nothing much changes. My 1988 diary shows similar events in firms. Oppenheimers was the one I was thinking about then

Anonymous 19 Oct 18

It’s a total sweatshop, the partners are greedy, and it’s going nowhere.   Avoid, despite the cash. 

Anonymous 19 Oct 18

Pretty amazing that a big NY firm like this would allow incompetent local partners in a satellite office to dilute their global brand. Presumably this kind of thing doesn’t go down well during the US recruiting season if it gets picked up by the US publications 

Anonymous 19 Oct 18

Yes, people are leaving because they are “unhappy and slammed”. But the deeper more fundamental problem is that these folks know they have very poor career prospects because they are being let down by a culture that rewards partner underperformance rather than confronting it.  The problem in London is a subcutaneous layer of fat around the Cleary belly in the form of a number of UK partners with zero origination that don’t bill their drawings and are allergic to business development. These partners haven’t built a practice, so the office doesn’t grow, people don’t get promoted, and people leave. 

Anonymous 20 Oct 18

Cleary is good at marketing itself as very elite, pays a lot, looks good on CV, but doesn't promote, glass ceiling, and has a stuffy, unpleasant sweatshop vibe. Likewise, Skadden, Latham (I believe?) et al. don't have partnership opps either so any one year will have decent mid levels leaving as they realise nothing will happen. US firms also look great on paper re the money, but given the additional cash is taxed to the hilt, plus the hours and pressure and city law's general attrition rate (average turnover of staff in most/many US shops) is 2-3 years - and those are some of the most resilient and psychotic 1% entering the profession in the first place. 

Anonymous 22 Oct 18

Underperforming (really?) associates are managed out, what then to do about blood sucking problem partners?  Perhaps Gerstenzang needs to deploy his NY 'reverse headhunting' agent to whisper sweet nothings to certain #IDontReallyDoF***All UK partners

2PQE 22 Oct 18

People are leaving SPB London in droves too. Toxic culture and pathetic pay, only the old good boys get rewarded there

Anonymous 24 Oct 18

"people leaving in droves" has been happening for almost as long as lawyers have been bleating about being miserable. So pretty much since the dawn of time.

Anonymous 09 Jan 19

Cleary London office have an underline problem with greedy and bullish partners as well as senior administrative directors. The management as a whole needs to change and respect associates and support staff in all areas. Directorship are absolutely out of their depth and are unable to make any clear decisions without holding the partners hands. Certain members of the partners (2006) qualified should take a look at themselves and realise how hard all staff work., Potential clients should seriously look at using this firm.

Anonymous 10 Jan 19

Cleary are driving out support staff in their droves with aggressive and bullying tactics and are involved in a number of ongoing lawsuits (all being kept very quiet)!  Remaining staff are feeling vulnerable and resentful, all of which does not reflect the shiny, expensive facade that is presented to clients and the outside world.  The ‘impressive’ new building hides a hostile and volatile environment for all except the chosen few (who know who they are).  The recent departure of Mr McDonald, a highly regarded Partner, shows the ignorance and incompetence of the Partnership and their greed and focus on themselves and not their employees.  Clients really should think about where their money is being spent!

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