Lisa E. Cleary - Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP
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Lisa E. Cleary

Listed in Best Lawyers since 2013
Phone: 212-336-2159

Lisa Cleary, Patterson Belknap’s Co-Chair and Managing Partner, works closely with a broad range of corporations and tax-exempt organization clients on employment issues related to their highest level executives and other key employees.  For over 20 years, she has regularly advised boards of directors in connection with the negotiation of executive compensation, performance, transition and employment termination of CEOs.  Ms. Cleary has provided this sensitive advice for public companies, private entities and tax-exempt organizations and foundations, all of which operate under the same rules in these circumstances.  She often has assisted companies in navigating difficult situations where CEO termination occurs in the midst of critical litigation or other corporate crisis.

Ms. Cleary also provides advice to in-house counsel, human resources personnel, and line managers on minimizing the legal risks of individual employee terminations beyond executives, and also provides counseling to ensure compliance with applicable laws.  In addition, Ms. Cleary provides training on a broad range of employment matters, drafts and vets personnel policies and handbooks, and also provides advice on employer recordkeeping requirements.

Ms. Cleary assists clients in a broad range of employment-related litigation matters before administrative agencies, state and federal courts.  She also counsels clients with respect to employment contracts and regularly defends clients in wrongful discharge cases.  Ms. Cleary provides advice to clients regarding employee theft, whistleblower claims and complaints of discrimination and harassment, and regularly conducts internal investigations regarding such matters. She has also worked with local, state and federal prosecutors on behalf of clients regarding a broad range of issues. Ms. Cleary defends and prosecutes cases involving employment-related restrictive covenants, drafts and negotiates employment contracts and represents employers in connection with claims arising under ERISA.  She also conducts diversity training seminars and provides counsel on employee classifications and overtime issues under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Where consistent with client goals, Ms. Cleary also uses alternative dispute resolution procedures to achieve optimum results for clients.

Ms. Cleary also chaired the firm’s Pro Bono Committee from 1994 - 2014. The Firm is consistently recognized for its commitment to pro bono service on behalf of low income New Yorkers. Ms. Cleary has received one of the Legal Aid Society's 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 Pro Bono Publico Awards for her work on behalf of children in foster care and on behalf of runaway and homeless youth. Her past recognitions include the New York State Bar Association President's Pro Bono Service Award for the 1st Judicial District, the New York State Bar Association’s Root/Stimson Award, in honor of Elihu Root and Henry L. Stimson, whose careers personified the profession's commitment to public service, and the 2008 Public Service Law Firm Leadership Award from the Legal Aid Society. Ms. Cleary has also been recognized on multiple occasions by MFY Legal Services, Inc. for her contributions on behalf of clients with mental disabilities. 

Additional Information

Representative Litigation Matters

Pharmaceutical Company 
Successfully obtained summary judgment in federal court action where former employee claimed that age discrimination was reason for denial of promotion.

Privately-Held Company 
Advice and counseling with respect to broad range of employment law issues.

Successfully obtained summary judgment in Eleventh Circuit in action commenced by former employee alleging religious and age discrimination.

International Corporation
Defense of investment bank in connection with glass ceiling claims.

Defense of Executive Director and not-for-profit in connection with charge of national origin discrimination.

Representation of not-for-profit in action where complainants alleged denial of adoption application was based on religious discrimination.

Part 2

Pension Funds
Representation of pension funds in a variety of employment, ERISA and pension litigation matters before the EEOC and state and federal courts.

Publishing Company 
Representation of publishing company in action commenced against publisher and senior executive alleging sexual harassment in the workplace.

Cultural Organization 
Counseling advice with respect to termination of security officers and other personnel matters.

Defense of company in connection with reduction in force with respect to claims of reverse sex and religious discrimination.

Defense of employment discrimination lawsuit commenced by former employee alleging constructive discharge based on HIV status.

Successful dismissal on statute of limitations grounds of federal court complaint alleging age discrimination.

Court Admissions
  • U.S. District Court, Southern; Eastern; and Northern Districts of New York; District of Colorado
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit; Eleventh Circuit
  • U.S. Supreme Court
Harvard University and Radcliffe CollegeBA Duke University School of LawJ.D.
American Bar Foundation Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Executive Education Program (May 2006MFY Legal Services, Inc. Volunteers of Legal Service, Inc. Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under LawPractising Law InstituteAmerican Bar AssociationNew York State Bar Association New York County Lawyers' AssociationAssociation of the Bar of the City of New York

Office Location

1133 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036
United States

Practice Areas

Employment Law - Management
Litigation - Labor and Employment