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Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP

Lisa E. Cleary

Lisa E. Cleary



  • Employment Law
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Complex Commercial Actions
  • Class Action Litigation

WSG Practice Industries



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. A thoughtful strategist, she brings valuable insights to clients beyond the law and the facts, anticipating the responses an employer might expect when taking employment action, and how to limit that action’s disruptive impact on the organization. Her clients benefit from her judgment, big-picture understanding and insightful perspectives, which allows clients to implement the most effective employment strategies for their organizations.

For over 25 years, Ms. Cleary has regularly advised boards of directors on issues including the negotiation of executive compensation, performance evaluation, transition and employment termination of CEOs. She provides 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. Her work with a significant number of tax-exempt organizations has given her a deep understanding of the interplay between their specific legal requirements and the employment issues they face, such as tax rules on compensation and addressing whistleblower complaints.

Ms. Cleary often assists companies in navigating difficult situations where CEO termination occurs in the midst of critical litigation or other corporate crises. She also advises in-house counsel, human resources personnel, and line managers on minimizing the legal risks of individual employee terminations beyond executives, as well as counseling clients to ensure compliance with applicable laws.

Her practice includes assisting clients in employment-related litigation matters before administrative agencies, state and federal courts. She frequently advises and defends clients facing EEOC, Department of Labor, and New York City Human Rights Commission charges, audits and inquiries. She counsels clients with respect to employment contracts and regularly defends clients in wrongful discharge cases. 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.

When her clients are faced with employee theft, whistleblower claims and complaints of discrimination and harassment, Ms. Cleary advises them on best approaches and frequently conducts highly sensitive internal investigations regarding such matters. She has also worked with local, state and federal prosecutors on behalf of clients in a wide range of situations.

In addition, 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 incorporates alternative dispute resolution procedures to achieve optimum results for clients.

Bar Admissions

  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. District Court, Southern, Eastern and Northern Districts of New York; District of Colorado
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit; Eleventh Circuit
  • New York


  • Duke University School of Law (J.D., 1983)
    • Chancellor's Scholarship Recipient
  • Harvard University and Radcliffe College (B.A., magna cum laude, 1980)
Areas of Practice

Alternative Dispute Resolution | Class Action Litigation | Complex Commercial Actions | Employment Law | Employment Litigation, Workplace Investigations, and Compliance | False Claims Act and Whistleblower Defense | Family Offices | Financial Services | Litigation | State Attorneys General

Professional Career

Professional Activities and Experience

HONORS: Recipient, New York State Bar Association President's Pro Bono Service Award for the 1st Judicial District (Manhattan), nominated by New York County Lawyers' Association (1994); Recipient, 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 in recognition of outstanding volunteer service to the community which has reflected honor on the legal profession (2001); Recipient, Legal Aid Society, Public Interest Law Leadership Award (2008); Named in Super Lawyers in the area of Employment & Labor; Recipient, Legal Aid Society, Pro Bono Publico Award (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018); Recipient, New York County Lawyers’ Association, Boris Kostelanetz President’s Medal (2016); Recognized in The Best Lawyers in America® in the areas of Employment Law – Management and Litigation – Labor & Employment; Named to the "Irish Legal 100"; Named Among Crain’s New York Business’ 2020 Notable Women in Law; Listed as a “Labor & Employment Star” in Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC’s Benchmark: America's Leading Litigation Firms and Attorneys

MEMBERSHIPS: Fellow, Litigation Counsel of America; American Bar Foundation; Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Executive Education Program (May 2006); Mobilization for Justice (formerly MFY Legal Services, Inc.) (Chairperson, Board of Directors, 1994–2000; Member of Board, 1991–Present); Volunteers of Legal Service, Inc. (Member, Board of Directors, 1996–Present); Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Member, Board of Directors, 2006–Present; Member, Executive Committee, 2010-2019; Chair, Development Committee); Member, Practising Law Institute (Pro Bono Advisory Committee, 1997–Present), American Bar Association (Litigation and ADR Sections); New York State Bar Association (President’s Committee on Access to Justice, 1996-2004), New York County Lawyers' Association (Chair, Pro Bono Committee); Association of the Bar of the City of New York (Member, Nominations Committee, 2020-2021; Vice President, Executive Committee, 2017–2018; Member, 2011–2013 and Secretary, 2012–2013, Judiciary Committee); Student/Sponsor Program


New York Lifts Most Statewide COVID-19 Restrictions
Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, June 2021

New York State Lifts Restrictions. On June 7, 2021, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared that the State would lift most remaining COVID-19 restrictions when 70% of adult New Yorkers had received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. On June 15, 2021, Governor Cuomo held a press conference to announce that New York had reached the 70% first-dose threshold...

EEOC Revises Enforcement Guidance on Religious Discrimination
Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, February 2021

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) recently updated its Compliance Manual Section on Religious Discrimination, seeking to clarify how Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) protects individuals from religious discrimination in the workplace. The enforcement guidance also discusses the legal protections available to religious employers, which have been bolstered in recent years...

The EEOC Issues Clarifying Guidance about COVID-19 Vaccines in the Workplace
Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, December 2020

Last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) updated its COVID-19 guidance to address workplace issues related to COVID-19 vaccines, including mandatory vaccination policies. According to the EEOC, employers may mandate vaccines, but must attempt to accommodate employees who refuse vaccination because of disability or a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance...

Additional Articles

Co-Author, "Unpacking the Employment Implications of Comcast Corp. v. Behrend: The Second Circuit Prepares to Dive In," Inside, Spring/Summer 2014, Vol. 32, No. 1, New York State Bar Association


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