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Richard W. Clary

Lecturer on Law


Richard W. Clary
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Richard W. Clary was a partner for 35 years in the Litigation Department of Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, retiring at the end of 2020. His practice focused on securities defense; antitrust (plaintiff and defense sides); bankruptcy litigation (debtor and creditor sides); trade secret, trademark and patent litigation (plaintiff and defense sides); fiduciary duty, fraud, bribery, FCPA and ATA litigation; general commercial litigation; and civil rights and constitutional rights litigation. Mr. Clary has extensive federal and state court experience, including jury trials and bench trials, and argued numerous appeals; he also handled both international and domestic arbitrations. Mr. Clary was a Vice President of the Association of the Bar of The City of New York.  He also served nine years on the Board of the Legal Aid Society, where he was a Vice Chair and on its Executive and Strategic Planning Committees, and then served on its Board of Advisors until the end of 2023.  He received five Outstanding Pro Bono Service Awards from the Legal Aid Society. He also served for several years on the Lawyers Committee of the National Center for State Courts. Mr. Clary was recognized by numerous legal publications, including Chambers USA, Best Lawyers in America, Benchmark Litigation, The Legal 500 US, and Lawdragon, as a leader in the categories of securities litigation, banking and financial services litigation, commercial litigation, trials, appeals, and bet-the-company litigation; he was also named to The Legal 500 Hall of Fame and the Lawdragon Hall of Fame.

In 2008, Mr. Clary spoke at “The Role of Courts in Defining the Social Contract: A Case Study of Socio-Economic Rights,” a program sponsored by the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society in association with the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Oxford. Mr. Clary’s policy brief, “A Discussion of the ‘Homeless Families with Children’ Litigation as a Case Study of the Issues That Arise When a Court Defines and Enforces the Right to Shelter,” was published by the Foundation in the fall of 2008. In 2013 Mr. Clary returned to Oxford’s Centre for Socio-Legal Studies to moderate a multi-day seminar on “The Nation State and the International Order: Constitutions, Revolutions, Security and Global Sources of Law”.  In 2015, Mr. Clary again returned to the Centre to moderate a multi-day seminar on “Rethinking States, Nations & Constitutions in the 21st Century”. In 2017 Mr. Clary spoke at “The New Putney Debates”, a multi-day symposium on constitutions and representative democracy jointly sponsored by Oxford University, the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society, and the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies; his remarks, “Thoughts from Across the Pond: The US Constitution (1787, 2017)”, were subsequently published as a chapter in the book “Constitution in Crisis: The New Putney Debates”, published by the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society (2017). Mr. Clary spoke on federalism at The Putney Debates 2018 and again at The Putney Debates 2021, and spoke on the American alternative to parliamentary sovereignty at The Putney Debates 2020. He delivered the keynote address for The Putney Debates 2023: Democracy in Crisis, and also moderated a panel on the role of institutions of government (the courts and the administrative state) in elected democracies. Mr. Clary is a Fellow at the Oxford Global Society (OXGS), an independent, non-partisan think tank, where he has focused on issues of effective constitutional governance and law, particularly federalism and the separation of powers. He will be co-editing a volume of essays to be published by OXGS, derived from the lectures and panel discussions from The New Putney Debates 2023.

Mr. Clary chaired the Practising Law Institute’s annual “Managing Complex Litigation” conference, which he created, from 2006-12, and published numerous articles in connection with that conference. In 2017, Mr. Clary co-authored “Recurring Legal Issues in the Mediation of Financial Institution Disputes”, published by PLI as a chapter in the book “Financial Services Mediation Answer Book.”

Mr. Clary received a B.A. magna cum laude from Amherst College in 1975, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1978, where he was Developments Officer of the Law Review and awarded the Sears Prize. After a clerkship with Hon. Walter R. Mansfield of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and a clerkship with Hon. Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court, he joined Cravath in 1980 and became a partner in 1985. Mr. Clary served as the Firm’s Litigation Managing Partner from February 1997 to November 2005, and as Head of Litigation from November 2005 to September 2010.

Mr. Clary has been teaching at Harvard Law School since Fall 2011. 


  • Justice Thurgood Marshall, US Supreme Court, 1979 - 1980
  • Judge Walter R. Mansfield, US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, 1978 - 1979

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