Many fine things can be said about Cleary Gottlieb. It’s prestigious (#8 in the latest Vault rankings). It’s profitable (#10 in the recently released Am Law 100 profit-per-partner rankings). It’s pleasant, known for a nice firm culture.

So what are the downsides of Cleary? Here’s one: the firm might be a bit… boring.

As you can see from our archives, we don’t write that much about Cleary. And when we do, it’s not always exciting stuff — e.g., Cravath-matching bonunses. Yawn.

Well, today we bring you some news about Cleary that might be at least slightly juicy: a mysterious partner departure, and possible stealth layoffs….

UPDATE (2:30 p.m.): Now with an important update, a statement from the partner in question.

It’s rare for partners to leave a place like Cleary Gottlieb. And when they do, they almost always have their next destination already set. So that’s why it struck us as strange to hear that Kristofer Hess, a young tax partner at Cleary, recently left the firm, apparently without a new professional home in place. We emailed him to inquire about his status and received this auto-reply:

Please note that Kristofer Hess has left Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton effective April 30, 2013. For assistance, please contact Yaron Reich.

Kristofer Hess

We reached out to the firm for comment. A firm spokesperson issued this statement: “Kristofer withdrew from the firm effective April 30, 2013, and was not terminated for misconduct.” (We had specifically asked whether Hess was terminated for misconduct, so Cleary was merely responding to one of our queries in mentioning that he was not terminated for misconduct.)

We asked if the firm knew where Hess was headed next or had forwarding information for him. The spokesperson replied: “We will have no further comment.”

Regarding Kris Hess, a Cleary source claimed that he was escorted out of the building on Tuesday, April 30. Said this source:

I have never heard of anyone being escorted out by building security before. His picture is in the Lobby Security Desk at One Liberty Plaza with instructions not to allow him in the building. Many people saw him being removed last Tuesday (especially the secretaries, so you know that word traveled faster than the speed of light).

Lawyers that have left Cleary still remain in Cleary databases Interaction and Cleary Alumni Directory with their forwarding info, but Hess is nowhere in them. So I have no bio on him except his approximate age and I think he made partner about 7 or 8 years ago.

Seven or eight years seems about right. Although Hess’s bio is gone from the Cleary website, you can get some of his bio details from his Avvo profile. He graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 1997 and was admitted to practice in Wisconsin in 1998 and in D.C. in 1999. Although he wasn’t a partner for that long, Hess had already secured awards and recognitions from Chambers and Partners, which listed him in International Tax (Band 4), and Super Lawyers, which named him a “Rising Star” in 2012. If you have information about why Kris Hess left Cleary or where he’s headed next, feel free to email us or text us (646-820-8477).

UPDATE (2:30 p.m.): We just spoke by phone with Kris Hess, who said that he left Cleary on a voluntary basis and was NOT escorted out of the building. He said that he didn’t go into the office on the 30th: “I don’t believe I was even south of 14th Street on that day!” As for why he left Cleary, he had a straightforward explanation: “I just got tired of being a tax lawyer at Cleary Gottlieb, and I had the luxury of not needing to.” As for what he’ll be doing next, “I’m taking time off to think about it. I might end up at a competitor, I might go in-house — but at this point, I don’t yet know.”

Now, on to the claims of staff layoffs….


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