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Drinks With The Deal: Sidley Austin's Dan Clivner

Published: January 22nd, 2021
Sidley's Dan Clivner discusses law firm diversity, lateral hiring and building a practice in LA.

Dan Clivner has been a leader at his law firms as a manager, practitioner and advocate for LBGT and diversity issues, all of which he discusses in the latest Drinks With The Deal podcast. A member of the executive committee at Sidley Austin LLP, he has helped grow both the firm’s Los Angeles offices, of which he is the managing partner, and its M&A and private equity practice, of which he is the global co-leader.

In hiring laterally, Clivner says, “It’s better to be proactive than reactive.” He’s “focused on who in the market is competing effectively with us,” who is on the wrong platform and might do better at Sidley and who would be a good partner. When interviewing potential hires, he says, “Sometimes I’ll surprise them by asking them what they’re passionate about outside of the law,” or about their family. His goal, he says, is to learn about the person, “what’s the push and what’s the pull” for the lawyer to change firms, and the depth of their client relationships.

Clivner came to Sidley in 2015 from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, where he began practicing in 1988. He spent 2-1/2 years in the firm’s Japan office and moved to Los Angeles after firm client Seagram Co. bought 80% of MCA Inc. from Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Vivendi would buy Seagram in 2000, but Clivner developed strong relationships at Siris Capital Group LLC and Zelnick Media Capital. He enlarged Simpson’s Los Angeles office to 25 lawyers but moved to Sidley in part because of the opportunity it offered to expand its practice in the city. Clivner notes he sends copies of Andrew Yang’s book “Smart People Should Build Things” to lawyers he’s interviewing.

Clivner came out as gay to his colleagues at Simpson when he was a senior associate. “They turned out to be incredibly understanding and supportive,” Clivner says. “My partner and I broke numerous barriers simply by being friends with the other associates and partners and attending events and being the first to do so.” Today, he says, “The climate and level of acceptance is completely different than when I started” as a lawyer.

“It’s only in learning that your dentist and your doctor and your lawyer and your daughter or son is LBGT that you begin to relate differently to those people than you did before learning that,” Clivner says. “And in the same way, our African-American colleagues and friends have been living professional lives at the law firms and doing a great job of it but leaving at the door their personal experiences which others of us couldn’t understand. It’s only now in the telling of that that we could gain greater empathy.”

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