After serving as a special prosecutor for Suffolk County in the 1970s, Tom Dwyer was named Executive Director and Deputy Chief Counsel of the Massachusetts Ward Commission in 1978. In 1988, Dwyer founded Dwyer and Colora, LLP, and for over two decades built it into one of the most successful boutique litigation firms in the Northeast, defending domestic and foreign corporations and their senior executives in criminal, civil, and regulatory investigations and complex civil litigation. In 2000, he served as President of the Boston Bar Association. He is currently founder and principal of Dwyer Partners, LLP.
Q. Youíve always mixed business and politics. Whatís your rating of Obamaís term in office?
A. First of all, I wish Hillary were president. Secondly, I always felt the current president was a lightweight. And finally, the killing of Osama bin Laden convinced me that heís not. I donít even see him squeaking by [in November]. Itíll be a significant, 5-6 point win.
Q. Why wonít Mitt Romney make it?
A. In my first year at CM, my mother was holding a nightly vigil for the election of John F. Kennedy as the first Catholic president. He broke that barrier. But he broke it when there was an extraordinary percentage of Americans with Irish heritage. Itís harder for Romney. This religion is not so ingrained in the fabric of this country. I do think itís unfair, but thatís a reason.
Q. What political issue motivates you now?
A. I want to kill this euthanasia bill. Itís like a murder-by-doctor-immunity act. And the Massachusetts Medical Society has already come out against it.
Q. You were tasked with cleaning up the building industry as a Ward Commission counsel in the 70s. What do you make of the latest housing and probation scandals on Beacon Hill?
A. Thereís no morality compass test for anybody that goes into public service. I do think a large measure of the work we did for the Ward Commission has worked. Even with $16 billion spent on the Big Dig, you only had five or six guys indicted. Thereís just no way, even with the Federal indictments since the 1980s, that some people are not still going to be a problem. I donít see any way to prevent it.
Q. How well has the Catholic Church defended itself in the past decade?
A. I did the first big child abuse case in Massachusetts history, in 1978. We indicted 15 lay men for having sex with juvenile boys. Iíll never forget it Ė we tried the [first] guy, we convicted him, and the judge gives him probation. Today, heíd get 20 years. Every one of those guys got probation.
It just shows you how the cultureís changed. Those doctors then, that wrote these reports convincing the Archdioceses around the country that pedophiles can be cured Ė well, it may be that 1% can be. But to have a person go to a three-week retreat, then say theyíre fine? Itís sad. This is a burden, and itís not the first time the Church has had a burden. But this is a big one.
Q. Some of your organized crime work in the 1970s targeted Whitey Bulger and the Winter Hill gang. Have you been watching Bulgerís defense team closely?
A. I spent several years trying to put him in jail. I was in his sights and he was in mine. I put away a lot of people that were around him. But I donít really have a view of it. Itís going to be a tough, tough case. Iím a big fan of his brother, though.
Q. Did you feel any sense of vindication when Whitey was brought in?
A. I know one thing about the FBI: if they want you, theyíre going to get you. Most likely, in my judgment, this case may not well go to trial. But he has nothing to lose. Heís a very smart man, heís calculated risks all his life and I would think heís still calculating them.
Q. A year ago, you left a successful white-collar defense law firm youíd built over 20 years to start a new, smaller firm in Cambridge. Why reinvent yourself?
A. In large measure, small firms of 20-30 attorneys are going to be extinct in five or six years. They canít keep up with the overhead. So Iím trying to develop a model where four or five firms could collaborate under one space. Iíve always had a great affinity for small firms, having started out in private practice in 1980 with 2-person firm.
Q. How will you measure this firmís success?
A. Thereís several ways. Are we attracting traditional business and significant clients? Last year was way beyond what my expectations were. On the legal side, my expectations have been met. On the business side, I wonít have the model for a year. Weíve done some interesting things with PR and marketing. Weíre very lean and mean.
Q. Despite a career often spent defending wealthy clients, why have you put so much energy into advocating for funding for legal services for the poor?
A. My father became a ďvoluntary defenderĒ in 1946, one of the first public defenders in the state. Even as an ADA, I always had a great affinity for lawyers representing the poor, but the quality of lawyers representing the poor wasnít always great. They just didnít have the resources.
Q. Are you ever nervous in a courtroom?
A. No. In my business itís essential that you take control of the courtroom as quickly as possible. And jurors have to feel good about their verdicts. If you canít make them feel good, youíre dead.
Q. Talk about a tough time in your life.
A. The most difficult time I had as a lawyer was as a special prosecutor in Suffolk County. I had bodyguards taking me home every night, and to court. At one time, the police called and said Ďwe have an informant who was hired to kill ADAs and judges.í I went in and talked to him. He said, ĎMr. Dwyer, Iíve just been hired this morning to kill you, your father (a judge), another judge and another ADA.í We put a wire on him and found out [the drug runners] who were paying him. They fled to Israel. I also remember, on Easter weekend, I was at the Woodland Country Club in Newton, with other families having dinner in the dining room. There were four police stationed around the club, and a helicopter in the air. That wasnít fun.
This article first appeared in CM Magazine, the Catholic Memorial alumni magazine.