My name is Samuel Dewey. I am one of the many (some say ubiquitous) lawyers in Washington, D.C. I specialize in: (1) white collar investigations, compliance, and litigation; (2) regulatory compliance and litigation; and (3) complex public policy matters. Within these fields I am considered an expert in Congressional investigations.
What has been one insight or lesson that has been most helpful in your career?
Learning to write well. Written communication is key to almost any job in this town. While format and style are different depending on the job (you draft a brief in a Court of Appeals much differently than you would a decision memorandum for a Senator) the fundamentals are the same. If you have sound fundamentals you are set up for success regardless of your job.
What has been your favorite mistake? A mistake that in retrospect led to a great lesson and progress.
I don’t really have a “favorite” mistake. I’m my harshest critic so I tend to have a negative outlook on mistakes generally.
Project forward ten years. How will your industry or field be fundamentally different then? What opportunities do you see?
Driven by technological advancements and accelerated by the pandemic remote work environment, I think we are going to see more and more movement towards a virtual practice of law. I think this shift will change the nature of the field, partially in response to unforeseen difficulties. Opportunities will arise in overcoming existing structures like limitations on showing witnesses documents in a remote interview.
In the last two years, what have you become better at saying no to?
I really don’t say no very much. While that’s partly due to my passion for my work, I also tend to think the putative virtue of “saying no” is overrated. So instead I’ve become better at saying “yes” to value-affirming experiences, like spending quality time with friends, or exploring my love of travel.
What is the one book you recommend most often and why?
Contempt of Court. It’s a fascinating book about a turn-of-the-20th-Century legal case that established the absolute right of the Supreme Court to exercise jurisdiction in state criminal cases. The Supreme Court stayed the execution of a black defendant for the first time in the Jim Crow South. In response, the sheriff and local town leaders enabled a lynching of the defendant. President Theodore Roosevelt then ordered one of the first federal civil rights investigations, and the sheriff and others were prosecuted and convicted of contempt of the Supreme Court.
What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?
Everything you do will have downstream consequences. In the modern world careers and lives are built brick by brick and become highly path-dependent. To be sure, you should enjoy yourself and seek out diverse experiences, but you have to keep the path-determinate nature of the world in mind even at a young age.
What is your favorite quote, one you aim to live by?
Churchill: “We shall never surrender.”