Conversation with Samuel Dewey: Expert on Congressional Investigations

Tell us about yourself?

My name is Sam 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 makes you different from other professionals in your field?

I’ve worked in high-level positions in Congress, the Executive Branch, and the private sector. This gives me a very nuanced perspective. These diverse, pan-governmental sources of insight enable me to calibrate my approach to the litigation, investigations, and the legislative and regulatory process to achieve success in advancing key portions of my client’s agenda.

What kind of connections are there between congressional investigations and producing legislation?

The legal framework for Congressional investigations is based on the premise that to legislate intelligently, Congress needs to obtain information to understand the field it is legislating in and how potential legislation will play out in practice. So there is a strong legal link between the two functions. This link plays out a surprisingly large amount in practice. An investigation will be undertaken into an apparent problem to identify its cause and potential solutions. And then the staff who conducted the investigation will work on the subsequent legislation to ensure the legislation is targeted and to justify the need for the legislation. As an example, I led an investigation to figure out why it was possible for drug companies to impose massive price increases on medication that had been on the market for decades. Through that investigation we determined that the companies were identifying sole-source, decades-old drugs where it would take years for any competitor to reach market due to regulatory flaws. In other words the price increase was arbitrage via a regulatory loophole. We successfully fixed almost all of the regulatory flaws in subsequent legislation.

What was the most important part of your professional journey?

My first job transition. I went from being an associate at a major law firm to a senior staffer in the Senate. It’s quite a change with different work demands and a different culture. Learning to adapt to those major changes while carrying over the many relevant skills I had learned to a new environment was a huge challenge. But doing so forced me to see nuances I previously had missed looking at issues from only one perspective. It made me a better and more rounded attorney and to this day enhances my ability both to adapt to and assimilate knowledge from my different work experiences and to use all possible sources of insight to advance my client’s interests.

What are the best and worst purchases you’ve ever made?

Best purchase was getting a professional grade thermometer because I kept losing the disposable ones and never having a thermometer when I needed one. Several of my friends mocked me incessantly. Then COVID hit and everyone was chronically checking their temperatures. Suddenly my purchase became brilliant in their eyes. 

The worst purchase I ever made was probably when I bought an expensive membership and then never used it because I was (predictably at the time) too busy with work. 

What takes up too much of your time?

Household chores. I’ve never been “good” at them no matter how hard I try so they just take longer and are often a bore. You have to do them regularly even on days you have no time which (to me) equals frustration.

What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to get into the legal field?

1. Work on your writing. Much of the practice of law today is dependent on written work product. The fundamentals of good writing are the same regardless of the field. 

2. Be aware that everything is path dependent because sub-fields are so specialized. The day of the “general practitioner” for lawyers is over. By your first several years out of law school you will likely need to make choices about your area of specialty-often these are path dependent. 

3. Always go to the best law school you get into. The legal profession is extremely focused on credentials for junior lawyers. 

Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished?

Winston Churchill. He overcome so much adversity in life and became one of the greatest statesmen his country has ever seen. And he played a key part in saving the free world.

What drives you to keep going when it's really tough?

Knowing that people have been through worse. Regardless of how hard it gets, I’m not a trooper of the 101 Airborne at Bastogne or a Marine at Chosin.

How should people connect with you?

Email is best.