Roy Dwyer won’t stop exploring the world, practicing law, or giving back
Bend personal injury attorney Roy Dwyer, BS ’59 (history), BL ’62 (law), has visited 45 countries, finding adventure around the world. The pandemic may have postponed further discovery this year, but he’s already making plans for when the world opens up again.
Dwyer has cycled 1,100 miles from Hanoi to Saigon, trekked in Patagonia and Nepal, traversed the Great Wall, and—for his 80th birthday—completed 120 miles of the Tour du Mont Blanc in the Alps. Closer to home, he’s backpacked the High Sierras, the Grand Canyon, New Mexico, and much of Oregon.
You might think all these excursions—along with eight grandchildren and one great-granddaughter—would mean retiring after more than five decades of practicing law. Not a chance.
Dwyer has cut back his hours, but he’s still a member of the Oregon State Bar and senior partner with Dwyer Williams Cherkoss Attorneys, the firm he founded with offices in Eugene, Bend, Medford, Grants Pass, Roseburg, and Portland.
It’s all just too interesting to stop, says Dwyer. And he has a hard time saying no.
“I like helping people,” he says. “That makes all the difference for me. Sometimes it’s challenging to work with people, and other times it’s fascinating. But it’s always rewarding. You just have to know how to listen.
“The other thing I like about practicing law is that I’m always learning something new. After being a lawyer for 58 years, I have definite answers for 80 percent of the questions I’m asked. For 10 percent of them, I have a fairly good idea. However, when it comes to the remaining 10 percent, I still have to do my research. I enjoy the challenge.”
Dwyer in Patagonia
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Oregon Law provided a solid educational foundation for a successful career, he says—one that led him to found the firm where his son-in-law Tim Williams, a 2003 Oregon Law graduate, is the managing partner. As a way to give back, Roy and Jan Dwyer have contributed $100,000 to the Oregon Law Fund.
The fund provides resources that can be allocated at the discretion of the dean. This offers tremendous flexibility, enabling the school to respond quickly to unexpected change and take advantage of new opportunities. The gift, says Dwyer, was a way to help future law students, increase access to legal education, and give back to the school that transformed his life.
“I’m so pleased to have Roy and Jan’s generous support of the Oregon Law Fund,” says Marcilynn A. Burke, dean and Dave Frohnmayer Chair in Leadership and Law. “Philanthropic gifts like theirs helps ensure we can be excellent in all that we do at the law school and for that I am tremendously grateful.”
Dwyer grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Philadelphia, where his mother struggled to raise him and his four siblings on her own. At 16, he dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Air Force, where he served four years.
“I was a free spirit,” says Dwyer. “I kind of made my own decisions. I think that’s why I started my own practice instead of working for someone else.”
Dwyer’s last station was Ladd Air Force Base in Fairbanks, where he stayed after he was discharged. He enrolled at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, studied for two years, then transferred to the UO, where he earned his bachelor’s degree and went straight to law school. Dwyer returned to Fairbanks every summer until 1959 (the year Alaska became a state) when he moved to Oregon.
“I really enjoyed my years at the University of Oregon,” says Dwyer. “In law school, we attended class six days a week. It was hard work, it was hands-on, and they taught you everything you needed to know to become a lawyer. Of course, the world was a lot simpler in 1962. But back then, after law school you could basically set up your own office—which I did.”
Dwyer started his own law firm in Eugene and handled a variety of cases, though he really enjoyed trial law. In 1982, he began focusing exclusively on personal injury law. Advocating for clients who suffered due to the negligence and carelessness of others—fighting for the underdog—is very compelling, says Dwyer.
During his career, he’s taken hundreds of cases to verdict and argued many before the Oregon Supreme Court. Dwyer is past president of Oregon Trial Lawyers Association and the Western Trial Lawyers Association, a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates and the Board of Governors, and recipient of the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association Outstanding Member Award.
Dwyer has practiced law for so long, he says, because to him it’s not really work.
“When you find a job you love, you’ll never work again,” says Dwyer. “My philosophy was to do your best, and then the money will take care of itself. If you do a good job, you’ll do all right.”
COVID-19 has postponed some of Dwyer’s adventures for the year. Because of the virus, he had to cancel trips to Eastern Europe and Mongolia. But he and Jan are already planning future adventures, and he’s working out so he’ll be ready to roam.
Before his gym temporarily closed, Dwyer could leg press 600 pounds. For now, he’s lifting weights at home, using exercise bands, and taking long walks.
“There really is no alternative to exercise,” he says. “For longevity in anything you do, you have to stay active. I’ve always believed it’s the fountain of youth.” For his fellow attorneys and Oregon Law graduates, Dwyer has another piece of advice that’s equally simple and effective: “Enjoy law, and give back.”
By Ed Dorsch, BA '94 (English, sociology), MA '99 (journalism)