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Obituary: Patrick William Dwyer

Obituary: Patrick William Dwyer

By Law Institute Journal

Legal Biography 


Obituary: Patrick William Dwyer

7 November 1952 – 23 July 2019

Patrick was one of seven children born to the publican of the country pub. He grew up in Ballarat and met the love of his life Trina, the grazier’s daughter, when she was 14 and he was 15. They were married and shared a special love until Trina’s death in 2014. 

He opened his own legal practice in 1978 in Northcote and ran his criminal law practice in High Street for more than 40 years. During that time he dedicated himself to helping whoever walked through his door. Patrick had clients across generations of the same family. He was an incredibly compassionate and empathetic lawyer to his clients. He didn’t judge them and always went in to bat for them. Every single time. He looked after everyone and did a lot of pro bono work. He was an LIV accredited specialist in criminal law and a member of the LIV Criminal Law Section.

Patrick was a quiet achiever. Despite representing many high profile clients and being involved in numerous landmark cases, he shied away from the media or any form of self-promotion. All his business came through word of mouth and could be attributed to his great results, experience, integrity and trustworthiness.

Young lawyers under Patrick’s tutelage would quickly learn all that was required to fill the gaps left by law school. Without fail, the first couple of weeks on the job were spent driving around with Patrick, in whichever swanky car he owned at the time, to various courts and conferences to watch him in action. Introductions would be made to the clerks, the cops, prosecutors and other practitioners. His many subtle skills were displayed. He’d point out who was friend and who was foe. Where to sit. What to say. What to look for. Who to know and how to be. This was the stuff you couldn’t read in books, at which Patrick excelled – building relationships at every level, with the underlying purpose being to best represent his client and robustly uphold his duty to the court. All with the unfaltering air of charm, good humour and humility that made him so popular with all who encountered him. So many great advocates and lawyers who got their start with Patrick have and will continue to make a broader contribution to the law thanks to his mentorship.

He was an insightful and skilful advocate. From even the direst circumstances and the most desperate of plea material he could always find the key or the hook to assist the court to understand the accused before them. Patrick could convey so much to the bench without words. He would, peeking over the top of his glasses, pause at a strategic time, raise an eyebrow or steal a glance at the magistrate – all designed to underscore either what he had just said, or deliberately omitted, and often to great effect. 

He was generous with his time with all at court and, in a five minute chat, could brighten your morning.

Patrick was loved and respected by colleagues, prosecutors, magistrates, judges and clients alike. It came as no surprise to read the dedication from the local police in the Herald Sun: “A totally trustworthy, respectful and humorous man who was a fierce representative of his clients. A longtime friend and sparring partner of many detectives from the Northcote and Fairfield CIB since the early 1980s”.

Patrick was always a huge supporter of young lawyers, in particular of female practitioners looking to make inroads in a male-dominated profession. He recognised the compassion and dedication that women bring to criminal law and employed those he thought would take care of his clients the way he would do himself. 

When not at the office he loved spending time with his family and going to the races. He had a passion for horseracing and beautifully tailored suits. He was a supremely kind man, the most loyal of friends, and generous to a fault. A compassionate and caring employer and a kind and generous, warm hearted person. A family man and a man of the people. 

He was keen to remind his friends, with conspiratorial affectation, “I’m just a humble suburban solicitor”. Yet he was precisely that. And so much more. His death is a terrible loss to the profession and he will be very much missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.

Patrick is survived by his daughter Mietta, her husband Brent and two grandsons, Harry and Oscar.

Patrick Dwyer's obituary was prepared by Kirstie Grigor, head of criminal law at Gordon Legal. Ms Grigor worked for Mr Dwyer as an article clerk in 1999 and then as a solicitor. She was also a friend.


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