She was a top litigation partner at Cadwalader, and for many years before that at Boies Schiller Flexner, known for her indefatigable preparation, wit and courtroom determination. She was the first female partner at Boies Schiller when the firm was founded in 1997.
“We mourn the tragic loss of our friend and long-time colleague,” said Cadwalader partner Nicholas Gravante, who worked with Dyer for more than 30 years. “Her combination of warmth, passion, compassion and zealous advocacy was unique among litigators. She would enter a room and light it up with her smile, energy and zest for life.”
In a 2020 interview, Dyer spoke about a memorable, seemingly never ending court day.
“Trials are real time, fast-moving and ever-changing,” she said. “They require you to think hard, and to think on your feet.” Dyer vividly recalled defending a major client in a summary judgment hearing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan that spanned 11 hours over a few days. She spent much of it standing while the judge peppered her and the other side’s attorney with questions.
“I remember on one of those days pulling more comfortable heels out of my purse, because I was unsure how much longer I’d have to stand. As I explained to my team, preparation comes in many forms.”
Dyer graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in accounting and then earned her law degree from the University of Florida Law School. She clerked for federal judge G. Kendall Sharp, before joining Carlton Fields representing the FDIC/RTC in connection with the savings and loan scandal of the late 1980s, including on the Michael Milken junk bond litigation. Dyer left Carlton Fields to form her own firm to work with the FDIC/RTC during the height of this litigation, then joined Duker Barrett – a Cravath Swaine & Moore spinoff – and joined Boies Schiller the year it was formed. She moved to Cadwalader in December 2020.
She helmed numerous corporate battles, often alongside Nicholas Gravante. Among them were the billion-dollar Arizona Iced Tea war and representing the Starr Companies, headed by former AIG Chairman Hank Greenberg, in the SICO cases. She also was a lead lawyer in the qui tam case against Trinity Industries, involving claims that it had installed faulty highway guardrails paid for by the federal government.
“Anytime billions are at stake and you win a $664M judgment, it’s memorable. But the two jury trials it took to get there in Marshall, Texas were remarkable because we were such a small team up against an army of lawyers from what seemed like every major law firm in Texas,” she recalled. The trial heightened regulatory scrutiny of the guardrail design, leading to safer highways.
Dyer also made her mark as a strong advocate for women lawyers, leading by tenacious example. Early on at Carlton Fields, she worked with partner Anne Conway, now a retired Chief Judge of the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Florida. After having her first son, Dyer was apprehensive about leaving him.
“Anne came and literally dragged me out of the house for a social event,” Dyer recalled. “She had little kids and knew how to balance family and being a successful lawyer. She made me get out of my comfort zone, yet feel like if I walked into her office and said, ‘I’ve got to go home, we’ve got an emergency with the babysitter,’ she wasn’t going to hold it against me.”
Dyer leaves two sons, Trey and Drew, from her 29-year marriage to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. They divorced in 2017.
“As the first female partner at Boies Schiller, Karen was one of the country’s most experienced and talented trial lawyers. More than that, she was an incredible friend to those fortunate enough to be in her life. Whether lending a shoulder to a friend or assisting a colleague in need of advice, Karen was always there for those who needed her. She will be sorely missed by all who knew and practiced with her,” said Gravante.
"It is with great sadness that I share Karen Caudill Dyer has passed away after an unrelenting, valiant fight against an aggressive brain tumor," said Mayor Dyer. "She was a bright light, a wonderful daughter, sister, mother and friend. While Karen was a recognized trailblazer and one of the top trial lawyers in the country, her greatest legacy is that of our boys - Trey and Drew.
"Karen loved the Orlando community and we are forever grateful for our community's support and compassion. We ask that you continue to keep Trey, Drew and the rest of our family in your prayers."
Arrangements are pending.