Defending Against High-Stakes Government Allegations

Melissa Tearney is a top white collar and criminal defense attorney with 25 years of expertise defending corporate executives and companies against high-stakes government allegations.

A partner with Choate, Hall & Stewart, LLP, Tearney has extensive trial and appellate expertise. She routinely represents clients before grand juries and investigative bodies, with much of her focus defending allegations of violations of complex federal statutes.

Many of Tearney’s biggest wins are confidential ones because she successfully argued the matter and the Justice Department did not pursue the case. In cases where government actions are brought, success is often measured in Tearney’s ability to limit settlements to reasonable amounts and prevent prosecution of individual executives.

She represents clients in complex litigation across a wide spectrum of high-stakes areas, including healthcare fraud and abuse, financial fraud, real estate fraud, environmental violations, foreign corrupt practices, customs violations, environmental violations, antitrust violations, and those involving the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

Growing up as a public defender’s daughter, Tearney said she learned as a child that everyone deserves a defense, no matter what the allegation. She says being a woman in her profession has been a rewarding experience. “I have had tremendous mentors along the way who have led by example, and I continue to benefit from their guidance,” she said. Today, she mentors other young women lawyers. Her career advice includes always keeping work in perspective. She says it’s better to spend less time worrying and more time strategizing.

Tearney believes the most essential qualities a woman leader should have are confidence and a willingness to listen to others. “These are important traits for all of us, regardless of what profession we practice,” she said. “Sometimes having the greatest confidence means listening to someone else’s advice.”

She’s a member of the firms’ Executive Committee and has affiliations with various outside professional groups. She is president of Greater Boston Legal Services, and serves on its board of directors and executive committee. She’s also a board director with Hebrew Senior Life and Camp Bauercrest, and is a trustee of Thayer Academy.

Tearney received her J.D., from Harvard Law School and her B.A. from Harvard College. Words she lives by: “It is what it is. A situation is not always completely in our control.”