Edward Hayes ’72

Dapper Defender

Summer 2009

After meeting Edward W. Hayes ’72 one night at a party, Andy Warhol wrote in his diary of “a defense lawyer named Ed Hayes who looked like he was from Laverne and Shirley. . . Sort of ’40s clothes, really crew-cut, about 29. He said, ‘I can get ya outta anything.’”

Several decades later, Hayes still dons a fedora—and still has the dedication and fierce work ethic that has made his brazen claim true more often than not. “People come to me, they hire me, and I do it,” says Hayes, whose small private practice on Madison Avenue has attracted high-profile clients such as Vogue Editor in Chief Anna Wintour and architect Daniel Libeskind.

Hayes spent several years in the homicide division of the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, before branching out on his own. His work as a criminal defender inspired author Tom Wolfe to use Hayes as the model for the character Tommy Killian in the 1987 novel The Bonfire of the Vanities.

In 2006, Hayes published the true story of his life in his memoir, Mouthpiece, which recounts his humble beginnings, as well as career highs and lows. “I think I’ve had more big cases on the front page of The New York Times than anyone,” he says. Hayes’ most recent brush with media frenzy was the result of the widely publicized “Mafia Cops” case, in which two former New York City Police detectives were accused—and ultimately convicted—of being hired informants and assassins for the mob. The evidence against them was overwhelming, but that didn’t stop Hayes from giving his all. “I really do feel strongly,” he says, “that everybody is entitled to the best possible defense.”