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In the legal industry, attorneys with technical backgrounds are in short supply, and are incredibly valuable, particularly at firms like Ellis & Winters, where understanding the client’s business is foundational to the litigation process. Dixie Wells’s training, education and experience as an engineering professional have given her unique insights that she routinely applies to the cases she handles. 

Dixie represents clients in lawsuits that involve engineering issues, including complex commercial transactions, cases arising out of engineering disasters and product liability matters. She also represents clients in higher education law. Regardless of the substantive law at issue, she regularly handles both mass litigation and cases arising from single events that generate suits in multiple courts. Over the years, she has represented a range of clients, including Fortune 100 companies and internationally-renowned universities.

Though it may seem unconventional for an attorney to enter the practice of law from engineering outside of the patent law context, Dixie’s journey from engineering to nationally-recognized litigator makes sense when considering her unique path along the way.

Before attending law school at Wake Forest, Dixie obtained her undergraduate degree in civil engineering from Duke University (B.S.E., magna cum laude, 1991), where she was a Benjamin N. Duke Scholar. She then earned her master’s degree in systems engineering from the University of Virginia (M.S., 1993).

Following graduation from engineering school, Dixie worked for three years as a research scientist for the Virginia Transportation Research Council  and obtained her Professional Engineer license in North Carolina. Realizing that she would need a Ph.D. to advance and given her passion for the policy side of her work, she decided to pursue a law degree instead, graduating with honors from Wake Forest School of Law. After a federal clerkship, Dixie so thoroughly enjoyed the practice of law that she decided to shift gears and pursue a litigation career instead of policy work.

Dixie’s training as an engineer impacts her legal representation in many ways. She applies the same attention to detail as a lawyer that she did as a structural engineer, and often relies on her engineering background when participating in root cause investigations, interviewing or deposing witnesses, and coordinating with experts. Her broad and substantive knowledge in the civil, structural, and systems engineering fields enables her to advise clients and work with experts in cases that center around complex, technical issues.

Dixie’s engineering background also enables her to avoid inefficiencies and muddled communication; in the engineering field, engineers generally do not tiptoe around the issues and Dixie applies that philosophy to law practice. She is responsive and highly communicative with clients. Clients often describe her as a “straight shooter” who is willing to discuss the reality of their case, even when the situation is dire. That reality is something that the clients may not want to hear. If a client’s primary witness is going to be poorly received, for example, Dixie has no problem having a difficult conversation to avoid a surprise for the client at trial.

When she’s not working, Dixie serves the legal community in a number of ways, including serving as President of Chief Justice Joseph Branch Inn of Court, promoting professionalism among attorneys, and mentoring younger attorneys. She also enjoys reading or attending her two book clubs and spending time with her family.


Legal Assistant

Crystal Boyd

Direct: 336-389-5695

E-mail: crystal.boyd@elliswinters.com

Credentials

Education

  • J.D., Wake Forest University
    • Honors: magna cum laude, Fletcher Scholar, Order of the Coif
    • Wake Forest Law Review, Editor-in-Chief
    • Moot Court Board: Robert F. Wagner National Labor and Employment Law Moot Court Competition, Team Member
  • M.S., University of Virginia
  • B.S.E., Duke University
    • Honors: magna cum laude, Benjamin N. Duke Scholar

Bar Admissions

  • North Carolina

Court Admissions

  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Middle District of North Carolina
  • Eastern District of North Carolina
  • Western District of North Carolina

Updates

May 23, 2019 Ellis & Winters Ranked as a Leading Firm in North Carolina by Chambers USA 2019
Aug 15, 2018 Eighteen Ellis & Winters Attorneys Named to 2019 Best Lawyers® in America List
May 7, 2018 Dixie Wells of Ellis & Winters Helps Honor Retiring Law Professors
May 3, 2018 Ellis & Winters Ranked as a Leading Firm in North Carolina by Chambers USA 2018
Jan 30, 2018 Twenty-Two Ellis & Winters Lawyers Named to 2018 North Carolina Super Lawyers
Jan 31, 2017 Dixie Wells Featured in NC Super Lawyers Digital Magazine
Jan 20, 2017 Twenty-Three Ellis & Winters Lawyers Named to 2017 North Carolina Super Lawyers
Nov 4, 2016 Ellis & Winters Recognized by Benchmark Litigation 2017
Jul 5, 2016 Dixie Wells Presented 2016 Outstanding Volunteer Award by North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys
Jan 25, 2016 Twenty Ellis & Winters Lawyers Named to 2016 North Carolina Super Lawyers
Oct 19, 2015 Ten Ellis & Winters Partners Included in Benchmark Litigation 2016
Aug 17, 2015 Twelve Ellis & Winters Partners Named to 2016 Best Lawyers® in America List
Jan 21, 2015 Eighteen Ellis & Winters Lawyers Named to 2015 North Carolina Super Lawyers
Dec 29, 2014 The Greensboro Office of Ellis & Winters Relocates to Wells Fargo Tower
Aug 18, 2014 Thirteen Ellis & Winters Attorneys Named to 2015 Best Lawyers® in America List
Jun 19, 2014 Ellis & Winters Lawyers Speak at NCADA Annual Meeting
Jan 21, 2014 Seventeen Ellis & Winters Lawyers Named to 2014 North Carolina Super Lawyers
Aug 15, 2013 12 Ellis & Winters Attorneys Named to 2014 Best Lawyers® in America List
Jan 31, 2013 Fourteen Ellis & Winters Attorneys Named Super Lawyers
Jan 24, 2012 Ellis & Winters attorneys named to 2012 Legal Elite
Oct 27, 2011 Ellis & Winters names Dixie Wells partner
Oct 22, 2008 Ellis & Winters LLP expands with addition of five attorneys

Experience

  • Represent a multi-national consumer products company with claims and lawsuits throughout the United States and Canada.
  • Maintain a consistent case-load in the Middle District of North Carolina serving as local counsel in a variety of matters, including patent infringement, trademark violations, and product liability claims.
  • Represented a university in a case involving claims by a student for breach of contract and unfair and deceptive trade practice. The court granted the university’s motion for judgment on the pleadings.
  • Represented an energy company in wrongful-death and personal-injury cases arising out of the collapse of a temporary lifting device being used to transport a one-million pound stator. Represented the same energy company in resolving its commercial dispute with the property owner.
  • Represented a university in a case alleging that the university mishandled a student’s reports of sexual misconduct by two other students. The court granted the university’s motion for summary judgment.
  • Represented a component supplier in wrongful-death and personal-injury cases arising out of the collapse of a glulam pedestrian bridge which was under construction at the time of collapse.
  • Represented employees in negotiating severance agreements with their employers.
  • Represented a pharmaceutical company in arbitrations of product liability matters involving long-term absorbable sutures. Plaintiffs had initially sought certification of a class. The motion was denied.
  • Represented a university in cases alleging that the university mishandled allegations of rape by members of one of the university’s sports teams.
  • Represented an admixture manufacturer in over 80 cases arising out of the collapse of a prestressed concrete pedestrian bridge at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and in the one personal-injury case to be tried. The court granted a directed verdict for the admixture manufacturer at the close of the plaintiffs’ evidence.
  • Represented an electrical and mechanical subcontractor in cases involving injuries from exposure to mold in various schools. Plaintiffs sought certification of a class. The motion was denied.

Prior Work Experiences

  • Adjunct Professor of Trial Practice, Elon University School of Law, 2008
  • Smith Moore LLP, 2002—2005, 2006—2008
  • Smith, Helms, Mulliss, & Moore, LLP, 2000—2002
  • Clerkship, United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, Hon. N. Carlton Tilley, Jr., 1999—2000
  • Research Scientist, Virginia Transportation Research Council, 1993—1996

Presentations/Publications

  • Notre Dame and Beyond, Reviewing Recent Construction Catastrophes to Discuss the Appropriate Response and Defense – Panel Member; Mid-Year Meeting of the International Association of Defense Counsel; Pebble Beach, CA, February 23, 2020
  • Overview of Opinions of the North Carolina Appellate Courts Decided between September 15, 2018, and May 21, 2019, 2019 NCADA Annual Meeting; Asheville, NC, June 15, 2019
  • S/he’s a Typical Engineer! How to Make the Engineer the Ally of the Lawyer, Webinar for the International Association of Defense Counsel; August 22, 2018
  • Overview of Opinions of the North Carolina Appellate Courts Decided between September 19, 2017, and May 15, 2018, 2018 NCADA Annual Meeting; Hilton Head Island, SC, June 15, 2018
  • Overview of Opinions of the North Carolina Appellate Courts Decided between May 19, 2017 and September 15, 2017, Meeting of the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys; Greensboro, NC, Sept. 29, 2017
  • Overview of Decisions of the North Carolina Appellate Courts between June and September 2016, Meeting of the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys; Greensboro, NC, Sept. 9, 2016
  • Overview of Decisions of the North Carolina Appellate Courts between October 2015 and May 2016, Meeting of the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys; Asheville, NC, June 18, 2016
  • Eight Common Privilege Myths and Missteps in Accident Investigations, Regional Meeting of the International Association of Defense Counsel; Raleigh, NC, June 25, 2015
  • Overview of Decisions of the North Carolina Appellate Courts between October 2014 and May 2015, Meeting of the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys; Hilton Head, SC, June 12, 2015
  • Successfully Defending the Company: Litigation Strategy, Witness Preparation, and Media Relations – Program Planner and Co-Presenter; Association of Corporate Counsel (Research Triangle Area Chapter); Cary, NC, April 22, 2015
  • Recent Decisions [of the North Carolina Appellate Courts] – Presenter; Meeting of the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys; Greensboro, NC, October 3, 2014
  • Recent Decisions [of the North Carolina Appellate Courts] – Presenter; Meeting of the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys; Hilton Head, SC, June 14, 2014
  • Recent Decisions [of the North Carolina Appellate Courts] – Presenter; Meeting of the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys; Greensboro, NC, October 4, 2013
  • Recent Decisions [of the North Carolina Appellate Courts] – Presenter; Meeting of the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys; Hilton Head, SC, June 15, 2013
  • Civil Law Update – Presenter at the 2012 Annual Review; sponsored by the North Carolina Bar Association; Greensboro, NC October 12, 2012
  • Recent Decisions [of the North Carolina Appellate Courts] – Presenter; Meeting of the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys; Hilton Head, SC, June 14, 2012
  • Recent Decisions [of the North Carolina Appellate Courts] — Presenter; Meeting of the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys; Greensboro, NC, October 14, 2011
  • Advanced Trial Evidence with Don Cowan and Dixie Wells — Program Planner and Session Moderator, sponsored by the North Carolina Bar Association; Greensboro, NC, December 10, 2010
  • What do jurors know about your case…about you…and about the judge? — Program Planner and Co-Presenter; Chief Justice Joseph Branch Inn of Court; Winston-Salem, NC, November 8, 2010
  • Civil Law Update — Presenter at the 2010 Annual Review; sponsored by the North Carolina Bar Association; Greensboro, NC, October 7, 2010
  • Civil Law Update — Presenter at the 2009 Annual Review; sponsored by the North Carolina Bar Association; Greensboro, NC, October 8, 2009
  • Recent Decisions [of the North Carolina Appellate Courts] — Presenter; Meeting of the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys; Greensboro, NC, September 25, 2009
  • Preserving the Attorney-Client Privilege: Protecting Communications, Avoiding Waiver, and Reducing Risks — Program Planner and Panel Moderator; Joint Meeting of the Chief Justice Joseph Branch Inn of Court and the Guilford Inn of Court; Greensboro, NC, February 27, 2008
  • Advanced Trial Evidence with Don Cowan — Program Planner and Session Moderator; sponsored by the North Carolina Bar Association; Greensboro, NC, December 8, 2006
  • Recent Decisions [of the North Carolina Appellate Courts] — Presenter; Meeting of the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys; Greensboro, NC, November 4, 2005
  • In re. Pedestrian Walkway Failure & Taylor v. Speedway Motorsports, Inc., Tindall Corporation, and Anti-Hydro International, Inc. — Program Planner and Presenter; Chief Justice Joseph Branch Inn of Court; Greensboro, NC, March 29, 2004

Publications

  • Unknowns During COVID-19 – Part Two” Construction Best Practices, April 27, 2020
  • The Big Questions: How to Cope with Project Delays and Unknowns During COVID-19 – Part One,” Construction Best Practices, April 12, 2020
  • Privilege Precautions when Investigating Construction Catastrophes, International Association of Defense Counsel, February 23, 2020
  • Significant Opinions of the North Carolina Appellate Courts Decided in 2019, North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, January 31, 2020
  • Overview of Decisions of the North Carolina Appellate Courts Decided between September 15, 2018, and May 21, 2019, North Carolina Association of Defense attorneys, June 15, 2019
  • Overview of Decisions of the North Carolina Appellate Courts Decided between September 19, 2017, and May 15, 2018 (North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, June 15, 2018)
  • Overview of Decisions of the North Carolina Appellate Courts Decided between May 19, 2017, and September 15, 2017 (North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, September 29, 2017)
  • Overview of Decisions of the North Carolina Appellate Courts between June and September 2016 (North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, Sept. 9, 2016)
  • Overview of Decisions of the North Carolina Appellate Courts between October 2015 and May 2016 (North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, June 18, 2016)
  • Co-author, Eight Common Privilege Myths and Missteps in Accident Investigations (International Association of Defense Counsel, June 25, 2015)
  • Overview of Decisions of the North Carolina Appellate Courts between October 2014 and May 2015 (North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, June 12, 2015)
  • Recent Decisions [of the North Carolina Appellate Courts] (North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, October 3, 2014)
  • Recent Decisions [of the North Carolina Appellate Courts] (North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, June 14, 2014)
  • Recent Decisions [of the North Carolina Appellate Courts] (North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, October 4, 2013)
  • Recent Decisions [of the North Carolina Appellate Courts] (North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, June 15, 2013)
  • Civil Law Update (North Carolina Bar Association; October 12, 2012)
  • Recent Decisions [ of the North Carolina Appellate Courts] (North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, June 14, 2012)
  • Recent Decisions [of the North Carolina Appellate Courts] (North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, Oct. 14, 2011)
  • “Q&A with Don Cowan,” in The Litigator (North Carolina Bar Association’s Litigation Section’s Newsletter Vol. 28, No. 3, July 2008)
  • Co-author, An Assessment of the Construction Advertisement Date Process Within the Virginia Department of Transportation (Virginia Transportation Research Council Report No. 96—R15, 1996)
  • “Environmental Classification Scheme for Pontis,” in Proceedings of the Fourth International Bridge Engineering Conference 203 (Transportation Research Board ed., 1995)
  • Maintenance, Repair and Rehabilitation Unit Costs for Pontis (Virginia Transportation Research Council Report No. 95—TAR10, 1995)
  • Environmental Classification Scheme for Pontis (Virginia Transportation Research Council Report No. 94—R20, 1994)
  • “The State of the Art of Bridge Management Systems,” in Infrastructure Planning and Management Proceedings 182 (American Society of Civil Engineers ed., 1993)
  • “The Analysis and Design of a Bridge Management System for the State of Virginia,” in Infrastructure Planning and Management Proceedings 182 (1993) (unpublished M.S. thesis, University of Virginia)

 

 

 

Awards and Honors

  • Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, “Leader in the Field” for Litigation (2017—2020)
  • Benchmark Litigation, North Carolina Litigation Star (2016—2020)
  • Peer Review Rating of AV® in Martindale Hubbell
  • Outstanding Volunteer Award, North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys (2016)
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers Magazine, Business Litigation, Civil Litigation, Schools & Education (2013 – 2020)
    • “Top 50 Women in North Carolina” (2014 – 2020)
    • “Top 100 Super Lawyers in North Carolina” (2016, 2018, 2019)
  • The Best Lawyers in America®, Bet-the-Company Litigation; Commercial Litigation (2010 – 2020)
  • Business North Carolina, Legal Elite, Litigation (2012 – 2014, 2019 – 2020)