Kelly Margolis Dagger is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on business litigation, employment litigation, and criminal defense. Kelly is an experienced trial lawyer, having tried a variety of civil and criminal cases in North Carolina state and federal courts. She also regularly appears in federal district court, the North Carolina Business Court, and other North Carolina state trial courts on, a wide range of pre- and post-trial matters. She represents clients on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the United States Supreme Court, the North Carolina Court of Appeals, and the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Kelly is an energetic and committed advocate. She is a disciplined, tireless worker in all aspects of her life. When she is not working for her clients, she loves to run, competing at the marathon and half-marathon distances. She applies her long-distance runner’s work ethic to her cases. She protects her clients by knowing their cases and working efficiently to gain every possible advantage. She supports her clients at all stages of the litigation process by listening to their needs and communicating directly about what they can expect.
In her civil practice, Kelly represents clients in contract disputes, antitrust and unfair competition claims, trademark disputes, trade secret misappropriation claims, and other commercial litigation. Kelly defends employers against labor and employment law claims, including wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wage, hour, and benefits claims.
She works with employers and executives to reduce the risk of employment-related claims against their businesses by counseling her clients on handling internal employee complaints, accommodation requests, and issues related to hiring, firing, and employee discipline.
Kelly also defends clients in federal felony criminal cases, including a variety of fraud, money laundering, theft, bribery, robbery, controlled substance, immigration, and firearm offenses. Kelly is committed to equal access to justice. She believes that every person facing criminal charges deserves exceptional and effective legal representation. She serves on the Criminal Justice Act panels for the Eastern District of North Carolina and the Fourth Circuit, regularly accepting court appointments to represent clients who cannot afford to retain a lawyer. Kelly also serves on the Eastern District of North Carolina Criminal Justice Act Committee, which oversees the panel and ensures that defendants receive effective representation. In addition, Kelly serves on the Eastern District of North Carolina Local Criminal Rules Committee, the body that reviews and recommends changes to the local rules governing criminal practice in the district.
Before joining Ellis & Winters, Kelly earned her undergraduate degree in religious studies, with highest distinction, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After college, she worked as a research analyst for a pharmaceutical business intelligence firm in Research Triangle Park and as an intern at Equality North Carolina in Raleigh. She received her law degree from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, where she was inducted into the Order of the Coif and served as an editor of California Law Review.
Kelly loves animals of all kinds. While in law school, she served as the president of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund. During her career at Ellis & Winters, she has represented animal welfare organizations and served on the Board of Directors of the SPCA of Wake County. Kelly also volunteers her time for other organizations, currently serving on the Board of Directors of the Lung Transplant Foundation.
- J.D., University of California, Berkeley, School of Law
- Honors: Order of the Coif
- California Law Review, Senior Development Editor
- B.A., University of North Carolina
- Honors: Highest Distinction, Phi Beta Kappa
- North Carolina
- Eastern District of North Carolina
- Middle District of North Carolina
- Western District of North Carolina
- District of District of Columbia
- Western District of Arkansas
- Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
- United States Supreme Court
Professional Associations and Memberships
- Federal Bar Association, Labor & Employment Section
- Federal Bar Association, EDNC Chapter
- Immediate Past President
- President (2018-2019)
- Criminal Justice Act Panel, Eastern District of North Carolina
- Criminal Justice Act Panel Committee, Eastern District of North Carolina
- Criminal Justice Act Panel, Fourth Circuit
- Local Criminal Rules Committee, Eastern District of North Carolina
- Lung Transplant Foundation, Board of Directors (2018-present)
- SPCA of Wake County, Board of Directors (2014-2017)
Publications and Presentations
- Should We File a Motion to Suppress?, North Carolina Bar Association Criminal Justice CLE, February 12, 2021.
- Effective Use of Courtroom Technology in the Eastern District of North Carolina, Federal Criminal Practice Seminar, August 21, 2020 (presenter), February 19, 2021 (presenter).
- Effective Use of Courtroom Technology in the Eastern District of North Carolina, Federal Criminal Practice Seminar, August 21, 2020 (presenter)
- Federal Bar Association, Labor & Employment Law Section, Circuit Updates, Fourth Circuit Reporter.
- A View From the Bench: Key Trends and Developments in the North Carolina Business Court, North Carolina Bar Association Business Law Section Annual Meeting, Chief Judge Bledsoe, Senior Business Court Judge Gale, Judge McGuire, Judge Robinson, February 14, 2020 (co-moderator).
- Making Your Case Through Effective Direct Examination, EDNC Federal Criminal Practice Seminar, October 18, 2018 (presenter).
- Challenging Law Enforcement “Expert” Testimony, EDNC Federal Criminal Practice Seminar, April 8, 2016 (presenter).
- “The Supreme Court Addresses Scope of Section 11 Liability for Statements of Opinion,” 25 Antitrust & Complex Business Disputes News, NC Bar Association, 2015.
- “Recent Appellate Decisions Reshape Landscape, “In-House Defense Quarterly, Fall 2013. (Republished in the Winter 2015 issue of FDCC Quarterly.)
- “Red Does Not Mean Stop: Practical Tips for Improving the Accuracy of Your Legal Research, “Per Curiam, Summer 2014.
- “Fourth Circuit Issues New Decision Applying North Carolina’s Economic Loss Rule,” 23 Antitrust & Complex Business Disputes News, NC Bar Association, 2012.
- The Best Lawyers in America®, Ones to Watch, Appellate Practice, Criminal Defense: General Practice, Criminal Defense: White-Collar, Litigation – Labor and Employment (2022-2023)
- North Carolina Super Lawyers Magazine, Business Litigation, Appellate, Criminal Defense (2022)
- North Carolina Super Lawyers Magazine, “Rising Star”, Business Litigation, Appellate, Criminal Defense (2016-2021)
- Business North Carolina, Legal Elite, Young Guns (2018-2020), Labor and Employment Litigation (2021-2022), General Practice Criminal Defense (2021-2022)
- Ellis & Winters Named to 2023 “Best Lawyers in America” List
- Ellis & Winters Attorneys Recognized as 2022 Super Lawyers®
- Business North Carolina Announces 2022 Legal Elite Rankings
- Kelly Margolis Dagger Elected as FBA Labor & Employment Law Section Officer
- Ellis & Winters Named to 2022 “Best Lawyers in America” List