Ryan Willis is a Raleigh native and a graduate of Enloe High School. After graduating from Enloe, he attended North Carolina State University where he received his Bachelor of Arts in History, graduating magna cum laude.
In 2001, Ryan enrolled in the University of North Carolina School of Law. While a law student, Ryan focused on criminal law and gained valuable experience in the field of criminal law and justice. During his first summer of law school, he worked for North Carolina Prisoner’s Legal Services, assisting staff attorneys representing North Carolina Prison inmates in civil lawsuits regarding prison conditions and treatment, as well as post-conviction criminal matters.
Ryan spent his second summer of law school working at the Defender’s Association of Philadelphia. While working in Philadelphia, Ryan worked with indigent criminal defendants throughout the court process, from initial bond hearings, jail interviews, to preliminary hearings and trials. During his final year of law school, Ryan worked in the school’s Criminal Clinic, which gave him the opportunity to represent juveniles in Durham County charged with serious felonies.
After graduating from law school, Ryan returned to Raleigh and served as an assistant district attorney in the Wake County District Attorney’s Office. As a prosecutor, Ryan handled numerous cases, including traffic violations, charges of driving while impaired, assaults, misdemeanor drug violations, and crimes of domestic violence. While at the Wake County District Attorney’s Office, Ryan gained invaluable trial experience in both bench trials before district court judges and jury trials in Superior Court.
Ryan spent almost two years in the District Attorney’s Office before accepting a position at the law firm of Manning & Crouch, where he worked with and learned from partners Tommy Manning and James Crouch, two of the most experienced and successful criminal defense attorneys in the state. During his three years at Manning & Crouch, assisted the partners with their cases and often sat second chair at trials and other court proceedings in state and federal court. While working with the partners of the firm and developing his knowledge and skill as a criminal defense attorney, Ryan quickly began building his own client base and practice in both state and federal court.
In January of 2010, Ryan left Manning & Crouch to form his own law practice. During his year as a solo practitioner, Ryan developed a busy federal criminal practice. He handled a variety of federal cases, including multi-million dollar fraud charges, robberies, drug trafficking, and gun crimes. Ryan also maintained and built his criminal practice in Wake County district and superior court. During 2010, Ryan was involved in two jury trials in federal court and three jury trials in Wake County Superior Court, along with multiple bench trials in Wake County District Court. Ryan also represented two criminal defendants in appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
After a year in solo practice, Ryan joined with law school classmate and fellow former prosecutor Daniel Johnson to form Willis & Johnson, where he represented individuals under investigation or charged with criminal offenses in state and federal court.
In 2016, Ryan formed Dysart Willis with Christian Dysart. Since that time, the firm has grown to 8 total lawyers. Ryan continues to focus his practice on serious felony offenses in both state and federal court.
Ryan is licensed to practice law in North Carolina and is a member of the bar of the Eastern District of North Carolina and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. He is a member of the Wake County Bar Association, the 10th Judicial District Bar, the North Carolina Bar Association, and the American Bar Association. He is also a member of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice.
Since 2010, Ryan has handled jury trials in cases such as:
- 1st-degree murder
- attempted murder
- assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury
- malicious maiming
- felonious assault on law enforcement
- felony drug offenses
- firearms offenses
- possession of a firearm on educational property
- felon in possession of a firearm in federal court
- drug trafficking crimes in federal court
- manufacturing child pornography in state court
- manufacturing child pornography in federal court
- sex offense in state court
- bank fraud in federal court
Certified Legal Specialties
- Board Certified in State and Federal Criminal Law
- North Carolina
- U.S. District Court Eastern District of North Carolina
- U.S. Court of Appeals 4th Circuit
- University of North Carolina School of Law, Chapel Hill, North Carolina – 2004
- North Carolina State University
- B.A., Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude
- Major: History
Honors and Awards
- Superlawyer Rising Star, 2012 – 2016
- 2016 Best Lawyer for DUI/DWI Defense
- Superlawyer, 2017 – 2019
Professional Associations and Memberships
- Wake County Bar Association, Member
- 10th Judicial District Bar, Member
- North Carolina Bar Association, Member
- National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Member
- American Bar Association, Member
- North Carolina Advocates for Justice, Member
- National College of DUI Defense, Member
Past Employment Positions
- North Carolina Prisoner’s Legal Services
- Defender’s Association of Philadelphia
- Criminal Clinic, University of North Carolina School of Law
- Wake County District Attorney’s Office, Assistant District Attorney
- Manning & Crouch
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