About The Raleigh Criminal Lawyer, John McWilliam

Born in Argentina, the son of a Scottish Father and an American Mother, McWilliam is a citizen of three countries (arguably four if you distinguish Scotland from the United Kingdom -which he does).

McWilliam learnt two languages, how to ride a horse and play rugby when, at the age of eight, his father’s job moved the family to London. He was educated in fancy boarding schools in England and Scotland and actually really enjoyed the experience.

At the age of 19, somehow avoiding the Falklands Islands conflict (and conflict of interest) John moved to North Carolina.

After the Summer of 1982 in Raleigh living with his brother and, not much later, dropping out of the University of Denver, McWilliam moved back to North Carolina, and graduated, cum laude, from North Carolina State University in 1988 – never missing a rugby practice or game with the NCSU Ruby Football Club. Two years later, after realizing that his corporate job wasn’t for him, McWilliam enrolled in North Carolina Central University’s School of Law. Central was the only school he applied to; Central’s commitment to diversity, its strong clinic-centered approach to teaching and reputation for producing exceptional courtroom lawyers made it the perfect fit. He knew he wanted to be a trial lawyer. That was 1990. Three years later, he graduated with his law degree and passed the bar exam – never missing a rugby practice or game with The Raleigh (Vipers) Rugby Football Club.

1993 was a terrible year for anyone looking for a job. So, working out of his home and painting houses to make ends meet, John began representing anyone who was willing to take a chance on him. What he lacked in experience McWilliam made up for in a passion to learn and try cases. It soon became apparent to him that his passion was for criminal defense. And it still is.

Criminal Defense, insists McWilliam, along with civil rights law of course, is the area of the law that keeps the government in check, keeps the police honest, keeps all of us free, and keeps the Bill of Rights alive and relevant. It’s the area of the law that strives to maintain the ideals of Democracy, equality and liberty that the Founders of this country fought and died for.

In 1995, after two years of solo practice, John joined the law firm of highly-regarded Garner lawyer Joseph “Sandy” Calder as his partner to form the law firm of Calder & McWilliam. With Calder’s thriving real estate practice and McWilliam’s emerging and ultimately booming criminal practice, Calder & McWilliam grew to a firm of five lawyers.

McWilliam maintained his sanity by never giving up his other passion: rugby. In 1993 he was elected captain of the Raleigh RFC First XV; he then coached the men’s teams until the birth of his third child, and ultimately ran the club as its President, during which time, he oversaw the greatest expansion of the club in its history with the purchase of 16 acres and the building of two top-class pitches, the addition of a women’s team, who, along with the men, became National Champions, as well as the addition of youth rugby. All the time, until he finally aged out, playing “Old-Boy” rugby in places as far afield as Saranac, New York, Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Scotland.

In December of 2014, John opened his solo practice – John McWilliam PLLC. John’s practice is limited exclusively to criminal defense in North Carolina state courts. Having cut his teeth in the pre-Public Defender era, John represented indigent clients in the panoply of criminal cases (from murder to Driving while License Revoked; from rape to Trespass; from trafficking in heroin to simple possession of marijuana, from armed robbery to shoplifting). In short, he represented anyone and everyone while building his private practice until he didn’t need the court-appointed work – it became a kind of charity. But rather than abandon his court-appointed work, John continued to represent indigent criminal defendants until the State decided that – to the detriment of indigent defendants – it no longer required the assistance of lawyers like him.

John presents at continuing legal education classes on Criminal Law and is proud to have educated so many young lawyers.

John represents those charged with any and all felonies, misdemeanors, infractions and local code violations. In the private practice of law since 1993, John is proud to have built from nothing a thriving, reputable and respected criminal defense practice; to have established a firm with an impeccable reputation; and most of all, to have provided unparalleled, zealous and effective representation to so many people.

Have you been charged with a crime? Contact John McWilliam or call 919-772-4000

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