Thursday Profile: Michael Dagher-Margosian

An Ann Arbor native and Pioneer High School graduate, Michael Dagher-Margosian majored in psychology at Michigan State University, and then went to MSU College of Law. He interned at the Michigan State Appellate Defender Office, the Washtenaw County Public Defender’s Office, and Simon & Geherin, PLLC in Ann Arbor. 

After passing the July 2014 bar and being sworn in, he opened a law office in Ann Arbor with his father, Gary Margosian, specializing in criminal defense. During this time, he was also an associate at Kirsch, Leach & Associates in Birmingham where he worked on high level capital offense cases, and was co-counsel on two of these trials. 

Dagher-Margosian is now a senior public defender at the newly created Lenawee County Public Defender Office and the department head for 2A District Courts.

By Jo Mathis
Legal News

What are your most treasured material possessions? Two marble eagles bookends my late grandfather received in Italy during World War II, and photo albums of my grandpa during the time my brother and I were growing up.  He was a huge inspiration and instilled positive values in me, such as work ethic, patience, and compassion. 

What advice do you have for someone considering law school? Make sure you want to want to use your JD, and not just go to law school because you don’t know what next to do in your life.  Make sure you are really interested in the law. 

What is your happiest childhood memory? I grew up playing lots of different sports, which have taught me lessons I still use today, such as how to work hard for what I want, how to be a good teammate, and how to deal with adversity. 

Why did you become a lawyer? I got the initial push because both my parents are criminal defense attorneys. My siblings and I were exposed to many different legal concepts, but most importantly we were exposed to the idea of fighting for social and racial equality.  Having both my parents in the business of fighting for the underrepresented and accused shaped the way I viewed the world and was the reason I wanted to continue in that fight. 

What would surprise people about your job?
How much goes on behind the scenes of a courtroom.  A lot of the heavy lifting is done behind the scenes, and hopefully you know exactly what to expect and what will happen in your case far sooner than the day of your next court date. 

What has been your favorite year so far?
This past year.  I was admitted into the Michigan Bar, opened a law office with my father, and was hired into the Lenawee County Public Defender’s Office. I have learned so much about practicing law, both theoretical and practical, and am looking forward to continuing my education. 

When you look into the past, what do you miss most?
Being carefree.  As we grow up, our responsibilities become more and more, especially for attorneys.  We are responsible for someone else’s well-being and future, and  criminal defense attorneys are responsible for our clients’ liberty, an incredibly important responsibility. 

What is your most typical mood? Focused. A few mottos I live by are  “Control what you can control,” and “Flip the switch.”  When I need to be on, I have to flip the switch. I also love to goof around, when appropriate. Finding the balance between focus and fun is important to staying even-keel. 

What’s the most awe-inspiring place you’ve ever been? My law school graduation, where I sang the National Anthem. 

What question do you most often ask yourself? “Am I doing the most/best I can do in this situation?”  I don’t like to leave any stone unturned, or finish something without doing all I could have done.   

If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would that be? Any death row inmate in the U.S., to remind me why I fight so strongly for my clients. 

What is your proudest moment as a lawyer?
Just recently, I did my first jury trial alone, and received a verdict of not guilty. I knew the case up and down, I knew and prepared for every conceivable different situation, and made sure my witnesses were ready to go. It was a relieving experience, and hearing those two words allowed my client to walk out of the courthouse as a free individual. Another proud moment was co-counseling a case with attorney Lisa Kirsch-Satawa. Our client was facing life in prison, with a mandatory sentence of 25 years. After months of preparation, and after a five-day trial, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty.  

What do you do to relax? I like to spend time outdoors, hiking, sitting and looking out onto a lake, going to the beach and swimming in Lake Michigan. 

What is one thing you would like to learn to do?
I would like to learn how to speak either Spanish or Arabic. 

What is something most people don't know about you?
I play Ultimate Frisbee competitively for Michigan High Five, a perennial national championship qualifier. 

What is the best advice you ever received?
From my parents: You get to start with a clean reputation, but if you taint that reputation, it is almost impossible to get it back. Be an ethical attorney, because if not, word gets around and you will almost certainly be treated skeptically because of it. Do not ever risk your reputation, and do your job by the books. Don’t ever cut corners. 

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