The "Top Gun" Champion of Trial Advocacy

Zoe Appler

Going Against the Best Only Makes You Better

Zoe Appler ’22 won the 2021 edition of the renowned Top Gun National Mock Trial Competition, which pits the best of the best trial advocates in the country against each other.

Zoe Appler
Criminal Litigation 2022

Zoe Appler ’22 won the 2021 edition of the renowned Top Gun National Mock Trial Competition, which pits the best of the best trial advocates in the country against each other.

“For me, a big reason why I chose Chicago-Kent was the trial advocacy program. I was aware of its reputation and national ranking. Not only do you learn to think on your feet, you also get to learn very technical things like a cross examination or a closing argument, which are skills that apply to every area of law no matter what you practice," Appler says. "And for me it was a huge selling point in terms of employment. I’ve already gotten my offer for post-graduate employment at a really large trial firm.”

The following is an interview with Appler a full year before her Top Gun win:

What stood out about Chicago-Kent?

The Trial Advocacy Program stood out. Very few law schools take their trial teams as seriously as Chicago-Kent does. They work hard to mold law students with a passion for litigation into actual, practice-ready lawyers.

Do you have a favorite professor or class from your first semester at Chicago-Kent?

Criminal Law with Justice David A. Erickson. Judge Erickson is the head coach and director of the Trial Advocacy Program at Chicago-Kent, and having him as a professor has been an incredibly enlightening experience. He has been a judge for many years, so he has practical knowledge and experience to share with students who want to enter the litigation field.

What would you have done differently to prepare for law school?

Not have focused so much on rankings. Law school rankings factor in a lot of characteristics that I don’t really care about, such as library size. If I would have prioritized schools that had the aspects I care more about earlier on, I would have saved a lot of time and money on useless applications.

What is your top advice for incoming law students?

Visit the schools BEFORE applying. I wasted so much money applying to schools that I thought were a good fit, and then I ended up visiting the campuses and coming up disappointed. Plan early and plan thoroughly before you spend money on application fees.

What is your favorite way to enjoy Chicago?

Walking Chicago in the rain, when there are fewer people and better sights. I also love to explore the residential neighborhoods around Lincoln Park and Lakeview, or take the Metra train to the suburbs and go explore a new neighborhood outside of the city. I am an avid outlet mall shopper, and Chicago’s suburbs have some of the best for a weekend of retail therapy!

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