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2016 Forty Attorneys Under 40 Presentation

Erica B. Zolner
Erica B. Zolner
Kirkland & Ellis LLP
▶Commercial litigation
40 Under Class – 2016

Erica Zolner doesn’t shy away from challenges. It’s one reason why she’s earned a reputation as one of the most passionate and talented commercial litigation attorneys in Illinois.

A good example is the work she turned in during a complex case in the Northern District of Illinois representing BP Amoco. Zolner split the opening statement with co-counsel and conducted cross and direct examinations of key witnesses and experts.The jury found in favor of Zolner’s client on all fraud claims. It also awarded damages of less than 20 percent of what were originally claimed against BP Amoco.

“The case was litigated over a period of years. The trial alone lasted months,” said Scott Edenfield, an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois. “Erica was a leader on the trial team throughout the litigation and was responsible for formulating and implementing the strategy for litigating a complex case. Her litigation skills, as well as extremely hard work over the years that the case was pending, yielded a remarkable result for her client.”

This was a big case. But it is far from the only complex commercial litigation that Zolner has taken on for her clients.

For example, Zolner serves as trial counsel for a leading property and casualty insurer in a consolidated case brought by both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a putative class of former insurance agent employees alleging age discrimination, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty . Zolner manages all aspects of the case, and has successfully defeated several discovery and substantive motions. The case is still pending, but Zolner participated in all aspects of an initial three-week trial in June of 2015.

Zolner also serves as trial counsel for Highmark, Inc., Health Care Services Corporation, and Blue Shield of California in a multi-district putative class action antitrust lawsuit challenging the structure of the Blue System of health insurance. Zolner leads her clients in all aspects of discovery and day-to day strategy. Chris Silva of Highmark Inc. had this to say, “Erica is a consummate professional and is uniquely able to "herd cats" in these large class actions.” Silva continued, “She is clearly viewed as a leader whose legal opinion, approach and ideas are valued and acted upon. Judges listen to her! Corporate CEO's listen to her! Different audiences and yet she is able to get the important points of her case understood.”

“Erica stands out because she is not only very well-respected by her peers for her work, she also has an energy and enthusiasm for everything she does, while at the same time being open to helping others,” said Margo Wolf O’Donnell with Chicago’s VedderPrice.

Outside of the courtroom, Zolner has found time to give back to her profession and her community. She has played an especially active role with the Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law, a non-profit association that brings together women’s initiatives in law firms and companies of all sizes across the Chicago area. Zolner has worked on the membership, sponsorship and leadership forum committees, and this year joined the Coalition’s Board of Directors as a Member.

Zolner has also served as a member of the Board of Directors for Housing Opportunities for Women since 2010, and was the co-chair of the “HOW Very” Gala in 2014. She also acted as lead trial counsel to a female pro bono client in an immigration and asylum trial in federal court. Her work was a success: Zolner’s client was granted asylum after a three-day trial.

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