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Heil and co. open doors for women

By: Emmie Larson

Law has historically been a male-dominated field. At the Illinois College of Law, both students and faculty are aiming to combat that. One group of four women did that in a trial setting. Allison Heil, Madelyn Foster, Eliza Powers and Mariana Renke went to the

National Ethics Trial competition at the end of March and took home the top title for Illinois.

The title in itself is remarkable, but it meant even more for women. Heil says that they were presented with this barrier as women in the courtroom, recognized it and earned first-place. Heil took home “Best Advocate” meaning that her scores “came out on top.”

This honor does not come without its hurdles. Law being such a one-sided field for so long has created walls that Heil sees even in a mock-trial setting. Heil says that,

“There are certain ways a woman has to present herself in the courtroom to be likable to a jury. It's more difficult for women than it is for men … a man can move around and ask any questions he wants and it's deemed as powerful.”

Heil proclaims herself as someone who is not soft spoken and is aggressive in cross examinations. For her, she says there is a balance between having a s

trong demeanor and also fitting the “guidelines” of a female litigator.

“Finding that balance is a very thin line that men don’t have to do,” Heil explains.

In addition to her title of Best Advocate, Heil also received the Paul M. Lisnek Award for Excellence and Ethics in Trial Advocacy along with four other women.

“This award is given to four students by a panel of judges after evaluating and scoring our performances in the Fall 2022 Trial Advocacy course,” explains Heil.

Tony Ghiotto, a professor at the Illinois College of Law, feels as if Allison’s accomplishments highlight women in the legal profession.

“I think Allison is a huge help,” says Ghiotto, “Allison provides the example of what you can do if you put in the work and the effort and the opportunities that we have for females at Illinois.”

As far as the team dynamic goes, both Heil and Ghiotto know that there is immense support amongst this group of women.

"They work great together," says Ghiotto, "For a trial team it really is a team ... they have to watch out for each other, its very normal in trial work to forget something ... you need to push them, you also need to do it in a way that builds you up and helps gives you confidence, I saw that with all four of them in a way that made them all better advocates."

"I think it helps that we've all built a really strong friendship outside of the courtroom," says Heil, "We know that if we're giving someone else a critique or some sort of constructive criticism that it is for the best, and it's not malicious at any point."

Ghiotto hopes to see Heil come back to compete next year and to continue to represent the Illinois College of Law at a national level, proving there is a space for women.

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