Recent UCLA School of Law graduate Deeksha Kohli ’20 reached the semifinals and finished in third place in the Top Gun National Trial Competition, perhaps the most difficult trial competition in the United States.
Hosted by Baylor Law School, the one-on-one trial advocacy national championship involves students from only 16 schools each year. Instead of receiving the case months beforehand, as is the norm in most trial competitions, students get the case about 28 hours before their first trial. They are allowed assistance from only one classmate and one coach. In 2020, they faced an additional challenge: All trials were by Zoom.
Four hours after receiving the case, a dispute over the sudden death of a high school soccer player, Kohli was in front of a webcam, giving her opening statement. She was assisted by Chandler Matz ’21, who shared exhibits to the screen as Kohli spoke, and Justin Bernstein, the director of the A. Barry Cappello Program in Trial Advocacy.
After the four preliminary rounds, Kohli was the only undefeated advocate in the field. She and UCLA won trials against four top trial advocacy schools: Loyola Law School, Los Angeles; Syracuse University College of Law; Samford University Cumberland School of Law; and the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law.
In the semifinal round, Kohli was eliminated in a rematch against Simone Leighty from McGeorge, who went on to win.
A stalwart of the UCLA Law trial team, Kohli plans to join Katten Muchin Rosenman after taking the bar exam.
“I couldn’t be prouder of Deeksha,” said Bernstein. “She was our program president and the leader of a graduating class that earned the top record in the country. This is a great capstone to her time at UCLA, and I can’t wait to see her apply these skills in her legal practice.”