Zack Kaplan, NCAJ NEXT Leadership Program

January 31, 2024

Zachary “Zack” Kaplan is one of the 13 members of the NCAJ NEXT Leadership Program class of 2024. The program identifies the state’s emerging trial lawyer leaders. 

Lives in: Durham 

Law degree from: Duke University School of Law  

Works as: Attorney at Zaytoun Ballew   

Legal association involvement: Because I was unable to join NCAJ during my first clerkship, I only recently joined the organization and am still exploring avenues through which to connect with and contribute to this community. However, I am active in the Young Lawyers Division of the North Carolina Bar Association, namely through participation in the Legal LINK Committee, the Liberty Bell Committee, and the law school mentorship program. These groups each seek to engage young people—from high school students to law school students—in learning more about and envisioning themselves within legal careers to diversify and strengthen our profession in generations to come. 

Why is the idea of civil justice important to you? 

I believe that we all have an obligation to work within the highest intersection of our own greatest skills and our community’s greatest needs. For over a decade now—first as a student and a teacher, then as a state and federal law clerk, and soon as a plaintiffs’ and civil rights lawyer—I have found that intersection in working to advance racial justice and education equity for marginalized people and communities in North Carolina. This work is not only my own path to personal and professional fulfillment, but also, I believe, the only path towards realizing the potential and professed high values of our state and nation. 

What’s your vision for the future of NCAJ?  

Civil rights work is an intergenerational struggle—if any progress is to be forged, it must be forged not by heroic individuals, but by committed and diverse coalitions. In years to come, I consider NCAJ’s most important role within our state to be building and broadening that coalition. Specifically, that will require engaging young people to be their own best advocates and to develop the network and skills to join and lead the next and more diverse generation of civil rights lawyers. I hope to leverage my experience engaging middle school, high school, and law school students from attending UNC and Duke, teaching in Durham, and my NCBA experience to help NCAJ expand its membership with an eye towards the future. 

Away from work … 

 I find joy in building community. Outside of work, I love deepening my relationships with my family, friends, and neighbors in Durham. These connections have led to meaningful pursuits outside of my legal practice, such as by serving on the Board of Directors of two Durham non-profits working towards racial justice and educational opportunity. To disconnect from all that, I also love reading biographies and memoirs and enjoying a dinner with old and new friends. My family also has two playful puppies, Hartley and Mia, who remind me to simply enjoy the moment when I’m thinking too hard about life.