By: Zoë Lillian, 2019 Fran Kandel Public Interest Law Fellow

Susan Steinhauser, Co Chair, WLALA Charitable Fund

January 2021

About the WLALA Foundation. The Foundation is WLALA’s charitable and philanthropic arm. It was created to increase the utility of the law as an instrument of social justice. Through the Foundation, WLALA members put the mission of WLALA to work for our broader community. To that end, the Foundation offers pro bono opportunities for WLALA members to assist victims of domestic violence and homeless veterans, provides scholarships and public interest fellowships, and provides financial support to organizations whose missions align with our own.  With our scholarships and fellowships, we invest in our up-and-coming public interest attorneys.  And we get such a good return. For an outstanding example, read about Zoë Lillian, our 2019 Fran Kandel Public Interest Fellow.  You’ll be inspired. As we near the January close of this year’s Charitable Fund Campaign, our push to raise funds, we thank all of you who have given and encourage others to support us. It’s not too late!  To contribute CLICK HERE


                                Zoë Lillian, our 2019 Fan Kandel Public Interest Fellow


In Zoë’s Words: Her Summer 2019 Internship and her Work on Lactation Rights/Reproductive Justice at the ACLU of Southern California

My Dream Internship.  The summer after my first year of law school was one of my most edifying and enjoyable legal experiences. As a Fran Kandel Public Interest Fellow, I was empowered to pursue my career goals as a reproductive justice attorney. In supporting my work at the ACLU of Southern California’s LGBTQ, Gender Equity and Reproductive Justice project, WLALA enabled me to accept my dream internship, return to advocacy in Los Angeles and complete a practical and meaningful individual project. 

Doctrinal vs Tangible. When so much of the first-year law school experience is rooted in doctrinal courses and black-letter law, encouraging students to create a tangible resource for others is invaluable. I developed a lactation rights campaign, creating model self-advocacy letters for parents who breastfeed in the workplace, in schools, and in prisons and jails. 

In 2018 California passed legislation outlining accommodations specific to the workplace, in schools and in prisons and jails. Many incarcerated parents (and administrators) do not know they have a right to express milk and deliver it to their infant or toddler. Many students are unaware of their right to time accommodations during the day for milk expression, and that they are allowed to make up any missed work as a result without incurring an academic penalty. Many working parents in agriculture are unfamiliar with their right to private, enclosed and shaded lactation accommodations. As a Kandel Fellow, I was able to provide resources for parents to communicate these rights to employers in clear layperson language in order to assist noncompliant facilities in advance of their lactation. The letters also function as a way to allow noncompliant employers and administrators to cure violations so the parent can avoid having to file an official complaint.

Early access to the inspiring and supportive community.   The Fellowship offered me far more than a project mandate, however. WLALA provided me with early access to the inspiring and supportive community I hope to integrate. Knowing lawyers and judges in so many fields has allowed me to explore types of practice of great interest to me that I might not have ever learned about without WLALA. And it is absolutely impossible to convey how appreciative (and lucky!) I am to have had one of my WLALA mentors, a Family Court judge, assuage my night-before jitters the first time I represented a client in court through NYU’s  Family Defense Clinic.

Genuine and lasting connection to public service.  I  am so grateful for WLALA’s commitment to fostering a genuine and lasting connection to public service. Thanks to the Fran Kandel Public Interest Fellowship, my relationship with WLALA and the project I was able to produce will continuously enable me to be in service to the greater community. 

Postscript from Zoë

I can hardly believe I will graduate this May from NYU Law. In my growth from tentative first-year to soon-to-be in the workplace 3L, I’ve established that my legal, academic and intellectual interests are firmly rooted at the intersection of the law and parenthood. More generally, I’m fascinated by the regulation of intimate life. 

This year, through the NYU Family Defense Clinic, I am representing parents in neglect proceedings and child reunification. I hope to clerk after graduation, but might work for a year at an international law firm, with a pro bono focus on asylum claims for survivors of female genital mutilation. When I’m not in school, you can probably find me on my yoga mat, trying new foods, or waiting for hours online outside of the Supreme Court hoping to snag a seat for the oral argument of June Medical Services v. Russo. (Yes, I made it in!)