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WLALA Sections, Committees and Liaisons


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Business Law 
Chair: Connie Chen 
( and Karen Pazzani (

The Business Law Secti on develops and hosts (alone or in combination with other WLALA committees or other women's organizations) programs and seminars relating to issues arising in business / corporate law. We strive to make the programs and seminars of interest to WLALA members and business people in an effort to encourage networking and business development. We welcome input on our program topics and ideas and recommendations for speakers.

Criminal Justice
Co-Chairs: Jennifer Lieser (, Cathy Ostiller ( and Vicky Ourfalian (

Addresses issues of common interest to criminal practitioners, both prosecutors and defense counsel.  Plans and conducts programs of interest to criminal attorneys.

Family Law
Chair: Maria Byrum 
( and Merrisa Grayson (

Addresses issues of common interest to family law practitioners.  Plans and conducts programs of interest to family law attorneys.  The Family Law Section also works with Public Counsel's Adoption Project to complete the legal work necessary to finalize uncontested adoptions.  After Public Counsel prepares the case, WLALA members act as pro-bono attorneys for the adoptive parents. They file the paper work to complete the adoption process and attend the hearing at the Children's Courthouse representing the parents before the Judge.

Virginia Milstead (, Karleen Murphy (, Nadine Saadian ( and Jennie VonCannon (

The Litigation Section addresses issues and conducts programs and activities of interest to litigators.  Each year in early Spring, the Litigation Section plans and conducts an annual Litigator's Forum. We welcome those who may be interested in participating in the Litigation Section and encourage you to share with us your ideas for program topics or events. For more information, please contact the Section chairs.

Young Lawyers
Co-Chairs: Lauren Birkenstock
 Nadine Khedry (, Nicole Ramirez ( and Cat Zhang (

Founded in 2010, WLALA’s Young Lawyers Section’s (YLS) goal is to provide a community for young, women lawyers in every area of law and practice. YLS focuses on multiple concerns of women either under the age of 36 or in practice for five years or less. YLS endeavors to promote and further all aspects of WLALA’s mission statement; in particular, securing the full and equal participation of women in the legal profession. YLS accomplishes its mission by offering opportunities to its members in the areas of professional growth, mentorship, leadership, and networking to WLALA’s over 2,000 members. YLS offers its members access to various programs, including live speakers/panels, teleconferences, happy hours, community service, and opportunities to get involved in WLALA. In addition, YLS seeks to connect its members with local, state, and national bar organizations sharing in a common, crucial interest: the advancement of women in the legal profession. 
YLS offers its members the unique opportunity to become proactively involved in the Section through membership. Section members are actively involved in the direction of YLS by assisting the YLS Section Chairs in planning events, selecting speakers/panelists for live events, deciding on topics of interest for future events, attending Section meetings to discuss general topics of interest, and promoting YLS.  Admission to the Committee is limited and on a rolling basis. If you are interested in becoming a member of YLS’ Committee, please contact Kay Burt at
Past Events
Other Events



Please click here for WLALA Sections

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WLALA Foundation Charitable Fund
Co-Chairs: Elizabeth Dyer ( and Susan Steinhauser (
The purpose of the WLALA Foundation Charitable Fund is to raise funds for the WLALA Foundation.  Your contribution helps the WLALA Foundation fund annual scholarships and grants to law students as well as provide support to the the Domestic Violence Project, which provides free legal advice at a weekly clinic to domestic violence survivors; the Jail Project, which serves incarcerated women and their children in civil legal matters; the History Project, which chronicles the history of female legal trailbalzers and preserves their recollections to ensure that we never forget our profession's history of gender discrimination; and the Harriett Buhai Center, which protect victims of domestic violence and improve the well-being of children living in poverty.  To contribute to this year's Annual Giving Campaign, please CLICK HERE.  If you would like to help in this year's campaign, please contact the Committee Chair Susan Steinhauser at


Amicus Briefs
Co-Chairs:  Sarah Conway
 ( and Anne Grignon ( 

 The Amicus Committee evaluates pending cases raising legal and public policy issues affecting women, and, in those cases in which WLALA agrees to participate, prepares or edits amicus briefs on behalf of WLALA.  In recent years, WLALA has participated as an amicus in a number of precedent-setting cases, including Davis v. Monroe County, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that school districts may be held liable for their own deliberate indifference of student-on-student sexual harassment, and United States v. Morrison, in which the U.S. Supreme Court declared the civil rights remedy of the Violence against Women Act unconstitutional.

Appointive Office

Co-Chairs: Krysta Pachman ( 


The Appointive Office Committee conducts evaluations of candidates seeking appointment to the judiciary or other legal-related positions. WLALA’s ratings fall within five categories, ranging from "Exceptionally Well-Qualified" to a "Not Qualified."  The process starts with an application to the Committee and culminates in a personal interview.  Prior to the interview, the Committee sends out written questionnaires to references provided by the applicant.  At least 30 written evaluations must be received by the Committee before an interview will be scheduled.  WLALA has a great track record in assisting the appointment of qualified applicants.  CLICK HERE  to see the Policy Regarding WLALA Rating of Applicants or Candidates for Appointive Office. CLICK HERE to print the Request for Evaluation. For more information, please contact the Committee chairs.


Awards & Recognition
Co-Chairs: Kim Arnal ( and Cristina Matsushima (

Identifies and vets qualified candidates to nominate for various local and state-wide awards, honors and other forms of recognition such the Los Angeles Daily Journal Top 100 Lawyers, Top Women Lawyers, Top 40 Under 40 Special Features. 

Business Development
Co-Chairs: Robyn Bacon ( and Elaine Chang (


The Business Development Committee is focused on that portion of WLALA's mission dedicated to promoting the full participation of women lawyers and judges in the legal profession. The Committee advances women in the legal profession through educational panelist discussions, and professional and business development opportunities. For example, in the past, the Committee was responsible for organizing the Annual Doctor/Lawyer Dinner. In addition to the networking opportunities, past program topics for the Annual Doctor/Lawyer Dinner of interest to both women lawyers and women doctors have included, for example, reproductive technologies and the law, stem cell research, and healthcare reform. Likewise, the Business Development Committee’s panelist discussions have focused on a wide range of practical and educational topics – ranging from advice from General Counsel panelists regarding their selection of outside counsel, to discussions with partners from various firms about their business development styles and/or use of technology. We welcome those who may be interested in participating on the Business Development Committee. We also are delighted to hear your ideas for new program topics or events. Help us with our mission to empower and advance women in the legal profession. For more information, please contact the Committee chairs.


Career Development & Life Balance 

Co-Chairs: Laura Jane Kessner (, Heather Stern (, and Jessica Walker (

The Career Development & Life Balance Committee presents programs to support women lawyers’ efforts to advance their careers, identify and tackle new professional challenges, and build their networks.  The committee also offers programming aimed at assisting women lawyers in balancing a satisfying and successful legal career with a fulfilling life outside of work.  The committee’s programs address a wide variety of topics related to these areas of emphasis as well as social events for our WLALA members and their families.


Career Mentoring

Co-Chairs: Kelsey Chandrasoma (, Venessa Martinez (, and Susan Yu (


The Mentoring Committee encourages and facilitates the establishment and maintenance of mentor relationships between less experienced and more experienced lawyers.  The Mentoring Committee organizes a monthly mentoring reception.  The Mentoring Committee also matches lawyers with similar interests on an ongoing basis, and monitors the mentoring relationships to encourage their continuation.  In so doing, the Mentoring Committee looks to similarities in background, practice area and other interests and concerns to find the mentor who can best assist a young lawyer in furthering her career. 


Conference of California Bar Associations
Co-Chairs: Shaun Dabby Jacobs (

The Conference of California Bar Associations ("CCBA") is a state-wide organization made up of attorneys from local, specialty, and minority bar associations across the state, that are focused on improving California's laws.  CCBA holds a conference once a year, usually in the fall, where the various bar associations debate revisions and amendments to California law called "resolutions."  Getting a resolution passed by CCBA involves a combination of advance preparation, marshaling your allies, and negotiating or bartering with your opponents, and skillful arguments on the Conference floor.  Once a resolution is passed by CCBA, CCBA's lobbyist takes the resolution to the California Legislature or the California Judicial Council to find a sponsor and get the resolution enacted into law.  The WLALA delegation has a long history of active involvement in CCBA.  In the past, we have sponsored and passed resolutions regarding family leave, child pornography, domestic partnership, domestic violence and civil procedure.  Some of our resolutions have gone to Sacramento, been carried as a bill and passed into law.  To learn more about CCBA and to see resolutions that are debated at the Conference go to CCBA's website at   

Diversity, Equity & Racial Justice
Co-Chairs: Neelu Khanuja (, Meena Patel (, Ariella Thal Simonds (, and Merle Vaughn (

The Diversity Committee develops programs and activities to increase awareness of issues and to promote diversity and inclusion of women of color in the legal profession.  The Committee often collaborates with WLALA’s sister bar associations—Asian Pacific American Women Lawyers Alliance (APAWLA), Black Women Lawyers (BWL), Latina Lawyers Bar Association (LLBA), and California Women Lawyers (CWL)—to organize networking and professional development events for all of the organizations’ members.

Domestic Violence Project/Sojourn
Chair: Karen Ruckert (

The Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles Domestic Violence Project (DV Project) is chaired by Jill Piano. The DV Project sponsors a weekly drop-in legal clinic each Monday from 6-7 p.m. in conjunction with Sojourn, a domestic violence service provider in Santa Monica.

At the legal clinic, clients - all of whom are referred by Sojourn - are provided with assistance on a variety of legal issues, including restraining orders, divorce/separation, child custody, child/spousal support, criminal proceedings as well as civil law issues.  These clients represent every socio-economic and ethnic background, from executives at large entertainment industry corporations to recent immigrants who speak limited English.  Some of these women are still with their batterer and being abused, while others have left their batterers and are seeking guidance on their legal rights and next steps. 

The legal clinic is staffed entirely by Carol Tantau, Sojourn Support Services Coordinator, Minty Msiu-Kootnikoff, Legal Services Director, Sojourn, and WLALA volunteer attorneys who answer legal questions, explain the legal process, inform victims of their rights and make referrals as necessary.  Through the legal clinic, attorneys provide legal advice, guidance and support to these women, and clients are welcome to return as often as necessary until their legal issues are resolved.  Each client consultation with is brief, about 10-15 minutes depending on the number of clients waiting for assistance.  The legal clinic does not provide representation of clients in court and does not assist in completing legal forms.  However, attorneys are available to review forms completed by clients and to prepare clients to testify and present their case in court.  Repeat clients often work on reestablishing their lives and working towards other positive goals for themselves and/or their children. 

Volunteer Opportunities:

Volunteers may help in two  various ways: 1) volunteering directly for the legal clinic itself; 2) assisting the co-chairs in organizing with training materials, programs and meetings, or 3) may choose to offer pro bono representation to a client if the volunteer so desires, with mentorship from Sojourn’s Legal Services Director.  There is no expectation that a volunteer take a case for representation.  We welcome all volunteer attorneys and law students regardless of background or training in domestic violence or family law issues.

For more information, please contact our chair Jill Piano at

Financial Development
Co-Chairs: Sanaz Bereliani
(, Ashley Kaplan ( and Arin Scapa (

The primary task of the Financial Development Committee is the coordination of WLALA's annual summer fundraising gala, "WLALAPalooza," which takes place in June of each year. The Committee handles all aspects of the event, including soliciting and organizing over 300 Silent Auction items, obtaining the opportunity drawing prizes, selecting and making all arrangements for the site and catering of the event, designing the event booklet, advertising the event, obtaining sponsors, and coordinating bid finalization, item distribution and payment operations on the day of the event.

History Project
Chair: Margaret Carter ( and Ruth Pinkel (

The History Project was started by WLALA Past-President Rosalyn Zakheim during her term in 1983-84.  Historically focused on collecting and preserving the oral histories of our distinguished members, the WLALA History project has collected oral histories of its members for more than thirty years.  The collection is housed at Southwestern Law School library.  In 1999, in advance of WLALA’s 80-year anniversary, WLALA also compiled an historical chronology of many of the achievements of women in the legal profession in the United States, in California, and especially in Los Angeles.  This chronology is also part of the History Project collection.  As we approach our 100-year anniversary in 2019, we are recording additional oral histories and exploring new ways to share the rich history in the collection with our members.  If you are interested in finding out more about the collection, helping to expand it, or helping us to showcase it in advance of our 100-year anniversary, please contact us.  

In-House Counsel
Chair: Dawn Kennedy (      

This Committee focuses on the career paths and needs of women practicing in corporate law departments.  Women comprise roughly 15% of Fortune 500 general counsel. This Committee's role is to help expand this statistic by mentoring women in-house and addressing the unique professional needs of women in corporate law departments.  The goal is to use committee activities as a means of fostering the professional development (and network) of women in the in-house legal community so as to eventually expand the ranks of women in upper level positions in corporate law departments. The committee will initiate educational programming and networking opportunities to provide women with practical information concerning such issues as (a) how to obtain and keep an in-house counsel position; (b) how to rise through the ranks of a corporate structure to obtain coveted leadership positions; and (c) how to navigate a corporate law department structure , whether large or small. To that end, the committee will leverage the expertise of women general counsel in the Los Angeles area, as well as others in the legal community to create a space where women can maintain a dialogue about in-house counsel careers, balance and advancement.   

Labor & Employment
Marina Kats Fraigun (, Autumn Moore ( Sereena Singh ( and Jacquiline Wagner (

The focus of WLALA's new labor and employment law committee is on providing continuing education to attorneys regarding developments in labor and employment law, exploring effective strategies aimed at resolving disputes between  employees and employers and fostering a rich networking community for employment law practitioners of all levels of experience.  

Investment Supervisor
Chair: Meehan Rasch ( )


Law Student Mentoring

Co-Chairs: Reg Levy ( McDonnell ( and Tracy Wilkison (


The mission of the Law Student Mentoring Committee is to encourage and facilitate the establishment and maintenance of mentor relationships between lawyers and law students. WLALA lawyer members looking for a simple and rewarding way to help WLALA promote the full participation of women in the legal profession need look no further — contact us and volunteer to act as a mentor to a promising woman law student. Likewise, our student members looking for a way to connect with and learn from women experienced in navigating the legal profession should contact us. We also visit the chapters of the Women’s Law Association at local law schools and occasionally assist in projects involving the mentoring of high school or college students. To join our committee and become involved, please contact the Committee chair.

Chair: Amy Proctor
(, Andrea Schoor ( and Julie Stromberg (


Analyzes pending legislation that has significant impact upon women.

Co-Chairs: Hon. Laura Seigle 
( and Taylor Wagniere (


The membership committee works to enhance and diversify membership; recruiting life members, sustaining members, associate members, and student members. The committee also helps coordinate programs of interest to members, such as networking and career development panel discussions, and develops benefit opportunities for WLALA members. Additionally, membership promotes and facilitates member networking events, such as the Night at the Magic Castle. Given the social emphasis of this committee in particular, this is the perfect committee to volunteer for if you are a new member seeking to network and meet other members, or if you are simply looking to re-connect with old friends and colleagues.


Pro-Choice & Reproductive Rights
Co-Chairs: Vanessa Adriance 
( and Kelly Kriebs


The Pro-Choice and Reproductive Rights Committee focuses on issues related to reproductive health and abortion rights.  The committee meets monthly to discuss legislative, regulatory, court and other challenges to women's reproductive freedom.  We communicate with public officials, politicians and others regarding issues affecting reproductive freedom and provide supportive assistance to organizations dedicated to preserving reproductive rights.  We also sponsor several events each year to raise awareness regarding reproductive rights issues.  The committee hosts an annual event to raise money for the Women's Reproductive Rights Assistance Project, which provides funds for abortion and emergency contraceptive services for women of all ages, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds who are unable to pay for a safe and legal abortion.  This committee is among the most active in WLALA, and we welcome new members.  If you have questions about how to become involved, please contact the WLALA office.

Public Interest Law
Chair: Shelby King ( and Jasmine Smalley (

WLALA’s Public Interest Section is devoted to advancing women in public interest law.  This Section strives to provide programming and resources geared to issues of common concern to women working in public interest law.   We welcome the participation of anyone interested in contributing to this Section’s work.   Please contact the Section’s chair for more information. 

Public Interest Grant
Co-Chairs: Hon. Nancy Ramirez ( and Sarah Quist (


The Public Interest Grant is awarded by the WLALA Foundation annually to law students for summer projects that make governmental and social service agencies more accessible and responsible to individuals or groups whose needs are not adequately met.  Since 1985, the grant program has awarded 32 summer grants to law students totaling over $115,000.  The committee's work is seasonal; we do not meet every month.  From approximately December-February, the committee is responsible for promoting the grant program to law students, soliciting applications, reviewing applications, interviewing three to four finalists and selecting a candidate (s) to recommend to the Board as a grant recipient (s).  Committee members volunteer to participate in some or all of these activities as they can.  Even if you just have a few hours of time, we welcome your contribution to this valuable and important endeavor! 


Racial Justice & Advisory Council
Co-Chairs: Brigit Greeson Alvarez (, Michele Anderson (, Celene Chan Andrews (, Rebecca Aragon (, Nina Huerta (, Diane Tan (, Leana Taing ( and Yvette Verastegui



Co-Chairs: Sarah de Diego (, Carmela Pagay (, and Christine Page (


The Scholarship Committee manages the law student scholarships awarded by the WLALA Foundation each year.  The Committee develops and proposes  scholarship application guidelines to the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors.  The Committee distributes the approved guidelines to all of the law schools with students who meet the criteria and promotes the opportunity at local campuses.  The Committee then reviews all of the applications and recommends awardees to the Executive Committee and the Board. After the Board approves the awardees, the Committee notifies them and coordinates their attendance at the Installation Dinner.  Through the Committee's work, many law students become familiar with WLALA and ultimately join the organization.


Solo and Small Firm Practice 

Chairs: Elise Cummings Greenberg ( and Sungina Vachhani (


Provides support and addresses issues unique to those engaged in solo or small firm practice.

Website & Social Media
Chairs:Neelu Khanuja (Neelukaur13@gmail.comand Cynthia Organ (

The website committee is tasked with the initial planning for the migration of the WLALA website from its current online platform to a more user friendly platform. The WLALA executive board will present a compilation of questions to the committee from time to time to seek input and direction as the migration process is undertaken. In addition, the website committee manages WLALA’s social media accounts, including  FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Instagram.



Please click here for WLALA Sections 

Please click here for WLALA Committees

Click here for a list of WLALA Liaisons

California Women Lawyers
Liaison: Hon. Susan Formaker

Downtown Women's Center

Food from the Bar
Liaison: Kathleen McDowell (

Food from the Bar is a grass-roots campaign started in 2009 by lawyers to fight hunger in the Los Angeles community. It consists of a month-long friendly competition in the spring among law firms and legal offices in which participants contribute money, donate food, and/or volunteer time sorting and packing food at the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank.

The Food from the Bar program is modeled after a long-standing program in San Francisco that replenishes food bank supplies to meet the increased need for food during the summer months. When schools close for the summer, thousands of children are not able to access school breakfast and lunch programs, a critical source of nutrition, and so their families turn to the food bank for help.

The inaugural Food from the Bar campaign in 2009 well exceeded expectations, raising a total of $192,000 and amassing over 1500 volunteer hours. WLALA received special recognition as one of the top three contributors measured by donations per capita. In 2010, the campaign raised over $285,000, 1600 volunteer hours, and over 14,000 pounds of food.
WLALA is proud of the role it played in mobilizing the Los Angeles legal community as a whole to help alleviate hunger in our community, and hopes to continue to be a major player as Food from the Bar expands and grows. If you would like to be a part of Food from the Bar, please email .
The 2011 Food from the Bar campaign will run from April 18, 2011 to May 13, 2011
Harriett Buhai
Liaison: Cindy Wallace (
The Harriet Buhai Center for Family Law was founded in 1982 as a joint project of  WLALA and Black Women Lawyers of Los Angeles, Inc., and the Los Angeles County Bar Association joined as a sponsor in 1985.  The Center provides assistance in family law matters to over 1,500 low income individuals each year.  Among the services provided by the Center are its pro per program, which prepares individuals to represent themselves in court; free legal representation through the Pro Bono Panel; and community education and outreach.  As the Buhai Center liaison, I keep WLALA and the Buhai Center apprised of each other’s doings and promote mutual support and coordination between the two organizations.


Inner City Law Center

Liaison: Joan Kessler (


This year, we are excited to launch a joint project between Inner City Law Center and WLALA to work together to provide additional pro bono services to homeless veterans, including women veterans in Los Angeles. After receiving training through the ICLC, WLALA members will be paired up to assist homeless veterans apply for the healthcare and disability benefits to which they are entitled because of their service. For veterans who are homeless, these benefits can mean stability and independent living. In addition, the WLALA Foundation will sponsor one WLALA/ICLC Homeless Veterans Project Student Fellow during Summer 2017 to provide more focused work on the needs of women veterans.

Judicial/State Court
Liaison: Michelle DeCasas (

LACBA Litigation Section
Liaisons: Julie Gerchik ( and Susana Juarez (

Multi Cultural Bar Alliance
Liaison: Hon. Holly Fujie (

Power Lunch Program
Liaisons: Kelly Hanker ( and Hon. Elaine Lu (

Power Lunch, a collaboration between the Los Angeles Superior Court and the WLALA Foundation, and between the federal courts of the Central District and WLALA Foundation, which provides civics education and mentorship for high school students in under-served, high-crime, and ethnically diverse communities.  WLALA members receive invitations to the Power Lunch.  To register as a WLALA member, please go to or contact