Victoria “Tori” Bianco hasn’t started her law school education yet, but she’s already making an impact in the legal profession.
That’s because ahead of joining the Texas Law class of 2027 next fall, Bianco is spending the 2023-24 academic year working remotely as a fellow with the Clooney Foundation for Justice, a nonprofit human rights watchdog organization founded by attorney Amal Clooney and her husband, actor George Clooney.
Specifically, Bianco is contributing to the research and development of the Waging Justice for Women fellowship program that provides women-for-women legal aid—female attorneys representing female clients, whenever possible, in cases related to gender issues. The WJW program and its fellows are, as explained on the foundation’s website, supporting 10 women attorneys in various African countries who work for local organizations, using “legal empowerment, strategic litigation, and public advocacy to challenge injustice against women and girls.”
Bianco and the other fellows also benefit from the experience.
“I am building on knowledge from my undergraduate studies of international human rights law and learning about strategic international litigation, which will better prepare me for my first year at Texas Law,” she explains.
Bianco’s once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with CFJ came about through the Weil Legal Innovators Program, a unique initiative created by the prestigious Weil, Gotshal & Manges LL,P law firm. The highly competitive program, created to engage incoming 1Ls with pressing social and legal challenges, asks participants admitted to one of a small, select group of top U.S. law schools—including Texas Law, along with Yale, Harvard, and Stanford, among others—to defer their attendance for one year in order to participate.
“I am so grateful to have been chosen as a Weil Legal Innovator and I am excited to contribute to the inaugural year of the Clooney Foundation’s newest initiative,” says Bianco. “I look forward to exploring every opportunity this year with this program.”
There are 10 fellows this year, including Bianco, who each receive a salary and $10,000 scholarship award towards the first year of law school tuition.
Texas Law’s Commitment
“Our connection to the Weil Legal Innovators Program underscores our commitment to support public interest careers while also allowing students to gain valuable professional experience before starting law school,” says Mathiew Le, Texas Law’s assistant dean of admissions and financial aid. “It also demystifies the relationship between public interest and private sector careers. Students often grapple with the idea of having to choose one sector over the other, when in fact there’s a wonderful intersection that exists in between.”
Le says Bianco stood out as an exceptional candidate for the WLI program, which is why his office encouraged her to submit a WLI application last February. A native of Omaha, Nebraska, Bianco graduated magna cum laude from New York University, where she was an NYU Presidential Honors Scholar and double majored in international relations and Spanish. Bianco also played for NYU’s varsity soccer team and while studying abroad in Madrid, took coursework in human rights law and migration—learning about the implications of different laws across various countries and sparking an interest in a legal career path. After graduation, she taught English in Spain for two years.
Arriving in Austin
Following her participation in the WLI program, Bianco will attend Texas Law, a decision influenced by several factors. “One of the key reasons I was drawn to Texas Law was the school’s commitment to quality education without an outrageous price tag,” she says. “Also, the diversity of thought within the Texas Law community will challenge me to sharpen my arguments by better understanding opposing opinions.”
And when she arrives in Austin next fall, Bianco can count on two members of the class of 2026 for extra support: Brady Miller and Jackson Weihe, who were fellows in the WLI program last year, with Miller working for the National Urban League in New York City and Weihe placed with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.
While reflecting on his fellowship experience, Miller offers some words of advice to Bianco. “Savor the moments that remind you why you chose to apply to law school and cherish the moments that highlight the differences you want to make in the world,” he says. “If your experience is like mine, it will be a life-changing year.”
Looking several years into the future, Bianco sees herself pursuing public interest law. “I have always considered myself a ‘do-er’ and someone who takes the lead, so it only feels natural to pursue a role in public service,” she says. “Once I started to learn more about politics and the law, I began to see the law as a mechanism to make meaningful change and directly impact individuals and communities. I believe no matter where my career takes me, my work will always be rooted in public service.”
New Opportunities for Aspiring Law Students
The Weil Legal Innovators Program is one of several opportunities available from independent entities that give aspiring Texas Law applicants access to scholarship funds and relevant legal training, especially in the area of public service. For example, the Marshall Motley Scholars Program was established just last year by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to create trained and dedicated civil rights attorneys. Sondos Moursy ’26 is the first Texas Law Marshall Motley Scholar.