April 1, 2011

New York Legal Assistance Group’s First-Ever Gala Raises More Than $1 Million

April 1, 2011 – The New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) held its first-ever Gala, celebrating its 20th Anniversary, at the historic Pierre Hotel on Wednesday, March 30, 2011. Under the theme of Empowering Women & Girls, the elegant affair honored Abby S. Milstein, longtime Chair of the NYLAG Board; and Sharon L. Allen, Chairman of the Board, Deloitte LLP.  Nearly 500 people attended the inaugural benefit, which raised over $1 million to support NYLAG’s mission of providing high-quality, free civil legal services to low-income New Yorkers who cannot afford private attorneys.

Guests enjoyed a cocktail hour with music by artists from The Juilliard School and a silent auction of luxury items. Dinner was held beneath the glittering chandeliers of the Grand Ballroom with Jeffrey Toobin, CNN Senior Legal Analyst and Staff Writer for The New Yorker serving as Master of Ceremonies. Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered remarks congratulating both honorees and recognizing the vital role NYLAG plays: “During these tough economic times when expensive legal services fall out of reach for so many, your attorneys have filled these gaps time and time again. And in the process you’ve given hundreds of thousands of people new confidence that justice isn’t just a lofty word thrown around in courtrooms or on television dramas – it’s a force they can see making improvements in their own lives.”

Sharon Allen, recipient of the Corporate Leadership Award, remarked passionately on the necessity of legal services as a means to empower and uplift women facing economic hardship: “As we consider women and advocacy tonight, it may be no coincidence that the symbol of the legal profession is a woman, the Goddess of Justice. Sword in one hand, a set of scales in the other, she wears a blindfold to represent the fundamental belief that justice is to be accorded to everyone, sight unseen.”

Honored with the Visionary of Justice Award for her longtime dedication to providing legal access for the less fortunate, Abby Milstein delivered a moving acceptance speech in which she reflected on her first pro bono case as a young law student. She added, “It is sometimes difficult for those of us with comfortable lives to fully comprehend the profound role a lawyer can play in a poor person’s life. We are not hungry, we are not trapped with a violent abusive spouse, we are not facing deportation, we aren’t threatened with foreclosure, we are not living in substandard conditions which harm our health. But thousands and thousands of our neighbors in this city face these crises and more. NYLAG exists for them.”

A new short film about NYLAG produced by award-winning documentary filmmakers, The Visionaries, was screened for the first time at the Gala. The film chronicles the legal cases of two women whose lives were saved by the extraordinary advocacy of NYLAG’s attorneys. The film is a prelude to a 30-minute documentary about NYLAG, scheduled to air on Public Television this fall.

The evening’s Co-Chairs were Joseph Polizzotto, General Counsel, Deutsche Bank; Marcia Riklis; and Barry Salzberg, Chief Executive Officer, Deloitte LLP.

For photos of the event, please visit http://www.facebook.com/NYLegalAssistanceGroup.

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The New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) provides free civil legal services to New Yorkers who cannot afford a private attorney. Founded in 1990, NYLAG works to empower individuals, protect fundamental legal rights, and promote access to justice. With a reputation for responding quickly to emerging community needs, the agency offers a broad range of high quality and culturally competent services. For more information, go to www.nylag.org.