Getting Social for Justice
On Tuesday, July 14, NYLAG welcomed 250 guests to its downtown Manhattan offices to celebrate the contributions that NYLAG alumni, staff members, volunteers and friends have made to improving the lives of vulnerable New Yorkers since the agency began its work 25 years ago.
Click here to view photos from the event on Facebook.
The event, Get Social for Justice, had something for everyone: a keynote address by Maya Wiley, Counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio; tours of NYLAG’s expanded offices; a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) program; and a festive cocktail reception.
In her welcoming remarks, Abby Milstein, Chair of NYLAG’s Board of Directors, said, “I know that, like me, many of you have ties to NYLAG that go way back: you spent a summer interning with us, or perhaps a semester of law school in one of our clinical programs. Some of you have moved on to other places – in government, the private sector or other nonprofits. But I know that each of you, and all of us at NYLAG, continue to share the same passion for justice that brought us together in the first place.”
Training on the Ethics Surrounding Student Loan Debt
For attorneys seeking to learn about a rapidly expanding field, the event kicked off with the CLE program, Defending Student Loan Victims: Obstacles and Options, in the late afternoon. Presented by NYLAG’s Special Litigation Unit, the training focused on NYLAG’s current work in the area of for-profit schools. Topics included investigating the potentially illegal practices of certain schools, exploring ways to improve general oversight of for-profit schools, and seeking systemic relief for students burdened by unfair federal student loan debts.
Reconnecting with Old Friends
NYLAG staff hosted guests for an open house in their offices, which occupy the better part of three floors at 7 Hanover Square in the financial district. NYLAG moved to the building in 2011 and, driven by the agency’s significant growth (the staff size has doubled in the last four years), has since expanded to occupy more than 67,000 square feet. Guests greeted members of NYLAG’s management team, reconnected with former colleagues and friends, and enjoyed drinks and snacks.
One guest, Hannah Pennington, Executive Director of the Manhattan Family Justice Center at the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, caught up with Kim Susser, Director of NYLAG’s Matrimonial and Family Law Unit. “I volunteered as an intern during law school, working with Kim,” said Pennington. “My work not only provided me the opportunity to gain real practice skills but introduced me to a domestic violence and social justice advocacy community that has been a constant in my legal career – in private practice, full-time public interest work and now in my work for the City.”
Celebrating the Role of Legal Services
Held in a lovely event space with harbor views, the cocktail reception featured a new five-minute video highlighting the work and dedication of NYLAG’s staff members. Beth Goldman, NYLAG’s President and Attorney-in-Charge, introduced Maya Wiley and praised the City for recognizing the central role of legal services in combatting poverty. “The administration and the City Council have displayed an unprecedented commitment by dramatically increasing funding for legal services to help safeguard and secure the rights of the poor and disenfranchised. This includes initiatives to prevent evictions, protect tenants from landlord harassment, and increased access to legal assistance for immigrants, victims of domestic violence, veterans, the working poor, and the elderly. Further evidence of the administration’s extraordinary commitment was the creation earlier this year of an Office of Civil Justice, which will monitor and improve access to representation across the city.”
Wiley advises the Mayor on legal matters involving City Hall and the executive staff, and the legal aspects of policy and administrative matters. She also spearheads special projects, such as expanding affordable broadband access across all five boroughs. In her remarks, she emphasized how key the legal community has been in combatting inequality and contributing to the Mayors’ vision of “one city, rising together,” because they can remove the barriers that prevent people from taking care of themselves, their families and their communities.
“We’ve done a lot to expand access to legal services, but it’s still not enough. We need to move the dial for the 46 percent of people in New York struggling to make ends meet. For them, the difference between being able to work, stay in their homes, and be healthy — or falling off the cliff — is often whether or not they have a lawyer – and too often they do not.”
Making a Difference
Erin Marie Meyer, an associate at Hogan Lovells’ New York office attended Get Social for Justice. Since 2012, the firm’s pro bono attorneys have partnered with NYLAG’s LegalHealth division in providing legal advice on advance planning issues to assist low-income and medically under-served New Yorkers living with cancer.
“By dedicating just a few hours of time, a pro bono attorney can make a meaningful difference in a client’s life by helping to ensure that their medical wishes will be carried out and financial decisions will be in the hands of a trusted agent,” said Meyer, who previously managed Hogan Lovell’s New York office pro bono practice. “Partnering with NYLAG has been a privilege – and today’s event was a great way to celebrate the work that we do together.”
Get Social for Justice was made possible through generous underwriting by the following individual and corporate sponsors:
Linda & Michael Jesselson • Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP • Latham & Watkins LLP • Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello PC • Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP • Proskauer Rose LLP • Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP • Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP
Bridget M. Healy
Debevoise & Plimpton LLP • Theodore N. Mirvis • Janet Aspen & Joseph Polizzotto