On March 30, 2011, NYLAG held its first-ever Gala celebrating its 20th Anniversary, at the historic Pierre Hotel. 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 this 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.

Jeffrey Toobin, CNN Senior Legal Analyst and Staff Writer for The New Yorker, served as Master of Ceremonies, and Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered remarks 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. Abby Milstein, honored with the Visionary of Justice Award, 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.”

The evening’s Co-Chairs were Joseph Polizzotto, General Counsel, Deutsche Bank; Marcia Riklis; and Barry Salzberg, Chief Executive Officer, Deloitte LLP. More than 30 of New York City’s top law firms sponsored the event.