On May 17 a crowd of nearly 400 people gathered at the iconic Pierre Hotel in New York City to recognize two foremost community leaders and raise awareness for the vital role that legal services plays in combating social and economic injustice. The 2018 Gala celebration saluted the tenacity, courage and strength of the over 70,000 clients NYLAG served last year.

Photo by Eileen Meny

Steven M. Cohen, Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel of MacAndrews & Forbes Incorporated, was honored for his longtime service to the community and his commitment to philanthropy.  James E. Brandt, NYLAG Board member and partner at Latham & Watkins, was recognized for leadership on the Board and his steadfast commitment to access to justice.

“We are delighted to pay tribute this evening to Jimmy Brandt and Steve Cohen – and to celebrate NYLAG, a uniquely nimble and innovative organization that I have been honored to lead as board chairman for 18 years. When I started NYLAG had 30 in staff, a tiny Board, a budget of just over $2 million and served about 6,600,”said NYLAG Board Chair Abby Milstein, a founding partner of Constantine Cannon. “Today, NYLAG is a major provider of free civil legal services with almost 300 in staff, a Board of 25 outstanding people, a budget nearing $30 million and pro bono services valued at over $20 million.”

Steven M. Cohen and James E. Brandt. Photo by Eileen Meny

Over 20 law firms sponsored the 2018 Gala, contributing significantly to the over $1.25 million the event raised. The private bar has long been a vital NYLAG partner, extending its ability to deliver the highest quality civil legal assistance to the greatest number of people. In the past year, law firms provided services to NYLAG clients valued at over $26 million.

“NYLAG is proud to honor Jimmy Brandt and Steve Cohen, such talented lawyers, public spirited citizens, and strong believers in access to justice. Thank you both for making this evening such a success,” said NYLAG President and Attorney-in-Charge, Beth Goldman. “At NYLAG we believe that by changing the life of a single person, we are changing the world. We are only able to do that because of our extraordinary staff.  They are a group of remarkable people whose talent is only exceeded by their commitment to – and respect for — the people they serve.”


Jazmin Zamora at the 2018 NYLAG Gala. Photo by Eileen Meny

A highlight of the evening was a speech given by Jazmin Zamora, a 22-year-old immigrant mother, who spoke about her struggle to break free from an abusive marriage and the role her attorney and the entire NYLAG family played in helping her start a new life with her young daughter.

“Two years ago, I thought my life was over.  Now, because of NYLAG, everything is different. I am safe, and my daughter is safe. My whole life looks different. And even more important than that, Abby’s life looks different,” said Zamora. “I am standing here today because of NYLAG.”


Guests watched a video that shared the story of Zamora and four other New Yorkers whose lives were transformed thanks to the skill and dedication of their NYLAG attorneys. Watch the video here.