Women's History Month 2008
Steven Banks, Attorney-in-Chief, served as the master of ceremonies for the reception in celebration Women's History Month. The Attorneys-in-Charge of the four Legal Aid offices in Brooklyn are women. They are (from left) Dawn Ryan, Emily Ruben, Karen Simmons and Diane Lutwak. Standing next to Mr. Banks is Marie Richardson.

The Legal Aid Society celebrated Women's History Month on March 26, with a special reception at the Society's Brooklyn offices at 111 Livingston Street. More than 80,000 Brooklyn residents receive legal assistance each year through the Society's Civil, Criminal and Juvenile Rights Practices which operate four offices in Brooklyn. The four Legal Aid offices in Brooklyn are all headed by women, including Diane Lutwak, Attorney-in-Charge of the Brooklyn Office For the Aging; Dawn Ryan, Attorney-in-Charge of the Brooklyn Criminal Office; Emily Ruben, Attorney-in-Charge of the Brooklyn Neighborhood Office; and Karen Simmons, Attorney-in-Charge of the Brooklyn Juvenile Rights Office. Brooklyn Borough President Marty P. Markowitz participated in the event and presented the four Brooklyn Attorneys-in-Charge with certificates. Council Member David I Weprin participated in the celebration and addressed the audience. Among the honored guests were a number of judges in all courts throughout the City. Many of them were alumni of the Society.

Among the speakers were Marie A. Richardson, Diversity Officer & Director of Legal Recruitment, and Evelyn Santiago-Valdez, a member of the support staff.

The Legal Aid Society's legacy to Brooklyn spans more than a century of service which began in 1895 when residents were helped through the pro bono services of a Brooklyn attorney in space provided by the Plymouth Church. Other Brooklyn residents had to travel to the Society's main office. An early history of the Society pointed out that the burden of that trip: "the loss of time and the cost of carfare to many a defrauded workman or deserted wife in Brooklyn make their application for help almost prohibitive."

It was not until 1907 when the Society opened its first office in Brooklyn at 186 Remsen Street through the efforts of Rosalie Loew, the first woman to serve as the Attorney-in-Chief of the Society. The Society was forced to close the office in 1909 because financial support was lagging. Ms. Loew continued her efforts and a concert at Carnegie Hall raised $4,155 and the Society was able to reopen the Brooklyn office in 1910 in the Brooklyn Eagle building at 303-305 Washington Street. Today there are a total of approximately 200 Legal Aid lawyers serving residents in Brooklyn.

To see more photos from this event, please click here.