A legion of lawyers in dark suits and ties, pencil skirts and high heels walked the rain-slicked streets of Century City to the Hyatt Regency. Inside, barristers filled the ballroom to celebrate Bet Tzedek and the people who devote themselves to public service and social justice.
More than 1,000 of Los Angeles' most talented and generous lawyers pooled $2.3 million for "The House of Justice" during the 20th annual Dinner Gala on Jan. 22. They demonstrated their support for an organization that annually provides myriad legal services free of charge to 10,000 Los Angeles residents in need.
One of its founding members, Rabbi Stanley Levy, delivered opening remarks, oft quoting Einstein, and urged the crowd to consider the words, "We are here for the sake of others."
Bart Pachino, Bet Tzedek board member and vice president of asset management for KB Home, said the organization provides many lawyers with meaning and fulfillment.
"You know, when you're involved in the corporate world, the world of transactions, it's easy to forget why you got involved in law in the first place," he said. "This is a steady reminder."
Mitchell Kamin, president and CEO of Bet Tzedek, said, "I believe Bet Tzedek's work can affect the way children see the world."
He shared a personal and passionate story about a conversation he had with his young son, who was attending the annual dinner for the first time.
"How do you tell a 9-year-old boy that slavery exists in Los Angeles, California in 2008?" Kamin asked.
He discussed the case of a Peruvian woman named "Elena" who suffered terrible abuses at the hands of a human trafficker who promised her opportunity in the United States. After a concerned neighbor suggested a terrified and withdrawn Elena contact Bet Tzedek, a devoted lawyer worked tirelessly to help her earn back her freedom.
"I believe that this world can be one of compassion, caring and responsibility, that we can have faith in our legal system and faith in humanity," Kamin said.
Each year, more than 700 volunteers donate more than 35,000 hours of their time for pro-bono cases.
Representing the best of those involved were honorees Anna Burns, O'Melveny & Myers LLP and entertainment lawyer Kevin S. Marks, who was feted with the high prize of the evening -- the Luis Lainer Founder's Award -- and a special performance by client Tom Waits, along with an appearance by Hollywood couple Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.
The evening was a powerful reminder of how lawyers do work for the common good. Beyond the prestige of a high-powered firm, a multimillion-dollar settlement, company cars or a steep expense account, Bet Tzedek proves the greatest power of law is in exemplifying its core philosophy: to serve the public interest and actively seek justice for all.
SCENE AND HEARD...
Liz and Martin Nachimson were feted by the Ben Zakkai Honor Society (BZHS), an alumni society of NCSY, the popular youth program of the Orthodox Union. The North Hollywood couple was presented with the Enid and Harold H. Boxer Award on Jan. 6 for their role in establishing an OU presence on the West Coast. Martin Nachimson currently serves as chair of the OU's board of governors. The BZHS functions as a fundraising arm for summer programs in the United States and Israel.