City Bar Justice Center to Honor Venable and MetLife with Pro Bono Awards – Event Moved to Sep. 24

New York, April 1, 2020 – The City Bar Justice Center’s 15th Annual Gala will honor the law firm Venable LLP and financial services company MetLife, Inc. with the 2020 City Bar Justice Awards for their leadership and dedication to pro bono and public service. Originally scheduled for April 1, 2020, the Gala will take place on September 24.

This year’s gala will support the Justice Center’s work protecting the rights of over 26,000 low-income New Yorkers annually through pro bono legal assistance, community outreach and education, and the largest free civil legal hotline in New York. These efforts are rapidly expanding to meet the legal needs of New Yorkers during the COVID-19 pandemic, including assistance for small business owners and front-line health care workers. The Justice Center leverages over $15 million worth of pro bono legal services each year.

Pro Bono Work Without Borders

More than a name that evokes credibility of long standing, Venable is a vibrant firm of trusted advisors who have served clients on a full range of legal matters across the United States and globally for 120 years. Their commitment to pro bono and public service has been constant throughout. They work closely with the Justice Center to help people who are fleeing persecution overseas seek safety and status in the United States. Since 2010, their attorneys have taken on nearly 60 immigration matters through the Justice Center’s Immigrant Justice Project, including seven new matters in the past year, and roughly half of Venable’s 13 open immigration cases have been pending for nearly five years.

Edmund M. O’Toole, partner in the Commercial Litigation Practice at Venable, said, “These matters are both humbling and enriching for our lawyers, expanding our understanding of the world and the impact of the service that we can offer here and now. We are honored to assist the City Bar Justice Center in this important work on behalf of asylum seekers, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration for many years to come.” 

Expanding Access to Civil Justice

For more than 150 years, MetLife has helped generations of people around the world protect their finances, family and future. In the process, it has shown a commitment to safeguarding families, serving communities and strengthening society as a whole.

MetLife’s Legal Affairs team, through its diversity committee, takes a holistic approach to pro bono, diversity and talent initiatives that engage employees across all levels and disciplines. The team primarily focuses its pro bono program on legal services, community involvement and increasing diversity throughout the legal profession. Through a partnership with MetLife Foundation, they also provide financial support to legal, cultural and volunteer organizations.

The team is passionate about helping those in need navigate everyday legal challenges. For more than a decade, they have participated in numerous City Bar Justice Center events, including Monday Night Law.

Most recently, MetLife partnered with the City Bar Justice Center’s Consumer Bankruptcy Project to provide underrepresented New Yorkers with legal counsel and support on a range of consumer debt issues. During the three-hour legal clinic, pro bono volunteers met with clients one-on-one to help them navigate complex bankruptcy filing processes. They advised clients in English and Spanish on their rights and responsibilities, and helped them prepare essential forms and schedules.

MetLife’s executive vice president and general counsel, Stephen W. Gauster, said the following on their team’s experience as Justice Center civil justice advocates engaging in pro bono work, “Our employees invest hundreds of hours every year volunteering in this city, and City Bar Justice Center is one of our most important partners. These programs serve as a critical lifeline to those in need, and we’re humbled to help in executing the mission”.

Recognizing Exemplary Leadership in Public Service

“Venable’s and MetLife’s contributions are a testament to the significant impact pro bono work can have on the lives of disadvantaged communities,” said Lynn M. Kelly, Executive Director of the City Bar Justice Center. “Their efforts help strengthen the Justice Center’s mission to increase equal access to justice for all. We are proud to be honoring them this year.”

Roger Juan Maldonado, President of the New York City Bar Association, and David Levine, Chair of the City Bar Fund Board, will present the awards. Edmund M. O’Toole, partner at Venable, and Stephen W. Gauster, executive vice president and general counsel of MetLife, will accept the awards on behalf of Venable and MetLife, respectively.

For more information about the annual gala or to purchase tickets, please contact our Gala Office at: or 212-247-6188.

About the City Bar Justice Center

The City Bar Justice Center, the pro bono affiliate of the New York City Bar Association, increases access to justice by leveraging the resources of the New York City legal community. The Justice Center operates the city’s busiest legal hotline and annually provides direct legal representation, community education and advocacy to over 26,000 New Yorkers in areas including immigration, homelessness, veterans assistance, housing, elderlaw, cancer advocacy and entrepreneurship.

About MetLife

MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET), through its subsidiaries and affiliates (“MetLife”), is one of the world’s leading financial services companies, providing insurance, annuities, employee benefits and asset management to help its individual and institutional customers navigate their changing world. Founded in 1868, MetLife has operations in more than 40 markets globally and holds leading positions in the United States, Japan, Latin America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. For more information, visit

About Venable LLP

Venable LLP is an American Lawyer Global 100 law firm headquartered in Washington, DC that serves as primary counsel to a worldwide clientele of large and mid-sized organizations, nonprofits, high-net-worth entrepreneurs, and other individuals. With more than 850 professionals across the country, including California, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Virginia, and Washington, DC, the firm strategically advances its clients’ objectives in the U.S. and around the globe. Venable, which is celebrating its 120-year anniversary, advises clients on a broad range of business and regulatory law, legislative affairs, complex litigation, and the full range of intellectual property disciplines. For more information, please visit