Mission & History
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles seeks to achieve equal justice for poor and low-income people in greater Los Angeles. We change lives through direct representation, systems change and community education.
To achieve our mission, LAFLA’s expert team of attorneys, paralegals and support staff works with the community in a variety of ways:
- Provides direct representation
- Offers counsel and advice
- Provides referrals
- Educates the community about their legal rights through workshops and seminars
LAFLA’s legal priorities encompass:
- Supporting families
- Preserving quality, affordable housing
- Maintaining economic stability
- Promoting safety, security, and health
- Serving populations with special vulnerabilities
- Protecting human and civil rights
For detailed information on LAFLA’s services, please visit our services section.
Prior to Opening: John Saeger Bradway conceived of clinical legal education and traveled the country establishing legal aid clinics in major cities. His interest in legal services began when he realized that “the guarantee in the Constitution of equal protection under the law was not self-executing and that the words were no more magical than any other words until someone came along to give them life. Of course, that somebody had to be a lawyer since it was against the law for anyone else to practice this profession.”
Law School Dean Justin Miller brought Mr. Bradway to the University of Southern California (USC) to establish the law school equivalent of clinical training in medical school. Because there was no existing legal aid society, Mr. Bradway had the clinic provide legal services to clients who had “meritorious legal claims but not much money in their pockets.”
June 1929: The Southern California Legal Aid Clinic Association, LAFLA’s predecessor, is incorporated.
September 1929: The Legal Aid Clinic opened its doors at the Law School building on USC’s campus.
September 1930: In just one year, 1,400 people applied for legal services. In addition to regular staff, the Clinic recruited 72 students — the entire third-year class of USC’s law school.
1935: Having outgrown the space at USC, the Clinic moved to the Cotton Exchange Building at 106 W. 3rd St.
1937: The Board voted to adopt a new name — Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.
1953: The Legal Aid Foundation of Long Beach (LAFLB) was founded by the Long Beach Bar Association, and funded by contributions from lawyers and dues it received by serving as a Lawyer Referral and Information Service.
1971: LAFLA merged with the Los Angeles Neighborhood Legal Services Society (LANLSS), which had been created by the OEO, and re-opened four neighborhood law offices that had been closed because the OEO ceased funding their operations. The offices were in East LA, South LA (both still currently in use), Downtown, and Venice.
July 1971: LAFLA took over the Family Law Center at 125 W. 4th St. which had been operated by Western Center on Law & Poverty.
1977: The National Center for Immigrants, now named the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), was founded as part of LAFLA. NILC functioned as a national back-up center for advocates working on immigration matters.
1980: Gary Blasi (professor emeritus at UCLA Law School) and Barbara Blanco (now a professor at Loyola Law School) established LAFLA’s Eviction Defense Center (EDC). The EDC, which operates today at LAFLA’s West Office, was designed to process a high volume of clients facing eviction.
1984: LAFLA’s Immigrants’ Rights Office (IRO) was formed to provide direct representation to immigrants.
1985: The Union of Legal Services Workers of Los Angeles (ULSW/LA) chapter of the National Organization of Legal Services Workers amalgamated local union 2320 UAW, AFL-CIO.
1985: Several specialty units were created: Government Benefits, Employment Law (which in turn created the Labor Defense Network), and Homeless Law. The Maynard Toll Award was created and awarded at what was to become the annual Maynard Toll Luncheon, (now the annual Access to Justice Dinner) named after esteemed attorney Maynard Toll, credited with helping the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers gain national prominence, and a major figure in establishing federally funded legal services. Proceeds from the luncheon were used to create a family law counseling center in the downtown Los Angeles Courthouse.
June 1998: The Asian Pacific Islander (API) language hotlines were established in Korean, Chinese and Tagalog.
October 1999: LAFLA celebrated 70 years as the frontline law firm for the poor of Los Angeles.
January 2001: Merged with the Legal Aid Foundation of Long Beach, enabling the two organizations to better serve our diverse communities by sharing resources and expertise.
TODAY: With over 100 employees, five office locations, three Domestic Violence Clinics and four Self-Help Legal Access Centers located in courthouses throughout the Los Angeles metropolitan area, LAFLA is an integral part of the communities it serves. Our client services range from generating affordable housing and helping people move from welfare to work to providing eviction defense, relief from domestic violence and assistance with employment disputes.
As part of a community of advocates for the poor, LAFLA works alongside other legal services programs, public interest firms, law firms, private lawyers, social service providers, charitable organizations, law schools and community-based groups.
We continue our work through the generosity of those who support us: concerned individuals, law firms, corporations and foundations.