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90 Years of LAFLA

Since 1929, LAFLA has fought to achieve equal justice for people living in poverty across Greater Los Angeles. In 2019, LAFLA celebrated our 90 years of service to those in need.

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.”

1929
The Southern California Legal Aid Clinic Association, LAFLA’s predecessor, is incorporated.
The Legal Aid Clinic opened its doors at the Law School building on USC’s campus.
1929
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.​
1930
1935
Having outgrown the space at USC, the Clinic moved to the Cotton Exchange Building at 106 W. 3rd St.
1935
1937
The Board voted to adopt a new name — Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.
1937
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.​
1953
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.

LAFLA took over the Family Law Center at 125 W. 4th St. which had been operated by Western Center on Law & Poverty.
1971
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.
1977
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 was designed to process a high volume of clients facing wrongful eviction.
1980
1984
LAFLA’s Immigrants’ Rights Office (IRO) was formed to provide direct representation to immigrants.
1984
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.
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.
1985
1991
LAFLA opened Santa Monica office with funding assistance from City of Santa Monica.
1991
1998
The Asian Pacific Islander (API) language hotlines were established in Korean, Chinese, and Tagalog.
1998
1999
Start of Bill Smith Homeless Veterans’ Project, which eventually became the Veterans Justice Center, which provides free civil legal services to low-income Veterans.
1999
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.
Expanded Board of Directors to include community members who have interest in providing high-quality legal services to those living in poverty.
2001
2004
LAFLA hosted 75th anniversary symposium that brought together range of perspectives on challenge of realizing equal justice in Los Angeles.
2004
2017
Construction completed on Ron Olson Justice Center, LAFLA’s new headquarters at 1550 W. 8th Street.
2017
2019
LAFLA celebrated 90 years as the frontline law firm for those living in poverty across Greater Los Angeles.
2019

Today:

With more than 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 maintaining affordable housing and helping people move from welfare to work, to providing eviction defense, relief from domestic violence and assistance with record expungements.

As part of a community of advocates for those living in poverty, 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.