Justice and Reform is the first study of the origins, philosophy, creation, management, and impact of the Office of Economic Opportunity Legal Services Program. As such, it clearly and concisely describes the Program’s role both as an instrument of equal justice and as a strategy for overcoming poverty. Timely, important, and unique, it tells the story behind the OEO Legal Services Program—an endeavor that has been called both the most successful element of the war on poverty and the most stimulating development to occur in the American legal profession during the Twentieth Century.
The early chapters in the book reveal the nature and motivations of the two groups which joined to create the Program: the conservative, American Bar Association sponsored 89-year-old legal aid movement and the Ford Foundation-financed neighborhood lawyer experiments that started in 1962 under the direction of young activist lawyers. Why they merged and how they merged forms the background for a description of how the partners persuaded the OEO bureaucracy to start a legal services program and convinced over 200 communities (including most large cities) to set up a federally funded legal assistance agency.
Legal Services Program established policy, how it settled upon “law reform” as the priority function of the Program, how it preserved the integrity of its policies within OEO, and how it caused its grantees to engage in law reform. Chapter 8 evaluates, for the first time, the economic, political, and social impact of the Program as of 1972. The final chapter speculates on the future of government-subsidized legal assistance in the United States from the perspective of the OEO program’s twin goals of equal justice and social reform.