Letter from Alan Houseman at Time of Harvard Tribute

November 11, 1995

Gary Bellow, Professor
Harvard Law School
Cambridge, MA 02138

Dear Gary:

 There is no person working in legal services today that deserves this special tribute more than you.  

 You have been an early leader in developing legal services and in pressing for innovations within the institutions providing legal assistance through your work in the District of Columbia,  California Rural Legal Assistance, the Western Center on Law and Poverty, the University of Southern California Law School, the CDF office at Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services, Harvard Law School and, most significant,  the Legal Services Institute. 

 You have been an important national leader of legal services.  Beginning with your early contacts with Jean and Edgar Cahn and your work as Deputy Director in D.C. you helped set the framework for the beginning of legal services through the Office of Economic Opportunity and then helped carried out the task through the National Advisory Committee.   Your role on the Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants of the American Bar Association was pivotal to its support and leadership on legal services in the dark days of the early 1970s.  Your vision helped set a framework for critical early efforts around the Legal Services Corporation such as the regulatory development effort of the "Umbrella" group in which you played such an important role.  And you work and leadership on the Civil Committee of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association helped maintain a vision for legal services of political lawyering that was essential to the values that continue to drive the national legal services movement.     

 I will never forget the insights you brought to our joint work on regulations and other early LSC policy issues.  Our many discussions over the years have helped provide a framework in which to operate as well as reinforcing the values and beliefs about the causes of poverty and the empowering of  low-income Americans which we share.            

 You have been an inspiration to and a mentor for thousands of young law students and lawyers through your work  at Southern California, Harvard and the Legal Services Institute.  You taught and guided many of the most effective advocates in legal services today and inspired others of us to continue in the trenches when more lucrative options were available. 

 Perhaps your most significant contribution has been your continuing efforts to improve the quality and effectiveness of the daily legal work which is the essence of legal services.  While others of us have focussed on and sought to preserve policy advocacy and impact litigation as essential ingredients of legal services practice, you have continued to point out by your writing and your work that, in the long run,  the daily practice of the legal services lawyers in the trenches will make the most difference to low-income Americans.  While I and others sought to improve legal services from the top, you chose to struggle from the bottom.  Who knows what the ultimate outcome of our work will be, but it is clear that the path you choose is at least as effective, and probably more so, than the path that I and others have pursued.  

 The legal services community owes you a great deal for your past contributions to its survival and vitality.  If we can now take up your call for attention to how we do and institutionalize high quality, focussed practice of poverty law, we may find the direction to lead us out of the wilderness of a social and political milieu hostile to much of our work and the clients we represent.   

 I am honored to be present on this special evening of tribute to you and to participate in celebrating your accomplishments.  I am glad that I have been your friend, for it means much to me.  


      Alan W. Houseman


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