A People’s History of Legal Aid

A brief sketch

Authored by: Shaun Ossei-Owusu

The Routledge Handbook of Poverty in the United States

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415673440
eBook ISBN: 9781315755519
Adobe ISBN: 9781317627401


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Legal aid typically refers to the organized provision of advice and counseling as it relates to substantive and procedural legal issues for indigent clients. The most influential analyses of legal aid tend to start slightly before the Progressive Era, with the development of the Der Deutsche Rechtsschutz Verein (German Law Association) in 1876, which was designed to offer legal aid to German immigrants to New York City (Smith, 1919; Maguire, 1928; Johnson, 1974; McConville and Mirsky, 1987; Rhode, 2004). These immigrants were often susceptible to the chicanery and exploitation that was common of the Gilded Age. The organization’s work

was to protect the immigrant from the thief who took his little hoard for railway tickets that were never delivered, or for property that never existed; or, worse still, who exchanged for him his good German coin into counterfeit American money.

(Loew, 1902: 126)

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