Necessary Legends: The National Equal Justice Library and the Importance of Poverty Lawyers' History

27 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2011

Date Written: January 1, 1998


In an era of declining resources and a fractured national legal service community, program directors and other leaders want to focus on the future, to build a vision that will account for changes both in the legal needs of the poverty population and in the structural and funding base for Legal Services and public defender programs. The author argues that to do so, such leaders must look to the past, not simply to avoid repeating its mistakes. Paradoxically, if lawyers for the poor and their friends do not look to the past, they are threatened with continuing it rather than finding the new moment which the vision and experience of the past makes possible. It is in the encounter with the stories of the past that each lawyer’s – each client’s – own history becomes visible and clear to her and becomes transformed for the future. The case for attending to the history of legal assistance for the poor is threefold: it is crucial to a vision that will sustain the forward movement of legal assistance programs and successfully beat back propaganda against such programs; it is demanded by the client-centered ethic of these programs; and it is important to a continued sense of community within the legal assistance movement. the National Equal Justice hereby forms an important vehicle for this effort.

Keywords: Legal Services, poverty law, poverty lawyers, legal assistance programs, client-centered ethic, public defender programs, National Equal Justice Library

Suggested Citation

Failinger, Marie A., Necessary Legends: The National Equal Justice Library and the Importance of Poverty Lawyers' History (January 1, 1998). St. Louis University Public Law Review, Vol. 17, No. 2, p. 265, 1998, Available at SSRN:

Marie A. Failinger (Contact Author)

Mitchell Hamline School of Law ( email )

875 Summit Ave
St. Paul, MN 55105-3076
United States

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