The Early LSC Era: Growth and Expansion

1975: First LSC board sworn in and takes control

The LSC Act created a private, nonprofit corporation that was controlled by an independent,bipartisan Board, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. No more than six of the Board’s 11 members could come from the same political party. The initial selection of Board members was delayed by President Nixon’s resignation. It took almost a year for President Gerald Ford to appoint and the Senate to confirm the first LSC Board of Directors.

Opponents of LSC urged the President to appoint several leading critics of the program to the Board. On July 14, 1975, the first of Board of Directors of LSC was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, who had led the ABA in endorsing legal services. The Board was chaired by Roger Cramton, Dean of Cornell Law School and former Chair of the Administrative Conference of the U.S., and included, among others, Robert Kutak, who later headed the ABA Committee that drafted the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, and Revius Ortique, Jr., a prominent lawyer from New Orleans who had been on the original National Advisory Committee and had been President of the National Bar Association. The first LSC Board included both liberal and conservative members, but all were supportive of the basic goals of the legal services program, the delivery of effective and efficient legal services to poor people. Ninety days after the Board was confirmed, on October 12, 1975, LSC officially took control of the federal legal services program from the Community Services Administration, the successor to OEO.

During the year-long delay before the LSC Board was confirmed, the legal services community and the organized bar worked to prepare for the establishment of the Legal Services Corporation. Of particular note was the development of a complete set of model regulations by the “Umbrella Group” consisting of representatives of the ABA, NLADA, PAG,and the National Clients Council, the organization funded by OEO and later by LSC that represented clients of the federally funded legal services programs. These model regulations set the framework for many of the final regulations that were ultimately promulgated by LSC.

Initial policies set LSC direction

The new Board’s decisions on major policy issues—selecting a staff that included many experienced legal services advocates, continuing support for the national back-up centers,maintaining a strong national training and communications capacity, adopting regulations that permitted legal services attorneys to provide full professional representation to the low-income community, and maintaining the basic staff attorney structure of the program—all reflected a desire to ensure that the poor received effective legal representation and an appreciation of the merits of the existing delivery system. The delivery and support structure put in place by OEO was carried over fundamentally unchanged by LSC when it began to function in 1975.

The Board selected Thomas Ehrlich, the former Dean of Stanford Law School to serve as the first LSC President. Former OEO Office of Legal Services Director Clint Bamberger, who had also served as Dean of the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University, was selected to serve as Executive Vice President. The new LSC staff worked out of the national headquarters in Washington, D.C. Nine regional offices were spread across the country.

Initially, there was some tension between the legal services field programs and the LSC staff and Board. Several field leaders were worried that LSC would serve simply as the enforcer of restrictions. Nevertheless, the relationship shortly evolved into one of close collaboration, quite similar to the relationship that had existed between field programs and OEO. LSC related to legal services programs through regional offices, training programs, technical assistance, and substantive law conferences.

The regional offices played a critical role in expanding the legal services program to previously unserved areas of the country, and they worked closely with the leaders of local programs in their regions. While LSC was somewhat more bureaucratic than OEO had been, the new LSC, like OEO, de-emphasized its regulatory compliance role in favor of incentives, encouragement, assistance, and a spirit of partnership.

President Carter appoints new LSC board chaired by Hillary Rodham

President Jimmy Carter appointed a new LSC Board to replace those members who had been appointed by President Ford. The new Board was chaired by Hillary Rodham, then a private practitioner and the wife of the young Governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton. The Board also included F. William McCalpin, who had been instrumental in garnering ABA support for the legal services program, and Mickey Kantor, a successful lawyer and political activist who had been a legal services lawyer and a staff member at OEO.

In 1978, the LSC Board named Dan Bradley to replace Tom Ehrlich as LSC President. Bradley was a former legal services attorney who had once served as the LSC regional director in Atlanta and as special assistant to the director of the Community Services Administration, which replaced OEO when it was dismantled in 1972.

Related oral histories

Askew, Hulett “Bucky” — Interview by Victor Geminiani, 1991 Jul 22
Directed the southern regional office in Atlanta, then deputy director of an LSC office in Washington, DC.

Bamberger, Clinton — Interview by Christopher Brown, 2002 Jun 04
First vice-president of LSC.

Clinton, Hillary – Interview by Victor Geminiani, 1991 Jul 21
Second board chair of LSC.

Ehrlich, Thomas — Interview by Alan Houseman, 2004 May 27
First president of LSC.

Houseman, Alan — Interview by Linda Perle, 2018 Jan 22
Director of research institute at LSC and various other roles.

Lyons, Clinton “Clint” — Interview by Victor Geminiani, 1991 Jul 23
LSC staff insider. Deputy director of the southern regional office in Atlanta, then director of an LSC office in Washington, DC.

McCalpin, Bill — Interview by Linda Perle, 2002 Aug 09
LSC board member and ultimately board chair.

Perle, Linda – Interview by Alan Houseman, 2018 Jan. 22
LSC staff insider who played various roles.

Singsen III, Antoine G. — Interview by Victor Geminiani, 1991 Nov 01
Ultimately became LSC vice-president after Bamberger.

Tull, John — Interview by Alan Houseman, 2016 Nov 10