Raising the Bar since 1983
In 1982, Legal Outreach Co-Founder and former Executive Director, James O’Neal, graduated from Harvard Law School and came to New York as Harvard’s first Public Interest Law Fellowship recipient. Determined to serve teens in underserved communities, he taught law-related courses to students in Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant and the South Bronx. In the classroom, O’Neal discovered that he could sustain students’ interest and develop their academic skills by discussing legal issues prevalent in urban communities, including child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, and police use of force. O’Neal then designed and wrote four innovative, law-related curricula which continue to serve as the foundation of the organization’s work in New York City. For 40 years, Legal Outreach has used law-related courses, activities and programs as vehicles for motivating urban teens to strive for academic excellence and professional careers.
In addition to the curricula, Legal Outreach has relied heavily on the strength of commitments from myriad New York based institutions to bring the law and other professional career opportunities to life for program participants. Legal Outreach’s partners include 7 law schools, 44 law firms, 8 financial institutions, 3 real estate firms, 5 government agencies, 4 public interest organizations, and 150 attorney volunteers.
The combination of legal instruction, wide-ranging professional exposure, and simulated professional activities has inspired participants in the law-based programs to strive for more – educationally and professionally. To help them achieve their goals, Legal Outreach, in 1989, established College Bound, a comprehensive, four-year college preparation program designed to equip students from underserved communities with the tools they would need to succeed. Since the graduation of the first College Bound class in 1993, 971 students have completed the four-year program, 98% have attended four-year colleges, and over 70% have matriculated to the nation’s top-ranked colleges. In the vast majority of instances, program graduates are the first in their families to do so.
As of September 1, 2023, Legal Outreach is now guided by Tamika Edwards who is serving as the organization’s Executive Director after having previously served as the Managing Director of Program Operations. For more information about Legal Outreach, please contact Ms. Edwards at [email protected].