Raising the Bar since 1983
In 1982, Legal Outreach Co-Founder and 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 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 38 years, Legal Outreach has used law related courses, activities and programs as vehicles for motivating urban teens to strive for academic success and professional careers.
In addition to the curricula, Legal Outreach has relied heavily on the strength of commitments from several 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, professional exposure, and simulated professional activities has inspired participants in the various 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, 865 students have completed the program, 98% have attended four-year colleges, and 60% 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.