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History

Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (Lawyers' Committee) is affiliated with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which began at the behest of President John Kennedy in 1963. The national Committee was formed to assist the civil rights movement in the South, which was seeking to make equal protection of the law a reality for African Americans.

In December 1968, 16 prominent members of the San Francisco Bar - headed by Richard C. Dinkelspiel, then president of the Bar Association San Francisco, and Robert H. Fabian, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the Bank of America - spearheaded the San Francisco Lawyers' Committee for Urban Affairs. Their stated purpose was: "To enlist the members of the legal profession and their skills, leadership and special competence in a major effort to help solve the problems of low income communities," particularly African American communities.

Since then, Lawyers' Committee staff and a host of pro bono attorneys have provided thousands of hours of free legal assistance and representation to advance civil rights, including the rights to adequate housing, employment and social services, education, health care, economic security and fair treatment within the criminal justice system. The effectiveness of Lawyers' Committee's organizational model is rooted in our ability to harness the power of the Bay Area private bar in support of critical civil rights issues.

Initially, Lawyers' Committee was made up of a very small staff coupled with a membership of lawyers who, through financial contributions and volunteer time, demonstrated strong support to a variety of projects. Such initiatives included developing innovative bank financing arrangements for black retailers making credit sales to minority customers, drafting fair housing ordinances for an ad hoc committee comprised of representatives of numerous local fair housing groups, and creating publicly funded neighborhood organizations who provided assistance to African American teens in the juvenile justice system.

Throughout the past four decades, Lawyers' Committee has grown in size and in the breadth of the legal work it performs. From direct legal services to high impact litigation, we have made significant contributions to the fight for racial, immigrant and economic justice and have become - and remain - one of the most active affiliates nationwide. Having successfully litigated cases that resulted in the integration of the San Francisco Unified School District and the inclusion of women and African Americans into the San Francisco Fire Department, Lawyers' Committee has carved out a crucial space in the history of the Bay Area's racial, immigrant, and economic justice movements.

We are proud of our role as leading legal advocates in the Bay Area, rising to meet the community's changing needs in response to the shifting social and political climate of the region. As we move forward in the fight for racial, immigrant, and economic justice, we will strive to be proactive, collaborative, community-centered, and place-based. Our community-centered approach is reflected in new on-site clinics, expanded partnerships with community based organizations, and advocacy projects that are informed and driven by our strong community ties.

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