Lawyers: The Missionaries

Many of the Supreme Court's recent criminal-law decisions have a common element: in one way or another, they reflect the law's discrimination against the poor. They have challenged the adequacy of the bar's long tradition of giving free help through legal-aid societies. Case after case has been a reminder that by waiting for clients to come to them—often in offices far from the slums—legal-aid services have apparently failed to reach vast numbers of people who need them, in civil as well as criminal matters.

In 1964 legal-aid societies as well as public defenders tackled 620,000 cases. Yet the American Bar...

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