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Legal Aid Society
The Legal Aid Society is the United States' oldest and largest provider of legal services to the indigent. It operates both traditional civil and criminal law cases.
Founded in 1876, the Society provides a full range of civil legal services, as well as criminal defense work, and juvenile representation in Family Court. The Society's core service is to provide free legal assistance to New Yorkers who live at or below the poverty level and cannot afford to hire a lawyer when confronted with a legal problem.
The first attorney for the Society was Charles K. Lexow who was hired in 1876.
The Society handles more than 200,000 indigent criminal cases every year, acts as legal guardian to more than 30,000 children and represents families, individuals and community groups in more than 30,000 cases. Legal Aid also conducts major class action litigation on behalf of thousands of welfare recipients, foster children, homeless families, elderly poor, inmates at Rikers Island and prisoners.
In New York City, the group acts as an agency for contract attorneys for criminal defendant.