Oral history interview with Bruce Allen, conducted by Victor Geminiani
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Oral history interview with Bruce Allen, conducted by Victor Geminiani, September 3, 1991. Oral history collection, National Equal Justice Library, Special Collections, Georgetown Law Library.
In the interview, Bruce Allen discusses the establishment and early history of the Legal Aid Society of Sacramento County/Legal Aid Society of Northern California during the 1950s, and the support of the Sacramento County bar Association for the project. Allen recalls ongoing discussions about the types of cases the Society should handle (i.e., if they should handle divorce cases), and whether they should accept federal funding for legal aid. He discusses his involvement with the creation of the lawyer referral program, which used lawyer referrals as a source of funding for the legal aid program. He addresses the expansion of the program during the Great Society and highlights the importance of continued federal funding for legal aid programs (with federal funding, the Sacramento Legal Aid Society went from a budget of $20K to a $125K annual budget).
Bruce Allen graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall) in 1949. After law school, Mr. Allen went back to his hometown, Sacramento, CA, to work with the law firm of Downey, Brand, Seymour & Rohwer. In 1953, Mr. Allen left Downey, Brand, Seymour & Rohwer and formed McDonough Holland & Allen PC with two of his colleagues. At this new firm, he specialized in representing public and private entities and individuals throughout California. With the support of Archibald Mull, who had inspired him to do legal aid work, Mr. Allen developed a legal aid program modeled after a program in Portland, OR. He developed this program in cooperation with other attorneys and Dorothy Littlefield, a social worker. The Legal Aid Society was incorporated in 1956, and endorsed by the Sacramento County Bar Association (a 1953 vote by the Bar Association to establish a legal aid society had initially failed). Initial funding came from the United Crusade and from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. Bruce Allen continued to work with the Legal Aid Society of Northern California. McDonough Holland & Allen, PC eventually grew into a 100-attorney law firm with offices in Oakland and Yuba City by 2005. At one point it was the second largest law firm in Sacramento.
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