Bellow Scholars


Gary Bellow was one of the founders of the Clinical Legal Education movement and also played a key role in establishing legal services for the poor. He began his career as a highly-respected public defender in Washington, D.C., where in the mid-1960s he was influential in efforts to obtain funding for civil legal services for the poor under the newly formed Office of Economic Opportunity. With the funding in place, Gary worked for a two-year period with Neighborhood Legal Services in the District of Columbia, then moved to California to become Deputy Director of California Rural Legal Assistance, one of the most ambitious and innovative of the new OEO programs. In the fall of 1968, he became a law professor at the University of Southern California, while continuing to maintain a large and active caseload of both civil and criminal matters which he handled on a pro bono basis. Three years later, Gary left USC for Harvard, which was to be his professional home for almost thirty years.

By the time he arrived at Harvard, Gary had already developed a highly successful clinical program at USC, and had become one of the leading theoreticians of the movement. Clinical programs had been operational for only a year or two at the schools that had them, and did not exist at many other schools. Gary examined the question of how students best learn in the clinical setting, and began to develop innovative methods and materials. He also realized that there was a dearth of useful material on what lawyers actually do and need to know in practice, and, with Bea Moulton, began to compile the readings that would later be published as “The Lawyering Process: Materials for Clinical Instruction in Advocacy” (Foundation Press, 1978). Simultaneously, he also took on cases and became a leader in the legal services community in Boston, winning important legal victories and working tirelessly to strengthen and expand the services available to poor people. His most tangible legacy is Harvard’s community-based Hale and Dorr Legal Services Center, which for more than twenty years has served thousands of clients each year while providing a high quality clinical experience to hundreds of law students.

After Gary’s death in May of 2000, the AALS Section on Clinical Education decided to establish the Bellow Scholar Program to honor his memory and further the social justice goals to which he devoted his life.


Gary Bellow was not a man who looked back and savored his accomplishments. Committed to improving the lives of people experiencing poverty until the day of his death, Gary focused on developing advocates skills and knowledge base. As a result it seemed completely appropriate to make the program named in his honor forward-thinking and focused on the future as well. The hope is that the Bellow Scholars will be selected annually and will be clinicians who are embarking on important efforts to improve the quality of justice in their communities, and thus would like the support and counsel of their peers as they carry out their plans.

The Bellow Scholar will receive recognition for his/her important undertaking and also the opportunity to meet with interested peers both in developing the project and evaluating the extent to which the project has accomplished its objectives. It is hoped that these Bellow Scholar gatherings will become a regular part of annual conferences and workshops, and will be a forum in which the qualities that characterized Gary’s own work, particularly innovation and critical analysis, can be advanced in the clinical community. Unfortunately, at this point in time, the AALS Clinical Section cannot offer financial support for the projects proposed by Bellow Scholars.


Selecting the Bellow Scholar will be the responsibility of the Section’s reconstituted Committee on Lawyering in the Public Interest. Each year, applications will be due in mid-October, with the Bellow Scholar for the coming year, if any, announced at the time of the AALS Annual Meeting in January. At the next AALS workshop or conference on clinical legal education, generally in the succeeding May or June, there will be an opportunity for the new Bellow Scholar to present his/her ideas to a group of interested colleagues and receive their comments and suggestions. As appropriate, this session may also include follow-up reports from previous Bellow Scholars, so that the clinical community can continue to be involved in the process of evaluating and learning from ongoing projects. While formal written reports will not be required, it is hoped that the work of many Bellow Scholars will be published and/or disseminated more widely in written form.