Gary Bellow was the founder and former faculty director of Harvard Law School’s Clinical Programs, and a pioneering public interest lawyer.
Bellow was a specialist in the areas of public interest law and poverty law and was considered to be one of the founders of modern clinical legal education. At Harvard, Bellow inaugurated a new model of clinical legal training in which large numbers of students are exposed to simulated exercises and extensive hands-on practice, under the guidance of Law School faculty and experienced attorneys, at on-site facilities in local communities.
He was a co-founder of and a clinical instructor at the Hale and Dorr (now WilmerHale) Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, the School’s major legal clinic, located in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston. Under Bellow’s leadership, the School’s Clinical Programs developed from two courses (both taught by Bellow) and three clinical supervisors to more than 20 courses with more than 35 supervisors, and involves some 450 students who represent more than 5,000 clients a year at the Center, the Criminal Justice Institute, student practice organizations, and outside agencies.
Bellow was born on June 9, 1935, in New York City. He received an A.B. from Yale University in 1957, a LL.B. in 1960 from Harvard Law School, and a LL.M. from Northwestern University School of Law in 1961. After graduation from law school, Bellow served in the Army from 1961 to 1962. He then embarked on a career dedicated to providing legal services to the poor.
From 1962 to 1965 he served as deputy director of the Legal Aid Agency for the District of Columbia, where he and his colleagues faced an enormous caseload with no job training. “We discovered the best legal education America had to offer didn’t teach us how to get someone out of a cell block,” he told the Harvard Law Bulletin.
He then joined the United Planning Organization in Washington, D.C., a community-organizing group, and served as administrative director in 1965 and as deputy executive director from 1965 to 1968.
Bellow served as deputy director of California Rural Legal Assistance from 1966 to 1968, where he worked on community organizing and legal assistance for migrant farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley. Bellow’s work brought him in contact with Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers and in conflict with then California Governor Ronald Reagan.
Bellow served as Associate Professor of Law at the University of Southern California School of Law from 1968 to 1971. He continued his work with the United Farm Workers and added new clients, including the Black Panther Party.
Bellow joined the Harvard faculty in 1971 as Visiting Professor of Law. He became Professor of Law in 1972 and Louis D. Brandeis Professor of Law in 1993. He served as Faculty Director of the Clinical Programs from 1992 to 1996.
He was a member of numerous boards and organizations. He was a consultant to the Council on Legal Education and Professional Responsibility, the United Planning Organization Legal Defender Project and Neighborhood Legal Program in Washington, D.C., the Children’s Defense Fund, and the National Legal Services Corporation. He was a board member of Community Justice Center, Rural Development Corporation, Vera Institute of Justice, Massachusetts Advocacy Center, and Greater Boston Legal Services.
He received many awards including: Common Cause’s 1997 Public Achievement Award, the Access to Justice Award in 1996; the Massachusetts Bar Association Lifetime Legal Services Award in 1996; the CRCLLR Award for Outstanding Clinical Legal Teaching in 1995; the Association of American Law Schools Award for Outstanding Clinical Teaching in 1985; the National Legal Aid and Defender Association Reginald Heber Smith Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Legal Aid Movement in the United States in 1968; and the District of Columbia Bar Association Young Lawyers of the Year award in 1964.
He died in April, 2000.