Public Counsel

In 1968, Fred Nicholas was named by the president of the Beverly Hills Bar Association, Chairman of a Committee on the Future of the Bar. It was at this time that Ralph Nader was a guest speaker at a Beverly Hills Bar Association lunch and spoke about the responsibilities of lawyers to the community. He criticized the legal profession for “Not Giving Back”.

This message hit a nerve with Nicholas and he suggested to members of his Committee that the Beverly Hills Bar Association sponsor a pro-bono law firm to provide free legal services to the poor and needy. After two years of debate, the Beverly Hills Bar Association in 1970 authorized the formation of a pro-bono law firm under the name of Beverly Hills Bar Association Law Foundation. The Bar donated $5000 to its formation and Fred Nicholas was the first president with a staff of Stanley Levy as the first director and Ann Dominique Snyder as assistant. The fledgling organization survived on a donation of $20,000 from Nicholas and small gifts from the large Beverly Hills law firms.

After the birth of the Beverly Hills Bar Association Law Foundation, the most important event in its history was the joining in 1975 of the Los Angeles County Bar Association in co-sponsoring the foundation and the changing of its name to Public Counsel.

Today Public Counsel is the largest pro-bono law organization in the World, helping more than 25,000 individuals and entities each year. The value of its yearly services is more than $45 million.

Nicholas was awarded the Founders Award in 1990 by Public Counsel, and the Lloyd C. Cutler Lifetime Achievement Award from the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in 2008.

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