In 1993, Richard J. Medalie, a successful Washington lawyer, wrote to his fellow Harvard Law School classmates to solicit their involvement in “an exciting development” that had occurred during their 35th Reunion. “Members of our Class,” he reported, “voted to establish a Class of 1958 sponsored and funded foundation to help organize, establish, and guide state centers for law in the public interest throughout the country.”
Thus was launched an entity stemming from discussions that had been germinating for several years amongst Medalie and a group of fellow Harvard-trained lawyers who sought a new approach to pro bono legal organizations. Their strategy was to focus on broad systemic social initiatives, rather than the traditional model of providing legal services to individuals.
“I don’t think any of us in that original group – in our wildest optimism – could have anticipated Appleseed would have developed this way. It was a group of friends who had an idea of how to utilize the talents of accomplished lawyers for the public good. So we started slowly, and a lot of people put an enormous amount of effort into it and found they got tremendous satisfaction in watching the seeds blossom,” said founding member Arthur R. Miller, who is currently a University Professor at New York University School of Law. Although litigation was certainly a weapon in the arsenal, policy analysis, research, legislation, and rule-making were better suited to the organization’s mission. The central theme that united the first Appleseed generation was the notion that law is not just something to restrain abuses, but rather is an opportunity to give people the chance to fulfill their potential in life.
“We have called the entity formed to carry on this program Appleseed,” Medalie’s letter announced, “because our concept is to plant a seed from which a public service activity involving lawyers, young and old, can grow and develop across the country.”