The AIDS Legal Referral Panel was founded in 1983 by attorneys Frederick Hertz, Steven Richter, Mark Senick, and Gary James
Wood. It was originally a committee of the LGBT organization Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF). Hertz, Richter,
Senick, and Wood understood that many gay men in the Bay Area were near death from complications of AIDS and were without
the knowledge or resources to create wills, durable powers of attorney, and other legal paperwork necessary to die with dignity
intact and with wishes about health care and disposition of assets in place. The four began by publicizing a phone number
where people with AIDS could call to receive legal help and by recruiting other attorneys to join them.
The legal community leveraged its skills and resources through ALRP to respond to the crisis by providing those dying with
AIDS the right to die with peace of mind. As Hertz recounts, "[preparing emergency wills] was wrenching. But if people asked
me how I kept my sanity, it was through using my legal skills in a way that really helped people. I was doing something productive
and meaningful and focused my grief on making a difference in people's lives."
The vision and activism of this small group: four founders and ten original Panel members, sustained the organization for
several years without any other infrastructure. First led by BALIF co-chair Steve Richter with a list of telephone numbers,
then by Gary James Wood when Richter developed AIDS in 1983, the organization operated solely as a volunteer-staffed organization
until 1986, at which time ALRP hired attorney Clint Hockenberry.
With Hockenberry at the helm the ALRP grew from a grassroots community of concerned attorneys to an established lawyer referral
service. Fundraising efforts excelled and extensive recruitment, training, and supervision of ALRP's pro bono attorneys began.
ALRP also partnered with the Bar Association of San Francisco's Volunteer Legal Services Program, a move which increased the
legitimacy and visibility of the organization.
Hockenberry expanded outreach to better serve people of color, children, women, injection drug users, non-native English speakers,
and the homeless. During his tenure, ALRP hosted the first national AIDS Law Conference and published the first AIDS Law Manual;
extended outreach to other counties; garnered Ryan White CARE Act funds; founded ALRP's Public Policy Project; and became
an independent organization in 1990, separate from BALIF, with a formal Board of Directors.
In March 1992, Clint Hockenberry passed away from AIDS, but under his leadership the ALRP had grown from an organization that
formed in reaction to a crisis to an agency creatively and proactively responding to and anticipating the ever-changing needs
of the HIV/AIDS community. As those with HIV/AIDS began living longer, Kristin Chambers, ALRP's second Executive Director,
and her successor, Irwin Keller, continued Hockenberry's model of dynamic client services. Under Chambers' and Keller's tenures,
the 1990s saw an expansion of services and public policy efforts and an improved client referral system that better served
the legal needs of the HIV/AIDS community. Full-time housing attorneys were hired when rising real estate prices left many
in the HIV/AIDS community confronting homelessness.
In addition, "Working in the Cycle of HIV," an educational manual published in conjunction with AIDS Benefits Counselors (now
Positive Resource Center) and the Employment Law Center, was created to respond to the large numbers of people with HIV/AIDS
wanting to return to the workplace after experiencing positive outcomes from new treatments. On the public policy front, ALRP
advocated for national health care reform; continued and improved HIV privacy and confidentiality protections; and argued
for Social Security reform to provide expanded, fair, and adequate access to benefits.
By 2000, when Bill Hirsh became ALRP's fourth Executive Director, ALRP had grown from solely serving patients at San Francisco
General Hospital to serving clients in seven Bay Area counties, from preparing emergency wills and powers of attorney to providing
legal assistance to clients in all areas of civil law, and from a lawyer referral service to an organization providing both
direct legal representation and personalized attorney/client referrals.
The ALRP is the first organized legal outreach effort for those with HIV/AIDS in the United States, and many original Panelists
from 1983 remain active in the organization to this day. Initially formed to draft emergency wills and other necessary documents
for terminally ill clients, the ALRP has shifted its focus to issues illustrative of the fact that those with HIV/AIDS are
living longer lives than ever before and facing more complex legal needs.
Today, the AIDS Legal Referral Panel continues to function primarily as a referral service for people with legal problems
related to AIDS. Callers are interviewed over the phone by ALRP staff to determine what issues are involved and what kind
of help is needed. Clients are then matched with one of the hundreds of ALRP volunteer attorneys, paralegals, or notaries.
Services are generally low cost or free. In 1992, 2,900 of the several thousand callers were referred to volunteers. ALRP
also has a public policy arm which advocates for change in the legislative arena, in government entitlement programs (such
as Social Security), and in other government agencies. The ALRP has been the sole agency dedicated to providing legal services
to the HIV/AIDS community in all areas of civil law. What started in 1983 as a small circle of attorney friends has grown
to a full-time staff of ten and a Panel of over 600 volunteer attorneys donating close to $1,000,000 each year in pro b ono
This collection also includes materials from the Women's AIDS Network. The Women's AIDS Network (WAN) was informally established
in June of 1983 at the second National AIDS Forum in Denver. In March of 1984, women involved in AIDS services in the Bay
Area began meeting as a support group. From this initial support group, WAN evolved into an advocacy organization and informational
resource, both for women affected by HIV and for the providers who serve them. Since 1984 WAN has held information sharing
meetings (referred to loosely as Board Meetings) for Bay Area members and has provided monthly informational mailings to members.
It has sponsored three major educational forums and numerous speaking engagements; advocated and organized to support a legislative
climate responsive to HIV-affected women's needs; provided informal technical assistance and review to other agencies; distributed
information worldwide in response to hundreds of direct requests; developed a mod el policy on perinatal AIDS antibody testing;
and sponsored social events and small financial grants to HIV-affected women.
*Most of the information in this history comes from Jill DiGiovanni's and Patricia Dunn's article "When a Community Needed
a Will, ALRP Found the Way," http://www.alrp.org/article.php?id=34