In a legal and judicial career that spans nearly five decades, few issues have affected retiring Chief Judge Robert Mack Bell more than access for the poor to civil justice. As a student at Harvard University in the late 1960s, he would work at the Boston Legal Aid Society. As a young lawyer at a prominent Baltimore law firm, he did community and poverty law work and impressed his colleagues as one "committed to the use of the law not only to serve his clients, but also to improve society. The zeal of Chief Judge Bell for supporting access to civil legal services was mirrored by the growth during his career of the powerful and influential Maryland Legal Aid Bureau, Inc.
In fall of 2011, the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau celebrated its centennial. From its modest beginning in the Baltimore legal community as a charitable endeavor, to its growth into a major law office serving Maryland's poor, the agency's history is a unique story in the American legal experience.